The waterfalls – Santuario de Cascadas
To hike between the waterfalls outside Mindo is a lovely thing to do when you visit Mindo. The waterfalls are situated inside Bosque Protector Mindo–Nambillo and the area with the waterfalls is called Santuario de Cascadas. To come here I walked from Mindo and it took almost an hour. Then you have to take the tarabita (cable car) over the river basin and treetops. The tarabita cost$5 (July 2012) and you will then also be given a brochure with pictures of some of the waterfalls and a simple map.
Where the tarabita stops there are two paths, the left one will take you to six different waterfalls and the right one to one waterfall, Cascada Reina. I decided to see them all and started to walk the left path. When I came to Cascada Madre I couldn’t continue. There was still one waterfall left to see but the path continued on the other side of the stream and it was too difficult to jump on the few small slippery stones. I didn’t want to take of my boots either to wade over as it would be too difficult for me to tie my boots on the other side as I had a broken wrist. So I turned around and walked the same way back. Back at the tarabita I took the path to Cascada Reina. It took 45 minutes to walk to Cascada Reina and the same back. On the path to and from Cascada Reina I didn’t see any other people, but on the path to the other waterfalls I had seen a few. Altogether I spent around 4h hiking between the waterfalls.
It is a very beautiful place to hike in, the paths are easy to follow, it is very calm and you are surrounded by the green cloud forest vegetation. It is also a special feeling to walk all alone (except a few people I met along one of the paths) in this environment.
- Hiking and Walking
- National/State Park
Cascada Nambillo is the most visited of the waterfalls and also the waterfall closest to the tarabita. To come here you shall take the path to the left from the tarabita. The path goes downhill through the lush forest to the river and it takes about 10-15 minutes to walk here.
Cascada Nambillo is around 15 metres high and in the pools below the waterfalls people sometimes go swimming. No one was taking a bath when I visited but I met a group of people from Latacunga who were on a short holiday in Mindo. One of them had an accordion and he played a few songs and the others danced and sang. They gave me an ice cream that tasted very nice. We left at the same time but the people from Latacunga were going to return to Mindo and I was continuing along the path to see the rest of the waterfalls.
Chocolate tour at El Quetzal
El Quetzal is a restaurant and hotel (they have got three rooms) just north of the central square in Mindo. El Quetzal also makes their own chocolate and every day there are Chocolate tours at 16.00. When I visited the price was $5 (July 2012) and the tour took 45 minutes.
The tour was led by an American woman doing an internship at El Quetzal. We were shown around in the garden where a few cacao trees grow and got the different stages explained to us, like fermentation, drying etc. Back at El Quetzal restaurant we tasted their chocolate. We got some chocolate past which we tasted without sugar, with sugar, mixed with ginger syrup and mixed with chili. We also got a piece of brownie.
At El Quetzal they have also got chocolate bars for sale and of course I bought one after the tour.
Mariposas de Mindo
Mariposas de Mindo is a butterfly farm situated outside Mindo. To walk there took me around 30 minutes.
At the butterfly farm you will see all four stages in the life cycle of a butterfly; the eggs, caterpillars, pupae and butterflies. When you arrive you will get a short explanation, in Spanish or English, before you start to walk around alone. Mariposas de Mindo is the largest butterfly farm in Ecuador and here they breed 25 species, including the Peleides blue morpho and the Brown owl eye. Some of the butterflies bred here will be released into the wild.
I have got two guidebooks for Ecuador and one of them said it was best to come to Mariposa de Mindo early in the morning because then you might see them hatch. The other guidebook said it was best to come in the warmest part of the day, around 11, when the butterflies are most active. Of course I wanted to see the butterflies hatch, but I was not early.
When I arrived there was no activity among the pupae so I walked around in the big open room watching all the beautiful and colourful butterflies. Before leaving I decided to take another look at the pupae and luckily one started to hatch. I stayed for quite a while as more and more were hatching.
Then it was time for lunch so I ate a sandwich and drank a fruit juice at the restaurant. At Mariposas de Mindo there is also a souvenir shop and accommodation in wooden cabañas.
Mariposas de Mindo is open for visits between 7 - 16
Admission was $5 (July 2012).
Hiking from the Yellow House (Casa Amarilla)
Above Mindo there are some hiking trails starting at the Yellow House (Casa Amarilla). From the central square it only takes a few minutes to walk up to the starting point. Before you enter the trails you have to pay an admission of $6 (July 2012), quite a lot I think, especially for Ecuador. When you pay you will get a simple map over the trails.
The trail starts with a grassy road that goes past pasture land up to the cloud forest. Beside the grassy road there are a few short trails and in the end of the road is a longer path. I took the grassy road and first took Trail 3 that leads to a view point over Mindo. Here there are a few benches under a roof, so it makes a good location for a picnic. I then continued to the end of the road and took the longer tail, which I think is Trail 5. That part took 1h to walk. It is a beautiful walk through a lush green forest. There was quite a lot of spider web across the trail which I got in my face. Along the hike I also saw flowers, birds and insects. In the beginning of the trail I saw a big rodent which I don’t know the name of. Unfortunately it started to rain after a while.
