The Mindo Cloud Forest is a unique eco-system in Ecuador that’s known worldwide for its biodiversity and birding. The lush subtropical forest provides a mystical environment to roam around and pursue adventure, in addition to finding many species of birds.
It is birdwatching in Mindo Ecuador that tends to be a major draw to the area. Yet there are so many more incredible things to do within the Mindo Cloud Forest that even non-birding travelers can have several days’ worth of fun.
This detailed Mindo travel guide was published with the intent to inspire trip ideas, help plan travels, and to simply lay out all the best things to do in Mindo, Ecuador.
Over the years, we’ve made a few trips to the Mindo Cloud Forest. Most recently, we returned with a mission to thoroughly research and investigate every single activity we could find in the area. This detailed travel guide now reveals what we found to be the best highlights among all of the many things to do in Mindo, Ecuador.
What is the Mindo Cloud Forest?
Mindo, Ecuador is part of a cloud forest ecosystem, which is characterized by the persistent low-lying clouds that deliver lots of moisture and hence thick plant growth. Located along the lower slopes of the Pichincha Volcano, Mindo’s dense and misty forest canopy is full of life and particularly birds!
Mindo, Ecuador, is one of the premier birding destinations in the world! More than 500 different types of birds have been spotted here in Mindo. In fact, Mindo regularly holds the annual world record for the most bird species counted within a 24-hour period.
The biodiversity in Mindo doesn’t end with its many bird species. The Mindo Cloud Forest is also known for its numerous butterflies, orchids, and bromeliads. Meanwhile, Andean bears, capuchin monkeys, and even rare pumas all call Mindo their home.
Mindo Ecuador Map of Attractions
This map contains all of the attractions and places listed within this Mindo Ecuador travel guide. Read on for all the details and ideas for things to do in Mindo. Then come back and use this Mindo Ecuador map to help plot out everything. Note: a few of Mindo’s activities, such as tubing and canyoning, are not plotted on this map because the departure points are in Mindo town.
Best Things to Do in Mindo Ecuador
Mindo’s cloud forest setting provides for an incredibly scenic backdrop for the many adventure activities that abound here. Ziplining, river tubing, mountain biking, and canyoning are just a few thrills that adventure seekers can partake in.
It’s not all adrenaline-inducing action though. Mindo’s calmer activities such as touring a chocolate factory, visiting a butterfly farm, night walks, and, of course, birdwatching, provide for more tranquil reprieves that can be great excursions for families too. Really, there’s something for everyone. But Mindo is not just for the birds!
Activities in Mindo can appeal to all budgets too. One aspect that really stands out about Mindo’s attractions is how budget-friendly they are! Mindo boasts some of the best value excursions we’ve encountered anywhere in the world.
For example, an hourlong zipline tour is only $20, tube rafting is only $6, and night walks start at just $5. On the other end of the spectrum, there are some fine luxury experiences to indulge in at the upscale lodges throughout the cloud forest, with activities priced accordingly.
But there’s no need to spend on expensive excursions unless you want to. Mindo is very conducive to budget travel. As such, all of the Mindo tour prices are outlined in this travel guide to better grasp exactly what your trip to Mindo may cost.
So without further ado, here are the best things to do in Mindo, Ecuador! The video below puts to motion all of Mindo’s awesome must-do activities that are further detailed in the remainder of this travel guide.
1) Go Birdwatching in Mindo, Even If Not into Birding
Birdwatching in Mindo is the premier activity in the region, given the biodiversity of birds that flourish in this area. There are hundreds of species of birds found throughout the Mindo Valley! Even for those not into birding, Mindo can be a perfect place to try it, given all the birds found here. Birders often travel to Mindo to seek out species such as toucans, parrots, quetzals, and even umbrellabirds!
Yet one of the most sought-after birds to spot in Mindo is the Andean cock-of-the-rock, also known locally as gallo de la peña. This unusual bird has looks that are just as interesting its funny name.
The cock-of-the-rock is particularly known for its early-morning lek, which is when the males perform a competitive courting ritual to impress the females. To actually witness the lek, it’s almost necessary to join a cock-of-the-rock birding tour, in which a local expert brings visitors to secret spots where these birds are known to hang out.
Taking birdwatching tours in Mindo is truly the best way to actually find many of these coveted bird species. These professionals not only know where to look but also bring along high-powered telescopes to see these birds that are often way up in a tree or flying high overhead.
Birding tours start at around $50 per person for a 3-4 hour morning tour. For those who really want to see Mindo’s birds, taking a birding tour is a must. Birding tours can be easily booked after arriving in Mindo at the many agencies around town.
💡 Tip for Travelers on a Budget: DIY Birdwatching in Mindo
Do-it-yourself birding in Mindo is also possible, as a more viable option for those traveling to Mindo on a budget. Arriving to Mindo armed with a pair of travel binoculars and a bit of local knowledge may lead to getting lucky with spotting some of the area’s sought-after bird species.
