Baños is famous for being the adventure capital of Ecuador and it certainly lives up to this by supplying
bridge jumping, zip lining, biking, and many more things to do. We arrived in Baños during Semana Santa, meaning that not only did we get to experience the adrenaline rushes, we also got to see locals celebrating Easter Week first hand. Here is what we experienced whilst in town:
With Semana Santa on we saw many festivities. The majority of these centred around the main Basilica in town, with church services continuing well into the night.
Aside from this, we experienced priests blessing cars (you can’t crash if a priest spreads holy water on your car!), vendors selling anything from candles to Jesus statues, and many fireworks!
It was so interesting to see all of these during our time in Baños, and we can only imagine how the celebrations extend in other towns throughout Latin America.
Honey Coffee and Tea
This gringo-aimed cafe is located next to one of the main public squares in town; Parque Palomino Flores. Whilst you won’t find many locals hanging about, you will find a fairly decent cup of coffee and a selection of great foods once you walk in. The place has a real hipster (and western world) feel. For us it was great to take a break from Ecuadorean cuisine and try something from home.
Another reason we frequented here was the “freak” shakes they had on offer. Despite their expense at nearly $7US, they are truly worth it with the jars being packed full and decorated with items including Oreos and other delicious treats.
Casa del Arbol
Casa del Arbol is known as the swing off the edge of the earth, when really you’re just swinging off the edge of a steep hill. This information aside, no matter how touristy it is you should still head up there to grab your swing photo (make sure you have a good angle!), and check out the views of the volcanoes in the distance. Also, with entry being the equivalent of $1US it’s a cheap way to spend a few hours!
To get there cheaply, head to the corner of Rocafuerte and Pastaza streets and get on the next bus heading up. The buses do not run all that regularly so it would be best to check with your hostel or hotel for information on the times!
Puenting off San Francisco Bridge
“Puenting” is the Spanish term for jumping off of a bridge with a rope attached, and Baños offers a great and cheap spot to do so. If you head on over to the San Francisco bridge sometime after breakfast, you will usually see some people crowded around taking it in turns to jump off!
Puenting off course is different from bungee jumping, as instead of being on an elastic cable you form an arc and swing around to the other side of the bridge using a regular rope. It really is a fun experience and for only $20US you would be crazy to pass it up!
Bike Riding to Waterfalls (Ruta de las Cascades)
We always love renting bikes no matter where in the world we are, and Baños was no exception. In fact, there is a popular bike route that starts in the town and heads mostly downhill to around 6-7 waterfalls. This route is called the “Ruta de las Cascades” or route of the waterfalls and is a really great way to spend the majority of a day cruising downhill towards the next photo opportunity.
The waterfalls that can be seen along the way include:
Tarabita Agoyan: the first waterfall on the route, you can see this one from afar or if you like take a cable car across to the other side of the river to get a closer look
Él Manto de la Novia: Similar to Tarabita, you can catch a zip line or cable car to get closer
Pailon de Diablo: this is probably the highlight of the bike ride, as you lock up your bikes and hike your way down towards what is a massively powerful waterfall. You pay a small fee to enter the site, but you also gain an incredible view with some points being so close you will get soaked by the falls (bring a poncho!)
Encanto del Rocio de Machay: the final major waterfall on the ride is right near the finishing town of Machay. You can also pay to hike down to this one, however we were told that it was not as impressive as Diablo so we gave it a miss
Once you complete the route, you need to return to the entrance of the Pailon del Diablo waterfall where nearby are trucks that will take you back to Baños for a small fee.
It is really easy to hire a bike in town, with prices starting from $5US for semi-decent bikes. We flashed out for $7US ones for a bit of extra suspension!
The town would not be called “baths” (literally) without there being some form of hot spring around, and Baños really comes through! Whilst there are plenty of spas located in town, the cheapest and therefore most friendly are the public baths “Piscina de la Virginia”.
For only $2US during the day or $3US during the night you can head to these baths located right near the centre of town and enjoy a cold, warm, extra warm, or extremely hot spa bath!
We ended up coming here twice as we just couldn’t get enough of the hot water. And whilst some blogs complain about the colour of the water (brownish), this is just the natural minerals at work and not something to be worried about. I mean, you’re already getting great value so why complain about the natural colour of the springs?
There are plenty of options for hiking around town, though the one I ended up taking was the “Bellevista” hike which takes you far up to a high point overlooking the town of Baños.
The beauty of this hike is that it won’t take you all day, in fact whilst rushing I finished the full hike (up and back) in a little over an hour. This was perfect as Rach was getting a massage at the time and it gave me a quick opportunity to get out into the nature and also see the breathtaking view from the top!
Get a Massage
There are so many options in town for massages it’s not funny! Really we were lucky they weren’t trying to hawk their services more as we would have been inundated with requests.
After being in town for a few days and doing more and more adventurous activities, Rach decided to check out a massage to complement the help that the hot springs were also doing for her body. Fortunately the massages here are quite cheap, and you can get a great deal if you have a look around and negotiate.
Explore the Town
Just like in most places we end up, we tend to spend at least some of the first day exploring and seeing if we can find some hidden gems in amongst the madness!
In Baños we found some great views, some nice restaurants, and even the “bar street” that we would end up frequenting a few times for a good night out!
There isn’t a walking tour here (not a free one anyway), so get out and about and see what you can find in amongst the many streets of this cool little town.
Go to the Monkey Rescue Centre in Puyo
That’s right, you can make your way to a rehabilitation centre for monkeys (and other animals) in the town of Puyo near Baños and get to see baby monkeys as well! The entry fee for here is really cheap, and it all goes towards a great cause of getting the animals back to where they should be and into the wild.
We had a really good time walking around the facility on our own, checking out the different animals and even sitting by a fresh water river for a while that runs through the jungle property.
To get here, take any bus heading to Puyo from the bus station. Once you arrive at the bus terminal in Puyo, hop into a taxi and ask to be taken to the monkey rescue centre. It should only cost you a couple of dollars and most drivers know exactly where it is! Ask at the centre for them to call you a taxi once you are done exploring the grounds, so that you can make your way back to Baños.
We really enjoyed our time in Baños, it was one of our favourites in Ecuador and we were sad to finish up after spending almost a week here. Make sure that you too go here and see what all of the fuss is about, you won’t regret it.