If you’re in Ecuador and looking for an adventure (or at the very least, a very lively weekend), I recommend a visit to Baños de Agua Santa, Ecuador.
This jungle mountain town is named for its thermal baths. Each day, hundreds of locals and travelers flock to these healing mineral waters to enjoy their soothing benefits.
But Baños, Ecuador isn’t just about relaxation. It’s quickly earning a reputation as the adventure capital of the country.
Here, you can whitewater raft, swing from jungle trees, go canyoning, and even zip line across 2 kilometers of rainforest canopy.
And between adrenaline rushes, Baños offers plenty of other leisure opportunities. You can enjoy waterfall views, volcano tours, a luxury spa day, and great food and wine.
To help you decide what to do while in Baños, Ecuador, I’ve put together this 2-day itinerary, complete with a list of can’t miss activities.
Read on for the details.
The best rafting in the area surrounding Baños is, hands down, the Pastaza River. This river is actually pretty famous within the Ecuadorian rafting scene. It winds its way between Llanganates Park and Sangay volcano through miles of Amazon rainforest.
If you’re a more experienced rafter, level IV rapids can be reached along the Alto Pastaza segment of the river, between San Francisco and Topo. But this route is only reliably open during the summer.
If you’re new to rafting or looking for a guide who knows the river well, I recommend signing up for one of Imagine Ecuador’s river rafting sessions. Rafters gather at the company’s offices in Baños at 9 am and then set out by van to the river.
All equipment, including safety gear (and lessons on how to use it effectively while out on the water) is included. After riding the rapids, Imagine treats rafters to a lunch and returns them to town by 2pm. I can’t think of a better way to spend your first morning in Baños.
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Afternoon: Casa del Arbol’s Swing at the End of the World
After a morning on the rapids of the Pastaza River, it’s time to check out the world’s most intense swing set. The Casa Del Arbol swing brings back that thrill and excitement you experienced on the playground as a kid, but at a whole new level.
La Casa del Arbol directly translates to “tree house”, and that’s exactly what it is. And I mean exactly. It’s a literal house, with an A-frame roof, shingles and siding, built between two branches of a massive tree.
From that house, you’ll get a to ride the sky swing, which provides phenomenal 360-degree views of the surrounding jungle mountains. On this Baños Ecuador Swing, you’ll feel like you’re soaring among the clouds, completely weightless. It’s a truly one-of-a-kind experience.
You can reach La Casa del Arbol either on foot (via a 90-minute hike from Café del Cielo), by bus, or by hiring a taxi.
Though the hike is pretty fun, I’d recommend taking a vehicle at least one way. That way you’ll have plenty of time for evening activities.
Sunset: The Luna Volcan Pools
After returning from Casa del Arbol, I recommend you seek out a relaxing spot to enjoy the sunset over Baños and the surrounding mountains and rainforest.
The city has several public baths with very affordable entrance fees. But these can be busy, especially in the evening. If you want a more solitary place, perhaps one where you can chat with friends or simply relax in peace, I can’t recommend the Luna Volcan Pools enough.
Nestled on a hill above the city, the Luna Volcan pools come with an extraordinary view of Baños and her countryside.
There are three pools to choose from (plus a jacuzzi), and they’re always much less packed than other baths closer to the city center. In my opinion, that makes them well worth the more expensive entry fee ($20 for 3 hours pool time).
Dinner at Chozon Bar and Grill
After an evening of lounging around in the volcanic waters, I recommend you grab a bite to eat at the Chozon Bar and Grill.
Located within Baños’s Sangay Spa Hotel, Chozon is one of the best places in town for barbeque and grilled seafood.
If you’re hungry, order their ribs. And try a glass of wine here as well—I was quite impressed by their selection. If it’s a weekend, you may even catch some live local music here while you eat.
It’s day two of our trip to Baños, and we’re jumping right back into the action. Canyoning is one of the most intense sports I’ve ever taken part in. Imagine rappelling tens of meters down the sheer face of a canyon with only a rope and harness to slow your fall.
Now, imagine doing that soaking wet in the middle of a waterfall.
That’s what you’re in for when you sign up for Imagine Ecuador’s canyoning experience. After meeting up again at the company’s offices in Baños at 9 am, we piled into a van for the 20-minute drive up to Rio Blanco.