Arguably the best DIY birding trails accessible by walking from Mindo town are those at the Yellow House, AKA Casa Amarilla or Hacienda San Vincente. There is a great network of well-maintained trails spanning several kilometers, in which wannabe birders can access for $6 in an unguided attempt to spot some of Mindo’s avian life.
The number of people allowed on these trails each day is limited and we only saw two other couples all morning long. A hand-drawn map of the trails reveals common hangouts for cock-of-the-rocks, black guans, and choco toucans.
During our four-hour hike of the Yellow House trail, we managed to spot toucans, parrots, hummingbirds, and other small bird species, but were evaded by the cock-of-the-rock. In addition to birds, there are also capuchin monkeys and even Andean bears (not dangerous) that visitors have spotted up in the trees eating bromeliads. We searched high and low for the bears, only to find Mindo’s smaller mammals like agoutis and red-tailed squirrels.
The Yellow House trails provide for a good hike, with a fair amount of uphill trekking, and a rewarding viewpoint of the Mindo Valley. It’s also a nice way to attempt DIY birding, easily walkable from Mindo town, and without the need to spend on a pricier tour. But we’d be doing a disservice by leading travelers here without reiterating that a Mindo birding tour will result in seeing many more birds.
2) Take the Tarabita to the Nambillo Waterfall Sanctuary
Taking the Tarabita to cross the river valley can be one of the best things to do in Mindo, Ecuador. The half-kilometer long ride carries passengers in a basket-of-sorts that whisks high above the Mindo Cloud Forest. Those brave enough to look over the side may be able to spot the Nambillo Waterfall, about 150 meters (~500 feet) way down below.
The Mindo tarabita spans more than half-kilometer over the river valley and the ride lasts a few minutes. It’s great fun, a scenic ride, and a family-friendly activity for those with fearless kids. While the tarabita itself is a worthwhile attraction in Mindo, it’s what’s found on the other side of the river that adds to the experience.
Tarabita passengers exit the basket and can hit the trails! This is a reserve full of so many waterfalls. But it takes some effort hiking across varying terrain to reach them.
There is said to be at least fifteen different waterfalls within this Mindo waterfall sanctuary. Seven of them are named and marked on the sanctuary’s map. The largest waterfall is the 50-meter (164 foot) Cascada Reina (Queen Waterfall). Yet it also takes the most effort to reach, as it’s a 1½-2-hour roundtrip trek to get to from the tarabita’s exit. For those who are up for it and have the time, it’s a beautiful hike through the Mindo Cloud Forest.
Closer to the tarabita, a 15-minute one-way hike leads to the 15-meter (49-foot) Nambillo Waterfall. Better yet, continue on towards to a series of five waterfalls, each within a 5-10 minute walk of each other. That entire trek can take up to two hours to pursue roundtrip, which includes some river crossings that forces trekkers to get wet when water levels are high. It could prove to be a good idea to wear a bathing suit, as some of the waterfalls form natural pools below that can be waded in. Take a dip!
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3) Tube Rafting through the Mindo Cloud Forest
Is it tubing or is it rafting? It’s really both at the same time and shooting down the rapids through the cloud forest is a uniquely exhilarating experience! This isn’t a tranquil “lazy river” type of tubing. In Mindo, this is extreme tubing!
Mindo’s rivers are too shallow and rocky for whitewater rafting. Yet the rapids are also too strong to simply float down in a single inner tube. The solution is the formation of a raft using several inner tubes tied together. We’ve never seen anything like this anywhere in the world. And it’s an awesomely thrilling thing to do in Mindo!
Hold on tight! There are no paddles here. Just hang on and enjoy the ride. A tubing guide hops on the raft to help navigate the river, maneuvering through the rocks and down the drops.
Recent rainfall and water levels dictate exactly how thrilling of a ride this tube run is. February-April tends to bring more rain and hence a more extreme ride. It’s during these higher water levels that tubers get whisked down the river in less than a half-hour.
During drier periods, around July-September, the Mindo tubing can be calmer and more prone to getting stuck on rocks, prolonging the trip to 45-minutes or so.
This video below gives a glimpse as to what tubing on the Mindo River is like when it’s flowing nicely during the more rainy time of year.
Most visitors go tubing on the Mindo River, which has a drop-off point just a few minutes’ drive from town. But there are two longer tubing options available on other rivers in the area. These other tubing routes can be too dangerous to pursue when water levels are high. Instead, it’s best to consider them for a more thrilling experience when the Mindo River is running low.
4) Get Swarmed by Butterflies at the Mindo Butterfly Farm
Mindo, Ecuador, may be known for its birds, but the cloud forest here also boasts thousands of butterfly species. And this Mindo butterfly farm contains many of them!
There are a few dozen butterfly species that can be found throughout the Mariposario de Mindo. At any given time at this butterfly garden, there are said to be over a thousand butterflies fluttering about, amidst the orchids and flowering trees.
Dishes of bananas are left about the butterfly farm, which the butterflies love. Those dishes are there for visitors to rub a bit of banana onto their hands to attract butterflies to land on them. But even without using the bananas, butterflies randomly land shoulders and heads.
