Hitting the Airbnb Jackpot in Cuenca, Ecuador

Hitting the Airbnb Jackpot in Cuenca, Ecuador

There are times when I’ve had a less than stellar experience staying with Airbnb hosts. For example, the time I found myself in a roach infested apartment in Paris, or just last week when I was in a slightly creepy and secluded cabin in the suburbs of Nashville, Tennessee where I couldn’t get a taxi to take me to the airport and almost missed my flight home**. But then there are times that Airbnb is AWESOME. I’ve had some pretty great experiences, but the best one has to be the incredible home I stayed at last month in Cuenca, Ecuador for a mere $25 per night. If you’re wondering where to stay in Cuenca, you must read on! Also at the bottom of this post I’ve included a sign up link where Airbnb newbies can get a $25 credit – you’re welcome!

Airbnb in Cuenca, Ecuador

Because I wanted to practice my Spanish, we decided to rent a room in a house where the residents would be there instead of having an entire apartment to ourselves. The house we settled on was located in the Cuenca suburb of Baños (not to be confused with Ecuador’s other, more famous Baños). While it was a bit outside the city, I was totally happy because I live in NYC and my life could use some peace and quiet. Also, taxis in Ecuador are so wonderfully cheap that it cost about the price of a subway ride to get to the city center.

Where to Stay in Cuenca, Ecuador – Airbnb Review

Muy feliz on our private balcony overlooking Cuenca, Ecuador

Our arrival at Santiago & Zilpa’s home was literally quite bumpy. Allow me to explain: I arrived at the Guayaquil airport at 4:00AM and after reading about how sketchy that city was at night,  decided to book private transportation and haul out of there ASAP. After contacting several travel companies, I had to accept the fact that this transfer was going to cost a hefty $140. When we departed from the airport, we knew why: the driver who arrived for us was driving a bus. Not a van, but a literal bus that could have probably held 25 people. Awkward. Things got more awkward when we had to climb the very steep, unpaved, curving driveway to our accommodations. I’m seriously thankful that we survived. Point being, if you’ve never gone off roading in a bus, don’t try it.

Where to Stay in Cuenca Ecuador - Airbnb Review

Hiking the driveway

Anyways, that was a minor and laughable hiccup but we had made it to the top of the hill and were greeted by two adorable and friendly doggies before stepping inside the house. And what a seriously amazing house it was. Our bedroom had an expansive closet that made me depressed about my own tiny living situation (damn you, NYC), a private bathroom with a waterfall shower, and a lovely balcony overlooking the city of Cuenca.

Where to Stay in Cuenca Ecuador - Airbnb Review

Airbnb - Where To Stay in Cuenca, Ecuador

Airbnb - Where To Stay in Cuenca, Ecuador

Where to Stay in Cuenca Ecuador - Airbnb Review

El perro

Airbnb - Where To Stay in Cuenca, Ecuador

El perrito!

The house was situated on a hill (if you didn’t get that from my bus story), surrounded by beautifully landscaped gardens and on the edge of a Eucalyptus forest. Most taxis were too chicken to attempt the climb so we had to hike up the hill a few times, but let’s face it: we can all use the exercise.

Where to Stay in Cuenca Ecuador - Airbnb Review

Airbnb - Where To Stay in Cuenca, Ecuador

Every morning Zilpa made us a delicious breakfast of eggs, typical Ecuadorian dishes, fresh fruits, breads, homemade jams and freshly squeezed juices. It actually felt like we were in a five star hotel or luxury bed & breakfast as we sipped our coffee overlooking the city from the mountains. I couldn’t believe that we were staying in such an incredible place for approximately the cost of a beer in Norway. (Side note: imagine the financial bliss a Norwegian must feel when they visit Ecuador).

Airbnb - Where To Stay in Cuenca, Ecuador

Where to Stay in Cuenca Ecuador - Airbnb Review

And as for the learning Spanish part? By the last day there we were chatting about everything from my parents jobs to life in New York, things to do around Cuenca and what I should do on my next trip to Ecuador. I don’t know how I learned how to say so many things in just 3 days, but I guess when no one speaks English you’re forced to figure out how to communicate.

I was so lucky to find such friendly and welcoming hosts and such a gorgeous place to stay in Cuenca. I was infinitely happy that I’d chosen to stay there instead of a hotel or hostel, and the only negative was that I wasn’t staying forever (you can bet I googled “Fashion PR jobs in Cuenca” when I got home… surprise, there are none).

Tips for Booking a Great Stay with Airbnb

Have you ever used Airbnb? Would love to hear your experiences! If you haven’t signed up yet, you can click here to do so through my referral link. That means I’ll get a little something when you book your first stay, and YOU will actually get a $25 credit that can be used for your first stay (hey, that’s one night in Cuenca!). If you’re interested in staying with Zilpa & Santiago when you travel to Cuenca, Ecuaor, you can find their listing here after you sign up.

Wherever you’re going, here are a few tips to keep in mind to get the best experience when booking with Airbnb:

  • Look for listings that have verified, Airbnb photos so you know that what you see is what you’ll be getting.
  • If possible, select listings that have multiple reviews so you can really get a feel of what people loved and didn’t love about the property and assess which pros & cons are most important for you personally.
  • Try to pick an Airbnb accommodation that everyone is RAVING about. Not just reviews that say, “comfortable and convenient” but  “incredible” and that the hosts “went above and beyond.” Comfortable and convenient gets you a dark apartment with a moldy bathroom in a walk up where you have to jiggle the keys for 5 minutes to open the door (true personal story) while rave reviews get you a chic place in Milan with a fashionable host providing expert tips on cool places to go out (also a true story!).
  • How many photos are there? How long is the description? The amount of effort the hosts put into the listing usually mirrors the amount of effort they’re going to put in to making your stay enjoyable and comfortable.

View from our Airbnb - Where to Stay in Cuenca, Ecuador

Watching the sun set over Cuenca from the balcony of our room.

**Note that my negative Airbnb experiences are due to less-than-fab hosts or a lack of great options available in my price range when I booked. They had nothing to do with Airbnb itself, which I think is wonderful and use to book 75% of my travel!

Click here to sign up for Airbnb and get a $25 credit good for your first stay!


  • I went to Cuenca for Memorial Day weekend, extending the trip to four days by taking Friday off from work.
  • The flight is about 6.5 hours long, nonstop.
  • We flew overnight on Thursday from JFK to Guayaquil on LAN. On the return trip we departed Monday at 2 p.m.
  • Because I had enough points thanks to the Chase Sapphire Preferred sign up bonus, my flight was free (yay!).
  • Upon arrival at GYE, we had arranged ground transportation via Ecuador Tierra Viva to Cuenca.
  • A private driver cost $280 round trip, or $140 each (ouch!) but it was worth it to have more time in Ecuador vs. waiting for buses.
  • We stayed in an Airbnb, which was $25 or about $12.50 each per night.


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