The El Dorado Hotel in Terlingua, TX Review
Let me preface this review with a reminder. We were staying in Terlingua, TX—a tiny “village” of a town in the heart of the Texas desert. It is sandy, dusty, and there are bugs looking for water. Now—on to the review.
We found no major flaws with cleanliness. There were a few dead bugs in various spots such as the Jacuzzi tub and the sink. At our personal residence in West Texas, we find dead bugs in the sink and bathtub semi-regularly especially in the summer because they’re looking for water so we don’t pay much attention to small things like that. We found the room to be quite clean even with the massive amount of dust and sand in the air.
All I can say is that the people here were amazing. We sat at the bar at the end of most nights and chatted with the employees, and all of them were extremely interesting and loved to chat. Any time we needed anything, they were more than happy to help or give advice. Terlingua, TX is a very different world and the people are different there. The bar was like stepping into a Cheers episode where everyone was covered in dust. They got to know you and wanted to tell stories or hear yours. We have never stayed anywhere else where the employees were so happy and helpful. This is without a doubt the best hospitality we’ve ever encountered. The only flaw we could see is that if you’re up past when the bar closes, no one will be there to help you. I don’t think that there’s a night shift, so I would make sure to grab towels before you need them at 2 am.
If you’re going to be doing serious hiking in Big Bend and money isn’t an issue,we’d recommend getting a cabin in the park. It’s about an hour drive to the main visitor’s centers from the hotel, so that’s at least 2 hours of extra driving. On the other hand, if you’re there to have a vacation that involves some camping, I’d definitely say that the El Dorado Hotel in Terlingua is the best spot available. It’s got a bar and grill that is open later than anyone else and if you’re a smoker, they’ve got the only cigarettes available past 9 pm for 100 miles. We found that regularly, the only thing that was open when we were done camping was the High Sierra (the bar and grill located inside the hotel).
We have no regrets of our stay at the El Dorado. In fact, we would say that my stay in the El Dorado was one of the highlights of the trip. My family had a blast the entire time, and we experienced a lot of things we’d never experience anywhere else. My daughters ate dinner and heard some of the locals have an open mic night in the restaurant, my kids got to chat with everyone there and even got to make a request for a song, and everyone got to relax in the Jacuzzi tub in the room after long days of hiking. The only thing that we would change is that their beds could definitely be softer. We actually slept on the air mattress originally intended for the boys.
At $125 a night, there’s not much better around. The cabins in the park are close to double that, and the other hotels in the area don’t seem to have much to compare to the amenities that the El Dorado has to offer. The only reason we don’t give them a 10/10 is because money became a serious issue throughout the trip due to the lack of food in the area. They call it the Terlingua Ghost Town for historical reasons, but after 9 pm (dusk is 9:30 in the summer), it really is a ghost town. If we had it to do all over again, we’d bring my Coleman stove and cook in the hotel which would make everything extraordinarily cheap.
As a last remark, we would recommend you make a decision before you go. If you want to stay in semi-luxury, don’t choose anything in Terlingua. The hotels are an experience in themselves, but they are not the Hilton or even a Holiday Inn Express. It’s closer to borrowing your closest bachelor friend’s studio apartment for the weekend or week. The bed’s not as comfortable as your $2000 one, the bathroom’s not as nice as the one you or your wife cleans daily, and everyone around you wants to hang out and tell stories. On the other hand, everything works and everyone around you wants to be your friend for the weekend. I’m sure that we could have found 3 or 4 people who would have come out to the park to show us around if we’d wanted. If you want comfort, we’d suggest something in the park because they’re more likely to be set up for the people from Dallas or Houston who live in downtown apartments that cost more per month than most of the people in Terlingua make in 3 months. It’s just a different kind of world down there.