Review: El Vado Motel in Albuquerque New Mexico

The El Vado Motel in Albuquerque

Last Updated on July 15, 2020. Initially posted on September 20, 2019.

COVID-19 Update:

At this time, El Vado is open and offering staycation specials for locals; please call (505) 361-1667 for more information. In addition, the restaurants have re-opened too and access to the outdoor space is available. The pool is available and social distancing protocols are in place. Make sure to check the state rules about wearing mask and other protocols.


After booking cheap flights on Alaska Airlines to ABQ – Albuquerque as part of our summer mileage runs, we started to look at the hotel options. Compared to other cities, the hotels options in Albuquerque were not very inspiring, especially the Marriott options. We then stumbled upon El Vado Motel, an old motel that has been renovated and modernized and that was receiving great reviews for a 2 night stay. In this post, we share information about El Vado Motel and details about our stay there.

The Motel’s History:

Located on Route 66, El Vado Auto Court opened in 1937 and was one of New Mexico’s first motels to greet travelers. In 1993, it was listed in the National Register of Historic Places due to its contribution as a motel in “defining Albuquerque’s growth, appearance, and image; and its picturesque architectural style designed to attract tourism and immerse travelers in the exoticism and mystique of the Southwest.” Unfortunately, business dropped and between 2005-2018, El Vado was vacant and pretty much falling apart until it recently underwent an 18 million $ redevelopment. During this time, a developer wanted to tear it down and build housing but the city stepped I to help save this cultural landmark. Now, El Vado Motel has re-opened and in addition to 22 rooms, it’s also an event center and features shops, restaurants, and a craft brewery on site for guests and the general public.

El Vado Auto Court
What the El Vado looked like before it was renovated

The Rooms:

There are essentially 4 types of rooms at El Vado:

  • Standard King Room
  • Suite
  • Double Queen Room
  • Accessible Suite – ADA

We decided to book a Standard King Room because as nice and roomy as the suites look, it was $40 extra per night and we didn’t plan to spend that much time in the room during our 2 night stay.

Rates start at about $137 per night for a Standard King and $179 for a Suite. In addition, you can add-on items at the time of booking like chocolate covered strawberries, a bottle of Gruet sparkling wine, late checkout, and others.

New Mexico sparkling wine by Gruet: we sampled in Santa Fe (there is also a tasting room in Albuquerque)
New Mexico sparkling wine by Gruet: we sampled in Santa Fe (there is also a tasting room in Albuquerque)

Parking is complimentary and located close to the hotel; it is uncovered and you don’t need a card to enter and exit.

The Facilities:

Since El Vado is a renovated motel, it has basic facilities: a pool with lounge chairs, a patio area with chairs and tables, an event centre with meeting rooms, and attached to the hotel is “The Plaza” which serves as a gathering place for guests and the general public. The Plaza is actually a really great concept as it has misters for those hot days and a splash pad surrounded by small local businesses that offer food, drinks, and other goods. We were especially excited to check out the El Vado Taproom, which features beers made by Ponderosa. They also have live music some evenings.

The Location:

El Vado is located on Route 66, just a quick 15 minute drive from the airport (depending on traffic). It is also closed to the BioPark and walking distance to Old Town and Duran Pharmacy.

Our Stay/Experience:

We were promptly greeted and directed to our rooms after checking in. We had read reviews that people found it very slow but this was not our experience. We had contacted them earlier in the day about getting a growler of beer ordered and delivered to our room for our arrival as the El Vado Tap Room would be closed by our arrival and they executed this requested perfectly!

Outside the El Vado Taproom in Albuquerque
Outside the El Vado Taproom in Albuquerque

We were assigned a room further to the back of the property which we appreciated as it was far away from the road and loud mufflers (it is Route 66 after all!) and the Plaza. Overall, we did find the room pretty quiet and didn’t hear our neighbours.

Adobe structure, at the El Vado Motel in Albuquerque
Adobe structure, at the El Vado Motel in Albuquerque

Upon entering the room, we were pretty impressed with the décor and how it was furnished; it is definitely desert Adobe style with the logs on the roof. We found the bedroom area to be large enough and spacious and while there isn’t a closet, there was a dresser where we were able to fit our bags and hang up a few articles of clothing. The room doesn’t have a fridge, only suites do but they had an ice bucket and it was easy to walk over to the event centre to fill the ice bucket. There was a small coffee maker in the room with ceramic cups which was a nice touch, in addition to the red El Vado Tap Room Growler that could be filled during our stay for about $6 per fill (32 ounce growler). As craft beer lovers, having the El Vado Tap Room on site was great, it was like the hotel had its own brewery!

