Ecuador Travel Guide: The Best Things to Do in the Mindo

Mindo Waterfall

A friend of mine who’d recently visited Ecuador highly suggested I go to the Mindo Cloud Forest to do the waterfall hike. I love advice from people I know, their recommendations tend to be spot on. After a bit of research I learned that Mindo is a place of natural beauty, adventurous outdoor activities, and also a good place to relax. So one weekend, I escaped from Ecuador’s busy capital city, Quito, to explore the town of Mindo. This Mindo travel guide shares all of the best things to do in Mindo if you have two days!

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Ecuador travel resources

My Journey to the Mindo Cloud Forest

Mindo Cloud forest is located two hours north of Quito by bus. A bit of misinformation surrounding the bus schedule led me to La Ofelia bus station incredibly early one Saturday morning – only to learn the first bus scheduled for Mindo was in three hours. 

But another bus company headed for Los Bancos told me they could take me on the way, at least that’s what I thought I’d gathered from my limited Spanish speaking abilities. Deciding to trust him, I paid $4.50 and hopped on the bus. 

I obsessively checked the maps on my phone on the windy two-hour bus journey to ensure I didn’t miss it! Turns out I didn’t have to worry as the driver remembered to tell me to get off at the right stop! And by stop, I mean side of the road. 

This is common as across the road, pickup trucks wait to take people down the hill to Mindo. Seeing no other option as it was pouring rain, I paid $3.00 for the taxi into Mindo. As soon as we pulled into the center of this small town, I felt a relaxed smile forming on my face.

A sense of calm washed over me as the taxi made its way toward my hostel. I looked out the window at the cobblestone main road lined with shops, restaurants, and tour companies as it gave way to dirt side streets, muddy from the rain. I realized I felt calm and relaxed – a stark contrast to the tension I felt consistently in Quito.

My taxi driver dropped me off at La Casa de Cecilia, a hostel recommended by friends in Quito. It was charming and looked like a tree house surrounded by lush greenery on the banks of Rio Mindo (Mindo River). I was too early to check in, yet just in time for breakfast.

Sitting alone at a table for four facing the river in the hostel’s outdoor dining space I set about planning my weekend in Mindo.

La Casa de Cecilia
La Casa de Cecilia – a tree house for a hostel

Mindo Waterfalls Hike

One of the most popular activities to do in Mindo is hike the Tarabita y Santuario de Cascadas Mindo, or the Mindo waterfall hike! 

So, after a healthy portion of eggs, bread, and fresh fruit, I checked into my private room at La Casa de Cecilia (only $1 more than a dorm). I threw on my hiking clothes and walked the dirt road to town to find a taxi to take me to the Tarabita Cable Car. Tarabita is about 15 minutes outside of Mindo town. I paid $10 for a round trip ride. 

What is a Tarabita you ask? Well, it is a small cable car system that takes you across the forest canopy at a dizzying height to the start of the waterfall hike.

It’s definitely a questionable transport system, but I could not stop grinning at the fact that I was in Mindo, on my way to the waterfalls.

The Tarabita in Mindo Ecuador

Nambillo Waterfall

First, I hiked down to the Nambillo waterfall, which is the main attraction. Here you can pay $3.00 to a man who will harness you into a rope, and take a video of you jumping 12m from the viewing platform into the turbulent water below. As I visited during rainy season and it had been raining quite heavily the night prior the waterfall was more powerful than it looked on the videos he showed me of others jumping off.  I chickened out. Didn’t jump. Perhaps had I been with someone else I might have, but I couldn’t convince myself! 

Mindo Waterfall

The Waterfalls of Mindo

Instead, I walked on beneath the cover of the cloud forest, light rain falling, and the echo of the waterfalls following me toward the next falls. There are a total of 6 different waterfalls you can hike to and I wanted to see them all as I relished the quiet noises of nature compared to the chaotic noise of Quito. Hot and sweaty, I arrived at the third waterfall, which had an easily accessible pool for swimming. I dropped my backpack, stripped down to my swimsuit, and jumped into the freezing, yet refreshing waters.

Mindo cloud forest, Ecuador

The fourth waterfall had a rope to climb to get closer to it, but there was nowhere to leave my belongings, so I didn’t linger there. A pup had joined me on my quest for all 6 waterfalls at this point. Together we arrived at the fifth waterfall where I noticed the path disappeared under a rush of water. I watched a group ahead of me struggle to cross what can really only be called a river. I contemplated crossing to meet my goal of all six waterfalls, but as I watched one ahead of me fall in, I opted to turn back. 

a local pup as my hiking companion

My hiking boots were doing an awesome job at keeping my feet dry up to this point. But, I knew as soon as the water entered from the top of the boot, I’d have to manage soaking wet feet the remainder of the hike. That’s just no fun.

