Relatively low, among the greenery, Mindo is a nice destination to rest and enjoy nature. The environment sometimes feels tropical with a rainforest and cloud forest in which waterfalls and many (tropical) animals can be found. In addition, Mindo is relatively low and temperatures can also be higher than in other parts of Ecuador. But because it is also a bit lower, there is also a chance of a tropical shower in the afternoon. Mindo is a wonderful place for active activities such as rafting, ziplining or canyoning. But you can also enjoy walking and spotting animals. In short, this destination a few hours drive from Quito is one to include in your itinerary. What is there to do in Mindo? And how do you get there and back?
Mindo’s almost most popular activity is the Tarabita, a bright yellow cable car that spans a length of 530 meters, over a green valley. In less than a minute you will be taken to the other side by a diesel drive. It’s an amazing sight and view, and well worth a visit. You pay $5 back and forth and on the other side 3 hiking trails start through the woods, past and to a total of 7 waterfalls (see below).
You get to the Tarabita Mindo by taxi, this is the best option. You can also walk, but the route is at least 5 kilometers long from the center of Mindo and the road only goes up. It is not a nice route to walk and if you want to walk to the waterfalls afterwards, it is advisable to take a taxi. You often pay about $2 per person per ride, you only count on about $5 per ride. Note, there is also another funicular (El teleférico) in Mindo. Make no mistake, say clearly which one you want otherwise the taxi driver will take you to a different place than you want.
7 waterfalls hike
A popular activity in Mindo is walking the 7 waterfalls hike. These are 3 hiking trails that lead to 7 waterfalls in total. You walk in a beautiful green area, which feels like the rainforest, where you hear birds chirping and breathe the fresh air. The falls are not super spectacular in themselves, but they are beautiful. In addition, it is a beautiful day activity in nature. The start of the hikes is located in the middle of the forest and from there you can go in 2 directions. A hiking trail (the green one) leads to the most beautiful and largest waterfall La Reina. This is a route of about 50 minutes (one way) and goes through the green forest. Occasionally it is a bit of a climb, but the route is not difficult. The other two routes go the other way. Route 1, black, leads to 1 smaller waterfall, Nambillo, about a 20 minute walk from the starting point. The other hike, Route 3 (blue) is a walk where you eventually encounter 5 waterfalls on the route. You can walk this route in about 60 minutes. The routes are not flat, and there are sections that are quite steep, but you can walk at your own pace and there are plenty of places to rest. In addition, the trails are well maintained and clearly marked. You can choose to walk part of the routes. If you do want to walk all routes, keep in mind that you will be busy between 5 and 6 hours, including breaks.
You arrive at the starting point of the hikes with a taxi and then with the Tarabita (cable cart, see above). There is a possibility to walk to route 1, but going with the Tarabita gives your day just that little bit extra.
Bird Watching and Night Tour
If you want to see a lot of animals, it is advisable to join a tour where you go bird watching or spot nocturnal animals in the evening. A birding tour is held in the morning, often starting from 7am. In Mindo there are multi-level birding tours. There is a tour where you walk through nature from 07:00 – 10:00 in the morning, bird watching in the Punto Ornitologico Mindo area. For this tour you pay $15 and at the end of the tour you will see a lot of hummingbirds, even drinking sugar water from your hand. Another bird watching tour is a tour more for professionals. You pay $35 per person and you also leave between 4.30 – 5.00 in the morning and go to a larger private area. The night tours also cost $15 and are then again in the early evening just after the sun has set.
Yellow House Trails
Another great place to hike is at Hacienda San Vincente’s Yellow House Trails. These are 5 trails that start at Hacienda San Vincente on El Trogon Street (see Google). After the entrance of the gate, follow the road and eventually you will come to a yellow house. There you register, pay $6 per person, receive a road map and continue on your way. The first (at least) 30 minutes are a bit boring and walk for some meadows and mainly uphill. It is indicated that each route has its own animal species, but in general you can encounter the animals on the multiple routes. For example, the best chance of seeing monkeys is at Route 2 and toucans at Route 3. All routes start from the main road and end there again. If you walk all 5 routes, you will be walking about 5 to 6 hours. For example, if you only choose Route 3 (the only one with a view point over Mindo), you will be walking for about 2.5 hours.
It is advisable to walk the routes in the morning, as you have the best chance of spotting animals. Of course you just have to hit it to see the animals. You will at least hear them, as it is a peaceful and lovely place to walk. Take enough food and drink with you. Along the way there is nothing for sale and in total you walk quite a distance. You arrive at Hacienda San Vincente on foot, it is a few minutes walk from the center.
Las Montañas Natural Area
Another nature reserve near Mindo is Las Montañas. An area where you can also spend the night, with lots of flora and fauna, hiking trails and waterfalls. You can walk, rest, swim and spot animals. A less visited place in the middle of nature. It is near the Tarabita and the 7 waterfalls hike and it costs $5.
Rent a bike or quad
If you want to explore the area yourself, you can rent a bicycle or quad in the center of Mindo. It is a frequently done activity and there are plenty of places where you can rent something. Renting a bike costs between $10 – $15 per person per day.
In addition to all this, Mindo also offers many other activities, varying in adrenaline level. You can go rafting on different rivers that differ in level and strength ($40), you can zipline through the forests (between $8 – $20), canyoing along waterfalls ($15), tubing over the river (from $6) and a visit bring to the Butterfly and Orchid Garden ($7.50). In addition, you will also find several plantations of cocoa and coffee beans in the Mindo area. A tour along a coffee and/or cocoa farm teaches you the process from plant and bean to product. A coffee tour costs $8 and a cocoa tour $10.
How do you get there and back?
You arrive in Mindo, via Quito. Buses to Mindo depart from Terminal Ofelia. If you come to Quito from the north, you will probably arrive at Terminal Carcelén. To get to Terminal Ofelia you take a taxi, which takes about 10 minutes and costs around $3.
The bus to Mindo only leaves 4 times a day. Monday to Friday at 8:00 am/9:00 am/11:00 am/16:00 pm and also at 1:00 pm on weekends and public holidays. The journey takes over 2 hours and costs $3.60 per person. You go with bus company Cooperativa Flor del Valle. Departure times can change quite often. So keep an eye on their facebook page or contact them to check the current departure times (www.facebook.com/cflordelvalleoficial/).
If you want to go back to Quito from Mindo, there are 4 buses during the week from Monday to Friday at 6.30/11am/15.15/16.30 hrs. On weekends and public holidays, the buses run at 6.30-11am/15.15/16.00/16.45. The bus leaves from San Vicente Ferrer street, next to Eden Expeditions (see Google Maps, Coop. Flor de Valle). You buy your tickets at the counter.
Good to know that there are no ATM/cash machines in Mindo. So take enough cash with you, because you can pay with debit or credit card in almost no hotel. If you still need money, you can take a (shared) taxi or minibus (doesn’t run frequently) for about $2 in 30 minutes to the village of San Miguel de Los Bancos to withdraw money.