Outdoor seating at the El Vado Motel in Albuquerque
Outdoor seating at the El Vado Motel in Albuquerque

The bathroom itself has a toilet and a bath shower combo. We did find it a little small and that housekeeping could have done a better job with dusting and wiping down the floor behind the door as there was a little bit of dust. We also found the water pressure to be a little low based on what we’re used to.

The bed itself was large and the mattress was comfortable; the pillows and mattress are memory foam. We appreciated the binder in the room that told us more about El Vado’s past and had before and after photos of the renovation.

We actually enjoyed using the pool and found the temperature to be perfect considering how hot it was. It wasn’t too crowded either when we used it. For a property with 22 rooms, we found the pool large enough and sufficient, especially when you compare it to the Andaz Scottsdale pool which is pretty small but has 8 times the rooms a pool about the same size.

We enjoyed happy hour at the El Vado Tap Room; beers were $4 or $5 and we quite enjoyed the Pilsner. We also enjoyed sitting under the mist so we got food from Happy Chickenzz for dinner but it was a tough choice as Buen Provecho and Bosque Burger also had great looking food. As the sun started to set, the live music started and we enjoyed that too. It was nice to see so many people enjoying the Plaza in the same we’ve seen people enjoy food truck pods in Portland Oregon but in some ways, this was better…even if the kids playing in the splash pad were a little loud at times. Overall, it was a great crowd and really enhanced our enjoyment of our stay.

We also really enjoyed the coffee at Zendo Coffee and Art and recommend ordering the drip coffee as it includes one free refill. The space itself was really nice and we enjoyed our coffee outside.

Inside Zendo Coffee at the El Vado Motel in Albuquerque
Inside Zendo Coffee at the El Vado Motel in Albuquerque

We actually stumbled upon a happy hour from 18:00-19:00 in the event centre when we went to refill our water bottles where complimentary beer and wine was offered to guests. We had no idea about this as we are unsure if the hotel really markets it but nonetheless it was a nice touch and we enjoyed some El Vado beers by the pool.

The Bottom Line:

Overall, we enjoyed our stay at the renovated El Vado Motel; it was comfortable, fun, convenient and the service was great. We did find Albuquerque an interesting place but a little weird too; just 5 minutes after walking off the El Vado property, some crazy guy who seemed under the influence of drugs threatened us. It definitely has a “Breaking Bad” vibe in some ways. Albuquerque is definitely gritty.

Breakfast burrito with red and green chile sauce and chorizo at Duran Central Pharmacy in Albuquerque
Breakfast burrito with red and green chile sauce and chorizo at Duran Central Pharmacy in Albuquerque

One of the highlights of our trip was eating at Duran Central Pharmacy where we had a very delicious but heavy breakfast burrito we struggled to finish even if we were sharing. Both chile sauces were delicious and unique. We also appreciated meeting the lady we spoke to at Dialogue Brewing; people were friendly and welcoming in Albuquerque that’s for sure. Our visit to Old Town was ok; not much interested us other than Gobble This, a Salvadoran restaurant and seeing people singing and playing music in the park. It is worth visiting Old Town but it is very touristy with all its souvenir shops. We weren’t sure what to expect but we also enjoyed barbecue at Nexus Blue Smokehouse on the way to the airport and the friendly service we received; the green chile mac’n cheese was awesome as were the meats! While we were there, the green chile was spicier but that can change so make sure to ask!

We also found the scenery interesting and quite beautiful and felt it made the place feel mysterious overall, especially as you start to feel the turbulence ubiquitous with landing at ABQ due to the mountains and thinner air at about 5,300 feet.  As you drive down the highway, you see all kinds of signs along the lines of “Hit by a truck? Call Chuck” which was very “Better Call Saul’esque” but yet, people speed down the highway on motorcycles not wearing helmets. You can’t help but notice the car washes and look for Walter White’s mint green Pontiac Aztec as you drive and walk around because the Breaking Bad connection is hard to ignore.

As we left Albuquerque to head for Santa Fe, we were happy to be heading somewhere else but sad to leave El Vado too due to how much fun we had there and how it met and even exceeded our expectations. We can’t say Albuquerque was our favorite place to visit but we’d definitely visit again, especially to stay at El Vado.

Have you ever been to Albuquerque? If so, where did you stay? Have you ever stayed in a motel; renovated or not?

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