Hiking back to the Tarabita to make the beautifully terrifying cable car ride back into town, I noticed my stomach rumbling. It was a good time for lunch.

Try Unique Food

Mindo is a little town but it is home to a variety of cuisines and unique places to eat! There are, of course, restaurants where you can try traditional Ecuadorian cuisine, but I also found a vegetarian restaurant that used quinoa as its main ingredient in every dish. Next to it was a crepe place and across the street, there was an Italian restaurant. On the other side of it was a German place, I believe. I actually just tried to find it on Google Maps and you know the street view? Well, it won’t let me walk down the street it’s on! I’ve never had that happen before!

That being said, I had the Quinoa burger and Quinoa ice cream at Mishqui Quinde. And both were delicious.

Quinoa Restaurant
this is what it looks like, even if it’s not on Google Maps!

Relax in a Hammock!

I returned to La Casa de Cecilia to change into dry clothes and figure out what to do with my afternoon. Mindo is kind of like a mini Baños. It’s filled with adventurous activities like ziplining and river tubing, but all I really wanted to do was yoga and read a book in a hammock.

yoga in Mindo, Ecuador

After being in the chaos and noise of Quito for a few weeks, my body was requesting calm and quiet – not ziplining. So I honored that and after a great yoga sesh, I found a hammock next to the river at my hostel. There I finished a book and napped. That’s the best part of solo travel. I was able to pay attention to my own needs and not feel pressured to do something else!

Hammock in Mindo, Ecuador

El Quetzal Chocolate Tour

The next morning, after a lush sleep in until 8:00 am! I know that doesn’t sound like much, but in Quito, my daily alarm clock was honking horns at 6:00 am! After another yoga practice, I meandered to El Quetzal Chocolate Factory for a chocolate tour. 

According to the website, tours take place every hour from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm for $10. 

I was lucky enough to get a private tour as no one else showed up for my hour! I got to see the entire chocolate-making process: from cacao bean to my lips! At the end of the tour, they let you taste cacao in different forms, including their delicious dark chocolate and amazing cacao tea.

You should go to Mindo and try it!

Visit Mariposa Farm

Mariposas de Mindo, also known as the Mindo Butterfly Farm, is a butterfly breeding farm that you can visit and see thousands of colorful butterflies! The garden ensures the conservation of the butterfly species unique to the Mindo cloud forest. There are two bamboo structures you can climb up and enjoy the views of the sanctuary. On site is a restaurant serving local cuisine.

It’s located about 2km from Mindo town. I recommend hiring a taxi to take you there.

Alternatively, Mariposario Nathaly Mindo, a butterfly garden that is walking distance from the town of Mindo. Here not only can you see a variety of species of butterflies but you’ll also likely see hummingbirds!

Have a Mindo Canopy Adventure

If you don’t have the time for a full weekend in Mindo on your Ecuador itinerary, then book a Mindo day tour from Quito. With this tour, you’ll experience all of the beautiful things that Mindo has to offer in a short amount of time!  

You’ll start your day admiring the beauty of hummingbirds and then a thrilling ziplining adventure over the canopy of the cloud forest. In the afternoon you’ll visit a butterfly farm and enjoy a chocolate workshop! 

Book your Mindo day trip from Quito here!

me walking in the mindo cloud forest, ecuador

Best Time of Year to Visit Mindo, Ecuador

The best time to visit Mindo, Ecuador, largely depends on what you hope to experience during your trip:

  1. Dry Season (June – September): This period is generally considered the best time to visit Mindo. The weather is drier, and you’ll have fewer rainy days, making it ideal for outdoor activities such as hiking, birdwatching, and exploring the cloud forest.
  2. Rainy Season (October – May): This season brings more frequent rainfall, but it also means the cloud forest is lush and vibrant. If you don’t mind occasional showers, this can be a beautiful time to visit, especially for photography and experiencing the lush greenery.
  3. Birdwatching Season (November – April): This period overlaps with the rainy season but is considered prime time for birdwatchers due to increased bird activity, including the chance to spot migratory species.

There really isn’t a bad time of year to visit Mindo as long as you’re prepared with the appropriate clothing and mindset!

