If you enjoy peaceful, quiet small towns engulfed in nature, then this town is for you. If you are a birder, then this town is definitely for you. We began our 16-day Ecuador journey in a little town called Mindo for two reasons:
1) It sits at the lowest altitude (4,265′ / 1,300 m) of all of the towns we visited, so that we could slowly acclimate.
2) Having just left our corporate careers in Seattle, we wanted to begin our trip by disconnecting from city life and diving into nature to clear our heads.
Our Airbnb was lovely. For only $22/night, we rented an entire cabin to ourselves, fully equipped with a kitchen, dining room, bathroom and bed. The windows opened to the outside so we got to hear the symphony of birds and insects all day and night, and it was almost as if we were camping outside. The great thing about being at a higher elevation? No mosquitoes, yay!
Because we visited during off-season (April), we had practically everything to ourselves including attractions, restaurants and hiking trails. Because of this, we had greater bargaining power. Depending on which town you visit in Ecuador, most prices are negotiable unless you see them listed. High season in Ecuador is July and August, so try to avoid those times since it can get very crowded.
In Mindo, all the activities were within walking distance from our Airbnb as the entire town is only about ten blocks.
THINGS TO DO IN MINDO
Days Spent in Mindo: 3
Time of Year Visited: April
Ride La Tarabita to Las Cascadas (Cable car to the Waterfalls)
For $2 per person, you can take a cable car that zips you across the cloud forest high above the trees (around a 30-second ride) to the other side where you can hike to over six waterfalls. You can spend as much time as you’d like here – we spent a couple of hours and found it well worth it.
(Click on each photo to enlarge it.)
Visit La Mariposaria
Entry fee is $7.50 which we felt was a tourist ripoff. This was our very first attraction, so we didn’t know any better. While it was interesting to learn about the lifespan of butterflies, I would not recommend this activity unless you are an absolute butterfly enthusiast. The sanctuary is tiny and you can see it all within five minutes.
(Click on each photo to enlarge it.)
TIP: do not wear sunscreen or bug spray when you visit this butterfly sanctuary because it is poisonous to the butterflies and they WILL land on you! And yes, it tickles and you will probably giggle. 🙂
Zip Line Over the Cloud Forest
We chose to do three cables for $8 per person, which took around 45 minutes. You can also choose to do six cable cars for a higher price. You do not need to make reservations in advance for any of these activities during off season; you simply walk up and pay cash on the spot and they will take you. However, if you are visiting during peak season, it would be better to make reservations in advance. While it is possible to walk to the zipline from town, if you have a car, I recommend driving as it is a fairly long walk, especially if you have kids.
Try Ecuadorian Chocolate
One of the things that Ecuador is most famous for (besides bananas and the equator), is chocolate! Chocolate is grown and sourced here, and there are plenty of places to try it!
There are several different options for food. Our favorite place for dinner was El Quetzal, which is both a restaurant and a chocolatier. They also give chocolate tours showing the process from bean to bar.
Where To Eat in Mindo
Other noteworthy eateries included:
La Reposteria – cafe, vegetarian friendly
The Beehive – International cafe, pastries, chocolate
Restaurant Oasis – German, vegetarian friendly. This place has incredible breakfast, but we also ate dinner here as well. They serve smoothies and healthy cuisine at very low prices.
Overall, Mindo was a relaxing first stop on our travels through Ecuador, but I wouldn’t necessarily stay for longer than two nights.