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Banff Caribou Lodge & Spa 3.5

Banff, Banff National Park, Canadian Rockies

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Review Summary

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Pros

  • Quiet and comfortable hotel about a 15-minute walk to downtown
  • Contemporary rooms and stylish bathrooms with mountain views
  • Dual-level loft suites have whirlpool tubs 
  • Spa with free access to the 26-person hot pool, gym, and steam room
  • Casual steakhouse with breakfast buffet and room service
  • Free tea and coffee in the lobby
  • Free bus passes, local calls, and parking
  • Free ski storage and send-out service for tune-ups
  • Two function rooms with catering and audiovisual equipment available
  • Charge-to-room service for amenities at sister properties
  • Free Wi-Fi and parking

Cons

  • Some complaints of dusty and overlooked rooms
  • Gym is small, with just a handful of equipment
  • Not all rates include breakfast
  • Breakfast is often at capacity in the restaurant

Bottom Line

The upper-middle-range Banff Caribou Lodge & Spa is on Banff Avenue and home to one of the two full-service spas on the street. The 190 rooms and suites sway toward contemporary with stylish bathrooms and creative decorative touches, though several guests have complained of subpar housekeeping. The casual steakhouse on-site serves a busy breakfast (fee) and dishes up room service during regular hours, while the spa offers numerous treatments, as well as a 26-person hot pool, huge steam room, and much smaller gym. Freebies include parking, Wi-Fi, ski storage, and free bus passes that help alleviate the woes of being around a 15-minute walk from downtown. For comparable features and a more central location, it's worth checking out the rates at Moose Hotel & Suites, one of Caribou's sister properties.

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Scene

Simple property with slightly tired lodge decor but attractive spa

Banff Caribous Lodge & Spa is another member of the Banff Lodging Company's large hotel family. Built in the '90s, this property features simple construction throughout and rustic-lodge decor in soft tones in the lobby. Check-in can get hectic when tour buses unload, but the hotel and rooms are generally quiet. It's an unpretentious place that serves as a nice middle ground for folks that want a reliable property and ample features, but without the bells and whistles (and rates) of a luxury hotel. Similarly, it seems to manage expectations better than its sister property, Fox Hotel & Suites, thanks to a slightly better price point and the bonus of a spa. However, for anyone looking to bump it up a notch, it's worth checking rates at the popular sister property Moose Hotel & Suites, which also has a spa, plus a location closer to town. Likewise, check rates at the surprisingly chic and stylish, mid-range Elk + Avenue hotel if you are looking to escape the lodge vibe entirely. 

Location

On Banff Avenue, near several bus lines and within a 15-minute walk to downtown

Banff Caribou Lodge & Spa is on the eastern side of Banff Avenue, between Rundlestone Lodge and Charlton's Banff. It's about a 15-minute walk or five-minute drive to downtown's concentration of restaurants, shops, and action. There are plenty of hotels on Banff Avenue that have on-site restaurants within a few minutes' walk, and most trailheads are within about a five-minute drive. The local bus service to Sulphur Mountain stops a half-block up from the hotel and drops off a half-block away, across the street. Two other bus lines are within a four-minute walk up to Inns of Banff, and a free shuttle to the Banff Gondola and Upper Hot Springs (which returns from the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel) is just a 13-minute walk toward town. 

  • Seven-minute drive or 21-minute walk to the Banff Pedestrian Bridge
  • Eight-minute drive to Cave and Basin
  • Nine-minute drive to the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel
  • 11-minute drive to the Banff Upper Hot Springs
  • 12-minute drive or 33 minutes via public transportation to Lake Minnewanka 
  • 12-minute drive to the Banff Gondola
  • 25-minute drive to Canmore
  • 43-minute drive to Lake Louise
  • 90-minute drive to Calgary Airport

Rooms

Contemporary rooms with comfy beds, mini-fridges, and views, but no AC

In 2010, all 190 of Banff Caribou Lodge's rooms were renovated, giving the bathrooms a particularly stylish and contemporary look with stone-style tiling, decorative vanity mirrors, and U-shaped sinks. Bedrooms have nice decorative touches, like canvas prints hanging off of antler-ended polished metal rods and patterned wallpaper, but they don't quite manage to match the same level of freshness or style found in the bathrooms (though they do rank above several other comparable options in town). However, some guests have found their rooms dusty and somewhat overlooked by housekeeping. There's no AC here (rooms are stocked with fans), but guests can expect other conveniences like coffeemakers and kettles, big flat-screen TVs, mini-fridges (sometimes installed between the beds), heating, and comfy Mountain Luxury beds. Bathrooms have typical shower/tub combos (except for Suites) and Rocky Mountain Soap products. 

Standard Rooms face internally on the ground floor, while Superior Rooms are located on higher floors and have exterior views. Some of these rooms have small balconies, but they need to be requested in advance and cost extra. All suites are dual-level, equipped with gas fireplace, 1.5 baths, and a pullout sofa. Each floor has a flat-screen TV. In Corner Loft Jacuzzi Suites, the two-person whirlpool tubs are located on loft levels, between the windows and king beds; in the Mountain Loft Jacuzzi Suites, the tubs are located in the dressing areas between the bathrooms and bedrooms. Views of Tunnel Mountain are in the front and Cascade Mountain can be seen from the back. Banff Caribou Lodge also has a view-only courtyard, giving guests a better-than-average alternative to non-mountain view rooms. 

Features

Full range of amenities include a hot indoor pool, spa, and restaurant

Caribou's Red Earth Spa is one of two spas in the Banff Lodging Company family (the other, newer spa is located at the Moose Hotel & Suites). It's located on a lower level and services the hotel, sister property guests, and the public. It offers a full range of treatments from head to toe that use organic Hungarian products, six treatment rooms, a relaxation area with tea and snacks, and salon spot -- but no showers. Guests (and those staying at sister properties) can use the large, 26-person hot pool, steam room, and small, air-conditioned fitness room without a spa appointment. Note, however, that the gym is tiny and only has a handful of equipment.

The Keg Steakhouse and Bar is a popular spot, sometimes turning guests away who haven't prepaid for the good, well-priced breakfast buffet. The booth seating and cozy wood and stone decor make is a comfortable and casual spot for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Room service is also available during restaurant hours. Additionally, there are kids' activity books, a marked menu for dietary restrictions, and TVs in the restaurant. 

This hotel has a good amount of free things (breakfast isn't one of them), including bus passes that work for Sulphur Mountain, Cave and Basin, Tunnel Mountain, and the town. Locker ski storage, Wi-Fi, and parking are all free as well, and guests at Caribou have access to the features at sister properties around Banff and are even able to charge meals and services to their room from these hotels. 

The Keg can cater events in either of the hotel's two function rooms. These spaces can accommodate between 30 to 40 people and come set up with a projector (additional audiovisual equipment available on request) and stylish cork floors. The small business center has a printer and vending machines nearby. Other features include a coin-operated laundry room, ATM in the lobby, send-out for ski equipment tuning, free playpens on request, and free board games from reception. There are strict non-smoking and no-pet policies. 

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Address

521 Banff Avenue, Box 1070, Banff, Canadian Rockies T1L 1H8, Canada

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