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Looking for the best things to do in Baños? Discover everything Baños has to offer with our complete travel guide.
The tiny South American country of Ecuador was made famous by Charles Darwin’s visit to the Galapagos Islands which inspired his theory on evolution. But there is so much more to Ecuador than the Galapagos Islands. Outside of the Galapagos, Ecuador is home to stunning beaches, surf destinations, the Amazon jungle, the Andes Mountains, and more.
The mountain town of Baños has developed a reputation as one of the must-see destinations in Ecuador, especially amongst thrill-seekers and outdoor enthusiasts.
So, exactly what’s Ecuador’s adventure capital all about? Read on to discover exactly what to do in Bańos.
Is Baños Worth Visiting?
Yes! For those looking for a mountain getaway with plenty of outdoor activities, Baños is the perfect destination.
Baños is Ecuador’s gorgeous ‘adventure capital’ nestled in the foothills of the Ecuadorian Andes. The town itself is charming in places but obviously geared toward the many national and foreign tourists that flock here every year. Within the town, you will find plenty of hotels, restaurants, bars, and tour operators.
Surrounding the town are the waterfalls, canyons, and mountains for which the area is known.
15 Best Things to Do in Baños
1. Visit the La Casa del Arbol
La Casa del Arbol is one of the most popular stops in Baños. Great fun for all ages La Casa del Arbol is famous for sweeping views and a very special swing, the original ‘swing at the end of the world’.
For $1 dollar you can enter a maintained garden with four extra size swings built on the side of the mountain providing spectacular views of the volcanic valley below and impressive photos.
Throw in the little cafe serving cheap beers and empanadas and it makes for a fun afternoon.
If you are camping, you can camp overnight in the garden’s car park for just $3 USD. This basic campsite is clean, quiet, and with beautiful views over the Baños region.
2. Cycle the Ruta de Las Cascadas (Route of the Baños Waterfalls)
Easily one of the best things to do in Banos is to hire a couple of bikes and cycle the Ruta de las Cascadas. We recommend renting bikes from Geo Tours one of the many tour agencies in town.
From Baños there are ten waterfalls or cascadas in easy riding distance from the town. A 16km (downhill) ride along the Rio Pastaza will take you past eight waterfalls of various sizes. Two of our favorite of all of the waterfalls were the Pailon de Diablo and Cascada del Rocio.
Pailon de Diablo
At the second to last waterfall, Pailon de Diablo, you can dismount and walk down into the gorge. At the bottom of the falls, a $2 USD entry fee grants you access. The winding steps and narrow caves take you right up to a massive and powerful 80-meter waterfall.
Cascada Del Rocio
After hiking back up out of the Pailon de Diablo gorge you can catch one of the many white trucks which ferry riders and bikes back to the town for $2 USD or ride on to Cascada Del Rocio. For (another) $1 USD entry fee you can walk down into the gorge and swim under these falls. A great way to end a sweaty bike ride.
After hiking back out of Cascada Del Rocio you can peddle back to Pailon de Diablo to catch a ride home or ride your bike all the way back.
3. Ride a Tarabita Cable Car
The cascades provide plenty of photo opportunities as well as a number of ziplines and tiny cable cars known as tarabita which cross the gorge for a true birds-eye view of the valley and river below.
While there are plenty of restaurants and even a trout farm where you can catch your own lunch along the way, we opted to take some sandwiches and save a few bucks on the touristic and overpriced lunch options en route.
4. Visit Baños’ Hot Springs
Baños in Spanish means bath, so it should come as no surprise that there are a few thermal pools here. The hot springs in Baños are heated by the nearby active volcano, Tungurahua. Visiting the hot springs is the perfect activity after cycling the Ruta de Cascadas.
Baños has three thermal pools to choose from, from local spas to spas geared at tourists.
- Termas de la Virgen: Most touristic of all of the thermal baths due to its proximity to town. Termas de la Virgen has the advantage of a beautiful waterfall as a backdrop. Cost to enter is $3 for a full day.
- Balneario El Salado: Popular with the locals, Balneario feels a bit more like you are in nature. The cost to enter is $3. Swimming caps are essential but can be rented for $0.5 upon entry.
