Best Things to Do in Baños

Looking for the best things to do in Baños on your Ecuador trip?  This is the guide for you!

Ecuador’s adventure capital is a full adventure rush followed by restorative relaxation.  Imagine white water rafting in the morning, paragliding by afternoon, and taking a dip in the local hot springs at night.  That basically screams adventure paradise!

Its mild year-round temperatures make it ideal for activities all year long ranging from chasing waterfalls to canyoning, and even paragliding.

This first half of this guide is going to focus on adventure, because we’re talking about Ecuador’s adventure capital.  Beautiful gardens, relaxing massages, and other lowkey activities that will be covered at the end.

Let’s dive in!

Views from Casa de Arbol in Baños

Getting to Baños

The closest airport to Baños is Quito International Airport.  The most efficient way to get from Quito to Baños is via public bus.

Quito to Baños: It’s a popular option for visitors to take a bus to Baños after spending a couple of days in the nation’s capital.  Take a 3 hour bus from Quito to Terminal Terrestre Baños.  This is the only bus station in the town, and is so centrally located in downtown that you can walk to your accommodation.

Cuenca to Baños:

It is also possible to visit Baños as a day trip from Quito but I do not recommend this.  There are so many wonderful things to do and ways to explore the budget-friendly destination of Baños that I recommend all visitors plan 2 days minimum for their stay.

Baños Planning Details

Baños Weather: Baños has a pleasant climate year round making it conducive to its plethora of adventure activities.  Like the rest of Ecuador, it has two seasons: dry season and wet season.

The dry season with less rainfall is from June to September.  The wet season is from October to May.

Weather is always relative.  During my stay during the dry season in July, I experienced pockets of both rain and sunshine.

Baños Elevation: Baños sits at 5,900 feet above sea level.  Mild altitude sickness is possible, but is more likely in higher elevation towns around Ecuador like Quito.

Best things to do in Baños

Paragliding

Paragliding adventure in Baños

For $60, you can be swept into the sky above the Ande Mountains for a 20 minute flight expedition.  Pretty cool, right?

There are two tour operators for the sport of paragliding in the town of Banos, and limitless agencies that are arranging tours.  That being said, no matter where you book through, your paragliding experience will be virtually the same.  So, go with the best deal.  I booked through my hostel for $60 but saw costs as high as $80 online for the same experience.

White Water Rafting

For $25, you can take a half-day expedition down world-class level III waterfalls in Baños, Ecuador- with a packed lunch included!  I didn’t personally try white water rafting as I had to begin picking and choosing activities to remain in budget, but I sure was (am) jealous!

Canyoning

Canyoning in Baños

Ever imagine descending a 50ft waterfall?  It’s a rush of an experience, literally.  Baños canyoning packages are divided into half day or full day options.

Half day canyoning typically involves two waterfall rappels followed by a waterfall drop, all while fully secured to a harness and rope.  The cost is typically $25.  The full day canyoning option involves descending through several waterfalls, which ranges from free-falling into a waterfall atop a cliff, transporting across zip lines secured by your guide, swimming, and rappelling.  The cost is typically $60.

I LOVE adventure and the half day option was sufficient for me (I’m also scared of deep water and free-falls were off the table for me).

While a wonderful experience, it is scary.  I recommend going with a guide that speaks your native language, due to the extreme nature of the activity.  Both partners communicating with one another is key as you descend through a rushing waterfall!

Casa de Arbol

Views from Casa de Arbol in Baños

Sitting 8,000 feet above sea level, Casa De Arbol is a viewing paradise for the local active volcano, Mount Tungurahua.

The entrance fee is $1.  Keep in mind that the ticket office is a steep walk up a ramp from the parking lot.  I needed to use the rail to help me continue in a vertical motion.  While a ramp is a ramp, I’m not sure how truly accessible pushing someone up a ramp this steep would be.

Casa De Arbol is ideal because visitors can truly choose how they want to spend their time.  Walking through colorful gardens among lush Ande mountains is a paradise all its own without taking to the end of the world swing.  There are several photography spots from colorful sculptures to various look-outs.

Swing at the End of the World

OK I don’t know why they call it this, because you could then say any mountain is the “end of the world”.  In any case, the infamous swing is located within Casa De Arbol but I decided to give it its own section here to give you specific directions if you choose this experience (which I definitely recommend).

How to get there: My recommended route for ease is a local Chiva tour bus.  The Chiva keeps you on a specific time schedule.  For me it was roughly 45 minutes.  Other options of getting here include the local bus or taking a taxi.

While the bus or taxi gives you a flexible schedule which I typically love, my hostel workers told me it’s not too easy to locate the back down, and a taxi would cost more than double the Chiva.  For ease and cost, Chiva is sufficient.  If you want to spend longer at Casa De Arbol because it’s so beautiful, consider the local bus or chiva up, and pre-arranging a taxi in advance back down.  I did not see any taxis at Casa De Arbol waiting to take visitors to the bottom.  I visited on a weekday morning around 9:00am.

Walk Around Town

Walking around Downtown Baños

Downtown Baños is obviously beautiful.  No matter if you choose to venture into the mountains or stay on the ground, you are surrounded by stunning landscape.  Walking around downtown Baños, visitors can stroll through parks like Palomino Flores (Central Park) and Parque La Basilica, admire the Nuestra Senora de Agua Santa Church, and admire the many gift shops.

Viewpoints

Views from the San Francisco Bridge in Baños

It’s easy to take a Chiva bus to several viewpoints throughout the lush mountains of Baños.  In addition to Casa de Arbol, visitors love Los Manos De Dios, La Mano de La Pachamama, Pailon Del Diablo, and more.  I only visited Casa de Arbol and felt my viewpoint here combined with my adventure activities was more than sufficient!

