Mindo, Ecuador: A Local’s Guide for Travelers [2024]

Nestled within the Ecuador Cloud Forest is the tiny yet vibrant town of Mindo, like a hidden gem in the jungle. Long a backpacker’s favorite destination, Mindo has much more to offer than your typical backpacker town – in fact, it’s actually one of the most unique destinations in Ecuador.

As expats in Quito, we spent many weekends escaping to Mindo, which quickly became our favorite among the day trips from Quito. Read on for our ultimate local guide to Mindo, Ecuador including where to stay in Mindo, the best things to do, and why this town is a must on any Ecuador itinerary.

mindo cloud forest

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Mindo, Ecuador

Set in the middle of Ecuador’s rich, diverse Cloud Forest, Mindo truly feels like a jungle paradise. Mindo is surrounded by lush, verdant mountainsides and babbling rivers, with butterflies and hummingbirds flitting between tropical fruit trees and among passersby on the town’s few paved streets.

While Mindo is a small, walkable town, it is just minutes away from countless waterfalls to hike, zipline destinations, and much more – including its famous adventure sports and birdwatching excursions. There are plenty of things to do in Mindo for everyone from the most adventurous travel to the one looking for the most relaxing escape.

If you don’t have time for a proper visit to the Amazon during your time in Ecuador, definitely make sure to add a trip to Mindo to your itinerary to experience some of Ecuador’s incredible forests. However, there’s plenty to enjoy here – even if you’ve already explored the depths of the Amazon.

Mindo Cloud Forest

While Ecuador is known for its three regions – the mountains, the Amazon, and the coast – there is a cloud forest Ecuador region located between the descent from the Andes to the coast.

This unique ecosystem is one of Ecuador’s most biodiverse, with a huge number of species of birds – especially hummingbirds and the famous Andean cock-of-the-rock, along with other unique flora and fauna.

While this cloud forest ecosystem is not unique to Mindo, Mindo has become one of the best places to enjoy the cloud forest in Ecuador. Consider staying at the remote nature reserves or high-end eco-lodges in the area, including the award-winning Mashpi Lodge, one of the most luxurious accommodations in Ecuador, or the Bellavista Cloud Forest Lodge, known as being an ideal base for serious birdwatchers.

Mindo Ecuador Elevation

Mindo is set in a valley at around 4,100 feet (1,250 meters) of elevation. The elevation in Mindo represents a decrease of almost half the elevation between Quito’s 9,350 feet (2,800 meters) elevation and the coast.

If you’re heading from Quito to Mindo, you won’t likely be affected by the decrease in elevation you experience moving between the two, though you may feel it slightly if traveling from the coast. Remember to drink plenty of water and limit caffeine and alcohol if you feel you need to adjust to higher altitudes.

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Best Time To Visit Mindo

The best time to visit Mindo is year-round – really! Unlike the rest of Ecuador, there isn’t much of a seasonal or weather change in the Mindo cloud forest – the temperature hovers around 70-75°F / 21-22°C year-round.

While the weather is slightly rainer during the rainy season in Ecuador’s mountains between December and May, humidity in the cloud forest always hovers between 60-80%, given its subtropical climate. However, even during the rainy season, you’ll experience warm and pleasant weather in the morning and about an hour of rain in the afternoon.

Best Hotels & Hostels in Mindo

mindo zipline

Best Things To Do in Mindo

1. Go Ziplining

One of the most popular things to do in Mindo is ziplining. Hidden among the green mountainsides of the cloud forest is one of the most impressive ziplining courses in Ecuador, which earns it a spot on our list of the best things to do in Ecuador.

There are several routes you can choose from when selecting ziplining excursions in the Mindo cloud forest, including shorter three-line tours over the canopy or longer ten-line tours through a larger section of the cloud forest.

Each time I’ve gone ziplining in Mindo I’ve used Mindo Canopy Adventures and I’ve had a great experience. While it is quite exhilarating, it’s extremely safe. I’ve always felt the guides are very knowledgeable yet easy-going.

Read More: Best Things to Do in Mindo, Ecuador

What To Pack for Ecuador

Check out our Ultimate Ecuador Packing List to help you pack for your trip – we’re sharing exactly what to bring to Ecuador and what we never travel without.