Another interesting feature at this Mindo butterfly garden are the cocoons. It’s possible to watch butterflies complete their metamorphosis process and slowly emerge from their cocoons as a beautiful butterfly.
Behind the main butterfly farm, there’s also a very short trail through a bamboo forest that leads to lookouts amidst the tall bamboo. It’s adjacent to the outdoor garden that attracts both wild butterflies and hummingbirds.
The butterflies here are said to be most active in the mid-morning and when it’s sunny. Yet we’ve also visited Mariposario de Mindo during a rainy afternoon and found many fluttering about. So don’t let such a timing deter a visit to Mindo’s butterfly farm.
5) Go on a Canyoning Adventure in Mindo’s Toucan Reserve
Another extreme adventure in Mindo is the canyoning tour that takes place in a reserve known for its toucan residents. This canyoning tour is a fun and affordable excursion through the Mindo Cloud Forest that involves hiking and so much more!
After a short trek through the Toucan Reserve, adventure-seekers reach the Point of the Three Threads, where a rope bridge lays as the first major obstacle. It can be unnerving to cross this makeshift bridge above the rushing river, as there is no safety harness at this point. One wrong step could prove to be a treacherous mistake!
The harnesses are slipped on for the next adventurous activity during this canyoning excursion. It’s certainly necessary to get roped in when repelling down a slippery rock face! This challenge becomes even more extreme when descending lower to ultimately repel down a rushing waterfall. What a thrill!
This Mindo canyoning tour winds down by returning across the river. This time the rope bridge is bypassed to ride on a hand-pulled tarabita, which is like a rustic cable car that flies across the river.
It makes for an adrenaline-inducing half-day excursion from Mindo that is excellent value! And don’t forget to keep an eye out for those toucans too.
6) Visit a Chocolate Factory in Mindo Ecuador
Ecuador is known among connoisseurs as having the finest chocolate in the world. And Mindo can be a great place to see how the magic happens. There are a few small artisanal chocolate factories in Mindo to tour and gain a better understanding of the delicious process involved in creating chocolate.
Much like wine grapes, cacao fruit takes on the flavors of the regions where they’re grown. The soil and climate throughout much of this equatorial country tend to be ideal. Additional steps are used in Ecuador to dry and ferment the beans, adding to the chocolate’s quality. Ultimately it results in what is said to be a more complex, intense, and floral chocolate, that regularly wins international chocolate awards.
El Quetzal de Mindo is a small Mindo chocolate factory that shows the entire chocolate-making process, from bean to bar! It’s a sustainable endeavor too, sourcing organic cacao from small family farms around Mindo. After walking through cacao trees, examining the drying racks, and checking out the refinery, guests are left with a big platter to taste the fruits of the labor!
The hour-long tour is very informative and includes tasting lots of fine chocolate. During the tour, guests are treated to trying the raw cacao fruit, cacao nibs, cacao tea, lots of dark chocolate that ranges from 67%-85% purity, and a deliciously rich brownie that is served with pure cocoa sauce.
Touring this Mindo chocolate factory can be a perfect thing to do in Mindo on a rainy day. But it’s a great experience whatever the weather, a must-do in Mindo for any chocolate lovers, and a perfect thing to do in Mindo with kids.
7) Go on a Mindo Zipline Canopy Adventure
The ziplining through Mindo’s dense tree canopy is arguably the most thrilling way to experience the cloud forest! It’s such a rush, but it’s so much more than that. During the Mindo canopy tours, there’s a really a strong sense of nature in addition to the thrill. Between ziplines, short hikes meander through the trees where wild orchids abound.
A Mindo canopy tour will have adventure-seekers flying right alongside the many birds that Mindo is known for. The area where the ziplines are set up is particularly known for toucans too. We spotted a few!
But, of course, it’s the adrenaline rush from the fast ziplines themselves that really thrills! It’s possible to zip through the cloud forest in a normal position, tandem, superman-style, and even upside down like a monkey.
There are two main zipline canopy tours in Mindo, located directly next to each other:
- Mindo Canopy Adventures
- Mindo Ziplines
Each of the canopy tours has ten ziplines, they both charge the same rate ($20), both use a double cable security system, and both receive great reviews.
Mindo Canopy Adventures is the original and they offer a combo ticket deal with the tarabita mentioned earlier in this post (thing to do #2). So it’s worth considering their zipline tour to save a few dollars if pursuing both Mindo attractions.
Yet Mindo Ziplines offers a lengthier route. Their course also runs a bit more within the forest and trees. The Mindo Zipline course is 3,640 meters (nearly 12,000 feet) in total, about 500 meters longer than their neighbor. The last zipline of the course ends with a grand finale of a 500-meter-long flight through the air, the longest single zipline in Mindo, Ecuador.
After zipping through this lengthy zipline course at Mindo Ziplines, we can personally vouch that it was great. The staff is fun yet professional, and we felt safe in their hands. They went above and beyond to use our phone to take pictures and video of this awesome experience too. We’ve done many zipline canopy tours around the world and Mindo Ziplines has been our favorite one yet.
