Julia Patiño was an excellent guide who charged a reasonable price, so we hired her to take us around the Yellow House trails (http://ecuadormindobirds.com) early the next morning. (See previous blog.) Again, we were seeing and hearing lots of birds. In a land where everything is new a good guide is indispensable. And frankly, I am not good at recognizing bird song. It is embarrassing to admit, but I still don’t know the time by the bird songs on my clock at home.
A good guide not only spots birds in the deep forest, but can tell you what is singing. Then, to be able to remember 1,600 species by their English name, when English is not their native language, is incredible. Also a good guide carries a spotting scope, binoculars, and a book, and is able to hike the slippery muddy trails without any effort. It’s impressive.
Well, we were on the trails when Julia heard a Barred Puffbird. It was nearing the time when we had to head back, but since she was hunting for him we kept on. We went down one trial to no avail. Then, when she was about to give up, she spotted him. Wow! We all got a good look at him and I even took some pics, they’re backlit, but pics nonetheless. Julia explained that he was a particularly hard bird to see and it was really special that we got to see him.
Back at the Yellow House we enjoyed a special breakfast made by the ladies that run the place. They had more hummingbird feeders there and we were able to add a couple to our list. They told us that a motmot comes there every evening. If only we had known! Next time…
When we weren’t trouping around various trails it was very pleasant to hang around the balcony of our rooms and… what else? look at birds! There, and in the town of Mindo, we saw: Blue and White Swallow, Rusty-Margined Flycatcher, Social Flycatcher, Masked Water-Tyrant, Roadside Hawk, Pacific Hornero, Blue-Grey Tanager, Lemon-Rumped Tanager, Cattle Egret, Black-Winged Saltator, Palm Tanager, Shiny Cowbird, Bananaquit, White-Whiskered Hermit, White-Necked Jacobin, Golden Tanager, Streak-Headed Woodcreeper, Cinnamon Becard, Blue-Necked Tanager, Brown Violetear, Green-Crowned Woodnymph, Rufous-Tailed Hummingbird, Yellow-Bellied Seedeater, Andean Emerald, Green-Crowned Brilliant.
We had to get back to Quito because we were looking forward to visiting some friends there that evening, and the following day we were going to head south.
~ Safe/ Rated #1 "Only place like it", "Very Special", "One of a kind", "We were treated like family", "Of course we will return again and again", "Whatever we needed, they got it for us", "The trails were very well maintained", "Thank you for being here, and thank you for maintaining this amazing forest!" ~.
Reviewed 15 February 2012 by Ingadavida
This place is a little paradise. Not just the sweet accommodations and the lovely property but more than anything the genuine kindness of the family. I arrived sick (after eating coconuts soaking in a plastic bag of water -- what was I thinking!) and was pampered like a relative. Of all the place I've stayed in Ecuador, this was the best!
Stayed February 2012, travelled solo
"Amazing values and a beautiful property"
Reviewed december 12, 2011 by Shelmert, Oregon, USA
I arrived in Mindo on the bus, tired, hungry and without any reservations for my first two nights. After a filling breakfast at a local eatery, I inquired as to the location for Hacienda San Vicente (aka "Yellow House"). The hacienda is located about 300 yards from the main square, up a stony driveway. The owners took one look at me after I had carried two heavy bags and sat me down with a juice. I spent two nights in a downstairs run in the first building. I enjoyed the rustic wooden finishing of the room, which was clean and comfortable, and and svereal times rested while looking out at the hummingbird feeders hanging off the balcony of my building and the main house. Birds abound here, and walks on the trails (free for guests, and only $5 for others) will yield sightings of many species. Apparently Spectacled Bear has been seen on the property, but it requires incredibly good fortune to find one. The owners are three wonderful and kind women, and they provide a delicious breakfast in accordance with the guests' schedule. All this for a very reasonable $21 a night! Note: at the time of my stay in November 2011, several trails were closed due to fallen trees and storm damage. This is a great place to stay for birders, hikers, and anyone wishing a little peace and quiet.
Room Tip: Downstairs rooms can carry the sound of footsteps, if anyone is staying directly above you.
"A wonderful little haven"
Reviewed december 4, 2011 by Kathton, Canterbury, UK
We arrived in the dark and the rain after a bus journey from Quito - we suggest you take a taxi rather than lug your luggage up the long, rather stony driveway as we did!
The owner showed us to our room - the upstairs floor of a lovely little detached wooden "hut". Simply furnished and quite small, but spotlessly clean, and with plenty of hot water for the shower - what more can you ask for?! She then kindly offered to drive us back into town to get something to eat with the other guest who had also just arrived, and picked us up an hour later - what personal service!
The surrounding of the Yellow House are superb. The family has lived there over 50 years (if my broken Spanish serves me right!) and they have established a wonderful system of self-sufficiency with a tilapia pond, chickens, cows, horses, masses of fruit trees etc. The breakfasts are long and leisurely (and include homemade guava jam and home grown coffee) and take place in their kitchen right by a panoramic window where you can sit and watch the many birds on the banana tree, and where the 2 sisters and their mum pottered around serving us with great attentiveness. There is also a verandah where you are welcome to wait and watch the hummingbirds at the feeders, and access the Internet (with your own laptop).