There, our guide talked us through the basics of canyoning, including how to use the equipment and how to control ourselves during descents.
The canyoning took about two hours and ended with a waterslide crafted by mother nature. It was quite the adrenaline-fueled experience, and it was made even more memorable by the spectacular waterfall views. I can’t wait to give it another try.
Coffee and Tea Break at Picadilly Café
To unwind and warm up after a morning out canyoning, I recommend stopping into the Picadilly Café for a cup of coffee or spot of tea. If you’re hungry, spring for something sweet.
Everything I tried on their dessert menu was absolutely amazing.
After a morning up close and personal with waterfalls and jungle canyons, it’s time to get a bird’s eye view. The Canopy is a 2000-meter long zipline course that winds through the rainforest outside of Baños, Ecuador. The six ziplines take you above the trees, across stunning jungle landscape, and along a river and waterfall.
The attraction is located at the base of Sangay National Park and begins in Puntzan, which is about 15 minutes from Baños. The afternoon tour starts a 3 pm, and it took us between two and three hours to complete the course.
More things to do in Baños, Ecuador
Looking for more Baños Ecuador things to do? If the itinerary plans don’t quite fit your fancy, don’t worry—I have a few more recommendations for Baños Ecuador activities.
1. Thermal Baths
Baños is famous for its hot springs. Each day, the town’s many public baths are filled with revitalizing mineral water that springs from the earth, warmed by lava flowing beneath your feet.
In the itinerary above, I recommended an evening spent lounging in the water at the Luna Volcan Pools. These private pools were definitely my favorite in Baños, but the city has many other baths that fit every budget.
If you’d like to mingle with the locals or enjoy some time in and around the water for a bit less, I recommend taking a soak at Termas de la Virgen. This large pool is often pretty busy, but entry costs just $2 or $3 (depending on the time of day).
If you don’t like crowds, try to go either early in the morning or on a week day. The water is flushed and refilled each evening.
2. Visit the Waterfalls by Bicycle
The area surrounding Baños is ecologically protected by the Sangay and Llanganates National Parks. One of the coolest things to do in this mountainous jungle ecosystem is check out the many waterfalls. There are over 60, ranging in size from peaceful and babbling to downright majestic.
In my opinion, the best way to check out Baños, Ecuador waterfalls is by renting a bicycle from one of the many places in town and riding along the Ruta de Las Cascades.
This path runs along steep rocky cliffsides, connecting four of the best waterfalls in the parks. While you do occasionally have to move over to share the road with cars and trucks, there are barriers to keep you from riding off a ledge and down the mountain, and I never felt unsafe or out of control.
The ride from Baños runs mostly downhill, which means you won’t have to pedal too much. You’ll be greeted with opportunities to appreciate the jungle mountain views at every turn along the way.
3. Enjoy a Massage and Spa Day at Sangay Spa Hotel
If a hot springs bath in one of Baños’s pools leaves you looking for another opportunity to relax, consider booking a massage at the Sangay Spa Hotel.
The masseuses are versed in 36 distinct styles of massage. And there are plenty of other ways to be pampered: hair treatments, facials, manicures and pedicures, and more.
When I went for a massage, I was quite impressed by the service. My therapist sat with me and discussed where I was feeling pain and what she could do to relieve it. After the massage, I recommend booking a Turkish bath or spending an hour or two in the sauna.
It’s a great way to unwind after a day of rafting or canyoning.
4. Double Decker Bus Ride to Café del Cielo
Along the road to the thrilling Casa de Arbol swing (the same one I recommend on day one of our itinerary), you’ll find a quaint mountain café with a stunning view of nearby Tungurahua volcano.
Open starting at 1 pm every afternoon, this café serves delicious brews. It’s definitely worth stopping over for a cup on your way to the giant swing.
If you’re looking to make an event out of your visit, though, you can book a ticket on a double deck
How to get to Baños:
Because Baños is a popular getaway spot for Ecuadorians, buses from Quito to Baños are frequent and affordable. One tip though—always remain alert and within arm’s reach of your possessions.
Unfortunately, personal theft is pretty common on buses in Ecuador, and stories about having bags stolen with passports, wallets, or worse aren’t uncommon.
Stay awake, and keep your possessions on your lap whenever possible.