- Piscinas Termas De La Virgen: More of a waterpark capitalizing on the tourists coming to Banos for the thermal pools. The Piscinas Termas De La Virgen is closed on Monday and Tuesday, open from 2:00 pm – 9:00 pm on Wednesday to Friday and from 10:00 am – 8:00 pm on the weekends. The Piscinas Termas De La Virgen also are a bit more pricey than the other more original thermal pools.
There are also a few spas in town such as the Luna Volcan, Adventure Spa and the El Refugio Spa Garden that offer other well-being amenities such as massages.
5. Check Out Baños’ Town Square
The town of Baños is beautiful especially the town square.
The town square is often busy with tourists and locals.
Surrounding the square are a number of food vendors. Stop in and sample an Ecuadorian food staple at the central plaza. Chulpe. Bags stuffed with large toasted corn kernels, garnished with boiled white corn called choclo, onion, tomato, coriander, and lime juice are served with charred pork rind for $1 USD. Best served with a cold beer.
6. Try a Local Craft Beer
We rarely skip the opportunity to try the local brews.
Headed over to the Straydog Brewpub, a cozy American-style bar for a change from your standard Ecuadorian food. American classics like buffalo wings are a great accompaniment to a pint of local artisanal Cerveza. Different styles like red ale and honey beer are available but expect to pay more than your standard Ecuadorian pilsner.
7. Sample a Bolon de Verde
The best way to explore a new city is through local food. Stop in at a local cafeteria for a bolon de verde, an Ecuadorian classic, made of plantain dough rolled into a ball and fried.
8. Grab Cocktails and Tapas at the Stylish Nünna Chill Garden
There are a number of bars in ‘downtown’ Baños, and one of the best is Nünna Chill Garden, a modern and trendy cocktail bar. Drop-in for a light meal or snack in the evening, such as an Ecuadorian tapas plate.
Later at night, the bar gets busy with tourists enjoying games and a great atmosphere.
9. Be Adventrous and Go River Rafting or Tubing
One of the best things to do in Banos is to head out to the Pastaza River for some white water rafting! Just 45-minutes out of the city, you can feel the thrill of class 3-4 rapids on the primary tributary of the Amazon River.
We recommend going with GeoTours who have been running tours in Banos since 1991. For only $30 per person, you can experience the thrill of white water rafting with a half-day tour. Tour includes a professional guide, rafting gear, transportation, photos, and lunch.
10. Canopying (Ziplining)
Any adventure capital is bound to have ziplining, known locally as canopying, in its lineup of adventure activities. The nature that surrounds the mountain town of Banos is no exception.
Enjoy the thrill of Ecuador’s longest zip-line at Putzan Canopy as you sail through the lush mountains of Banos. Putzan Canopy has six lines where you can soar over rivers, waterfalls, and some of the prettiest scenery around.
11. Treat Yourself to Hot Chocolate
The small country of Ecuador is throwing its hat in the ring for the world’s best chocolate, so grabbing a cup of hot chocolate here is a no-brainer.
Despite only producing a fraction of the world’s entire chocolate production, Ecuador produces the majority of the world’s finest chocolate. The cocoa of Ecuador is known as Arriba or Nacional and only grows in Ecuador.
Grab a cup of hot chocolate from one of the many cafes around the historic town center.
There is a reason why Banos is considered the adventure capital of Ecuador. The range of outdoor adventures is seemingly endless and one such activity is canyoning. Canyoning is essentially following a river by whatever means possible without a raft. Scrambling, abseiling, jumping, swimming, the list of things that canyoning encompasses is endless.
It takes a whole lot of courage to go canyoning, but those up for the challenge usually find it exhilarating.
There are numerous tour operators in Banos providing canyoning tours. For the best deals, shop around in the town square upon arrival.
13. Hike to Mirador Bellavista
Mirador Bellavista offers panoramic views over the beautiful valley that engulfs Banos. The 2.7-kilometer return hike begins at the end of Maldonado street near Hotel Monte Selva and ends at the La Cruz Bellavista viewpoint.
14. Hike the Tungurahua Volcano
Tungurahua in Quechua, the native language spoken throughout the region, means “Throat of Fire” an apt name for one of the most active volcanos in South America in the late 90s. The Tungurahua Volcano is located in Sangay National Park just 45 minutes from Banos.
