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During a volunteer trip to Ecuador, I had some time off to explore. My first stop was the Mindo Cloud Forest. Located 2 hours northwest of Quito, Mindo has no shortage of things to do. It’s still one of Ecuador’s best-kept secrets, but not for long. Word is getting out. Mindo is a perfect stop for 2 full days of cloud forest adventure.
How to Spend 2 Days in the Mindo Cloud Forest
Mindo, Ecuador is set in a valley surrounded by the Andes Mountains. The rivers and elevation combine to create a lush cloud forest more than 100 square miles in size. The landscape and climate in Mindo are ideal for the more than 450 different types of birds, numerous species of exotic butterflies, and a variety of animals and reptiles who call the cloud forest home.
The town is fairly compact at its center. Most hotels and restaurants are within walking distance of the main street running through town. For activities in the Mindo Cloud Forest, bikes, taxis, and tours are plentiful and easy to rent or arrange.
Things to Do in Mindo Ecuador
Whether you want to be active, taste artisan-made chocolate, or just find a strategic spot to bird watch, you’ll never wonder what to do in Mindo. As you plan your Ecuador itinerary, 2 days will be ideal for most visitors to experience Mindo and the surrounding cloud forest.
It was quite easy to take part in the activities below. Reservations were either not needed or could be arranged the same day, perfect for spontaneous travelers figuring plans as they go.
1. Hike the cloud forest to the Mindo Cascadas.
Trekking into the cloud forest is an absolute must! Take a taxi to the tarabita, or cable car, perched high overhead Mindo. The Mindo tarabita will carry you across the Rio Nambillo and the cloud forest valley below.
The trees drip with moisture from the clouds sitting atop the forest canopy. Pre-historic leaves line the hiking trails on the way to the cascadas, a.k.a. the Mindo waterfalls. While brightly colored flowers look like jewels sparkling in a sea of verdant green.
There are several hiking paths, as well as a loop to pass by multiple waterfalls. The Cascada Nambillo trail is the most popular hike, with good reason.
Be prepared to pay small fees ($2-$3) along the way to uniformed cloud forest workers to continue along to each cascada, take photos, and swim in the pool at the base of the Cascada Nambillo.
2. Fly through the trees on a Mindo canopy adventure.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a first-time zip liner or a pro flying over the trees with your arms spread wide. A canopy tour over a lush cloud forest is just thrilling! Mindo Ziplines Tour came highly recommended by a local Ecuadorian from our volunteer project and it did not disappoint. We flew across the cloud forest on 10 cables ranging between 500 feet and 1,600 feet long.
Our guides Hugo and Matteo were knowledgeable and took the time to point out flowers and different types of birds, like toucans, as we hiked from platform to platform.
Even after having been zip lining in Costa Rica and the Caribbean, this ranks as a top zip lining experience. Not to mention, the canopy tour didn’t blow our budget to bits at only $20 a person!
3. Learn about Mindo chocolate.
The first thing that strikes you as you learn about the process of going from cacao beans to chocolate is, “How on Earth did humans ever discover chocolate?!” There are numerous steps, several of which are not obvious at all. Whoever first made chocolate surely did so by accident!
Spend an hour with the Mindo chocolate makers at El Quetzal. A guide will walk you through each step, beginning with the cacao bean and its origins in South America to how modern-day artisans make chocolate with varying degrees of sweetness depending on its cacao to sugar ratio.
Tours run 7 days a week at the start of every hour between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. Just arrive a few minutes before to buy your tour ticket. El Quetzal also has a restaurant for a bite before or after your tour.
4. Go tubing on the Rio Mindo.
Laze away as you drift down a flatter section of the river or hang on as you bob and spin through the rapids. You choose the type of adventure you want. Single tubes are used for the calmer sections of the river. While on the rapids, multiple tubes are tied together to make a single tube raft.
Either way, you’ll have the perspective of cutting through the cloud forest by water and completely surrounding yourself in the wild beauty of Mindo.
