Mindo, Ecuador Travel Guide
Mindo, Ecuador is a popular daytrip from Quito – only 2.5 hours away – and noted for its abundant natural beauty and the Mindo-Nambillo Cloud Forest. The area encompassing Mindo is one of the best birdwatching spots in Ecuador and in all of South America.
Around 400 bird species have been identified in Mindo alone, including many different types of hummingbirds, the Golden-Bellied Warbler, the Toucan Barbet and the Cock-of-the-Rock (national bird of Peru).
Mindo consistently ranks within the top three highest bird counts in the world, so it is no surprise that birding enthusiasts throughout the globe come here to experience the area’s diverse bird life. There are several excellent and knowledgeable birding guides in Mindo for hire, such as Marcelo Arias (email: firstname.lastname@example.org). El Monte Sustainable Lodge also organizes birdwatching tours and has several qualified English-speaking guides.
Birdwatching is best very early in the morning, so if you are hung-ho about seeing as many birds as possible, expect to rise very early – preferrably before sunrise!
Note: Prices are current as of March, 2012. Ecuador uses the U.S. dollar as its currency; Money in Ecuador.
Things To Do in Mindo, Ecuador
- Take the tarabita (cable car in English) for $2 USD across the treetops and arrive at the entry point to the Santuario de Cascadas. The admission fee is $3 USD and you can hike along a dirt path through the gorgeous green landscapes of the cloud forest to visit six different waterfalls. The route to the waterfalls is about an hour long and it is possible to swim at the foot of Cascada Madre, last one you reach on the trail.
- One of the most popular activities in Mindo is tubing down the Río Mindo, and many tour operators in town offer such excursions for the bargain price of $6 per person, including equipment, transport and guides. During dry season, it is more of a leisurely float down the river, taking up to an hour to get from the launching point to ending spot. In wet season, the same distance is covered in 15-20 minutes and is much more of a heart-pumping experience, since the rapids are bigger and faster. Basically, six or more tubes are tied together to make one big raft and each person sits toward the middle of the raft, grabbing on to ropes for security. Two guides assist to navigate the rapids as the tied-up tubes spin down the river. A pick-up truck meets tubers at the point of disembarkment and drive them back to the tour operator’s office.
- Zipline through the cloud forest canopy on 12 or 13 different cables strung through the trees while trying tricks like “Batman” and “Mariposa” (Butterfly). Two major companies offer this: Mindo Ropes & Canopy and Mindo Canopy Adventure.
- Visit the mariposario (butterfly garden in English) at Hostería Mariposas de Mindo, which houses 25 different species of butterflies and shows the four stages of butterfly life, making it the largest butterfly display in Ecuador.
- Participate in the nightly “frog concert” at 6:30 p.m., which is less of a concert and more of an introduction to the diverse flora and fauna of the cloud forest. Organized through Mindo Lago lodge, the frog concert is an hour-long guided walk through the woods where participants can see some of the interesting nocturnal features of Mindo’s forests while of course, hear the chirping of various frog species. Afterwards, everyone is treated to a complimentary glass of wine at the lodge.
In 2008, an Ecuadorian-American couple bought a gorgeous plot of land in Mindo and started an artesanal chocolate company called Mindo Chocolate Makers . They also own and operate El Quetzal Restaurant and Hospedaje on the same property.
At 4 p.m. each day, owner José leads a chocolate tour at El Quetzal. He explains the history of cacao and chocolate, the story of his company and the process of making chocolate from bean to bar. He also gives a thorough tour of the large garden, where they grow coffee, ginger, aloe vera, stevia and vegetables as well as some guava trees. El Quetzal is one of only a few places in the world where you can see the entire process of chocolate-making in one place.
Mindo Chocolate Makers does everything here except for actually growing the cacao, which they buy from small organic farmers near Puerto Quito. On the tour, you can see the drying of the beans, the roasting of the beans, the breaking up of the beans, the winnowing of the cocoa nibs and their shells, the production of chocolate liquor and the refining of chocolate. After the tour, visitors get to sample 100% cacao and add sugar, chili pepper and ginger to adjust the chocolate to their taste, as well as one of its decadent brownies. The tour costs $5 USD and many products are for sale.
How to Get to Mindo from Quito
You can get a public bus to Mindo (2 1/2 hour trip) from Terminal Terrestre Norte in Quito, at La Ofelia, 35 minutes by taxi from the Mariscal tourist area. At the bus station you want to find the company “Flor de Valle” who has service to Mindo. The cost for a one-way ticket is under $3 USD.
Name: Casa Divina Cloudforest Retreat
Address: 1.2 km Vía a la Cascada Nambillo
Website: www.mindocasadivina.com Individual rustic yet elegant wood cabins with separate hall with restaurant and bar to relax and eat home-cooked meals. Gluten-free and vegetarian options available.
Name: Dragonfly Inn
Address: Corner of Avenida Quito and Sucre
Website: www.dragonflyinn-mindo.com Located on the the Canchupi River. Wood-panneled rooms with french doors opening to private balconies. Restaurant specialties include fajitas, trout and prawns, vegetarian options available.
Name: La Casa de Cecilia
Address: Walk along the western side of the Parque Central (Calle 9 de Octubre), located behind El Quetzal Restaurant right on River Canchupi
Website: None. One of the most popular budget backpacker places in town with several dorms ($6 USD) and private rooms with either shared ($7 USD) or private bathrooms ($8.50 USD). During the dry season, it is also possible to camp in the backyard for $2.50 USD if you bring your own tent. On-site restaurant and laid-back communal areas with hammocks.
Name: La Chorrera Bar-Restaurant
Address: 2 Km from the “Y” of Mindo via Mindo
Website: www.septimoparaiso.com Restaurant of El Séptimo Paraíso lodge.
Full-service bar attached – El Puma – with pool table, darts, Satellite T.V.
Name: El Quetzal
Address: On Calle 9 de Octubre (from Mindo’s central park, head north passing the restaurant/bar Fuera de Babylonia. It is in front of “Amigos de la Naturaleza”)
Name: Restaurant El Chef
Address: Avenida Quito and Sucre, across from Dragonfly Inn
Website: None. Typical fixed-price almuerzo (lunch in English) which includes soup, a main plate with a small piece of meat accompanied by rice and French fries, and a bottle of soda for $3 USD. The á la carte dishes come in large portions and range from fried trout to pollo a la plancha (grilled chicken breast with salad, rice and French fries, $4.50 USD) to its infamous lomo a la piedra (a hunk of beef cooked on a hot stone, $7.80 USD). Fresh fruit juices cost only $1 USD.
Photograph by Jena Davison, all rights reserved.