Ziplining is one of the best things to do in Mindo for adventure and we highly recommend for thrill seekers!
8) Go on a Mindo Night Walk
After the sun sets in Mindo, an entirely different sect of the cloud forest’s biodiversity emerges. Reptiles, insects, owls, and nocturnal mammals come to life under Mindo’s dark skies.
An inexpensive way to get a glimpse into Mindo’s nighttime world is by attending what’s known as the “frog concert.” It occurs nightly at the Mindo Lago (Lake Mindo), created as a project to recover native species, and frogs in particular. It’s around this pond where their orchestra of croaking now occurs nightly.
The experience begins with a bit of red wine to sip on while the frogs do their thing. Then a short guided walk around the lake exposes its inhabitants. Flashlights are used to spot frogs, some big tarantulas, and a few other creepy crawly insects. It was also cool to see luminescent micro bacteria that glow in the dark.
For a chance to see nocturnal mammals, there’s also a Mindo Night Walk that goes a bit deeper into a nature reserve, compared to the Frog Concert. During the Mindo Night Walk, it’s possible to find the elusive kinkajou, also known as the “honey bear” even though it’s not a bear. Kinkajous are rarely seen by people because of its nocturnal habits. But the Mindo Night Walk knows where to find them.
9) Take the Minjoy Park Chairlift through the Cloud Forest
In 2018, Minjoy Park opened a new ski-style chairlift. This slow-moving chairlift passes through the cloud forest and high above it.
This chairlift takes about 20 minutes to go from the bottom to top and really covers some distance along the way. The slower pace gives a chance to enjoy the cloud forest surroundings, rather than a thrilling ride.
Minjoy Park is a small attraction and the chairlift is really what to come here for. But Minjoy Park also has a few nature trails, zorbing balls for kids to roll around on a pond, and a playground.
It’s easy to draw comparisons between the Minoy chairlift and the nearby tarabita. The chairlift may seem similar to the tarabita, but it is a very different experience than the much faster tarabita ride. So don’t debate between these two Mindo attractions. Do both!
In fact, the chairlift’s upper station is only a short stroll from the tarabita. So it can make for a good plan to take the chairlift towards the tarabita. Then go on the tarabita and into the waterfall sanctuary before returning in the chairlift.
10) Mountain Biking through the Mindo Cloud Forest
Another fun-filled way to experience the Mindo Cloud Forest is from behind the handlebars. In this very hilly environment, mountain biking in Mindo only makes too much sense.
There is some exhilarating downhill all around Mindo. And while mountain biking is a great thing to do in Mindo on its own merits, it’s also a convenient and fun way to get around to Mindo’s further-flung attractions.
Rented mountain bikes can be used to reach the butterfly farm, the Minjoy Park chairlift, the tarabita & waterfall sanctuary, and the Mindo canopy ziplines. It’s even possible to go mountain biking to all of those Mindo attractions in the same day for those who get an early start and pedal quickly!
The best Mindo cycling route we can suggest is a circuit that passes by each of those attractions. It’s about a 10-kilometer ride that’s mostly an all downhill run, thanks to the Minjoy chairlift!
To do this loop biking route, it begins with an easy 2.5-kilometer ride to the butterfly garden, with a slight uphill gradient. From there, the Minjoy Park chairlift acts as a fantastic shortcut and takes away any would-be grueling uphill sections.
Once at the upper chairlift station, it’s a thrilling ride down the narrow San Lorenzo dirt road, which is also a popular birding area. Along the way, it’s possible to stop at the tarabita and/or ziplines. Also, be sure to pause occasionally to look up in the trees for birds, such as toucans, that are commonly seen along this part of the road.
Even More Things to Do in Mindo Ecuador!
The above recommendations are what we’ve found to be the best things to do in Mindo. Yet the list of Mindo activities and attractions certainly doesn’t end there. Here are just a few more suggestions to consider.
11) Simply Relax in the Mindo Cloud Forest
Mindo is an excellent place to just chill out. The birds buzzing around, the rivers, the waterfalls, and even the occasional rainstorms all induce relaxation.
Don’t pack a Mindo itinerary too tightly with lots of activities. Be sure to allow time to relax after all of those adventures. Muy importante!
12) Go Horseback Riding in Mindo
It’s possible to pursue a 2-hour trail ride from stables located just 3-kilometers from Mindo. To do so costs a modest $12. This horseback ride can be booked with the many tour agencies in town.
13) Tour Mindo’s Orchid Garden
A low-impact activity that can be pursued from within Mindo town is a tour of the Armonia Orchid Garden. There are over 250 species of orchids and bromeliads throughout this garden.
Visitors can get a closer look with magnifying glasses provided during the tour. Also keep an eye out for the resident motmot (bird), in addition to many hummingbirds that frequent the gardens. It’s $3 for the 40-minute tour.
14) Watch Live Music in Mindo
After a day of adventure in Mindo, it can be fun to kick back with an intimate live show in Mindo.
For some folkloric tropical music in the evening, CasKaffeSu often has performances for a $3 cover.
