The Mindo Cloud Forest in Mindo, a village in northern Ecuador, is set in the Andes Mountains. It is a little off the beaten track but the slight isolation of the area lends itself to an area of solitude. Mindo buzzes with the sounds of nature rather than traffic. Situated in a dramatic valley, Mindo Ecuador has a multitude of bird species, butterfly farms, and gardens of orchids that you see in and around the cloud forest. It is also well-known for the production of chocolate in Ecuador, “Mindo chocolate”.
One can see much of the landscape from a tarabita (cable car). It carries a small group of passengers over the Nambillo River to the top of a mountain covered in trails leading to waterfalls. The most popular waterfall is the Cascada Nambillo.
Mindo offers adrenaline filled activities such as zip lining through the Mindo Cloud Forest and river tubing down the Mindo River. There are also relaxing activities such as hiking and bird watching in the Mindo Cloud Forest. One of the top things to do in Mindo Ecuador is trekking through the Mindo Cloud Forest. As you hike through this green landscape you notice a crisp and clean smell like that after a fresh rain. The sound of running water reverberates around you while the flapping wings of hummingbirds sound almost orchestrated for your enjoyment.
With all that Mindo Ecuador has to offer, it is worth the visit because of the sheer beauty. Located just a 2.5 hour bus ride from Quito, you can take a day trip there. Alternatively, you can spend a few days there to enjoy all of the things to do in Mindo Ecuador. The trip into Mindo Ecuador is a very scenic ride along a winding road that traverses hills and rainforest covered valleys. It is usually damp and humid so prepare for inclement weather. The area draws tourists every year because of the unique experiences that are offered.
Be sure to do a tour of the area in which Mindo Chocolate is manufactured. Enjoy the cafes and restaurants in the friendly little town amidst all of your other excursions in the area. Whether you enjoy the serene sights and sounds of nature or the adrenaline rush activities and having the wind and water wash over your body, Mindo is a great place to visit. It lives and breathes tourism with tourists flocking to the area to enjoy the biodiversity of the little community. There are many different places to visit and things to do in Mindo Ecuador.
Trekking in the Mindo Cloud Forest
Many people go to Mindo for the experience of trekking through the Mindo Cloud Forest. This excursion allows the opportunity for the tarabita (cable car) ride into the hills above Mindo. As you look out during the ascent you will be mesmerized by the sights below that you see through the mist hanging in the air. You will immediately see why this is one of the most popular things to do in Mindo Ecuador.
Once you reach the top of the tarabita you will have the opportunity to do some trekking to see the waterfalls found there. Be sure to wear proper foot wear (not flip-flops!) as there is a lot of walking involved so you can experience all that nature has to offer there.
There are several waterfalls cascading from above and the sound of the water rushing down and over the rocks is very comforting. For those who want a little more adventure, you are able to swim in the Nambillo Cascada area which has a water slide that drops into smaller pools.
If you book a tour of the area you will have with you a very knowledgeable guide who will be able to tell you about the flora and fauna of the area. A guide will point out flowers you may already know, such as the orchids, and also unique species you may not have seen before.
As you walk along, the damp soil loosens beneath your feet and the mist rolls around you while you spot birds of all sorts. Your educated guide will be sure to stop and show you some of the species and educate you about them as well. The hike can be hard work but it is worth the effort to enjoy the aerial view of the Mindo Cloud Forest. The Mindo Cloud Forest has more than 20, 000 hectares of protected land and is home to over 350 species of birds. You will see toucan-barbets and golden-headed quetzals along with many other species native to the area.
Trekking through the Mindo Cloud Forest makes it into our top things to do in Ecuador.
Tubing down the Río Mindo
The Mindo river is one of the major attractions in the area. It runs along the western slope of the Andes. Because the river is surrounded by forests, you will see many species of orchids, birds, butterflies, amphibians, and reptiles when you are in the area.
There are areas where tubing can be a relaxing journey down the river; floating and enjoying the surrounding scenery. If you want more of a rush, try the class three section where there is no flat water. This experience is sure to get your heart pounding.
The class three section is an experience you won’t soon forget; several tubes are tied together to act as a raft down the 3km stretch of rushing water. You will be in and out of the water on a wild ride. Your ears will ring as you hear the water crash against the rocks that are alarmingly close. A guide will work to get the tube raft past jutting rocks and low hanging branches. To be cautious, it is best not to go tubing after a heavy rain.
Canopy Zip Lining Tours
Another adrenaline rush is to go zip lining, even if you have done it before. You may like the idea of doing zip lines over the Mindo Cloud Forest to enjoy the beauty of it from above. One zip-lining tour has 12 lines. It takes about 1.5 hours to get through all the zip lines and while waiting your turn in the group, you have more of an opportunity to enjoy the sights and sounds in the Mindo Cloud Forest. You will float and fly over valleys and are afforded a spectacular view of the area.
If you choose to zip-line, as with any high risk sport, do some research before you choose which tour company to use. Learn about the company and their safety standards as not all safety standards are created equal. Back in 2012 there was an unfortunate accident in which one thrill seeker lost her life when a cable broke. Though zip-lining is an amazing experience, make sure you are aware of the dangers and take necessary precautions to ensure your safety.
Mountain Biking in Mindo Ecuador
The terrain lends itself to the sport of mountain biking and it is a great way to explore the area of Mindo Ecuador. There are companies in the area that rent out mountain bikes and also offer the option of guided biking tours. The guides aim to provide unique opportunities for exploring the Mindo Cloud Forest on a trip where you are able to ride next to the clouds.