There is a network of trails from their house up into the cloud forest - quite a strenuous walk but well worth it just to experience the wildness and isolation of the lush forest.
It is soooo much nicer to stay out of town so that you can feel the area where you are staying - it really is idyllic and although we were only here 3 days, the family made us feel so welcome that it felt like home! We definitely hope to be back....
Room Tip: We loved our little independent house just for 2!
Stayed November 2011, travelled as a couple
"Glorious biosphere hideaway"
Reviewed October 5, 2011 by GeorginaParis, Paris
Having carefully considered the many options in Mindo I finally contacted another trip advisor member "rarich" for advice and what luck she recommended the Hacienda San Vicente. It was just 5 minutes walk from Mindo village. We stayed 8 nights in a two bedroom cottage that was simply but beautifully constructed in wood with a terrace (and hammocks) overlooking fantastic birding trees, the views were stunning- and this all to ourselves for 18 USD per person per night. The best value for money I have ever had. The beds were comfortable, the rooms impeccable and private showers excellent. We felt safe and happy in this delightful haven. We were woken by the sound of rare and glorious coloured birds (the list is long see Paul Greenfields expert guide to Ecuadorian birds). Breakfast and fruit juices were delicious and we even eat a tilapia fish picked out in their pond. Marie-Helena, her sweet mother and delightful sister Marie Ines know Mindo intimately and are widely respected. Their bird trails are famous. In addition, they introduced us to Angel Paz the great bird watcher who showed us the famous cok of the rock and the near extinct antpittas (he named a baby yellow-chested antpitta after me - I was thrilled). Subsequently, an expert in humming birds – we got great footage. The frog concert they recommended was exceptional and last but not least, they found us Julia Pinta a top guide whose passion for birds is matched by her talent for finding them. Staying here was a far better choice than staying in the village itself. Spoken English was limited but not at all a barrier.
Stayed July 2011, traveled with family
"Wild idyll on the edge of town"
Reviewed September 2, 2011 by Shortclaws, London
Although it only takes ten minutes to walk into Mindo town, you feel wonderfully close to nature and almost in the arms of the cloud forest at Yellow House. Our rating of Excellent is probably coloured by having the place almost to ourselves, adding a great sense of tranquility to our stay. The room we had was rustic and basic, yet it had everything we needed and indeed was more usefully furnished than a lot of hotel rooms. Most especially our private bathroom which was positively huge. Out on our balcony was a hammock and I lay there as the sun went down listening to the all the birdsong of the forest. The lady looking after Yellow House when we stayed didn't have any English at all, but with our minimal Spanish we got by and had her arrange a local bird guide for a day. There is an extensive network of trails above the lodge into the forest and we (well, mainly our guide!) spotted 56 different species on a 4 hour morning wander. Plenty of birds were visible right around the Yellow House itself and at night we explored the gardens and found several frogs and toads, a great potoo and a four-eyed opossum. Because we went out birding both mornings we never got to try the breakfast, the packed lunch that was provided instead was okay but nothing special. We stayed here in winter, and the climate was very comfortable. In summer it may be rather warm to stay here, but Mindo is said to have a particularly equable micro-climate so perhaps not too bad. The town itself has some decent places to eat.
Stayed July 2011, traveled as a couple
"The only place worth staying at in Mindo!"
Reviewed August 20, 2011by BobbieTh, Lake Tyers Beach
A five minute walk through butterflies, horses, cattle, and beautiful scenery in the day, and fireflies at night to your pad. Excellent, smiling accommodating hosts, who serve up a great brekky, hummingbirds feeders at your door - who could tire of watching them? - the most fabulous vistas and views of Mindo from your hammock on your private balcony. The property is only just out of town but above town and hence away from the dust. Idyllic, tranquil, fun. Find out about the bears in the private (?) forest...
Stayed August 2011, traveled as a couple
“A Birder's Paradise”
27 january 2011 by Ruth Richards:
Hacienda San Vicente is known for their Yellow House Trails, which lead up into the forested mountain above. One can pay to use the trails without staying at the hacienda, but I don't know why anyone would do so.
The yard and grounds around the various buildings are filled with birds, and the views are spectacular. I stayed on my balcony for four hours on my first morning there and saw almost fifty different kinds of birds. The Yellow House Trails offer possibilities for many more species, not to mention hiking adventures for the more ambitious. There are countless types of plants, trees, and flowers, and lots of butterflies as well. It's only a five minute walk to town if you want to try a local restaurant. I took my meals at the hacienda.
Lodging in a private room with private bath and balcony, plus meals, plus entrance to the Yellow House Trails was a mere $25 per night. The family was friendly and always available for conversation if I wanted to visit. The food was delicious and many of the ingredients came from the hacienda or nearby farms.
I traveled to some other famous birding sites on day trips from Mindo, using public transportation. Taxis are always available and cheap, and the drivers will wait at the sites for a reasonable price. There are also regular buses to and from Mindo. Birding guides are available in Mindo, but I never hired one. Birds were easy to find.