Sometimes the El Quetzal chocolate factory has live music too.
Simply ask around after you arrive in Mindo and look for flyers.
15) Walk around Mindo Town
There’s not too much to do from right within this quaint little town. But it’s worth exploring the town of Mindo a bit. It can be pleasant place to walk around, organize tours, and/or sniff out your next meal.
There’s also a small church, a central plaza, and a colorful “Mindo” sign to take photos at. Spanning several blocks, visitors will further find a few shops, many restaurants, and plenty of tour agencies to book activities. There is also an abundance of friendly street dogs.
Eat and Drink in Mindo Ecuador
Many of the usual Ecuadorian staples can be found in Mindo, in addition to tourist comforts like pizza and burgers. But there are also some unique food and drinks to try while in Mindo, discussed below.
Unique Things to Drink in Mindo Ecuador
While there are a few bars in town, mostly along the main drag near the bus station, Mindo doesn’t have a wild nightlife. It’s a tranquil town that’s far more focused on nature adventures. But there’s certainly no shortage of unique drinks to try while visiting Mindo. Here are a few suggestions.
The El Quetzal Chocolate Factory makes a lot more than just chocolate. They have a strong and somewhat sour rendition of a ginger beer that’s certainly worth a pint after a chocolate tour.
Craft Beer in Mindo
We’ve heard great things about Mindo’s Pileus Brewery, but we were unfortunately unable to review it while it was closed during our last visit. Thankfully as of 2020, it’s back open! Check the Pileus Brewery Facebook Page for hours, promotions, and events. Go have a Mindo-brewed cerveza and let us know how it is!
Cerveza Artesanal Triple, a local brewery in nearby Santo Domingo, delivers their blonde and stout beer to many of Mindo’s restaurants and even the mini-markets in town.
The Dragonfly Inn brews their own beers. But every time we’ve visited over the years, they’ve been dry. Yet the outdoor patio on the river still makes a most pleasant setting for a cerveza, even if it’s just a Pilsener.
It’s Mishqui Quinde that carries one of our favorite craft beers in Ecuador, Abysmo, and offers their deliciously strong bourbon stout. But we’d suggest going there instead for their homemade liquors. (See next.)
Mishqui Quinde is a vegetarian restaurant that’s known for its quinoa burgers. But we recommend it for Oswaldo’s (the owner) homemade chocolate and passionfruit liqueurs that he ferments himself. The chocolate liqueur is not too sweet, not too strong, and has bits of dark chocolate shavings floating around in the glass. The passion fruit liqueur is equally as good. Oswaldo is now experimenting with this passion fruit liqueur by adding cacao juice, for a result that is mind-blowing. (It’s an off-menu item at time of writing. Ask.)
What to Eat in Mindo Ecuador
There are plenty of restaurants in Mindo to appeal to nearly all tastes, diets, and budgets. Local Ecuadorian food abounds. Yet there is perhaps equally as many restaurants in Mindo catering to foreign tastes with familiar favorites like pizzas. Vegetarians are well looked after in Mindo, with lots of options.
The following recommendations are a few standouts of what to try and where to eat in Mindo Ecuador.
Fresh River Trout
If there’s one food to try while roaming around Mindo, it would have to be the fresh Mindo trout. Mindo’s rainbow trout is served up in a variety of ways, whether simply grilled, covered in garlic, or fried.
Other things to eat in Mindo:
El Chef has great fried trout. But what they’re really known for is their steak on a hot rock. It’s truly the best steak we’ve had in South America outside of Argentina for under $10.
Inexpensive almuerzos (set menu lunches) abound at local joints throughout Mindo, offering complete and filling lunches for $2-$4. But in Mindo, these sometimes aren’t advertised to the tourist crowd. Just go into a local joint and ask for the “almuerzo.”
If tiring of Ecuadorian cuisine, there’s no shortage of pizza places in Mindo. But the best pizza is at La Mecha.
Across the street from that pizzeria, El Camaleón’s spicy homemade curry and tasty shawarma offer more familiar comfort foods. El Camaleón has good vegetarian options too!
But Mishqui Quinde proves to be a favorite for the meatless crowd.
Additionally, Arepera serves delicious Venezuelan arepas, vegetarian and otherwise. It’s a great meal idea for those traveling to Mindo on a budget. They’re only $2 and very filling!
Oh, and when in Mindo, don’t forget to try the local chocolate! 🍫
Mindo Ecuador Travel Tips
When planning a trip to Mindo, Ecuador, there are actually quite a few travel tips that should prove helpful. So here’s some advice to know before you go.
📅 How Much Time to Spend in Mindo:
We’d suggest nature lovers to spend as long as you can realistically budget into an Ecuador itinerary.
For those on a quick trip, it is possible to visit many of these attractions within two days in Mindo.
Yet having three days in Mindo, or even longer, will greatly allow for more adventure. Three days or more will also allow for the possibility to reschedule activities if rained out. And it will give more time for relaxation in the cloud forest.
