The city of Bucay is a relatively young and small city, right on the edge of the Guayas and Bolivar Provinces, just 100km East of Guayaquil. Tourism to the waterfalls of Bucay and and its many rivers has been growing drastically over the last decade, as the city tries to keep up.
Driving through Bucay from Guayaquil the streets are lined with vendors selling local fruits and vegetables, meats, and an abundance of corn, or maize. There are also plenty of places to stop and enjoy a meal. I recommend walking around the city either on your way in or out to the waterfalls.
While there is a main Ruta de las cascadas de Bucay with the larger waterfalls, there are dozens of smaller waterfalls and cascades that dot the landscape and the edge of hiking routes. We will be using both the English “waterfall” and Spanish “cascada” interchangeably throughout this post, so try not to get confused!
The first waterfall we visited was “El Progreso,” which is located on private property, with a hostal and restaurant with the same name. We did not have the opportunity to try the food, as we arrived at 9am and already had eaten, but it smelled delicious. The cost of admission is $2/person and includes a guide, one of the children who live there. It is a short walk up and over a nearby hill, with handrails and steps on the steeper parts.
The waterfall is 25 meters tall, putting it on the smaller side, but the adjacent cascades and smaller waterfalls make up for it in beauty what it lacks in size. Taking photos on my Android phone, they are automatically uploaded to the Google cloud, where Google’s magic edits the best of my photos, so they are to thank for this cool edit:
The cherry on top about El Progreso cascada is the small water spout located in the parking lot. A great way to great way to wash the mud of your feet and shoes, while keeping the car clean(er).
Las cascadas de Piedra Blanca
Las cascadas de Piedra Blanca was our second stop, and located the furthest from Bucay, 16km away. It claims to have over 40 waterfalls and the tallest waterfall in the area, Isabelita, at 90 meters. From parking the car to the base of Isabelita it is a 15 minute walk, along a flat and sometimes cobblestone path.
At the base of the large waterfall is a smaller one, where you can rappel, or canyon down for only $15/person. This is done through tours coming from the city, but if you run into a group a the falls already, you should talk to the guide to see if you can get a last second opportunity.
On the walk back we took a detour to get a nice view of both Isabelita and the waterfall being rappelled down. It was supposed to be a two minute detour, but we saw the top of another waterfall.
Since it was only noontime, we decided to venture further down the river to see more waterfalls. The path down was steep, muddy and slippery. Where the rocks weren’t covered in wet leaves, the damp earth slid beneath our feet. Yet, the climb down was worth it when we hit Las Mellizas. These twin waterfalls were more secluded than the others and had a small gazebo to sit in.
I chose here to immerse myself in the waterfall. Wading through the water was chilly, but as soon as I got to the waterfall, it felt like showering with ice. The shear force of the water falling combined with the cold water temperatures did not allow me to stay there much longer than a photograph. After a few pictures my wife was kind enough to let me know I was not far enough under the waterfall, and to backup under it for a better photo.
The walk back up was just as difficult, but it turns out there is an easier path back to the parking lot, if you don’t mind walking further.
Cascadas Gallo de la Peña
The last stop of the day was the Cascadas Gallo de la Peña.
The trail is 1.1km each way, consisting of a rather easy, yet uphill walk. We completed the entire trail in 70 minutes, including pictures at the falls, but we were walking as fast as we could.
The first of two waterfalls along the trail is only a few minute walk from the entrance to Cascada Cueva de la Golondrina. It is a smaller waterfall in a rock alcove just a few steps of the main path. The only hint of the upcoming waterfall is an arrow and a set of wooden stairs. Climb the four stairs, turn the corner, and there is a ~5 meter waterfall staring you in the face. It is a great view to start the longer hike.
There are multiple river crossings throughout the hike via simple wood plank bridges. Some have handrails, others do not. If you are not interested in crossing some wobbly bridges, this is not the hike for you.
At the end of the kilometer-plus hike is the 60 meter tall Gallito de la Peña waterfall. This waterfall had the most number of visitors while we were there, with many more along the hiking path. There are several little paths around the base of the waterfall to get views from different angles. Everything is more slippery due to the water from the falls, and the edge of the paths crumbled under my feet.
At this point we were getting cold and hungry, so after just a few minutes we headed the kilometer back. At the entrance to these cascades they do sell hot food, and it was packed with other visitors, so it must have been good!
Weather and clothing
The most important thing to remember is the weather. To have such a lush and green landscape, there is one thing you need an excess of, water. In this case water in the form of rain and fog. Leaving a hot and sunny Guayaquil, the skies quickly became cloudy. In the small city of Bucay, you could see spots of blue sky in the distance, but by the time we hit the waterfalls, it was fog, mist and rain.
While it might be sunny in Bucay, the maximum 16km drive, to the last waterfall, leads you up into the mountains where it can be so foggy the tops of the waterfalls are hard to spot.
You do not really need an umbrella or heavy jacket, just a second, more waterproof layer than a t-shirt. If you plan on entering any of the pools or waterfalls, make sure to bring an extra set of clothes and a towel. The clouds did not warm me up or dry me off very well. As the day moved on, the fog became thicker and my clothes become soggier.
If you have any valuable items, such as wallets, smartphones or cameras, make sure to bring along some zip-lock bags or waterproof cases. I had to keep my camera wrapped in the bottom of my shirt while walking, which proved to be inconvenient on slippery surfaces.
Obviously all this moisture in the air mixes with the dirt to form mud. Wear shoes that can not only get wet, muddy and dirty, but ones that will grip on slippery rocks and fallen leaves. No matter the shoes you wear, be sure to watch your step as an unwanted mud bath is just a slip away!
Due to its close proximity, the trip to Bucay is a perfect day trip from Guayaquil. We left at 7AM and arrived back home by 4PM, and this included an additional lunch stop on the way home. There is also enough to do within and near Bucay to spend several days in the area, if you so desire. There is also rafting or tubing in the river, an endless supply of waterfalls, hours of city enjoyment and comfortable hostels for rest.
Please share with us your favorite waterfalls of Bucay in the comments, or let us know if we missed any must see or must do activities in the area!