We had such a blast adventuring through Baños while traveling through Ecuador. After trekking the Quilotoa Loop, we were amped to continue adventuring and discovering more about the amazing places Ecuador has to offer! We had heard about Baños from many of our traveling friends, and knew it was a place we wanted to visit before moving further south. There are SO many different activities to do while exploring this city including white water rafting, zip lining, hiking, biking, repelling down waterfalls - just to name a couple. This stunning small town is where the Andes meet the Amazon with towering waterfalls, jagged mountain peaks, and lush tropical vegetation.
Ryan and I didn’t really have any plans, but we knew we wanted to continue hiking and discovering more of the surrounding mountains. It just happened to be that our Baños trip ended up being on a tight budget at the same time! We chose a variety of activities that were inexpensive, but gave us the freedom to create a schedule on our own time, rather than signing up for scheduled tours. Here’s a quick look at what we choose to do and how much it cost us in total!
1. VISIT CASA DE ARBOL (THE FAMOUS TREEHOUSE SWING)
Ok, so if you’ve heard of Baños, you’ve probably heard of the famous “Casa de Arbol” or better known as “The Swing to the End of the World.” Here, you have the chance to take the iconic swing picture that makes it look like you’re literally swinging off into the distance at the edge of a cliff surrounded by lush jungle trees all around you. You can also find some epic views of Mt. Tungurahua, the snowcapped active volcano, beside the valley. Even though when we went, the crowds were in full force and lines were at least 20 minutes to take your picture, I thought it was totally worth it. And I’ll tell you why. ↴
Instead of taking the bus to Casa de Arbol with the majority of the other tourists from town (which only costs you about $1 to get up), we decided to hike up the mountain trails. I was really in the mood to get some exercise after sitting around most of the day, and like always, Ryan was totally up for the challenge! Needless to say, we didn’t have any map or directions. All we knew is that we’d have to go UP. We asked some locals where we needed to start and they advised us to take the road up to Bellavista.
We continued walking up the windy paved road, as well as finding various trails with a more direct route to the top. It took us a total of three hours from town. We left a little later than 2pm, but I wish we would’ve started earlier so that we could’ve beat the crowds from the buses (who arrived around 4:45pm - the exact time we finally reached the top!) It only cost us $1 to enter into the Casa de Arbol and try the massive swing. We also enjoyed a beer ($2) and platano ($1 total) at the top while waiting for the bus back down the mountain. By 6pm, the bus was ready to leave and it only cost us $1 for the thirty minutes ride back to town.
TOTAL COST = $2 (entrance and bus) + $3 (beer + food) = $5
2. BIKE THE ROUTE OF THE WATERFALLS (La Ruta de Las Cascadas)
After our hiking adventure straight up the mountain, we were ready for a more cruise day of biking. We had heard about La Ruta de Las Cascadas (The Route of the Waterfalls) and thought this would be a perfect day activity to explore the region on bicycles. We reserved bikes the day before and picked them up around 9am for the start to our day. It only cost us $5/bike for the entire day.
[Tip:] I would suggest starting even earlier if you can, so you can beat some of the crowds at the different waterfalls.
This biking route will take you to four bigger waterfalls, which includes Agoyan, Manto de la Novia, Pailon del Diablo and Machay (we actually didn’t make it to see this one). Just a fair warning, know that you will be riding on a major highway for the first several kilometers. I imagined it would be a mellow ride towards the waterfalls, but I was definitely clutching my handlebars as if they were lifesavers due to the whizzing traffic beside me.
When we reached Agoyan, we saw some zip liners enjoying views of the tallest waterfall in Ecuador’s Andes. We would totally recommend this if you’re looking for a change of pace and want to get off your bike for a bit. It also looked like it was the BEST out of all the zip lines we saw. Eventually, the busy traffic eased up as we were able to ride on a more pronounced bike path for the majority of the ride finding little restaurants along the way.
When we reached Pailon del Diablo, it cost us $1 to enter and we had a beautiful fifteen minute walk toward the waterfall through a beautiful natural oasis filled with lush jungle. We spent some time hanging out there before heading back towards the main entrance. We waited for a few other riders who wanted to head back and took a $2 ride to Baños with our bikes beside us in the huge truck.
TOTAL COST = $5 (bike rental) + $1 (entrance to Pailon del Diablo) + $2 (ride back to town)= $8
3. HIKE TO RADIO TOWER FOR BEST VIEW OF THE CITY
Disclaimer: This was by far Ryan’s favorite hike during our visit in Baños! I will do my best to describe in the way he saw it. His expressions and excitement throughout this entire hike made me so happy and less miserable in my own mental state as I grappled my way up the steep mountain. #thestruggleisreal
We found out about this hike by reading it within a brochure in a restaurant deeming it to be the hike with the BEST view of the city! Again without any information on how to get there, and (yet again) starting way later than we anticipated (around 3pm), we set off up the mountain. We asked a local where we should start and he gave us the direction, “Follow the trail up towards the trees.” Not so helpful, but we have become adapt to finding our way without much direction.
Apart from starting at the wrong point, we still found a way around the obstacles through a variety of camp sites and someone’s farmland to a trailhead.
[Tip:] Our advice is to walk a little further up the road where you will find a sign that says, “Alpinar: Centro Turistico” in which you will be at the official start for the trail.
We continued hiking up a well marked path along the spiny ridge for the rest of the way up. Unlike the hike up to the swing, we pretty much took a trail in the middle of the forest the entire time. We also didn’t see anyone else on this trail (expect for on our way down), which made it pretty magical. By the time we were almost to the top, I was dying. Well, not really dying, but I was completely out of breath and telling Ryan I was ready to just throw in the towel. (I’m notorious for threatening to quit, but it’s more like a defensive cry for help, usually to no avail.)
On the other hand, Ryan usually happily prances up the mountain. We got to the top, and we were both so stoked with a beautiful view of the town below with the snow-capped volcano to our right. We enjoyed our time at the top, but didn’t last more than 20 minutes as it was freezing and we were dressed for summertime, rather than fierce wind at the top. We made it down the mountain in about an hour and were just in time to see two bungee jumpers go off the main bridge into town. After cheering them on, we grabbed dinner at Casa Hood, our favorite place to eat during our time in Banos.
Total cost = $0 (however, I would totally recommend buying $2 worth of snacks to enjoy at the top!)
[Tip:] It took us a total of 3 hours (2 hours up & 1 hour down). I would also advice doing it earlier in the day so you’re not racing down to beat the sunset at dark.