🎫 How to Book Tours & Activities in Mindo
If you research activity costs on the web, particularly for birding tours, it’s possible you’ll find prices much higher than we’ve listed within this Things to Do in Mindo travel guide. Hence, we suggest to wait and book these activities at the many local agencies in town to get lower prices. You’ll not only save a few bucks. It’ll also help to ensure that your travel funds stay within Mindo’s local economy.
There are several friendly agencies in town with great deals on birding tours and other Mindo activities. We’ve never noticed any instance of these tours selling out.
Also, know that most activities in the Mindo area can be booked at either (1) the agencies in town or (2) directly onsite. For example, you can book a zipline tour at a Mindo agency or at the zipline attraction itself. The agencies charge the exact same price as booking onsite. So book either way.
💵 Why It’s a Good Idea to Bring Cash to Mindo
It’s rare in Mindo for businesses to accept credit cards. And there are currently only two ATMs in Mindo Ecuador.
From our experience, only one of those ATMs accepts international bank cards. If it runs out of cash (as it did one Sunday during our last visit), then you may be left without any funds. So it can be a smart move to bring some cash with you to Mindo, just in case.
🚕 How to Get Around Mindo
The small town of Mindo is easily walkable. Taxis will charge $1.50 to get anywhere within Mindo town. There are set rates to get further afield. Confirm the price with the taxi driver before departing.
There are usually a decent amount of taxis around Mindo town. But if you can’t find one, then ask at one of the booking agencies. They’ll happily call a taxi for you.
Prepare for Wet Weather in Mindo
This is the cloud forest. It rains often. January through April tends to bring the most rain to Mindo. July through September can be drier. But it still rains during that time of year too!
Whatever time of year you visit, just know that the weather in Mindo changes quickly. So even if it’s a sunny morning, it’s best to bring a rain jacket along during any day trip, just in case.
🌧️ Best Things to Do in Mindo in the Rain
For adventure in the rain: go tubing! You’re going to get wet anyway. So don’t hesitate to go river tubing when it rains in Mindo.
Meanwhile, for those trying to stay dry, the best indoor activity is the chocolate factory tour.
The butterfly garden is another good consideration for a rainy day in Mindo, even though the rain can make the butterflies less active.
Personally, we found rainy afternoons to simply be a good time to relax on a hammock and enjoy this unique cloud forest environment.
🚱 Don’t Drink the Tap Water in Mindo
The water from faucets isn’t drinkable in Mindo. Bottled water can be readily found everywhere.
But to be a responsible traveler and cut back on plastics, refill your bottles with purified water whenever possible. Many hotels and hostels have purified water for guests to refill bottles.
☠️ Safety in Mindo Ecuador
Overall we found Mindo to be quite safe. We’re unaware of any regular occurrences threatening personal safety issues, such as theft or violence. Mindo is a tranquil and friendly place.
If taking the bus from Quito to Mindo, keep personal belongings in the lap or close. Theft on Ecuador’s buses is occasionally reported.
There is an abundance of street dogs. But we’ve never seen any show aggression.
There are spiders and snakes in Mindo. Some are indeed venomous. Watch where you step when hiking in the cloud forest.
Note, there is no hospital in Mindo; only a small clinic.
We found the adventure activities in Mindo to be using good safety procedures. We personally felt safe. That said, there is always some level of risk involved, which is best judged for yourself. There was a zipline accident in Mindo many years ago. But that ziplining accident was well before more strict regulations and safety protocols were put into effect.
⚠️ Be Sure to Have Travel Insurance in Mindo
You never know what may happen during a trip to Ecuador, from a minor incident like lost luggage or flight cancellation to a major disaster like an earthquake or a bus accident on the windy road to Mindo. Or you could simply get sick and need to see a doctor. Travel insurance will not only come to your rescue but will cover those unexpected costs. Whether it’s a twisted ankle while hiking in the waterfall sanctuary or a bounce off the tube rafting onto rocks, don’t let it completely ruin a trip to Mindo.
Since there is no hospital in Mindo, any serious injuries must be evacuated to Quito. We always use travel insurance while roaming around Ecuador and recommend it. We like World Nomads, which has what we’ve found to have the best price and coverage combination, particularly so for longer trips. Enter the dates for your Ecuador trip to get a quick estimate.
What to Pack for Mindo Ecuador
Pack for Mindo like you would any mild climate travel destination. It gets cool in the evenings and warms up pretty nicely during the day. For clothing, earth tones, like greens and browns, can be a good idea for better wildlife spotting.
In addition to the usual clothing, camera, and toiletries, here are some additional considerations for things to add to your Mindo pack list:
🦟 Natural Insect Repellent: There are mosquitos in Mindo. There is currently no known threat of malaria in Mindo and no reported cases. But mosquito bites are no fun, so protect yourself. DEET repellent works well but has proven to be harmful to the environment, particularly in water. If tubing or getting rained on, DEET repellent can wash off and harm the cloud forest. Instead, we suggest a natural insect repellent like this plant-based Repel that works well for us at keeping those pesky mosquitos away.