Climbing the Tungurahua Volcano is one of the most rewarding ways to experience the beauty of the area, but also one of the most challenging.
The climb to the summit of Tungurahua Volcano is for experienced hikers only as the 11-mile round trip hike is grueling. The two-day hike should be completed with a guide as the hike, especially after the refugio, is challenging, unmarked, and exposed to incremental weather.
Imagine Ecuador run guided overnight tours which include transportation, dinner, breakfast, accommodation in the refugio, and certain climbing equipment such as sleeping bags, and weather permitting, ice axes.
If you still haven’t had your fill of hair-raising experiences in Banos, then paragliding can round out your epic adventure in Banos. There are few better ways to experience the grandeur of a city than with a bird’s eye view.
From the skies above Banos, you will be able to truly appreciate the mountainous region and have stunning views over the nearby Tungurahua Volcano.
GeoTours in Banos run paragliding tours regularly and include 15-20 minutes of air time.
If you are looking for another adventure destination in Ecuador, consider visiting Mindo in Ecuador’s cloud forest!
How to Get to Baños?
Banos is easily accessible by bus or car from most major towns and cities in Ecuador. Popular routes include:
- Quito – 3.5 hours
- Guayaquil – 7 hours
- Cuenca – 7 hours
How Many Days Do I Need in Baños?
Baños, Ecuador’s adventure capital, makes for a fabulous weekend. You can see most of the top attractions in one busy weekend. Alternatively, there is enough going on here, that you can take some time to really get the feel for this mountain town at a slower pace over a week or even two.
When to Visit Baños?
The weather in Baños is mild and temperate making it a great place to escape from the equatorial heat of Ecuador’s coast. Temperatures in Baños are between 12 and 20 degrees Celcius year-round. The long wet season runs October through June where it rains about fifty percent of the time. However, if you don’t mind getting out in your raincoat the waterfalls for which Baños is famous are all the more spectacular in the rainy season.
Where to Eat in Baños?
For a cheap breakfast visit one of the many bakeries or Panadarias in town first thing in the morning for warm pastries sweet or savory and usually involving queso.
Since this is a tourist mecca, serious espresso machines are not hard to find. Drop into Ponche Suizo for a real coffee for $2 USD and a game of chess or relax with a book.
- Address: Eloy Alfaro 4-24
- Hours of Operation: 8:00 am – 11:00 pm
- Cost: $
Baños Street Food
Lining the central plaza are dozens of food stalls all serving one thing chulpe. Bags stuffed with large toasted corn kernels, garnished with boiled white corn kernels called choclo, onion, tomato, coriander, and lime juice are served with charred pork rind for $1 USD.
Craving some western staples? Everything from full English breakfasts to Greek mezza can be found in town, for a price. Check out the Straydog Pub for buffalo wings with blue cheese dipping sauce.
- Address: Rocafuerte y Maldonado
- Hours of Operation: 4:00 pm – 2:00 am
- Cost: $$
Where to Stay in Baños
Overlanding and Camping in Baños
Overlanding is easy in this small town. Camp in the hills outside of town (with a camper van or a tent) in the car park for Casa del Arbol. It is $3 to park overnight. It is clean, green, and very quiet with spectacular views of the valley. The GPS coordinates are here.
Get closer to the action on a Saturday night. We camped in town for free and felt very safe. Make sure you’re not parked on a blue line as this is paid parking. We parked outside the electricity company where the night guard was more than happy to keep an eye out for us. The GPS coordinates are here.
A backpacking and tourist hotspots there are a variety of hostels, guest houses, and small hotels to choose from.
Check out availability and prices below.
Connectivity in Baños
Mobile Internet in Baños
As of October 2018, within town 3g mobile service is available with Claro. Speeds range between 1.5mb and 6mb per second.
Wifi in Baños
We didn’t use wifi in Baños so can’t speak to its quality.
Hopefully, you found some awesome things to do in Baños for your next trip! If you have a question or a comment, be sure to let us know in the comments below!
Looking for More Ecuador Destinations
Feeling invigorated from a weekend in beautiful Baños, check out these great destinations in Ecuador!