Tena, Ecuador: Ultimate Travel Guide + Best Things to Do in Tena
The Amazon Rainforest is a location on many bucket lists, and for a good reason. Visiting the Amazon is an unforgettable experience, and an encounter with nature that most of us have never experienced before.
Visiting the Amazon can be notoriously an expensive adventure. However, visiting Tena Ecuador – the gateway city to the Amazon closest to Quito – is a great way for travelers on any budget to have an affordable yet unforgettable experience.
This ultimate guide to Tena Ecuador will answer all your questions about how to best visit Tena, including things to do in Tena, the best Tena Amazon tours, and much more.
Plus, we’re sharing the best ways to travel from Quito to Tena, and why Tena, Ecuador is the best destination for exploring the Amazon on a budget.
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Just a few hours east of Quito, Tena Ecuador is one of Ecuador’s major gateways to the Amazon Rainforest. Easily accessible by private transportation or by bus, Tena is a great destination for travelers looking to explore this incredible region of Ecuador
Check out our Tena Ecuador map below to get an idea of exactly where Tena sits within the Ecuadorian Amazon and the Napo Province.
For many travelers, Tena will serve as a base for exploring the Amazon, though jungle tours start deeper into the Amazon, where the roads stop.
For budget stays, base yourself at an inexpensive hostel or hotel in downtown Tena – like Hostal Zumag Sisa in central Tena or Hostal Pakay on the edge of Tena.
For lodge experiences and more immersive jungle stays, check out some of Tena’s most well-loved lodges, like Kuyana Amazon Lodge or El Jardin Lodge & Spa.
Tena Ecuador Elevation
The elevation of Tena is 1,962 feet (598 meters). Since most visitors arrive to Tena from Quito, high up in the Andes at 9,350 feet (2,850 meters), you’ll absolutely feel the change in elevation when you arrive!
The drive is along a twisty road down from the mountains into the rainforest. It feels a bit precarious, but is quite safe.
Tena Ecuador Weather
The temperature in Tena is generally in the mid 70s (23°C – 25°C) throughout the entire year. Given its rainforest location, it sprinkles or drizzles for at least a short time almost every day in Tena.
Expect an afternoon shower and overcast skies, but don’t expect torrential rain all day every day.
Best Hotels & Hostels in Tena
- Hostal Zumag Sisa ($)
- Hostal Pakay ($ – $$)
- Kuyana Amazon Lodge ($$ – $$$)
- El Jardin Lodge & Spa ($$ – $$$)
Amazon on a Budget
Tena Ecuador one of the best options for budget travel in the entire Amazon Rainforest. Tena is easily accessible from the rest of the country, the perfect jumping-off point for the rainforest, and has plenty of budget accommodation options on the edge of the Amazon.
Prices for Amazon tours and excursions are generally higher the deeper into the rainforest you travel – it’s more expensive here to build lodges, transport goods and people, etc. – so budget travel in the Amazon becomes impossible deep in the rainforest.
While there are experiences you can’t have on the edge of the Amazon in Tena that you will find deeper in the interior of the Amazon (seeing specific wildlife, especially), unless you’re an avid birdwatcher or wildlife enthusiast you probably won’t even tell the difference.
When visiting Tena, you’ll still be completely immersed in the jungle, see incredible wildlife, and learn so much about the incredible Amazon ecosystem.
If you’re looking to travel to the Amazon on a budget, Tena Ecuador is truly your best best. I’d recommend a stay at Hostal Pakay, nestled alongside the jungle on the outskirts of Tena, as a fantastic place to stay on a budget – I loved my stay here, and plan to visit again soon!
Quito to Tena
Most travelers to Tena visit from Quito, about 4.5 or 5 hours away from Tena by bus, or slightly less by car. Tickets from Quito’s Quitumbe Bus Terminal in the south of the city, and buses leave frequently.
Several bus companies serve this route, and the most current schedules show departures to Tena at 5:30 AM, 10:30 AM, 12:00 PM, 6:00 PM, and 10:00 PM.
Buses depart from Tena’s central bus station frequently to cities including Quito, Guayaquil, Baños, and other Amazonian towns and cities.
