Canada’s cool, coastal city hosts a boutique hotel that masters social responsibility and upscale luxury while promoting Aboriginal art and culture.
In downtown Vancouver, one boutique hotel is making a social impact while running one of the most unique hospitality experiences in the city. When we heard about Skwachàys Lodge, an Aboriginal hotel and art gallery, our curiosity drove us to check it out.
Skwachàys Lodge (it’s pronounced like sqwatch-eyes) is a hotel and art gallery that doubles as a shelter for the First Nations indigenous residents of Canada. The property is divided into a learning center and shelter with a portion of the space being dedicated to a very stylish hotel. While providing housing for struggling and homeless Aborigines, Skwachàys Lodge carries on their culture through its comprehensive promotion of Aboriginal art and culture. The hotel aims to revive and modernize the forgotten indigenous culture, and it succeeds.
We were happy to stay a few extra days in Vancouver to soak up the experience at Skwachàys Lodge. After all, this coastal Canadian city has so much to offer. Surrounded by epic scenery, Vancouver is full of history, bars and restaurants, and culture that is pretty laid back and cool. We were perfectly content extending our trip!
The Unique Story of Skwachàys Lodge
Although Skwachàys Lodge literally turns boutique hospitality into an art form, it’s so much more than just a hotel. By emphasizing the significance of native culture, Skwachàys Lodge contributes to society in such an important way. Not only does it help disadvantaged First Nations citizens (those who settled in Canada first), but the hotel also popularizes their traditions. It breathes life back into a culture whose primitive roots are the first layer of foundation in any modern society.
The Vancouver Native Housing Society owns Skwachàys Lodge. In addition to the 18 gorgeous boutique suites available for hotel guests and traveling natives, the lodge has 24 shelter-rate apartments for Aborigines that need assistance. The business model includes two social enterprises that fulfill social responsibility and financial sustainability. Basically, the Skwachàys Lodge couldn’t be a more balanced establishment. To accomplish refined, hospitable luxury and thorough social responsibility at the same time is a truly rare feat.
The artistic aspect of the boutique hotel gives the Skwachàys Lodge an authentic feel that can’t be paralleled. The hotel suites were designed under the eyes of First Nations artists to create an accurate representation of Aboriginal culture. The hotel clearly works hard to blend Aboriginal art and the ethos of their people into the overall experience. The lobby, for example, is an art gallery that features beautiful, original works from First Nations artists. It’s the first thing you see when you walk in.
Generally speaking, the hotel is bursting in the bold colors traditional to North American indigenous art. Made of mostly primary colors, pops or red, blue, yellow and ??? fill the space through the original art from the artists. The entire space is designed to replicate native culture, such as The Kayachtn Room. In this “welcome room,” guests are encouraged to mingle in the communal energy consistent throughout the hotel. Outside the Skwachàys Lodge, you might notice that it’s not in the best area of town. There are a lot of homeless, struggling people around. But if you’re from a city like us (we’re from San Francisco), you can see through the hardship and notice that the area has a beautiful personality.
Amenities with a Cultural Twist
The amenities at Skwachàys Lodge reside in the rich cultural activities you can do onsite. I highly recommend setting some time aside to hang out in the art gallery, wandering and observing the Aboriginal style. If you want to get a bit deeper into the culture that the hotel provides, you can participate in a traditional sweat lodge ceremony. Culturally, the sweat lodge is warmed with hot stones to symbolize Mother Nature’s womb. Sitting in a sweat lodge is intended to be physically and spiritually cleansing. You can also participate in an indigenous smudging ceremony. This activity involves surrounding your body in the smoke of different burning plants, like sage or sweet grass, to cleanse your body of negative forces and add positive energy. Quite the unique amenities list, but we love the unexpected!
If you’re looking for something a little more neutral, you can always spend extra time in The Kayachtn Room, or the lounge area at the property. Breakfast in the room is a light assortment of fresh pastries, juices, and some fruit. You can also cozy up with a book and enjoy the creative ambiance.
Around The Skwachàys Lodge
We didn’t find a lot to do in the immediate vicinity of Skwachàys Lodge, but it is a short walk away from some really fantastic areas. My favorite part of Vancouver, Gastown, is just a few minutes away. It’s a gorgeous street lined with amazing restaurants, like Bauhaus — think German fine dining with a super laid back feel. It also has some quirky craft cocktail bars like Clough Bar, where we might have visited a few times for their incredible cocktails!
Vancouver’s Chinatown is also located in close proximity to the hotel. It’s reputably one of the cleanest, nicest Chinatowns in North America. Although we didn’t venture to the area, we were told it has a lot of personality and that you can dig into some awesome Dim Sum. If Chinatown isn’t your thing you can head to Railtown, an industrial neighborhood turned hipster in recent years, with great craft beer bars.
The Canadian Suite
Every room at Skwachàys Lodge is one of a kind and designed by an Aboriginal artist. During our stay, we lodged in the Canadian Suite designed by artist Clifton Fred. The suite had two small rooms and a little kitchenette. It is the perfect space if you’re traveling on business — it’s both comfortable and full of amenities. We had plenty of space, speedy wifi, and it was quiet despite the neighborhood. The room was stocked with organic coffee, all-natural toiletries by Mother Earth Essentials, and possibly the softest bathrobe I’ve ever worn! It feels special to stay in a one of a kind room that was designed with so much cultural passion and purpose. We could actually feel the difference!
Hospitality With a Moral Compass
Like I said before, Skwachàys Lodge isn’t just a swanky boutique hotel. It’s a cultural experience, a benevolent cause, and stylish stay. If you’re into native art, or art in general, this kind of hotel will float your boat. Skwachàys Lodge is perfect for anyone who wants to stay in downtown Vancouver while experiencing something fun and unique. Plus, if you’re looking for an excuse to take a vacation, here it is! When you stay at Skwachàys Lodge you’re giving back to society. That’s something to feel good about!
For more information about Skwachàys , visit their website: