Baños de Agua Santa (or simply called Baños), is located between the Tungurahua volcano and Llanganates National Park in a green area full of waterfalls and rivers. The mountainous area and the rivers have created many opportunities to get rid of your adrenaline. You can think of activities such as canyoning, rafting, mountain biking, quad or motorbike riding, swinging at height and much more. If you are ready for some rest, Baños is also an ideal place to relax. Several thermal baths offer the opportunity to relax. A place for everyone and popular with both domestic and foreign tourists. Finding a hotel or restaurant shouldn’t be a problem, because Baños is full of them. What can you do in Banos? And how do you get there and back?
Pailón del Diablo waterfall
The most famous and impressive waterfall in the area is the Pailón del Diablo waterfall. The name means ‘the face of the devil’, and is mainly due to the shape of the stones at the bottom of the waterfall. These resemble the face of the devil. The powerful and beautiful waterfall is about 80 meters high, with the water falling down in full force. There are two entrances, the Entrada Nueva (new) and Entrada Antigua (old). At the Entrada Nueva, you walk to the side of the waterfall, you can use footbridges to the other side and you see the waterfall closest from the front. The entrance is $2 per person and it will take you about an hour to visit. The Entrada Antigua can be found on the other side of the yellow bridge. This entrance gives you the opportunity to walk behind the waterfall. Keep in mind that you can get quite wet, so bring a raincoat/rain cape or buy it before you get to the entrance. You get to the Entrada Antigua by first walking past some stalls and shops (where the bus stops, see below) and then you walk down the path towards the entrance. You descend quite a bit in meters, so keep in mind that you walk up again on the way back. The route takes about 30 minutes (one way) and in between you pass a restaurant and a lookout point. Then you come to the entrance, where you pay $2.
You get to Pailón del Diablo waterfall by bus, taxi or the chiva (tourist bus). The first option is the cheapest option. The (blue) bus leaves from the intersection of Eloy Alfaro and Luiz A. Martínez Streets, goes to the waterfall entrance, takes 30 minutes and costs $0.50 per trip. The bus leaves about every 15/20 minutes (see Google, bus stop to Rio Verde/Pailón del Diablo) and stops at the Entrada Antigua. From there or at the Entrada Nueva you can take the bus again to go back to Baños. Another option to go to Pailón del Diablo is cycling. See below at the waterfalls route.
The waterfalls route (Ruta de las cascadas) is a popular activity in Baños. It is the road to Puyo, along the Pastaza river, where you cycle about 20 kilometers. It is also not surprising that it is popular, because in the area you will find countless beautiful waterfalls. The waterfalls route is a route that leads you between 5 and 12 waterfalls and where you also have the opportunity to swim, swing and/or zipline. With the waterfalls and activities in between on the route, you can take into account that this is a full day activity. The waterfalls on the route include Cascada de Agoyan and Cascada Manto de la Novia, with a number of smaller waterfalls in between. Eventually you will arrive at Pailón de Diablo. If you want, you can cycle a little further to the Rocío Machay waterfalls that are a little further away.
The waterfalls tour is offered by many ho(s)tels and tourist offices. You often rent a bike for $6-10 a day. The route from Baños to waterfall Pailón de Diablo (with the 6 waterfalls in between) is almost all downhill. You cycle on the normal road, but it happens so much that motorists do take into account that there are also cyclists on the road. Cycling back is uphill again, but often you can take a shuttle (from Rio Verde) or truck. You can pick up the truck yourself and ask if you can come back to Baños.
Casa del Arbol
The most famous place to enjoy the rocking mountain landscape around Baños is la Casa del Arbol (the Treehouse). Located on top of the mountain overlooking the Tungurahua volcano. The place has become known for the tree house that is made with two swings, where you can swing ‘to the end of the world’. The place is now a tad overrated, with more swings (also especially for children) and a small cable car. You will also find a restaurant there. The area is beautiful and it’s a great half-day activity. If you want to enjoy yourself longer, you will find a number of other activities on the way to Casa del Arbol such as a Dino park, zip lines, slides and more. Try to avoid weekends and holidays, as Casa del Arbol is also a popular place to visit among local tourists.
You get to Casa de Arbol by bus, which departs every day, 4x a day at 6.00/11am/14.00/16am from the intersection with street Luis A. Martínez and street Pastaza (see Google, Bus hacia Casa del Arbol) . It is a blue bus that goes to Casa del Arbol in 40 minutes. The bus costs $1 per trip, per person and leaves on time. The bus returns to Baños 4 times a day, at 8.00/13.00/16.00/18.00.
You can also take a taxi to La Casa del Arbol, which costs about $5 per person. You can ask the driver to wait for you, because there is no guarantee that there are taxis on top of the mountain that will drive back to Baños. There are also chivas, which are open trucks with benches in the back. The chivas in Baños are especially for tourists and also cost about $5 per person.