2. Hike to a Waterfall

If you’re not interested in doing adventure sports in Mindo, there are plenty of excursions you can take (with or without guides) throughout the cloud forest. Some of the best hikes in Mindo are to the waterfalls that surround the city – the Mindo cloud forest is known for them!

One of the easiest ways to visit several of the waterfalls is by taking the Tarabita cable car to the entrance of a series of waterfalls. The Tarabita is exhilarating – you’ll sail 500 meters across the forest. If you’re nervous about ziplining, this might be the perfect way to see Mindo from above without hanging from a zipline.

Once you disembark the Tarabita you’ll find the start of a relatively easy hike to a total of seven waterfalls – the Nambilla Waterfalls – including the Cascada Reina and Cascada de Nambillo. Hiking along these paths, you’ll find several spots to swim and cool off in the river, and there are forks in the trail to different longer or shorter trail options.

mindo river tubing

3. Go River Tubing

While Mindo doesn’t have any true river rafting – head to Tena, Ecuador in the Amazon for Ecuador’s best rafting! – river tubing in Mindo is an exhilarating but seemingly safer adventure.

Strapped in with several others to a group of inner tubes, you’ll float down one of the rivers that cut through the valley with just enough rapids to make the adventure exciting. A guide helps push the tubes around and through the river and over the rapids and keeps you safe. It is a blast!

Each time I’ve gone tubing I’ve been with MindoXtrem – they do a great job and bring you out to the starting point and ending point on the river in their pickup truck included in the total experience price.

4. Go Bird Watching

Mindo is a birdwatcher’s paradise and is considered one of the best places in the world for birdwatching adventures. Home to around 20 percent of the world’s bird species, Mindo attracts serious birdwatchers from around the world, especially in search of the impressive Andean cock-of-the-rock.

Even if you’re not a serious birdwatcher, birdwatching excursions are a great way to get to know the cloud forest Ecuador is known for surrounding Mindo.

While some of the more birdwatching and naturalist-focused places to stay in Mindo, like Mashpi Lodge and Bellavista Cloud Forest Lodge offer their own birdwatching excursions, you can book reputable birdwatching experiences no matter where you’re staying. These are some of the most well-respected birdwatching experiences in Mindo:

mindo mariposario

5. Visit a Butterfly Sanctuary

If you’re looking to enjoy some of the more relaxing, less adventurous things to do in Mindo, check out Mindo’s favorite butterfly sanctuary – the Mariposas de Mindo Butterfly Garden.

I’ll admit that I was skeptical before visiting, worried I’d only see a few butterflies… I was wrong! There are dozens of different species of butterflies you’ll get to see up close and personal, and they’ll probably even land on you, too. There is plenty of information about each species, and you’ll get to see them in every life stage, from chrysalis to adult butterflies.

Just a short walk outside of town, or less than ten minutes by taxi, this excursion is a great way to wind down after a morning of adventure sports or simply for the nature lover.

6. Take A Mindo Chocolate Tour

Hosted by Mindo’s local artisan chocolate producers, Mindo chocolate tours by El Quetzal are some of the best things to do in Mindo if you’re looking for a way to enjoy a relaxing afternoon after spending a morning enjoying any of the more adventurous things to do in Mindo.

El Quetzal sources cacao from the local family farms throughout the Mindo cloud forest and makes their own chocolate from start to finish on-site. Their chocolate tour will take you step-by-step through that process and includes tastings of their different creations as well.

There are actually two different chocolate tours to choose from, one offering a chocolate farm tour and tasting experience, while the other offers a chocolate roasting experience in the evening:

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Where To Stay in Mindo

Casa de Cecilia ($)

A small hotel and hostel located by a babbling brook just on the edge of Mindo, Casa de Cecilia is by far the best place to stay in Mindo for budget-conscious travelers. We love Casa de Cecilia so much we’ve stayed there probably at least a half-dozen times and now consider it the only place we’d return to.

Common areas include two paved terraces overlooking a river with a swimming hole, a covered pavilion strung with hammocks, and a fire pit. Casa de Cecilia has hostel dorm rooms available for budget travelers, though double rooms with private or shared bathroom options are extremely affordable as well.

Reviews and Bookings: Casa de Cecilia

La Bicok Ecolodge ($$)

Located just on the edge of Mindo, La Bicok Ecolodge is a great, comfortable option for travelers looking for a little more comfort than a backpacker hostel, with the flexibility, freedom, and seclusion of cabañas that add to the jungle feel. The hotel also has a cafe restaurant and a swimming pool and could be a great spot for an extended stay in Mindo.

