Baños, Ecuador: Who Else Wants More Adventure for Less Money?
Are you an athletic adventurer that finally has some free time to indulge in the next thrill? Have lots of energy but very little money to burn? Or maybe you consider yourself to be more of an armchair adventurer and are looking to relax at the spa, detox from city life, and maybe try something new?
Baños is the place for outdoors sports, spas, and sexy people. There IS something for everyone here. You should get to know it!
Baños de Agua Santa is just a 3 hour ($3USD) bus ride from Quito. The small city is very safe and considered to be Ecuador’s adventure sports capital… the perfect way to spend a week! You probably will not find conditions an expert would find challenging. Instead, you may discover the area to be rather a perfect introduction to rafting, rock climbing, mountain biking, puenting, and more.
Here are some tips to jump start your adventure!
1. Get a bed/room @ Hostal D’Mathias
- Free WiFI
- Pool Tables
- Cable Television
- Hot Water
- Free Tea/Coffee
- Kitchen Facilities
Hostal D’Mathias just opened, is sparkling clean, and at $7 USD per night, it is the best bang for your precious buck.
Bonus: The owners of this hostel also own one of the longest running and most reputable adventure sports agencies in town. Most other hostels feed their sports company business with marked up prices…eliminate the middleman and talk with Pamela or Jorge about your activities. Prices can’t be beat. These folks put the last guide agency I tried in Baños to shame!
2. Spend $4 USD … Eat guinea pig at the market.
Like it or not, Fluffy, known to the locals as , Cuy is one of Ecuador’s most infamous culinary experiences. The distinctly gamey flavor rarely yields a neutral response. The good part of trying this delicacy at the market is that it is substantially cheaper than most other places in Ecuador.
If Cuy brings back too many traumatic childhood memories of a backyard burial you should still visit the market. There are plenty of tamer meal choices.
3. Go Mountain Biking … Ruta de las Cascadas
Pailón del Diablo is one of the largest falls. It was made famous in Russel Crowe & Meg Ryan’s film Proof of Life. You can stop and explore this waterfall along with 59 others along the 61 KM “Waterfall Highway. Guided tours are available, but I would not recommend it as you lose the flexibility to go at your own pace.
The stretch of road is primarily downhill. For $1 USD you can save your legs on the return trip and hitch a ride to Baños at the end of the day. Bicycle rentals are available for between $5-20 USD.
4. Piscinas de la Virgen Juan, Moltavo at Martinez
Soothe sore muscles in the thermal springs (18C – 55C or 64F – 131F) and enjoy the view of the Caballera de la Virgen waterfall. Arrive at 6pm as the pools fill up later in the evening. Cost is $2.50 USD and includes access to showers and changing rooms.
5. Refuel for a big night – Restaurant Casa Hood, Martinez at Halfants
One of my favorite things about Baños is the fact that it is easy to find good food and great atmosphere. There are many good places to eat, but I prefer Casa Hood. Cuisine is an odd blend between Middle Eastern, Mexican, and Thai food and the service is friendly. There is also a free book exchange and a guitar you can play. Meals are between $4-7 USD.
6. Party like Paris Hilton
Who doesn’t want to party like an heir or heiress every now and then? Nightlife in Baños is a curious mix of Gringo hunters (ie.Hispanics in search of more privileged citizenships), and tourists. The beginning of the week is pretty dead but Thursday through Saturday nights are very busy, as fun lovers from the surrounding villages migrate to the bar and dance floor to let loose. Two spots worth checking out are:·
Good Bar (Alfaro at Oriente)
Start the party with 2×1 happy hour and rock music. The drink special lasts until 11PM and at $4 a pop, it’s a great place to get your drink on!
· Leprechaun Bar (Alfaro in between Oriente and Espejo)
Dance and drink under the stars on the terrace or hang out next to the large fire pit and trade travel stories. Not to be missed!
Gringolandia or Land of the Gringos…Maybe
Not for you?
Breaking a sweat with locals in the great outdoors is one of my favorite pastimes. However, if your primary objective is a profound intercultural experience, Baños is not the place for you. Sure, you may have a conversation with your tour guide or bartender, but local tradition has been permeated by western influence. You will hear more English spoken than any other language. That said, if your Spanish is limited to “una cerveza por favor”, or you have been on the road for a long time, speaking your native language can be nice.
One last thing… Do your Due Diligence
Be SURE your agency and guide are qualified. Not too long ago a girl from the USA lost her life ziplining in Mindo with a startup adventure company lacking the necessary expertise. Fortunately, one can find many good agencies and guides in Baños. Arm yourself with information via Google and other resources and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Here some some ideas of questions to start with:
- What training/certifications does the agency and guide have?
- Does my guide have 10 years of experience or more?
- Is my guide at least 30 years old?
- Can I examine the gear we will be using prior to paying for anything?
- What plan is in place for emergency situations?