Mindo is situated in the heart of the Mindo-Nambillo cloud forest, about two hours bus journey from Quito. It is a small town surrounding by lush vegetation making it the perfect escape from the busting city and into nature. With over 500 different bird species, it is a great spot for some bird watching. More adventurous activities like zip-lining, or white water rafting, can also be found in Mindo and whats better is that they are reasonable priced so if you are so inclined, go for it. Two full days in Mindo is a good amount of time to explore your surroundings and do some activities.
Welcome to Mindo!
What we did in Mindo
Bird Watching Tour
With an estimated 500 bird species in Mindo, it is a birders paradise and a perfect place for some bird watching. Bird watching tours start early at around 6am and last between 3 and 4 hours. We paid $30 per person so $60 in total but this is a group price, unfortunately we could not find any more people to join. There are other tours with various prices and length available in the town so shop around. We booked the tour through our hostel.
A selection of the birds we saw on the tour
After a very slow start our bird count thankfully increased as the mist began to lift and the birds came to life. We saw the following birds; Crested Quetzal, 2 out of the 3 types of toucans (Pale-mandibled Aracari, Choco Toucan), Red-billed parrots, hummingbirds, golden and blue-necked tanagers, swallow-tailed kite, Broad Billed Mot mot, flycatchers, squirral / little cuckoo and crested guans.
If you don’t want to pay for the tour but still want to see some birds head to the wall area left of the tarabita and walk back into town from there with your eyes peeled as this is one of the paths we took on our tour!
We walked out to the Hosteria Mariposas de Mindo from town which took about 40 minutes. It cost $7.50 and was NOT worth it. There is the briefest introduction to the butterflys which was over before I even realised it had begun. We were expecting a lot more, imagining butterflys flying all around us but in reality they were very dormant. We spent over an hour admiring the butterflies and trying to get our moneys worth. There is an outdoor area where there are hummingbird feeders and lots of hummingbirds which is nice. Opening hours are 9am to 4pm.
Entrance to the Mariposa House
Tip: Put some banana on your finger tip and a butterfly might just land on you for a nibble.
A Blue Morpho!
From our hostel we got taxi to the cable car / tarabita (approx. $6). It cost $5 for entrance to the area and tarabita return journey. Unfortunately for us, the cable car was under maintenance when we arrived so it meant a slightly longer walk but we made a doggie friend along the way.
A bridge on the waterfall hike
There are two trail options, visit 5 waterfalls in one direction or visit the tallest waterfall (Reina) in the opposite direction past the Nambillo waterfall. We chose the 5 waterfalls trail. It was a nice hike where we spotted some more birds. The waterfalls themselves are very small but it is a nice excursion of about 3 hours walking. Check out the picture below for the trail overview.
The Waterfall Trail
Luckily when we got back to the entrance the cable car was working so we hopped on for a quick spin and then walked back into town afterwards.
The Tarabita on the way back…
With amazing views of the forest
To have a swim head to Cascada Nambillo, there is an additional fee (<$5) to swim there.
Other things to do:
Other things to do in Mindo or otherwise known as the things I wish I did!
Chocolate Tour – It costs $10 and involves a demonstration of the chocolate making process and the chance to taste some chocolate.
Zip Lining – from $20 and 10 zip lines. Its probably the best value zip-line we have come across in our travels. Definitely kicking myself for not doing this one!
River tubing – for only $6 where can you go wrong!?
White Water Rafting – approximately $25 for a white water rafting experience sounds pretty reasonable.
Yellow House Trail – for another trail option head to the Yellow House hostel which is only short walk from the town. There is a cost to enter as it is private property.
Cock of the Rock Walk, on the way to the cascadas we spotted this trail along the way. Not sure if there are Cock of the Rocks there but it would a much cheaper opportunity to see them instead of paying over $80 for a tour.
Where we stayed
We spent two nights in Mindo and stayed in Biohostel Mindo. It is a really nice hostel with a great breakfast. The owner is really helpful and friendly.
Getting to Mindo from Quito
To go to Mindo from Quito, head to La Ofelia Terminal (Terrestre Norte) and look for Cooperativa Flor de Valle/Cayambe bus company. We were advised to go to the bus station early to buy the tickets in case they sold out so we arrived with an hours grace and had no issues. The bus cost $3.10 and took approx. 2.5 hours. We took the bus at 9am, next bus was at 11am.