How to Get to Mindo, Ecuador

Bus from Quito to Mindo

From Quito city center, take a taxi north ($10) to take you to La Ofelia station. You can also take a local bus for about $1. 

Flor de Valle bus company takes you directly into Mindo (instead of getting dropped on the side of the road, like me!). Here is the actual bus schedule for Flor del Valle.

Bus tickets cost about $4.50. 

Exercise caution with your belongings on all buses in Ecuador. If you stow your bag underneath the bus it should be fine. But anything you bring on board, keep securely on your person. Don’t place anything on the floor or overhead.

When you’re ready to return to Mindo, head to the bus station in town and get your ticket! I recommend purchasing your bus ticket early if you’re visiting in high season as seats tend to fill up!

Private Transportation from Quito to Mindo

If you don’t want to take the bus, you can book private transportation with Daytrip. You’ll get a private driver, be able to choose the type of vehicle you’re in, and have a comfortable journey. However, it could cost you much more than the bus!

Mindo cloud forest

What to Pack for Mindo, Ecuador

I visited Mindo in February during the rainy season and can confirm that there was at least a soft drizzle the entire time I was there. Since you’re in a cloud forest, expect the weather to be humid and wet. 

Hiking Boots/Sandals: Waterproof hiking boots and good socks are a must. I love my Keen hiking boots and Darn Tough socks (I’ve literally never had a blister with this combination).

Hiking Clothes: I opted for shorts for my waterfall hike, but you may prefer lightweight, waterproof pants. Also choose a moisture wicking shirt!

Swimsuit: Wear a swimsuit underneath your hiking clothes so you can take a dip in the waterfall pools!

Rain Jacket: A lightweight rain jacket is perfect for hiking in the cloud forest. 

Insect Repellent: Bugs don’t like me, thankfully! I brought these insect repellent wipes all over South America and only ever gave them out to people who were getting bitten by bugs. They did say they worked well though! Get the insect repellent wipes here!

Reusable water bottle: Keep this place beautiful by limiting the amount of trash you create and use a refillable water bottle. I love my Hydro Flask for keeping my water cold in the humid climates. They’ve since come out with a lightweight version perfect for travel. Purchase your travel Hydro Flask here.

Day Bag: This waterproof backpack is perfect for your Mindo adventures!

Camera: Whether you’re using a professional camera to capture the flowing waterfalls and lush landscape or a smartphone, you’ll want something to document this amazing place.

Portable Charger: Bring a portable battery pack to make sure both your phone and camera stay charged and you don’t miss documenting this incredible experience! I love this one!

For more details on what to pack for Ecuador, including the Galapagos Islands, read my detailed Ecuador packing list.

A waterfall in Mindo Cloud Forest
Hiking the waterfalls in Mindo Cloud Forest

Where to Stay in Mindo, Ecuador

There are multiple places to stay in Mindo depending on your travel style and budget!

La Casa de Cecilia: La Casa de Cecilia is like a big tree house! I stayed here and really loved the setting and the price. Although, it’s just wood walls between the rooms, so be prepared to hear your neighbors’ conversations at night.

Check rates and availability here!

Cinnamon House: The Cinnamon House is what I would call a boutique hostel. It has gorgeous private rooms as well as dorm rooms. It is beautifully designed and blends in perfectly with the natural environment. If I were to go back to Mindo, I’d book a private room here.

Check rates and availability here!

The Yellow House Trails & Lodge: This is the perfect place to stay for nature lovers. It’s located on the north end of Mindo, just a 5 minute walk to the center of town.  There is a private reserve on the property which is home to over 470 different bird species. You don’t even have to leave your porch to enjoy birdwatching! The rooms are simple and rustic, but the grounds more than make up for it!

Check rates and availability here!

Sisakuna Lodge: If you’re looking for something a little bit more upscale, check out the stunning Sisakuna Lodge. You can book a private room or a cabin, enjoy a refreshing swim in the pool, or indulge in local food at the onsite restaurant and bar. 

Check rates and availability here!

Something I didn’t realize I’d been needing while in Quito was more nature and relaxation. Mindo is a great place for getting back to nature as every aspect of the town seems to blend seamlessly into the natural world. So if you happen to have an extra day on your Quito itinerary I highly suggest escaping to Mindo. Even writing this now makes me smile. I’m sure that the small town nestled in the cloud forest will bring a smile to your face.

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Travel to Mindo Cloud Forest in Ecuador for a relaxing weekend getaway from Quito, Ecuador.
waterfall hike in mindo, ecuador

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