Baños is the adventure capital of Ecuador, so we knew it would be a good stop. We just didn’t know it was going to be this good.
There are waterfalls cascading down massive vertical cliffs and roaring rapids cutting through mountains that give way to lush green forests. Driving around I felt like a dog wandering into a squirrel infested park. Distracted from one tantalizing view to another.
It’s the last hurrah of our Epic Ecuador Road Trip and what a hurrah it is. Baños does not disappoint. Flying high above the clouds and going deep down into the Devil’s Cauldron, we get a sweet glimpse of this outdoor junkies’ heaven.
This road trip has been an incredible journey and I feel like the Andes gave us more than we bargained for. I don’t assume this is ‘goodbye‘, but rather ‘until next time‘. Packing up the car and making our descent I didn’t feel sad, I felt content. Jack Kerouac said “Nothing Behind Me, Everything Ahead of me, as is ever so on the road”. And, I couldn’t agree more.
We only scratched the surface of the little town known as Baños de Agua Santa. But, it was enough to know there is a cascading list of adventures to be had (biking, hiking, rafting, tubing, climbing, swings and ziplines…). It is the premier adventure destination in Ecuador, so the town itself is somewhat overrun with tour operators. But we found by having a car (transportation) allowed us to stay outside of town (in better, more affordable & more scenic accommodations) and avoid the tour operators all together. Not to mention it allowed us to cherry pick our timing to avoid the crowds.
La Casa Del Arbol – Tree House
The Swing at the End of the World! We already mentioned it was $1 per person (plus $1 to park) in the video and it’s best to arrive at 9 in the morning to beat the crowds…and that 9am arrival time was golden advice! The crowds were starting to roll in full-force as we were leaving. Entire buses showed up and the lines to swing and zipline were getting long. People were getting maybe a full minute on the swings before having to hand off to the next person in line. Barely long enough to snap their iconic photo and not really long enough to soak it all in. It was great cheap fun, but no way I would wait in those lines for a quick photo opp. So, avoid the weekends and get there before 10am.
Also as Jason mentioned in the video, it’s not as picturesque as you might like it to be (at least not the day we were there). One quick Google search brings up stunning imagery of a natural landscape with no concrete ramps, pads or trails. Over the years it has become more popular and they are beefing up the grounds with more attractions. The visual has morphed and now there are 2 swings attached to the house, a second swing set, some fencing and a big snack shop just behind the swing platforms. It’s still unique and loads of fun, but doesn’t exactly look like the advertisements.
The Pailon Del Diablo – Devil’s Cauldron
An impressive waterfall and a lovely hike! We had been given more of the same advice for our visit here; avoid the weekend and go early. It’s a running theme in Banos…and pretty much every big tourist destination I have ever been to. (And don’t you know, I am sooo not a morning person).
You probably already picked up on this from the video, but it is wet. Choose your shoes and clothing wisely. My feet were damp for the rest of the day after that adventure (but sooo worth it). The hike isn’t long, or difficult, but if there’s a crowd you may want to pack some food for the long waits. Or don’t, there are cheap local snacks at the top of the trail and a little snack shop near the base of the falls.
There is a little confusion online about where to see the falls. Apparently one person owns the bridges that overlook the top of the falls, but they don’t get you to the water. We did not visit that location. We visited the original location where you hike down to the base of the falls, then hike up to soak in the view from behind the rushing water. Don’t fret if you end up at the wrong place, both are supposed to be exciting in their own right, and neither one cost more than a couple bucks.
What we missed?
Well, a lot. But in short, and at the top of our return to-do list…
- Hiking – It’s a stunning countryside that begs to be wandered. There are a range of hikes with all varying levels of difficulty to choose from. Wiki has a good list: wikiloc.com/trails/hiking/ecuador/tungurahua/banos
- Hot Springs – I can’t say we were impressed with the setting of any of the baths (looked like a public pool), but soaking in hot springs is never a bad idea…especially after a long day of hiking! We were told the Piscina El Salado, is generally less crowded than the pools in town.
- RUTA DE LAS CASCADAS – There are sooo many waterfalls. Renting a bike ($5-8 a day) and cycling this mostly downhill 60km route from Baños to Puyo would be an adventure. On the route they’ve outlined several adventure stops, tunnels, vistas and snack shacks. Oh, and if you are too pooped to pedal back, you can take the bus back to Banos (about $2.50 for bike and the ride).
Best Meal We Had In Banos
We haven’t any bad meals on this trip but there have been some stand out faves. There was a glimpse of our fab meal at Amarelo Restaurant towards the very beginning of the video. It was by far the best meal we had in Banos. Creative, great presentation and prepared to perfection. We were very pleased.
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Sailing Road Trip Report – Baños to Bahia De Caraquez
To see our full map with interactive pins, click here: gonewiththewynns.com/map
- Dates – February 19 – 21, 2018
- Road Miles Traveled – 322 miles (520 km)
- Rental Car – $29 per day. We rented a car in Manta because it was half the price of renting in Bahia (where our boat is anchored).
- Where We Stayed – Centro Ecoturistico Alpinar $60 per night and included breakfast (which was fab!)