2. Shared Car
From other cities
If you’re looking to travel to Baños from somewhere other than Quito, it’s typically a good idea to book a bus ticket to the next town over, Ambato.
Ambato is better serviced by Ecuador’s cross-country bus system. Once you arrive there, you’ll be able to catch a ride on one of many frequently departing, hour-long bus rides to Baños.
Save money with Bucket Pass
Bucket Pass is a South America-based company that aims to make it easier for international travelers to navigate tourism attractions in developing countries like Ecuador by providing curated tours and adventure opportunities at discounted rates.
Bucket Pass started in Quito back in 2015. There, they offer a hop-on hop-off bus city bus tour (which I enjoyed immensely) and a cross-country tour from the city to the equator and back.
From Quito, the company expanded to two other popular Ecuador destinations: the Galapagos Islands and the Mindo Valley.
Though the company doesn’t yet offer any Baños, Ecuador tours, they’re constantly looking to expand their group of partner vendors. I imagine it won’t be too long before the company is offering great discounts for some of the things to do in Baños that I recommend above.
I’ve had great experiences with this company in the past, and that’s why I recommend readers visiting Ecuador check out the deals they offer.
If you’re planning to move north after visiting Baños to continue exploring the Ecuadorian interior, I’ve heard Mindo Valley is another great adventure basecamp.
There, Bucket Pass can hook you up with discounts for a cable car waterfall tour, another crazy zipline course, and even a tour of a chocolate plantation.
If you’re heading to the Galapagos, Bucket Pass can set you up with an extraordinary hike through the archipelago’s lava tunnels and the chance to snorkel with sharks.
Best of all, unlike many other tour bundle companies, Bucket List embraces a flexible approach to travel. There are no set itineraries and no penalties for changing plans.
When you book a Bucket Pass, you’re free to participate in the included activities at any point for up to six months.
Hotel Recommendation Baños
1. Sangay Spa Hotel
Baños offers hotels and accommodations to fit almost every budget. If you’re a solo-traveler looking to rough it, hostel beds can be booked throughout town for around $15 a night.
But for those looking for a more luxurious and relaxing place to stay, I recommend the Sangay Spa Hotel.
This resort and spa combo comes with a ton of extra features that can take your stay from merely memorable to absolutely extraordinary. The hotel is centrally located, right across the street from one of the city’s most popular thermal baths and just a few minutes on foot from the central market.
The property is also at the foot of a majestic waterfall, which provides great views from many of the hotel’s common areas, including the pool and jacuzzi.
If you can, try to book a room facing the waterfall. The private view from our balcony made for several relaxing mornings.
If you’re traveling with kids, Sangay Spa Hotel even has a “Kid’s Club” every weekend that’s designed to keep children entertained and supervised so parents can enjoy some well-deserved peace and quiet. Best of all, this service is included in the price for your room.
If you’d rather not stay at a hotel or hostel, Baños does offer some stellar properties and deals via AirBnB. Private rooms typically list for between $10 and $30 per night, but there are also entire houses and apartments available for well south of $100.
One note: because Baños is a popular getaway spot for locals, the good deals can go fast. If you’re able, try to plan your stay off-peak (during the week), and book accommodations ahead of time.
My top choice is kayak.com. You can easily search for the best fares over 30 days or see where you can go on your budget. My favorite airline is Qatar Airways, I especially like the on-demand menu in Business Class.
If you’re looking for a hotel in Baños or elsewhere in your travels, I often recommend Agoda.com This site aggregates listings from something like half a million hotels worldwide, and I’ve always found their rates competitive. Other great sites include Booking.com and Expedia.
If you want something a bit less conventional, consider signing up with Trusted Housesitters. This website connects responsible travelers with locals and expats who need someone to feed their dog, water their plants, or pick up their mail. It’s a great option if your travel dates are flexible.
Car Rental & Day Tours
Want to rent a car and drive to Baños on your own? Rentalcars is my favorite site for that. They compare rates from 900 companies (including local ones) to get you the best rates and features.
Get Your Guide helps you to find the best tours wherever you are heading to.
Disclaimer: I was invited by Sangay Spa Hotel, Luna Volcan and Bucket Pass. My opinions, as always, are solely my own.
Universal Traveller - Luxury Adventure Travel & Lifestyle