Altogether I walked on the trails above Casa Amarilla for 3h. During this time I didn’t see one single person (except one man with a machete, who was on one of the fields, when I was on my way back down).
- Hiking and Walking
Armonia Orchid Garden
Armonia Orchid Garden is a lovely little garden to visit. In the garden they have around 200 species of native orchids. They were of course not in bloom all of them when I visited. I actually think it wasn’t high season for orchids because the previous year I had visited Santa Lucia Cloud Forest (which is situated in the same area as Mindo) around the same time of the year and there they had told me it wasn’t high season for orchids to be in bloom. Anyway, when I walked around in Armonia Orchid Garden I saw quite a lot of different orchid species.
At Armonia there is also accommodation. There is a main building and then a few rustic cabins spread out in the orchid garden.
To visit the Orchid Garden cost $2 (July 2012). It is open for visits between 7 - 17.
Mindo Ropes and Canopy
For about $5, you can spend about an hour gliding through the trees in the forests outside of Mindo. You will be provided with all the necessary gear. The longest circuit contains about 12 different cables of different lengths. You will have to hike a little between cables. It usually isn't very far (no more than 5 minutes at a time) but can be difficult because of the steepness and altitude. Not for people afraid of heights.
I never knew what this was called but I had seen it many times. You get harrnessed and swing through the top of the jungle. This is different from the tarabitas because you are not in a cage. You are basically on your own swinging from one platform to the other. Young kids are free and are taking by the guide. The whole adventure take about 1 hour and a half and costs about $10-12 per person.
Cascadas - Waterfalls
You can take the tarabitas and then take a short hike to the waterfall Cascada Nambillo. You will get to another fork in the road and you will have to chose if you want to see the sanctuary of the five waterfalls or Cascada Nambillo. We did both hikes and it was tiring. We actually didnt make it up to see the five waterfalls we only saw three because it was a long hike. When we came down we went toward the Cascada Nambillo. That walk was much shorter and the Cascada was very beautiful. You can go into the water and even dive off the top of the waterfall. Be careful though because there are no lifeguards. The water is so cold that it hurts your bones! After the hike though, you will welcome the cold water.
Tarabita- Well you get in this cage like thing and you go across the jungle as you look at the tops of the tallest trees. You even see the River Mindo down below.
We paid $12 for three adults and the baby was free.
When you get across the jungle you get off the tarabita and if you go to the right you go to the Cascada la Reina. This is the tallest waterfall and a stiff 45 minute walk. If you go to the left you get to see the Santuary of the five cascadas (waterfalls). There are tons of waterfalls in this area and all are walking distance.
You are basically on your own but there are signs everywhere so that you will know where to go.
This is a great hike for those of you who like to walk and get a good exercise. The hike is not that easy but not hard. It is up and down alot and you will definately get a good workout. You will not only get to see alot of different sized waterfalls but also you will see different plants and flowers that are unique to the area.
- Jungle and Rain Forest
- National/State Park
We stayed a while in Mindo to eat and to check it out. We went tubing in the river and had alot of fun.
The cost of this is roughly about $5 per person. You can chose to go on the river 1-4. One being not to rough - four being very rough.
When I came in 2001 there went too many tube rental places now in 2007 there are a handful of different places that you can go rent the tubes from. The price is the same everywhere and they will drop you off and pick you up so dont worry about how to get back. The river water is fresh water and very cold.
The regatas are alot of fun and I strongly recommend doing this. I had never done any kinds of rafting and it was a good first time experience.
The Butterfly Farm
The butterfly garden was very very quiet and we were the only ones present in what was essentially a giant butterfly net. A entrance costs $3 and our host gave the tour in both english and spanish. Along the way we were able to view every stage of metamorphosis. I believe they said they raise them and release half of them into the wild. They let you hold caterpillars that are pretty much bigger than your hand and they'll shake the plants to make the butterflies swirl all around you. If you are afraid of bugs this is probably not for you. The key to getting butterflies to land on you is to hold rotten mushy banana. I'm sure there are less gross "sweets" that could have been used but we were following directions. This place is just one of the many little charms of mindo.
Raft/Tube down the river
This isn't white water rafting, it's tubing. For $5 dollars you can get loaded up in a truck and driven down to the river. They lash several black tubes together, throw you in a lifevest and helmet, and guide you down the river. We just went to the main office in town and they set us up with everything we needed. Very fun.
There are excellent opportunities for bird watching in Mindo. Several guides offer to take you out.
I hired one for my parents when they visited. It was a great experience, despite the fact that I am not that keen on birds. He spotted the birds long before we saw them.
His name is Efraine, and he also runs a little hostel, with a orchid garden (don't remember the name, but it is behind the football stadium).
He doesn't speak English, but because he has lived in Germany some years, he speaks very good German.
- Jungle and Rain Forest
hiking the rainforest
In Mindo there are great opportunities to hike the rainforest. Some of the hostels in town offer bird watching trips, hikes to waterfalls or trips around the rainforest.
I worked in Mindo as a volunteer for an organization protecting the rainforest, and therefore we did a number of trips to the forest.
The rainforest near Mindo is beautiful and some of it is protected primary forest.
- Jungle and Rain Forest
- Budget Travel