10 Best Things To Do in Mindo: A Local’s Guide [2024]

Nestled in the heart of Ecuador’s uniquely biodiverse cloud forest and surrounded by waterfalls, the small town of Mindo has a surprising amount to offer visitors. More than just what most travelers know it for – adventure sports! birdwatching! backpackers galore! – there is so much to enjoy in Mindo – if you know where to look.

As long-time expats based in Quito, we instantly fell in love with Mindo and visited it again and again. Read on for our absolute favorite things to do in Mindo, including everything from the best hike routes to the most relaxing spots to spend a lazy afternoon.

mindo zipline

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Things To Do in Mindo

1. Go Ziplining

Surrounded by miles of untouched cloud forest, Mindo is one of the best places in Ecuador to try ziplining, which we consider one of the best things to do in Ecuador! Offering the perfect combination of mountain views and jungle immersion without too much of an upward hike at the start, the zipline course in the cloud forest should be at the top of your list of the best things to do in Mindo.

Mindo Zipline Tours is the best company to use for ziplining excursions in Mindo – they’ve been doing it for years and have the best installation in the area. This tour company, based right in town, has options for ziplining tours on a route with ten ziplines or a shorter route with three ziplines. The guides are really great, even helping you fly backward or upside down if you dare.

2. Eat at El Quetzal

If there’s any one place you have to eat while visiting Mindo, it’s El Quetzal. Located on a quiet side street in the heart of Mindo, El Quetzal has great food and a chill, laidback environment, including a lovely covered patio with mountain views perfect for a long, leisurely breakfast or lunch.

You simply can’t come to Mindo without eating one of El Quetzal’s famous brownies. They’re packed with fresh, homemade chocolate… and easily the best I’ve ever had!

El Quetzal is also home to the famous chocolate tours, which are consistently some of the most popular things to do in Mindo. The standard chocolate tour runs every hour throughout the week, meaning they can be easily slotted into any itinerary, while the evening tour, known as the Leyenda de Chocolate, allows you to try your hand at making chocolate.

3. Spot Rare Birds

Mindo isn’t just the best spot in Ecuador for birdwatching – it’s considered among the best places for birdwatching in the entire world! Strike up a conversation with even just a handful of travelers in Mindo and you’re sure to find a number of people who are visiting just with birdwatching in mind.

Mindo is known as one of the only places in the world where you can see the black and bright red Andean cock-of-the-rock, but there are dozens of other native and endemic bird species here to spot. These are some of the most well-respected birdwatching experiences in Mindo:

However, local hotels and lodges also offer and arrange their own birdwatching tours with expert local guides. Consider booking your accommodations at one of these spots in Mindo for a birdwatching-specific trip to Mindo.

Where To Stay in Mindo for Birdwatching

Read More: Best Places to Stay in Mindo, Ecuador

4. Take A Chocolate Tour

Cacao plants thrive in Ecuador’s lush cloud forest, meaning that a small local chocolate production has sprung up in the area surrounding Mindo. Want to learn more about Mindo’s small artisan chocolate industry? Local small-batch producer El Quetzal hosts two different “chocolate tours” that will satisfy your craving.

El Quetzal’s most popular chocolate tours run frequently throughout the day, starting every hour, so they are easy to fit into any schedule. These tours include picking cacao pods directly from the tree, seeing how chocolate is dried and prepared, and peeking into the preparation processes in the factory… this includes samples, of course!

mindo ecuador

5. Hike to a Waterfall

If hiking through the forest to swim in the crystal clear waters of a hidden swimming hole beneath a waterfall sounds like your picture of heaven, you’ll love Mindo. Head to the Santuario de Cascadas Mindo, where you can spend the day hiking to seven different waterfalls that surround this jungle town.

Cascada Reina is the largest and most impressive waterfall of the bunch, though it is about a 50-minute hike from the starting point. For a more manageable waterfall hike, I’d recommend visiting the Cascada Nambillo as well as the series of five smaller waterfalls in the Santuario; together, these falls were extremely impressive, and we always love following the river to find them all.

