Mindo is known by its inhabitants as a place for extreme sports and for its cloud forest with its rich biodiversity. The extreme sports that are practiced in Mindo are rafting, tubing, trekking, canopy, mountain biking and canyoning. Mindo is located between the Coast and the highlands, but it has an air of the Amazon. This beautiful town is a mixture of the three regions of the Ecuador.
Mindo is a destination to enjoy as a couple, with friends or family. You do not need more than one weekend to enjoy its beauty. In this guide we share the best things to do in Mindo in one day.
Mindo was the first stop on a longer Northern Ecuador roadtrip. See our complete Northern Ecuador travel guide.
How to get to Mindo?
Mindo is only 2 hours west from Quito, making it an amazing day trip from the capital city.
- Get to Mindo by car: It takes about one hour and a half to two hours to drive from Quito to Mindo and 6 hours and a half to seven hours from Guayaquil.
- Get to Mindo by bus: We recommend taking riding with Flor del Valle. They have different buses going to Mindo from Quito daily. It takes two hours to get to Mindo and the ticket cost about $3.00 USD.
The Ultimate Travel Guide to visit Mindo: Everything you need to know
1. Jardín de Mariposas Nathaly
Our first stop was the Jardín de Mariposas Nathaly, which is a butterfly garden, only a block off the main street. We were unable to spot any signs pointing to it from downtown, so we had to ask someone on the street for directions.
The Jardín de mariposas Nathaly might not look like much from the outside, but has much to offer inside!
We were told at the front desk that it was not a great time to visit, due to the cloudy skies, as butterflies are only out when its sunny. So, we reluctantly paid the $5 per person entrance fee.
Upon entering there are some flower displays, so at least we thought we would get something out of the garden.
Then a guide came and led us to their butterfly egg and larvae room. It was very interesting to see the vast diversity in size, shape and design of the caterpillars.
We were then led to the butterfly room and were quite surprised on what we saw. What the business considers a bad day was perfect for us! No, we were not surrounded by fluttering butterflies, but resting butterflies are the best for photographs.
Besides butterflies, they had a section to view hummingbirds feeding. They have a little hut with hammocks, seats and carpet to watch the birds. You are required to take off your shoes at this point, as any noise can scare the hummingbirds away. If you are quiet, you can get in arms reach of the birds. It is the perfect spot to relax, while enjoying the sounds of nature.
2. Orquideario in Cabañas Harmony
It is a beautiful garden with different plants but mostly orchids. In this garden you will find more than 200 species of orchids, although not all of them bloom in the same season. What you will see most in Mindo are hummingbirds and the orchid is no exception.
Admission is $3 USD per person.
3. Swim at the Mindo’s Waterfalls
We went around the corner to a tour company to get directions to some of Mindo’s waterfalls. It turns out the only one they said was worth it required a $6 tour and a 30 minute drive down a dirt road and an hour hike. Hiking in Mindo is a must to do activity, there are many different hiking trails that take you to different breathtaking waterfalls.
You can also cross the mountain in a tabarita and visit the Nambillo waterfall and the Cascade Sanctuary. I have not visited any of the two but we have read that the Nambillo waterfall is not a big deal but that the Cascade Sanctuary is very beautiful. The Cascade Sanctuary is a system of 5 small waterfalls that you can get into. To get there you need to walk 3 to 4 hours and the cost of the tour is $5 per person although if you just want to get on the tabarita it is only $3 USD.
4. Visit a Chocolate Factory
In Mindo you can take a tour to the Chocolate factory or you can do it on your own in Quetzal, which costs $10 USD or in Yumbos that costs $8 USD. The tour we recommend you to do lasts two hours and costs $8.50 USD. In the factory you will learn the process of chocolate and the history of cocoa.
5. Bird Watching + Lookouts
One of the most important attractions of Mindo is the observation of birds and wildlife, including toucans and gallinazo. Mindo is the home of over 500 bird species. The best viewpoints are: El Descanso, La Casa Amarilla and Los Armadillos Café trails.
- El Descanso:: This viewpoint is located inside a hostel and has a cost of $ 4.
- Senderos de La Casa Amarilla: There are different paths that you can walk and see different birds, but it is better to leave well early in the morning. The trails cost $ 6.
- The Armadillos Café: After leaving Mindo, we headed on towards Otavalo. Along route E28 we came upon Los Armadillos Café, outside of Nanegalito. The cafe has ample indoor and patio seating, with a handful of hummingbird feeders. There were so many hummingbirds of all sizes; small and smaller!
The cafe overlooks La Reserva Biologica Maquipucuna, a beautiful protected cloud forest. It is a breathtaking spot to enjoy a slightly overpriced snack in one of Ecuador’s most diverse landscapes. You almost drive past the cafe when going through the curvy mountainous road, so be careful when pulling in and out of this cafe.