Posted by: Jena Davison | September 20, 2011

Baños, Ecuador: An Adventurer’s Paradise

Baños, Ecuador is a playground for risk-takers looking for some adrenaline-pumping adventure. This touristy town seems to have a tour operator on every corner offering half- and full-day excursions ranging  from canyoning and bungee jumping to zip-lining and whitewater rafting. Renting bikes or 4x4s (or hopping on a chiva) to explore the several surrounding waterfalls is a popular activity. These waterfalls can be enjoyed from afar, or you can take cable cars down to experience their powerful mists up-close and even swim in some of them (though the water is paralyzingly cold!).

Waterfalls Outside of Baños

Cable Car into Waterfalls, Baños

On the other side of the spectrum, many people come to Baños merely to experience its multitude of spas and its very own baños termales (thermal baths). Although I didn’t personally get any spa treatments, I did go to the town’s thermal baths and can say they aren’t really worth it. If you are actually looking to relax in a more peaceful setting, I highly recommend the hot springs at Papallacta instead (post to come on that soon).

Anyways, a funny story to entertain you all about my experience at these public hot springs:

On my first trip to Baños back in April, I went to these thermal baths. After waiting in line to enter the overly crowded pools area, my boyfriend Jesua and I began testing out the different water temperatures, eventually settling on a pool downstairs. A little while later, some commotion broke out and a few police officers entered the facility. No one seemed to know what was going on. Eventually the woman next to us revealed what had happened:

*A younger couple was ferociously making out (and doing more promiscuous things, apparently).

*A mother approached the female in the couple asking her to please cool it, since it was a public place and she didn’t want her young daughter being exposed to their PDA.

*The female then proceeded to punch the mother in the face. Not only that, but she punched her daughter in the face too (who does that?).

*A male bystander felt the need to intervene and defend her, so he got in the face of the female who had just punched the mother and daughter.

*The male in the couple then took it into his own hands (literally) and punched this innocent bystander in the face.

Yes, this actually happened. And yes, this generally sums up the level of classiness at these thermal baths.

Now, back to the finer details of my Baños, Ecuador experience. The first day of the first time I was there, Jesua and I perused the tour operators looking for something fun to do. Within 30 minutes, I was signing my life away on a waiver, and in the matter of hours, I was leaning backwards off of a cliff preparing to jump off of it. We had decided to go canyoning (repelling down waterfalls), and though I was extremely nervous at first (check out the fear on my face in the photo below), it ended up being a thrilling and yes, fun, time. Everything about being suspended by a rope off the edge of a cliff felt wrong, against my survival instincts. Yet I did it, screaming and all, and I have to admit, it was awesome.

So Scared!

Me About to Jump

Jesua Riding Down Waterfall

I returned to Baños a second time in July to meet up with my cousin Josh, who was visiting guayaquileño family friends for a few weeks. This time, we went whitewater rafting. The weather was less-than-ideal, and the rapids appeared threatening. I was with loads of guys, who were all pumped to navigate this fiercely swirling river, and all I could think about was flipping over and freezing to death in the water. But, it ended up being a lot of fun, and there were no casualties :). The only mishap was when our quickly moving raft missed the spot where we were supposed to exit the river and meet our transportation back to town (thanks to our unhelpful and rather rude guide), and we had carry the raft back on our heads through the forest. Always an adventure.

Rafting in Baños

Both times, we stayed at a lovely hostel called Hostel Chimanea. The rooms are colorful and spacious, and it has a pool, steam bath, Jacuzzi and some reasonably priced spa treatments (waxing, massages, etc.). Each room has a small balcony and a private bathroom and costs $11.50 per person, not bad. Breakfast is not included, but for an extra $2-4, you can enjoy delicious coffee, juice, eggs or pancakes on the hostel’s rooftop restaurant, a great way to start your day.

The second time I was in Baños, I went to a delicious restaurant called Swiss Bistro, which specializes in steak, potato gratin, Swiss cheese fondus and soups. There are also a host of cute, artsy cafés and international restaurants to satisfy all sorts of appetites. The nightlife in Baños is another one of its many draws, with lots of bars, pubs and dancing spots to choose from.

Located only three-and-a-half hours from Quito, Baños is a great weekend getaway and has enough to keep people of all tastes and interests occupied for at least a couple of days. No wonder it is one of Ecuador’s biggest tourist destinations.

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Responses

  1. Very nice article, we live near Banos too and we are loving it, the green mountains the river and waterfalls, Banos ecuador offers and eternal spring when it comes to almost the perfect climate. Ah and the volcano too, very exciting, he he..!

    Nice pictures too, I’d love to see some more. just liked your blog.

    Maurice

    • Thanks a lot for the kind words, Maurice! How lucky you are to live there 🙂 I really love Baños; there is so much to do there and it is such a great escape from the city life in Quito. Do you have any cool restaurants/bars/hotels/activities to recommend to others thinking of going there?

      • Hi Jena
        About your question, well, we currently manage an online tourist portal to promote Banos, the site is in English but can be translated using the top bar. The site includes a banos google map and has listed all kind of services a tourist may need while visiting Banos, from hotels to restaurants, clinics and even public services, the site is BanosEcuador.com

        If you have any other questions feel free to e-mail me.

        All the best

        Maurice


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