Ecuador: Day 2 – Banos to the Amazon
- Luis is already waiting for us when we sat down for a quick bit to eat before we voyage on to our next adventure. On the menu today: fresh fruits, warm rolls, and huevo (eggs) cooked to our preference. The weather now is overcasting but we hope the sun will peak in a few hours.
We’re in the city of Baños, known for their hydro-thermal springs, cascades, and adrenaline extreme sports. Luis drove us to Luna Runtun, Adventure Spa to enjoy the view of the city. Luis said that this hotel is THE BEST PLACE to see the entire city from above. Unfortunately, it was overcasting so the view was compromised by the low ceiling clouds. We snapped a few photos before journeying on to La Casa Del Arbol.
La Casa Del Arbol
La Casa Del Arbol is the famous end of the world tree-house swing. The swing is attached to a tiny tree-house and upon swinging, you’re suspense over the city. There is a short uphill hike to the area but upon arrival, there are several swings and ziplining activities. A native woman will approach you and ask you for a dollar to enter into the plaza. It is not a scam. La Casa Del Arbol has two swings attached to the house. There is a wooden ramp in which you start from the top and push yourself to get the momentum needed. You also have the option to have a buddy push you to get you higher in the sky. I have to admit, that it was a little scary to have someone push you but in the end, you feel so free. Absolutely, a must try when you’re in Baños.
Time Spent: 1.5 hour | Entrance Fee: $1/pp | Parking: free
Cascada Manto De La Novia
Cascada Manto De La Novia is also known as the Avenue of Waterfalls. This is where you go to get a closer look at some of the biggest waterfalls in Ecuador. For $2 you are able to take a round trip trolley over the waterfall. For $15, you can zipline over the waterfall than take the trolley back. For $20, you can zipline both ways. We were planning on ziplining later in the trip so we decided to just take a round trip trolley. Once the trolley pulled up, we paid $2 before entering. The trolley stopped in the middle. I’m terrified of heights so i grabbed on my friend for dear life. When the trolley continued, the trolley jolted. Make sure you secure all your personal belongings especially your phones. They can easily slipped between the cracks. Once we arrived on the other side of the waterfall, we turned left where there is a bridge that suspense over the waterfall. For $0.25 you can cross the bridge to hike or you can just stand on the bridge for free. We took a quick look before taking the trolley back to the beginning.
Time Spent: 1 hour | Entrance Fee: $2 – 20/pp | Parking: free
Pailon del Diablo
Pailon del Diablo, also known as Devil’s Cauldron is one of the most powerful waterfalls I’ve ever hiked. There are two trails to the waterfall, going down or going up. We were hoping to hike up both routes but going up means going through traffic. The start of the trail involves crawling through a tiny tunnel one person at a time for both directions. It was a Saturday morning so the wait to get through the tunnel was long. We decided to just go downstairs to get a closer look at the gigantic fall. We could feel the mist hit against our faces and our bodies. It’s a good thing that we were prepared with our emergency ponchos. We saw many patrons soaked from the hike. After observing the fall from afar, we trek back to the start, in which we were given passes to cross over a wooden bridge for a full view of the enormous cascade. We snapped a few shots before wrapping up our hike and heading over to a nearby restaurant, Las Hortencias Restaurante.
Time Spent: 1-3 hour | Entrance Fee: $1.50/pp | Parking: $1
The temperature increased as we inch closer to the Amazon Rain Forest. The windows are down and I can feel the humid warm heat whist against my face. Luis turned and asked me, “What do you want to see?” “Monkeys”, I responded.
Fundacion Los Monos Selva Y Vida
Luis took us to an Animal Rescue Center Zoo. The zoo was not like the zoos back home. The monkeys were caged in but they were able to escape their enclosed areas. There were jungle gyms for them to swing across and even though it is not permitted, you can have physical interaction with the animals. You are able to get a glimpse of the monkeys eating, making funny faces to the cameras, and playing with each other. The zoo also has an area for snakes (they’re in tanks), pigs, and more. After our short visit to the zoo, I was hoping to take a boat through the Amazon river. The workers told us that we were able to swim in the Amazon but they were not sure about a boat. We decided to pass and headed to Tena, another Amazonian city, for the night.
Time Spent: 1 hour | Entrance Fee: $3pp | Parking: $1
Tena is such a vibrant city filled with restaurants, shops, and bars. The air at night was warm that we were able to step out of our hotel with just a t-shirt and jeans. We roamed around finding restaurants with the best views. Read more under places to eat.
Where to Eat:
- Lunch in Baños by Pailon del Diablo: Las Hortencias Restaurante
We were famish once we walked into Las Hortencias Restaurante for lunch. It started to pour and thank goodness we barely just beat the storm. We sat down and ordered adult beverages as a treat to ourselves. My friend ordered a shot of punta which is an Ecuadorian drink. I ordered an interesting cream mojito. For lunch, I ordered the carne asada. It came with a side of rice, pasta salad, and fries. My friend ordered the loma which is seasoned braised beef. Our tour guide ordered the chicken soup and a chicken plate. For the table, I ordered the empanadas con pollo which i have to say was spectacular. Once we are done with our meal, we paid at the register. Altogether, we spent about $36.
- Dinner in Tena: Cafe Tortuga
From our hotel, we stepped to the left. There wasn’t a large selection of food places until we cross over the bridge. There were rows of food carts. Across the bridge, we saw Cafe Tortuga. We walked to a bar and ordered micheladas. They didn’t serve food so we went next door to Cafe Tortuga. We ordered a chicken burrito and it was pretty scrumptious. After dinner, we decided to go to another bar before heading home.
- Drinks in Tena: Iguana Restaurant and Bar
It was a mission to get to Iguana Restaurant and Bar. Our GPS took us in a circle. We turned back and were close to our hotel when we accidentally stumbled across the restaurant. I was trying to check out the view from a bridge and saw Iguana just downstairs from where I was standing. We kind-of kicked ourselves for that.
Iguana Restaurant and Bar is a trendy open space bar. The walls were covered with paintings of music legends like the Beatles and The Rolling Stones. The bar area hung Christmas lights from the top panel and the hot 100 music blared through the speakers. I ordered a Club beer while my friend had a Heineken. We ordered the chips and guacamole. We love our guacamole….but what is up with the Doritos chips that came with it? Thank goodness the guacamole was delicioso. Regardless, this is perhaps my favorite bar in Ecuador.
Where to Stay in Tena:
We stayed in Hostal Los Yutzos in Tena. I was a little hesitant about staying in a hostel. I have no interest in sharing my bathroom with others since I like my space. What drew me to this place was the air conditioning option. We are in the Amazon so the air was humid…I expected the rooms to be a sizzling sauna. When the reception lady escorted us to the room, we saw the view of the Pano River from our window. That was a complete win for me. The AC option was $27 per person, bringing out total to $54. This was the cheapest room we stayed at in Ecuador.