To hike to all seven falls in this part of Mindo takes around 3-4 hours in total, though you’ll want to leave extra time for swimming and enjoying the water in the smaller falls.

Best Hotels & Hostels in Mindo

6. Bike Through the Cloud Forest

One of the easiest ways to enjoy Mindo – especially if you’re looking to explore the surrounding areas – is to rent a bike for the day and take to the trails. While the town of Mindo is small and can be seen on foot, this will let you explore and get off the beaten path, including the less populated areas around town.

For the more adventurous looking for a more scenic, guided route, biking excursions are organized from nearby Nono to Mindo. This route is almost exclusively downhill and gorgeous and scenic. Organizers often pick up participants in Quito for transport to the starting point of the excursion but will also pick them up from Mindo.

Real Dreams is one of the organizers of this excursion, which is growing in popularity with more adventurous bikers in Ecuador.

mindo river tubing

7. Go River Tubing

One of the things to do in Mindo that I will always do as soon as I get into town – no matter how many times I’ve done it before! – is river tubing. This incredibly simple but invigorating activity is a must, plain and simple

River tubing involves sitting on inner tubes strapped together while a guide goes down the river with you to push the tubes away from rocks and around bends. The river isn’t very deep, and while there are “rapids,” they aren’t too strong, so the activity isn’t dangerous – just fast enough to be fun.

Rivers are higher in the wet season (November through April) and lower in the summer, making river tubing it will be more invigorating in the wet season. However, we’ve gone tubing in Mindo in both the wet and dry seasons and think it is great fun year-round. Plan your excursion with MindoXtrem Birds – they’re the best in town.

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8. Go Canyoning

Mindo is surrounded by waterfalls and rivers, making canyoning one of the best things to do in Mindo. Never heard of canyoning before? It consists of repelling down a series of waterfalls through the cloud forest, and is popular around Ecuador, especially in Mindo and the adventure sports town of Baños.

This activity is a great way to hike through the cloud forest while enjoying a huge adrenaline rush. While repelling down a waterfall is certainly thrilling, it is not too physically challenging and is totally doable, even for beginners. We have used Mindo Canopy Adventures for our canyoning excursion and had a great time the guides take safety very seriously but are a lot of fun at the same time.

mindo mariposario

9. Learn About Butterflies

If you’re looking for a more relaxing way to spend an afternoon after a morning of ziplining, river tubing, or canyoning, head to Mindo’s mariposario, a butterfly sanctuary sure to impress even the most skeptical visitors.

I’ll admit that I was skeptical of the mariposario butterfly sanctuary before visiting myself, but this sanctuary is truly packed with colorful butterflies flitting everywhere; it left me so impressed! You’ll get the opportunity to learn all about the dozens of species of butterflies that call the Mindo cloud forest home, see them in all their life stages, and even feed them right from your hand.

The mariposario is a short walk from the center of Mindo and makes for a fantastic way to spend an hour or two!

Travel Essential

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10. Soar Through the Air on Mindo’s Tarabita

If soaring through the air on a zipline sounds a little too adventurous for your liking, would you consider a cable car? Mindo’s tarabita cable car runs across the cloud forest and offers some of the most impressive views of the forest.

Though it takes just a minute or two to ride, the tarabita takes riders to the spot that marks the start of the most popular waterfall hikes in the area. Most tarabita riders head on to the Santuario de Cascadas Mindo for a hike afterward, though the tarabita is worth a ride even if you don’t want to hike afterward!

carley rojas avila

Carley Rojas Avila is a bilingual New York-based travel writer, editor, content marketer, and the founder of the digital travel publications Explorers Away and Home to Havana. Carley is an expert on all things Latin America, the Caribbean, and Cuba, having lived and worked in four different countries in the region. Her writing has appeared on the Associated Press wires and in Travel + Leisure, Yahoo, MSN, Euronews, The Weather Channel, and more. When she's not writing about her travels, find her front row at a Bad Bunny concert, befriending street cats, and taste-testing every pizza in Havana.