I personally feel that in a town as beautiful as Baños, you don’t necessarily need to spend money to reach the most famous viewpoints.  Looking over the San Francisco bridge or viewing the city and mountain views from my hostel was incredible of itself.

Chasing Waterfalls

Cascada de la Virgen waterfall in Baños

Ruta de Las Cascadas is the infamous biking route from Baños to Poyo.  There are several bike rental shops downtown costing around $10 to rent a bike for 24 hours.

You can stop at the roughly 7 waterfalls along the route and take a truck from El Pailon de Diablo back to Baños for $3.  The truck will take your bike as well!

Visitors tend to consider this a full day activity in order to spend time at all of the waterfalls and possibly complete adventure activities along the way such as ziplining.

I opted to not do this activity due to timing.  I also did not feel comfortable biking solo on winding, narrow roads shared with cars so I decided this wasn’t the solo activity for me.  You can alternatively explore the Ruta de Las Cascada with ta Chiva bus.

I loved seeing waterfalls in town, like the Cascada de la Virgen Waterfall next to the Termas de la Virgen hot spring.

Hot Springs

While Baños is most famous for its exceptional outdoor activities, people can wind down at the end of the day with a $25 massage or $3 dip in the local hot spring, filled fresh with volcanic water each morning.  There are two budget options for the hot springs and one luxury option:

*Termas de La Virgen

*El Salado

*Luna Volcan

Full disclosure, I did not visit any of the hot springs on my trip even though they are known as one of the most beloved and best things to do in Baños!  You really just need to make your own itinerary and roll with it.  However, I was able to visit some hot springs in Cuenca, Ecuador.

How to book activities in Baños

Downtown Baños

I HIGHLY recommend booking activities upon arrival.  It seems much more affordable than purchasing in advance.

There are several agencies selling tours all throughout downtown and they have availibility almost all the time.

I booked all of my activities after arrival in Baños and had no difficulty securing a space.

The only exception to this is taking a longer day trip out of Baños.  Popular trips like  Quilotoa Lake or Cotopaxi Volcano are best booked in advance to ensure availability.  Because they are out of town, agencies do not run these tours as consistently.  (You can also take a day trip to either of these beautiful destinations from Quito).

Best Restaurants in Baños

Arepas To Go Restaurant in Baños

Hey vegetarians- I’m looking at you!  It’s not hard to find some amazing and hearty vegetarian dishes when traveling in Baños.

An Apple a Plane tried and true Baños food recommendations:

Arepas to Go

I visited Arepas To Go SEVERAL times for their authentic, $5 Venezuelan arepa.  With both vegan and vegetarian options, and fresh juice, this place hit the spot.

Cafe Ricoo Pan

Uhm.  A tofu-vegetable scramble?  I can find this, basically, nowhere.  For $8 it came with delicious maraca (or blackberry) juice and a hot cup of coffee.  Unbeatable.

Cafe Ricoo Pan Restaurant in Baños

Where to Stay in Baños

Baños attracts a LOT of adventure seekers on a backpacker budget, and there are so many hostel choices to meet this traveler’s needs.

However, the town also sees its fair share of luxury travelers enthralled by resort-style accommodation in the mountains.

While Baños is no longer the hidden town it used to be, it still appeals to a variety of travelers no matter the budget.

Budget

Green Tortoise Seattle Hostel- Princesa Maria is a highly rated hostel close to the city center.  It features both dorm and private room options.

Mid-Range

Monte Selva– Monte Selva is a highly rated mid-range hotel located in a central part of town.  It features a pool, hot tub, and spa.  Breakfast is included.

Luxury

Luna Volcan- Featuring a luxury hot spring high atop the mountains overlooking Baños, Luna Volcan comes highly recommended for the views, spa, and more.

Baños Packing List

Here are a couple of can’t-miss items to toss in your suitcase when exploring the best things to do in Baños:

Supportive Shoes– No matter your level of adrenaline filled activities, it will be SO important to have supportive shoes in Baños.  Exploring the gorgeous town will probably mean a lot of time on your feet.  (But I’m a bit partial, because I wear supportive shoes EVERYwhere!)

Water bottle– Hydration is key, always always!  Consider a packable one like this to maximize space in your suitcase.

Packable backpack– I love a collapsible backpack because it rolls up easily into luggage and I can easily take it out for a day of exploring.

Rain Jacket-Baños has a dry and rainy season.  During my July (dry season) visit, I still encountered bouts of rain.  No matter the season, it makes sense to pack a  rain jacket  here.  I recommend the same one you use for hiking trips, because versatility!

Sandals– Bring comfortable sandals

Travel Towel– For the hot springs!  And in case your accommodation doesn’t have clean towels (happens from time to time while traveling!)  If you are traveling luxury, you won’t need to pack this.

Fleece jacket– A light, fleece jacket can be ideal depending on time of year.

I HIGHLY recommend a trip to Baños on your Ecuador itinerary, and I think it’s totally worth it!  I do not recommend visiting Baños on a day tour from Quito or other surrounding cities, because there is just so much to do and I don’t think that’s ample time, even with a time-crunched schedule.  Allow yourself at least two full days to experience some of the best things to do in Baños.

Baños sign outside of Nuestra Senora del Rosario de Agua Santa Church

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Alyssa

As a full time employee who loves her job, learn how I honor my wanderlust while working a 9:00-5:00 (because I want to!) This blog welcomes all, and specifically provides resources for those seeking travel intertwined into a busy schedule (3 days to 5 weeks).