🔭 Binoculars: If you come to Mindo to look for birds way up in the trees, be sure to bring a small pair of travel binoculars to actually see Mindo’s birdlife. These Bushnell Falcon binoculars are great quality at an incredible price. Check prices and recent reviews.
Rain gear: It’s the cloud forest. Be sure to pack a proper rain jacket like this.
📱 Waterproof your phone: If your phone isn’t already waterproof, it’s a good idea to have a waterproof case for your cell phone so it doesn’t get wet in the rain. It’s well worth the $10 price to give the peace of mind of not ruining your phone and still being able to use it while it’s raining. Packing a few ziplock bags can also be a smart strategy to keep small belongings dry.
👟 Water shoes: If tubing or going swimming in the waterfalls, then you’ll need some water shoes. You must wear something on your feet while tubing. Flip flops won’t cut it in the rapids. Try these men’s water shoes or these women’s water shoes. Or at the very least, wear some old sneakers you don’t care about getting wet.
🔦 Travel flashlight If walking around at night and particularly if staying at a further-away hostel, be sure to have a flashlight. There are few street lights other than the main street in Mindo. You’ll need a flashlight not only to navigate your way back, but also to prevent stepping in dog poo and puddles. We use this Mini LED Flashlight, which we love. We find it to be the most powerful flashlight for its small size and price.
🧳 Ultimate Travel Pack List: For a complete checklist of everything we travel with and recommend, be sure to review our Ultimate Travel Packing Checklist & Packing Tips.
Mindo Ecuador Hotels & Hostels: Where to Stay
There is no shortage of places to stay in Mindo, ranging from cheap hostels to luxury lodges. Unless simply wanting to get away from it all, we suggest staying within walking distance to the small Mindo town. This will allow easy access to restaurants and booking activities in the cloud forest.
Hostel Beds for Solo Travelers
There are many hostels in Mindo. Here are two favorites:
🛏️ Casa de Piedra currently has the top-rated spot on Hostelworld. Its location is only a 3-minute walk from town, yet with the bucolic setting right on the river, it feels worlds away. It’s one of the only affordable hostels near Mindo town that also has an onsite pool. Travelers also love the outside gardens with hummingbirds & butterflies and the helpful staff. Beds in 4-person rooms are usually under $15. Check prices, the latest reviews, and availability.
🛏️ Cinnamon Hostel has even more affordable beds and what may be Mindo’s most inviting chill-out area for travelers. Comfy hammocks and swing chairs line the interior courtyard to relax after a day in the cloud forest. Returning at night, you may even be offered at complimentary canelazo (a warm alcohol drink made with cinnamon, of course). Beds in the 8 or 10-person dorms start at just $10. Check prices, reviews, and current availability.
Inexpensive Private Rooms in Mindo
Mindo has some excellent value private rooms around $30 per night for two people, often including breakfast. There are some great deals here!
⭐ Fantastic Cabins: Cabanas Armonia: These awesome cabañas are nestled right into Mindo’s orchid gardens. Private verandas with hammocks are one of the best features of the clean and comfy wooden cabins that cover all basic needs. This includes consistent good wifi and hot showers. We’ve personally spent a week there and loved it. The price also includes access to their orchid gardens that visitors otherwise pay $3 to tour. Another highlight is the included breakfast that’s set in the garden amidst dozens of hummingbirds buzzing about for a magical way to start the day. It’s a great location; just a short stroll into town. Rooms tend to start around $30/night.
🏨 Best Value: Guesthouse Mindo: This is arguably the best value private rooms in Mindo town. Rooms start at just $15 per night, with private bathrooms and some with private balconies. The location can’t be any more centrally located, right on the main street next to the town church. Marco and Juana welcome guests like family and they receive rave reviews to support that. It’s excellent hospitality with an excellent price to match.
🏨 A Reliable Favorite: Bio Hostal: This long-held accommodation staple in Mindo is another solid option that has clean and comfy private rooms in Mindo, just a few minutes’ walk into town. We’ve stayed here and the included two-course breakfasts have been among the best we’ve had in Ecuador within this price range. Rooms start at about $30.
🏨 Go for the Pool: Mindo Real Priced slightly higher than the others in this section, Mindo Real is a step above. It’s a 15-minute walk into town, located in a tranquil riverside garden setting. It’s a great place to be in the nature of the cloud forest, yet still close enough to the conveniences of Mindo town. Oh, and the pool here is pretty sweet. Take a look at the pics. If you can afford a bit more, definitely consider upgrading from the private rooms to the garden bungalows.
Luxury for Less
Mindo can make a great place to splurge on one of the incredible upscale lodges that dot the cloud forest. Springing for nightly rates ranging from $100-$150 will welcome you into a world of luxury. Even if that’s not in your price range, it’s worth having a click through some of these amazing properties set amidst the cloud forest.
🏨 La Terrazas de Dana: The six bungalows at this boutique lodge come with spa tubs and private verandas overlooking the cloud forest. Even though you can birdwatch from your balcony, it’s also just a 10-minute walk to town. This family-run business receives rave reviews.
