Ecuador’s Adventure Capital
Discover what to do in Baños, Ecuador, the adventure capital.
Is Baños Worth Visiting
With the weather set to linger at the coast, we decided to head inland to check out Baños. 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 fill the central district. We only spent one weekend in Baños but had a great time exploring the town and getting stuck into some of the outdoor activities on offer. Here are some ideas from our twenty-four hours in Baños.
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 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 for are all the more spectacular in the rainy season.
What to Do in Baños
Visit the La Casa del Arbol
After a picnic in the pretty town plaza, we drove up a steep dirt road just outside of town toward La Casa del Arbol. At the top is 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.
For $3 USD we camped in the garden’s car park over night. Clean, quiet and with beautiful views over the Baños region.
Cycle the Ruta de Las Cascadas
The following day we headed back into the town to rent mountain bikes to explore the local waterfalls. We decided first to take advantage of the touristic nature of the town and grabbed a couple of espresso-style coffees from a cafe Ponche Suizo in town. After enjoying a coffee or two and giving Kelli a thrashing in a game of chess, we got on our way.
Rent a Bike
We rented 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.
Ride a Tarabita Cable Car
The cascadas 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 what we suspected would be overpriced lunch options en route.
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 metre waterfall.
Cascada Del Rocio
After hiking back up out of the 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 in these falls. A great way to end a sweaty bike ride.
After another short hike back up out of the gorge we peddled uphill back to Pailon de Diablo. Kelli, who had at the outset of the ride assured me that she wanted to ride home, had changed her tune. I was only too happy to oblige and hop into one of the trucks back into town.
Visit Baños’ Hot Springs
After a hot ride and a cold waterfall, the next logical step is a visit to the thermal pools of Baños. We opted for the slightly less busy and less touristic El Salado baths on the outskirts of town. It was a relaxing way to end the day and only $3 USD + another $0.50 to rent a stylish and mandatory swimming cap.
Explore Baños’ Downtown
Glowing from a day of biking, hiking, views and baths we headed back into town to find a campsite for the night. Baños has a very good reputation as town a that is safe for tourists so we camped outside the electric company office on Calle Velasco Ibarra. The night guard said he would keep an eye on the car and we headed into town to see what a Saturday in Baños would turn up.
Check Out Baños’ Town Square
We grazed our way through Baños, beginning with the town square. 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 called choclo, onion, tomato, coriander and lime juice are served with charred pork rind for $1 USD. We tucked into one and washed it down with a couple of beers from a nearby tienda.
Try a Local Craft Beer
From there we headed over to the Straydog Brewpub, a cosy american stlye bar. They were serving buffalo wings and we couldn’t resist a side to accompany a couple of pints of local artisanal cerveza. My red ale was fine as were the wings, but Kelli was less impressed with her honey ale. For the price, we probably should have stuck with a local pilsner.
Sample a Bolon de Verde
We pressed on stopping in a local cafeteria for a quick bolon de verde, an Ecuadorian classic made of plantain dough rolled into a ball and fried.
Cocktails and Tapas at the Stylish Nünna Chill Garden
The final stop for our Saturday evening tour was Nünna Chill Garden which is a newly fitted out pub we passed by on our walk into town. At 8pm Baños was still quiet so we sat at the bar chatting with the owner for a couple of hours sampling some craft beer. Nünna also serves food therefore we ordered an Ecuadorian tapas plate. It was delicious. By 10 pm the pub was hopping. Sometime later, after one too many games of beer pong, Kelli dragged me home. It had been a long day and we would set off the next morning back toward the Coast.
Baños has plenty of other activities to keep you occupied for. Any of the agencies in town can help you organise tours including,
- River rafting & tubing
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
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 kernals , garnished with boiled white corn kernals 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 Drink in Baños
While Baños is known more for its daytime activities, there is a bit of nightlife here supported by the tourism that the town attracts.
The Straydog Pub has some interesting (and expensive) local craft beer. We would probably stick with a local bottle if we had our time again, but definitely worth a visit to this cosy, classic American style bar.
Visit Nünna Chill Garden on a Saturday night, a new beer garden offering craft beer and cocktails. They offer great happy hour specials from 5pm – 8pm and then again at 10pm when things really kick-off. They also have delicious, and reasonably priced small plates menu.
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 at 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.
Where to Next
Feeling invigorated from a weekend in beautiful Baños, check out these great destinations in Ecuador.