Some tours are a short ride at an enjoyable pace but there are also longer routes for those who feel they can handle it. On one tour you could complete a 52 kilometer route in 6 hours. The trip takes you from Nono, Tandayapa, San Tadeo, and into Mindo. You have the opportunity to explore the area on mountain bike by cycling through various ecosystems like the highlands and subtropical.
If you are an avid mountain biker you may wish to embark on a three-day journey and bike to Mindo from Quito. The tour takes you on a scenic bike ride to Mindo. You relax after your day of biking and on day two you can participate in one of the many things to do in Mindo Ecuador. Choose to trek through the Mindo Cloud Forest or take a trip to the Mindo Chocolate establishment. There is transportation back to Quito on day three.
Mindo Chocolate makers
While in Mindo, take a tour of El Quetzal to see how cocoa beans are turned into a chocolate bar. When you arrive, your senses will be awakened by the scent of ginger, cocoa, aji pepper, and coffee.
Cocoa beans grow successfully in the area as the growing conditions are perfect for them. The company finds the best organic Nacional cacao from family operated farms found outside of Mindo Ecuador and from there, turn it into chocolate by fermenting and drying the cocoa beans and then roasting them. The chocolate is made by removing the nibs and refining them. Next, the chocolate is molded. When you take the tour, you get to see each stage of the process and do a lot of sampling along the way. When you are through with the tour, which you do not need to book in advance, you can stop at El Quetzel. This little restaurant offers great coffee and baked goods.
Birdwatcher’s Paradise in Mindo
As you consider things to do in Mindo Ecuador add birding to your list of activities. If you are not a birdwatcher, you are sure to become one at least for the time being. Mindo Ecuador is a birdwatcher’s paradise. There are over 400 species of birds in and around Mindo. One popular bird you will not want to miss is Cock-of-the-Rock. You can also see Chestnut-Mandibled Toucans, Toucan Barbers, Giant Antpittas, Scaled Fruiteaters, Club-Winged Manakins Torrent Ducks, and many other birds in the area.
In 1997, Birdlife International declared Mindo as an international Important Bird Area (IBA) which has led to Mindo becoming a destination for those interested in ecotourism. If you wish to book a birding tour, ensure they have a guide available that speaks English.
The presence of hummingbirds in Mindo is a sight to behold; swarming among the beautiful orchid gardens throughout Mindo Ecuador. You often hear them without even realising that is what you are hearing. There are many different species of hummingbirds all in vibrant colours. If you are in the Mindo Cloud Forest, expect to see different species of hummingbirds at different elevations.
Prior to your visit to Mindo, invest in a bird watching guide. Educate yourself on what you may find there so you have the opportunity to watch for certain species.
If you love interacting with butterflies you will want to visit a butterfly farm in Mindo. In some areas, butterflies are hatched and raised in netted enclosures. You can enter the netted area and if you are patient and still, a butterfly may alight upon you. Some of the butterflies are as large as your palm while others are smaller; but all are beautiful.
The area has 3, 200 species of butterflies and some are endangered. The butterfly farm in Mindo has around 1, 200 species. You will get to learn about the whole process of metamorphosis while enjoying many opportunities to capture photos of these amazing creatures as you tour the butterfly farm. As far as things to do in Mindo Ecuador go, you will not want to miss this if you are a nature lover. You are able to enjoy butterflies and also see many orchids in the area.
Orchids grow in the east and west tropical and subtropical zones of Ecuador. When the flower blooms, it takes on a butterfly like shape. You can see orchids on trees, moss-covered rocks, and at ground level. In Ecuador, one out of every four plants is an orchid and there are around 4, 200 species.
Wherever your travels around Mindo take you, you will be able to inhale the wonderful scents of various orchids. Some smell like sweet vanilla and others have a spicy cinnamon smell. Other orchids have a lemon scent while some smell like coconut. The scent and the beauty is all over. Many places in Mindo Ecuador will have orchids in the rooms or on the grounds for you to enjoy.
Hotel Cabañas Armonía y Jardín de Orquídeas is on the edge of town. There is an orchid garden on the grounds and each room has a private bathroom with a hot shower. Many of the rooms also feature balconies with hammocks so they are quite relaxing. You can relax and enjoy a view of the orchid garden while you decide on other things to do in Mindo Ecuador.
Things to do in Mindo Ecuador
There are so many fun adventures in and around Mindo Ecuador. When you plan your trip make sure to consider all the things to do in Mindo Ecuador. Make an itinerary and be sure to fit in each activity. Look to activity guides for inspiration and decide which specific adventures await you. Discover and explore the unique and bio-diverse area of Mindo. Put Mindo on you Ecuador travel itinerary.
Since last weekend we have a new “teleférico” that connects from Butterfly Farm area to Tarabita area in 18 minutes “flying” in the Cloud Forest!
Also we have new coffee tour since few months ago. Mindo is a place to stay 3 nights so you can have at least two full days of activities.
Hello, thanks for all of this wealth of information. Is a guide required to hike through the forest? We only have a short timeline so we were thinking of independently doing a day hike to see the birds and waterfalls.
Also, what bus did you take to Mindo? We will be staying in Quito.
No, guide not needed to trek in the rainforest park.
Bus from Quito – there is a specific bus station in Quito (Terminal La Ofelia) that serves Mindo and that region.