Finally, you can walk to La Casa del Arbol. Keep in mind that La Casa del Arbol is located on top of the mountain and the road to it will be a lot of climbing. The shortest route starts at P. V. Maldonado street, and then you walk to the main road in less than half an hour, and from there it’s another half hour. Other hiking routes run more along the side of the mountain and depending on the route you will lose between 2 and 3 hours. You can check the routes on Google Maps or Maps.me. You can also make additional inquiries at your hotel.
Renting a bicycle, motorcycle or quad
The area around Baños is perfect for exploring. There are several viewpoints where you have a view of the Tungurahua volcano and the surrounding area, for example at Mirador Hierba Buena, about 70 km from Baños. On the way to restaurant Las manos de Dios, you will also find several viewpoints such as El beso de la luna, Los Pies de Dios and Volcán eyes view point. The road is mountainous but very suitable for a motorcycle ride. You rent a motorbike for about $20 per hour, but near the main square you will find rental companies where you can rent a motorbike for $60/$70 per day (8 hours). If you rent a quad or bicycle you stay closer, and the last described viewpoints or the waterfalls route can be an option to visit.
Because Baños is located on the edge of the Tungurahua volcano, natural thermal baths have arisen in the village and the surrounding area. You will find them in all categories and prices.
Casa de Virgen is the most popular among the locals, as well as the cheapest ($2 during the day, $3 at night). It can therefore get busy here on weekends and holidays. Casa de Virgen is open from 5 AM – 5 PM and 6 PM – 10 PM. Balneario El Salado is located a bit more outside the center of Baños, about 2 kilometers. Open from 5 a.m. – 8 p.m. and costs $3 entry.
El Refugio Spa Garden looks a bit more like a spa with also options for getting a massage. Open Monday – Friday from 9am – 7pm and on weekends and public holidays from 8.30am – 8pm. The entrance fee is $17 for the baths. Other pools include Luna Runtun (overlooks Baños), Santa Clara pool, Hotel Eduardo’s and Thermas de la Virgen Recreativas with more pools.
In the center of Baños you will find many tourist offices that offer many (adrenaline) activities. Think horseback riding, ziplining, bungee jumping, canyoning, rafting, going to lookout points and much more. So you can enjoy yourself in Baños for days. It is often wise to visit several agencies and compare options and prices.
How do you get there and back?
You get to Baños by bus from Latacunga, Quito, Guayaquil and Cuenca. You can get from Latacunga to Baños in three ways. There is one direct bus daily from the Terminal of Latacunga to Baños, at 12:00 PM, and costs about $3.
Another way is to go to Paso Lateral on the Panamerican Highway. That is along the side of the highway and every 30 minutes from 07:00 a bus comes by and goes to Baños. You get to Paso Lateral by taxi from Latacunga, 10 minutes for $3/4.
Or you travel via Ambato. Every 10/15 minutes there is a bus to Ambato from the Terminal in Latacunga. This journey takes about 1 hour and costs $1.30. You will arrive at Terminal Norte in Ambato. For the bus to Baños you have to go to Terminal America, by taxi for $4 (15 minutes). The bus from Ambato (Terminal America) to Baños leaves about every 15 minutes, takes just over an hour and costs $1.25.
From Baños you can go in several directions. If you want to go to Puerto Lopez, you can take both the day and night bus. The night bus goes to Montañita and from there it is another 30 minutes to Puerto Lopez. The night bus leaves Baños at 7:30 PM, arrives around 7:00 AM and costs $18. You can also travel via Guayaquil. There are 2 morning buses that leave from the bus station, at 6:50 am and 9:30 am (both cost $12). From 12:20 pm there is a bus to Guayaquil approximately every 2 hours. But if you want to arrive in Puerto Lopez before dark, it is recommended to take the 6.50 am bus. From the main street there are also buses to Guayaquil of the bus company San Francisco (blue/yellow bus), which run via Riobamba to Guayaquil. In all cases you are on the road for more than 5.5 hours. From Guayaquil, you arrive at Terminal Terrestre de Guayaquil, you can take the bus to Puerto Lopez.
Jipijapa is the bus company that drives to Puerto Lopez, they sell tickets at counter number 26. Your ticket also contains the number of the gate from which the bus departs. The Terminal has 5 departure halls, divided into numbers. It’s very clear, follow the signs to the gate you are leaving from. The bus ride costs $6.25 per person and takes about 4.5 hours.
Good to know that items are regularly stolen on the route to and around Guayaquil. It is advisable, especially for the night bus, to keep your personal items with you, and not even put them in the rack above the seats. It is also good to know that the buses for the night bus are the same as during the day, the seats do not recline completely, just recline a bit.
There is a bus from Baños about every hour to Quito. There are several buses a day to Riobamba. If you want to go to Latacunga, it is best to travel via Ambato, the largest nearest city.