The edge of the Amazon- Visiting Banos

We read about Banos being a lovely little town full of beautiful scenery and great restaurants/cafés. It’s also known for having lots of adventure activities from zip lining to white water rafting. What we didn’t really realize until we arrived is that you are at the edge of the  Amazon rainforest. The landscape changes dramatically as you drive from the Andes Mountains into Banos.

We only stayed for two nights/two and half days but this is a place that you could definitely stay longer. We chose Hostel balcon del cielo. We booked them for the view from their balcony. You overlook the river and the valley below town, you can also watch as people bungee jump from the large bridge. You are served your breakfast on the balcony each morning. Of course, you can enjoy the views throughout the day as you wish. The hostel was on the edge of town but only about a 5 minute walk to the central square and center part of town. There is parking available but it is down quite a steep, long hill at the other property they own. Our little car barely made it back up the hill. 

After hiking in the Andes we were ready for a little relaxation so our first afternoon in Banos we head to the public baths. There are several public bath options in the area, ranging in price. We chose to go to the Thermals de la virgin. The entrance fee was $3 per person plus $1 for a swim cap. There are several different temperature pools to choose from. You have a great view of the waterfall from the pools and you can rinse off/cool off in the showers with water straight from the waterfall.

When you arrive you will buy your cap at the little stand located right after the entrance then head upstairs to change. They have bins for you to put all your clothing in and a “locker area” where you will leave your bin and get a small tag with what number your bin is located in so that they can return your stuff to you afterwards. You will need to rinse off in the warm showers before choosing your pool and getting in. 

They do drain the pools every day at 4pm, clean then out and then refill. They open back up at 6? So do be aware of that when planning your visit. This is a popular place with the locals as well as tourists. 

Our second day in Banos we headed off to the Route de las cascadas (waterfall route). This is a section of E30 that heads from Banos towards the Amazon. The drive is beautiful and we found ourselves driving for 30-45 minutes, taking pictures along the way before we realized we passed everything we were there to see.

The largest waterfall/biggest attraction is  Pailon del Diablo (The Devil’s Cauldron Waterfall). This is located in the very small town of Rio Verde. We assumed there would be signs along the main road but we didn’t see any. When you arrive at the waterfall there is a sign and you can chose to enter to the right by the river or drive straight ahead into what looked to us like the main entrance. We chose the main entrance. 

It will cost you $1 to park and from there you will start along the trail that will lead you to the entrance. The entrance fee is $2 per person. Once we got to the waterfall we realized the entrance we chose gets you to the lower stairs towards the bottom of the waterfall. There were also stairs up to get you behind the waterfall. You will get soaked but it was a very cool experience. We saw bridges and stairs higher up that we didn’t have access to so we assume that the other entrance would have lead you to view the waterfall from higher up.

After viewing the waterfall we headed over to the suspension bridge to get a view of the entire waterfall from a little further back. Across the bridge is a café that we chose to sit and have a coffee/hot chocolate at and take in the views before heading out.

We stopped for lunch at a restaurant near the parking lot. We orders almorerzo plates which is a great way to get a very large meal for cheap. We had juice and soup included in the price. The actual plate of food offered whatever meat you chose, a small salad and some sort of bean or potato.

After lunch we were on a mission to find all of the waterfalls said to be along the road. Our first attempt we stopped at a site that had a large staircase which we assumed would lead to a waterfall. It did not and we were pretty sure we parked on someone’s private property so we quickly kept driving. We pulled up Gaia GPS which showed on the map where the waterfalls were located. Another one we drove by had a huge welcome sign and a small shop that lead to a path up to see the falls but a locked gate kept us out.

Finally we found a few that were open and that we could visit but not without also finding a few more locked gates along the way. The waterfalls we were able to see were great. We aren’t sure if the closed gates were due to COVID and having less visitors in the area or for some other reason. We were there on a Thursday afternoon.  

We were expecting something similar to a road to Hana experience on Maui. A nice drive with lots of pull outs of beautiful things to see. While that is here, the tricky thing is the tourist infrastructure isn’t really set up well. Trying to find parking along this highway road to pull off and walk to a waterfall isn’t easy and nothing is well marked.

The final waterfalls we went to, we pulled up in front of someone’s house. We figured we messed something up but an elderly woman sitting outside waved us forward. A younger woman came out of the house, told us it was $1 to enter. After we paid she lowered the wire that was closing the entrance off so we could pass through with our car. We drove a short way and then found a walk way to two separate waterfalls. Basically our message is, you have to work for it to see these waterfalls. So if you’re up for an adventure it makes for a great day trip.

We also read you can rent bikes and there is also an open air bus that that’s this route. That may be better way to go if you want less adventure/work in finding the falls. We also didn’t see the buses stopping or very many other tourists on this route while we were there.

Back in Banos we enjoyed some good food and drinks. We had dinner and drinks at Cráter rooftop bar which is on top of a hostel. This place was our most expensive dinner. Our total bill was about $46. We both had two drinks and our dinner- drinks wer about half our bill so the food its self wasn’t super expensive. They had several types of gin and tonics with gin from Ecuador so we had to try some! They were great, our favorite was the passion fruit. This place had a great atmosphere, lots of other travelers, a DJ, super nice staff, great views of the town. It wasn’t a place we saw any locals. For one evening it was a nice place to “splurge” on drinks and a meal. 

We also really enjoyed to cafes. We stopped at Honey Coffee and Tea. They are located right on the main square and have outdoor seating. We enjoyed a hot chocolate and watched the town go by. Our favorite and THE BEST hot chocolate we had during our trip was at Amari café. This place is not to be missed. They have several different types of hot chocolate you can order. We had the Amazonico Dark and the Chocolate con Especias. Both were excellent.  You can also by bars of chocolate here to bring home. They had pretty much every flavor of Pacari Chocolate available.

This was the perfect town for us to end our Adventure through Ecuador! We got a taste of the Amazon rainforest and would love to explore more if it! From here we headed back to Quito for our final night.  

For more on our Ecuador Adventures:

A Weekend in Quito

Best Street Food in Quito

Visiting Cotopaxi Volcano National Park

Hiking Quilotoa: around the lake in one day

Let us know what you love about Banos. Leave us a comment below!

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