Reviews and Bookings: La Bicok Ecolodge

Casa Divina Lodge ($$ – $$$)

Casa Divina Lodge is a beautiful and cozy option just outside of Mindo that feels like it’s a world away from town. Features a huge lounge with tables and couches overlooking the valley and mountains of the cloud forest, it’s a real jungle escape without the price tag of some more remote places to stay in Mindo.

Casa Divina Lodge also offers plenty of excursions for birdwatching, canyoning, waterfall hikes, and much more.

Reviews and Bookings: Casa Divina Lodge

Mashpi Lodge ($$$$)

Nestled on a private, protected reserve in the heart of the cloud forest, Mashpi Lodge is a luxurious lodge that makes staying in the cloud forest even that much more memorable.

Not only is it one of the best places to stay in Mindo, but it’s considered one of the nicest places to stay in all of Ecuador. Among the incredible ways to enjoy the cloud forest that are unique to Mashpi Lodge include an observation tower that allows for dramatic views over the cloud forest, a state-of-the-art spa that calls on local indigenous practice, and biologist-lead hikes and birdwatching tours you’ll never forget.

Reviews and Bookings: Mashpi Lodge

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Where To Eat in Mindo

While Mindo is far from a culinary capital, this small town has a great array of places to eat. If you’re on a budget – or just looking for a particularly local option – make sure to get an almuerzo, a fixed-price lunch that usually comes with soup, a main dish with sides, and juice. However, there are plenty of international-style spots you’ll also enjoy.

El Quetzal

If there’s one place to eat while you’re in Mindo, make it El Quetzal! Nestled just on the corner of town, this artisan chocolate shop and cafe has some of the best food in Mindo. The food and coffee are fantastic, and the large terrace and farmhouse tables outside looking out over the mountains are the perfect place for a leisurely lunch. Don’t leave Mindo without trying the famous El Quetzal brownie.

Mishqui Quinde

Mishqui Quinde is the place to go for vegan and vegetarian options in Mindo. They make great use of ingredients local to the Ecuador cloud forest. This place serves a ton of delicious and inventive dishes with quinoa and other vegetarian ingredients – the veggie burgers are delicious, and the homemade ice cream is fantastic as well.


Arepera is one of my favorite spots in Mindo – if you’ve never had Venezuela’s famous arepas before, you’re in for a treat. This spot offers everything from vegan arepas with avocado and beans to the traditional meat and cheese stuffed ones. Arepera is just a tiny, inexpensive spot with a few tables and can get busy – but it’s worth a wait.

Travel Essential

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Getting to Mindo

Mindo’s proximity to Quito (technically, Mindo is located within the larger metropolitan area of Quito!) makes it a very easy day trip destination, with plenty of transportation options to make getting to Mindo a breeze.

Buses to Mindo

To reach Mindo by bus, take one of the Flor del Valle buses from La Ofelia bus station in north Quito. La Ofelia is easily accessible by public transportation in Quito or by taxi for around $7-10 from the Centro Histórico or La Mariscal. A one-way ticket costs less than $4.00, and the trip is about two hours long.

Buses are generally punctual and will take you directly to Mindo, the last stop on the route, and drop you off in the center of town.

If you’re planning to head out of Mindo on a Sunday or at the end of a long weekend, plan ahead! Buses from Mindo to Quito can fill up fast on the weekend. Make sure you get your ticket when the bus station opens in the morning of the day you’d like to depart, or the evening before if you can.

Private Transportation to Mindo

Private transportation to and from Quito can also be arranged – hotel and hostel staff in both Mindo and Quito will know exactly who to direct you to for an affordable price and timely service. A private car to or from Mindo will take under 2 hours and should cost between $45 and $75.

You can pre-book transportation from Mindo to Quito online here from a local transportation company. At just $45, it’s a real steal.

Mindo is a compact town, and its small size makes it extremely walkable. You won’t need a taxi to get anywhere within the town, though you may need one if your hotel or hostel is outside of town. However, for excursions in the Mindo cloud forest outside of town, there are plenty of taxis available, with visible taxi “stands” around town where taxis will wait for people.

Reviews and Bookings: Private Mindo to Quito Transportation Reservation

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.