🏨 Terrabambu Lodge: This boutique lodge sits in an idyllic location along the Mindo River, on the road towards the Nambillo waterfall sanctuary. With a most refreshing pool, it’s a great place to relax in an area known for birds. For the best in luxury, look into the suite that has a jacuzzi on the balcony overlooking the cloud forest.
🏨 Kapari Natural Lodge & Spa: This ecolodge is a great place to unwind and get away from it all. It’s located about a 30-minute drive away from most of the activities listed throughout this Mindo travel guide. Yet the more secluded location opens up to an entirely different set up of lesser-visited adventures accessed near the beautiful property, such as the Amor Waterfall. And you must see the gorgeous pool here. In such a stunning setting, it could be a great idea to come to Kapari to simply relax in this tranquil oasis.
The Ultimate Splurge in Mindo: Mashpi Lodge
🏨 Mashpi Lodge: This is one of National Geographic’s Unique Lodges of the World. Mashpi Lodge is where to go for the ultimate all-inclusive luxury stay in Mindo. Urban chic rooms open up to the lush jungle environment with enormous panoramic windows. With onsite naturalist guides, birding trails, canopy attractions, and adventure programs, Mashpi Lodge is a Mindo destination unto itself. Given the high rates for this impeccable property, it’s the biggest splurge in the Mindo area. Yet guests who can afford it will be fortunate to experience Mindo’s utmost indulgence.
Unique Accommodation in Mindo
One interesting aspect about accommodation in Mindo is that many of Mindo’s activities and attractions have their own unique lodging options available too! Whenever you stay there, the associated activities and attractions tend to be included. Here are just a few interesting accommodation opportunities in Mindo:
🍫 A chocolate factory: stay at El Quetzal and it includes a chocolate factory tour.
🐦 At birding trails: wake up at the Yellow House to get birdwatching early with the included trail access.
🌼 An orchid garden: stay at Cabanas Armonia to have unlimited access to their beautiful orchid garden.
🦋 A butterfly farm: try the Hosteria Mariposas de Mindo to be among the butterflies.
How to Get from Quito to Mindo
The most convenient connection to Mindo is through Ecuador’s capital, Quito. It’s also Quito’s Aeropuerto Internacional Mariscal Sucre that is the closest airport serving Mindo. Mindo is located approximately a two-hour drive from Quito.
It’s a scenic yet windy road that crosses the equator four times along the way. The route from Quito to Mindo makes its way to the northern hemisphere twice before ultimately returning the southern half of the world. Given the twisty mountainous road down the Andes, those prone to car sickness may want to bring motion sickness relief like Bonine.
So how do you get down this road from Quito to Mindo? In addition to driving yourself, it’s possible to travel from Quito to Mindo by
- public bus or
🚌 Quito to Mindo by Bus
The bus to Mindo is run by Flor del Valle. It’s inexpensive ($2.50) and has regular departures from Quito’s La Ofelia Bus Terminal.
These buses to Mindo are comfortable, clean, and appear well-maintained to us. There are no toilets on board though. So be sure to “go” before this two-hour trip from Quito to Mindo.
There are 5 weekday departures and 7 on the weekend. As of March 2019, the Quito to Mindo bus times are as follows:
Outbound by bus: Mindo to Quito
- Weekday Quito to Mindo bus timetable: 8:00, 9:00, 11:00, 13:00, 16:00.
- Weekend Quito to Mindo bus timetable: 7:40, 8:20, 9:20, 11:00, 13:00, 14:00, 16:00 (Saturday only), 17:00 (Sunday only)
Returning by bus: Mindo to Quito
- Weekday Mindo to Quito bus timetable: 6:30, 11:00, 13:45, 15:30, 17:00
- Weekend Mindo to Quito bus timetable: 6:30, 11:00, 13:00, 14:00, 15:00, 16:00, 17:00
🙋Note: Help us keep this Mindo Ecuador travel info up-to-date! If you’ve noticed the bus times have changed, let us know. We’ll update the info to help future Mindo travelers.
🚕 Quito to Mindo by Taxi or Uber
Taxis charge $50-$80 between Quito to Mindo. Feel free to negotiate. But be sure to confirm the taxi fare before departing. Also know that it’ll cost a bit more if coming from Quito airport to Mindo, rather than from the city.
It’s also possible to try an Uber all the way to Mindo, with fare estimates ranging from $45-$60, if an Uber driver accepts the long distance. It’s unlikely an Uber will be around Mindo for a return trip back to Quito.
Traveling to Mindo Ecuador?
We hope you’ve found this Mindo Ecuador travel guide to be helpful in planning a trip or simply as inspiration to visit the Mindo Cloud Forest someday.
For additional Ecuador trip inspiration, be sure to check out our comprehensive post packed full of Ecuador travel ideas:
Also, we’d love to hear from you! If you’ve found this Mindo Ecuador travel guide to be helpful, please let us know in the comments. Or if you have any questions about Mindo, feel free to ask away. Finally, if you’ve already visited and have your own favorite things to do in Mindo Ecuador, you’ll have to share too.
Have a great trip to Mindo and happy travels through Ecuador!