Mindo is a beautiful quaint town situated in the cloud forest in northern Ecuador. Best known for its birds, butterflies, and natural beauty, Mindo is perfect for any traveler looking to get away. Bonus: the town is famous for its high quality chocolate and coffee! Mindo is a short distance from Quito (1.5-2 hours) and holds endless possibilities for outdoor adventures or remote relaxation. After a few short days in the town I’m already ready to go back. Mindo absolutely deserves a spot on your travel bucket list. Here’s the lowdown.
What to do in Mindo, Ecuador
Whether you are looking for a tranquil getaway to looking to get into some extreme sports, Mindo is the place to do it. Mindo has the best outdoor/extreme sport activities much like Banos de Ambato, but it is a much smaller and less commercialized town. Here are some activities not to be missed!
Mindo is famous for its butterflies. It has a small indoor butterfly farm which is a 4km walk from town. Despite the many children having the time of their life, I was mesmerized by all the butterflies of different shapes and colors. You can put a little ripe banana on your fingers and the butterflies will come to you. Some butterflies latched on to us for up to 20 mins, even on places like our ears or pants where we didn’t have any food! Cost of entry is $7.50 per person.
The waterfall hike is about a 6km walk from town (all uphill). It is a chance to get some fresh air and step into nature. From town you’ll walk about 4km on roads and then arrive to a little forest hike. On the way up you’ll also pass an opportunity to zipline down to another waterfall. We skipped this because it was a bit pricey for a short trip down. Once you enter the Balneario it will be $3 for residents and $5 for foreigners. When you hike down you stumble upon a jungle swing, a beautiful bridge made from bamboo, and a pretty waterfall. Enter more into the park and there is a water slide that is elevated a few meters, a chance to jump off a platform into the river with a guide (I skipped this since the rapids were so strong that day and its a 12m drop – eek!), and there are some small pools where you can hang as well as the river. Also a great place for families.
Hike the bird trails
There is another trail spot that is known for its bird watching and I highly recommend it. They have 5 trails to pick from, all of which are relatively short and if you’re looking for a longer hike you can do all of them in 4-5 hours. Trail 3 brings you to a beautiful overlook of Mindo, and the rest run in loops where it feels like you are deep in the forest, surrounded by green beauty. You’ll hear all sorts of birds (and if you have the patience maybe see some too) and monkeys and trees blowing in the wind. To enter visit the Hacienda San Vicente just a 5 minute walk from town, also known as the Yellow House hostel. If you’re staying there the price of the trails is included, or if not it is $6. Maria Elena the owner will walk you to the entrance and provide a trail map. All trails are very well marked.
Mindo has its fair share of outdoor activities, including many extreme sports! Check out a canyoning tour ($15) to descend on 4 different waterfalls, white water rafting ($6 per person), the Sanutario de Cascadas (waterfall) tour ($5 +transport). You can also check out biking routes and ziplining!… The list goes on! I promise you when I say that the town is really small – walk the few blocks to any of the information centers or a tour agency and they will get you set up. No advance booking required.
Mindo is also famous for its cacao and has many small high-quality artisan chocolate companies. There are two spots in town where you can visit their shops and take a tour to learn about their process of making chocolate. Tours cost about $10 and including tastings. Head over to Yumbos Chocolate or El Quetzal both located downtown.
Where to stay
We stayed at the most quaint and charming little inn just a 5 minute walk from the town, but situated in the forest. Each room is in an adorable cabin. Between the hammocks and the noises of the forest, you’ll get the feeling that you are away and relaxed. The owner Maria Elena hosts breakfast in her home on the property out on a balcony overlooking a gorgeous view of the town and cloud forest. Sit back, drink coffee, and enjoy the countless hummingbirds fly to and from the birdfeeders on the porch. It is a sight not to be missed. Rooms are $25 per person, including breakfast and trails.
Mindo Lago is another popular spot that caters to eco-tourism. Also just a short walk from town, you’ll feel as though you are deep in the forest. Mindo Lago is for those looking for a more luxurious getaway. You’ll stay in charming cabins immersed in the forest with monkey and frog noises all around.
Bio Hostal Mindo is another more affordable options for backpackers traveling on a limited budget. It’s a cute house with all that you’ll need for your stay.
Where to eat
Take a quick walk around town and you’ll find plenty to eat. It’s your classic small town – there is one of everything. The main street has great options, or turn right just after the park and you’ll find a few more spots with porches out front with great vegetarian options. Here are some of the spots we enjoyed:
- Dragonfly Inn (yes its true Gilmore Girls fans)
- Arepas (the only Venezuelan spot on the main street)
- Breakfast at Yellow House
- Mr. Cheff (known for its steaks grilled on a stone
- Marisqueria (seafood on the main street – great shrimp dishes)
- Recommended length of stay: 3-7 days. Depending on the number of tours you do or your pace of travel, you could really extend the trip quite a bit. If you want to do one day of hiking/butterflies, one day of waterfalls, and one day of extreme sports three could suffice.
- Weather: Mindo has a warmer, more humid climate of a rainforest but can also get chilly at night. Rain is light but always passes.
- What to bring: bug spray, rain jacket, layers for the hot/cold changes. I’d recommend long sleeves if you want to be extra cautious about mosquito bites. Of course don’t forget your camera.
Have you been to Mindo? Looking to go? Let me know about it in the comments! 🙂