5. Explore the Cloud Forest by bike.
Mindo’s dirt roads and cloud forest trails were made for mountains bikes. Rent bikes in town and explore at your own pace or bike into the mountains on an action-packed guided tour. Bikes can take you to places in the cloud forest not accessible otherwise, plus they’re a great way to get around town.
6. Surround yourself with butterflies at Mariposario Mindo.
The Hosteria Mariposas de Mindo boasts numerous species of butterflies and the opportunity to see all 4 stages of the butterfly life cycle. Visitors can walk through the butterfly garden and see butterflies coming out of their cocoons. It’s even possible to feed them. Tickets for this top Mindo attraction are $7.50. It’s possible to walk or bike along the dirt road to the Mariposario just a mile outside of town. Or, for a few dollars, take a taxi.
7. Join a Mindo Bird Tour.
Mindo is a bird lovers paradise! Because of its unique position in the cloud forest with open valleys leading to the coast, the climate is perfect for birds nesting, particularly with their young. An expert guide will have a keen knowledge of the hundreds of species in the area, and better yet, eyes like a hawk. (I just couldn’t help myself with that one! 😉 )
How to Get to Mindo
From Quito to Mindo, there are direct buses that run throughout the day. The ride takes about 2 1/2 hours and costs about $3 each way. Be sure to purchase all tickets in Quito or immediately upon arriving in Mindo, especially if you’re just visiting for the day. Expect weekend buses to be more crowded than weekday buses.
Where to Stay – Mindo Ecuador Hotels
Mindo has a good variety of hotels, hosterias, casas, and lodges for every type of traveler in all budget categories. Calle Quito is the main street running through the town and most accommodations are situated along this street or within 5-7 minutes by foot. When comparing Mindo hotels, consider location even if it means spending a bit more per night.
I had a really fantastic stay at the Hosteria Saguamby, located alongside the Rio Mindo just a few minutes walk from Calle Quito.
Bungalow-style rooms are spaced throughout the property. The bedding and bathrooms were cozy and clean. The constant sound of the river flowing in the background was soothing and made it easy to fall asleep.
The wifi was excellent and the staff so welcoming and helpful. Breakfast was included in the rate and served in an elevated, open-air, gazebo-like building with hummingbirds zipping in and out of the flowers. Lunch and dinner were also available. Book Now | Check Latest Prices in Mindo
What to Pack
In Mindo, there were a few indispensable items I was glad to have packed! Regardless of how you plan to spend your days in Mindo, these items will come in handy.
1. Daypack: I always travel with my Osprey daypack. It’s compact, yet holds all the essentials with no problem. For excursions into the cloud forest, you’ll need a place for water, your camera, and bug spray.
2. Hiking Shoes: Trails are often slippery and muddy because the cloud forest is always wet. You’ll need a solid gripping shoe with great support. I ordered these Keen hiking boots for my trip to Patagonia years ago and my feet couldn’t be happier.
3. Hiking Pants & Long Sleeve Shirts: Whenever I plan a trip into a dense forest like the one in Mindo, my Patagonia hiking pants are the first to get packed. They keep the bugs off my legs, are super lightweight, dry quickly, and even protect against the sun.
Ecuador’s weather can change quickly and the elevation can make the air cooler than you’d expect. You’ll be thankful for a long-sleeved layer if it’s cool and to keep the bugs away! I pack these Coolibar shirts, particularly for my photosensitive skin. I never have to worry about applying more sunscreen!
4. Bug Spray: Mindo is in a moist cloud forest surrounded by rivers. Need I say more about bug spray??
5. Water Bottle: Ecuador’s water is not safe for drinking so bottled water is a must. Whenever possible, I buy larger bottles of water and use them to refill my water bottle to cut down on plastic waste. Be sure to carry water with you whether you’re bird watching or hiking.
So, would you like to spend time in the Mindo Cloud Forest? Which things to do in Mindo Ecuador are at the top of your list?
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