Baños to Tena
The adventure sports haven of Baños, Ecuador is about 3 hours away from Tena by bus or slightly less by car.
Several bus companies serve this route, and the most current schedules show departures to Tena at 5:30 AM, 6:30 AM, 9:30 AM, 1:30 PM, and 5:45 PM.
Tena Ecuador Map
Check out this clickable Tena Ecuador map we created to help you visualize your trip to Tena. We’ve dropped pins in all the restaurants and accommodations we mention throughout the article.
You’ll see that the lodges we recommend near Tena – Kuyana Amazon Lodge and El Jardin Lodge – are located outside of Tena, of course, though close enough to be quite convenient, even if you just have a short time to spend in Tena
Tours to Tena
Tours from Quito to Tena are a popular way to explore the Amazon rainforest on a tight itinerary, and with the ease of transportation and guides included.
Given the travel time to Tena from Quito (about 4.5 or 5 hours by bus), Tena isn’t really a viable day trip option. Most visitors will spend at least one night here, though you can best enjoy the area with at least two nights in Tena.
Check out this Tena tour from Quito – offered by Rebecca Adventure Travel (one of the best and most beloved travel companies in Ecuador) – if you’re interested in visiting Tena with a tour.
This tour includes everything you could want to do in Tena – learn to make chocolate, jungle walks, visiting an indigenous village, birdwatching and wildlife spotting – and includes options for rafting. Accommodations are at the fantastic Suchipakari Amazon Lodge & Spa.
You can personalize the itinerary and length of the visit, and add on different activities. Plus, it’s quite affordable, and even an option for budget travelers. This is my top recommendation for tours to Tena from Quito!
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.
Things To Do in Tena
Of course, jungle tour excursions in Tena are the most popular and most requested activities in Tena Ecuador. There are plenty of options for day tours and overnight tours with a variety of companies.
Read More: Ultimate Guide to Jungle Tours in the Ecuador Amazon
While there are hikes that you can go on independently around Tena, you’ll truly need an organized excursion to have a meaningful jungle experience while in Tena. Local guides who are knowledgeable about the area will take you to points of interest that you wouldn’t be able to access on your own.
I recommend spending at least a full day on a jungle tour excursion if you can fit it in to your schedule. This is the highlight of coming to Tena, after all. You’ll see more flora and fauna, learn more about the ingenious communities around Tena, and have a more immersive experience that you would in anything less than a day.
Check out this full-day jungle tour from Tena and book in advance to secure your spot – it’s one of the best! This tour is a very complete tour of the most impressive places in the jungle around Tena, including awesome experiences like a visit to a local village, wildlife spotting, and much more that you won’t want to miss.
Alternatively, I recommend looking into the jungle tours offered by Hostal Pakay. On one trip to Tena Ecuador, we had a fabulous experience with Hostal Pakay, doing a full-day jungle trek that we organized for about 15 short-term volunteers visiting Ecuador from the United States. They did a great job accommodating such a large group.
Rafting in Tena Ecuador
Tena Ecuador is known for its whitewater rafting adventures and has some of the best rafting excursions in Ecuador. Adventurous travelers come from all over for rafting in Tena, so you know it’s good!
Local tour companies offer a variety of whitewater rafting “routes” with different intensities and difficultly levels, so there is something for you no matter your comfort level or experience.
These are some of the most popular whitewater rafting experiences in Tena, so check them out if you’re interested in jungle rafting!
These tours are offered by these two companies, which are the companies we recommend for rafting in Tena, from our experience and from glowing reviews from travelers we know:
Aqua Xtreme is one of the most well-loved tour companies in Tena, and they have excellent whitewater rafting tours at all levels of intensity.
They also offer well-rated jungle tours, so if you’re interested in experiencing both, look in to booking with them.
Raft Amazonia is another well-respected tour company with a focus on whitewater rafting. Run by a Kichwa indigenous family that really know their stuff and have been in business for years, you’ll get a very local and immersive experience.
They also have combination rafting and jungle tours, as well as overnight options in the jungle.
Markets in Tena Ecuador
A visit to the markets – Mercado Artesanal, Mercado Central or Mercado Sur – is a fun excursion in town, and you’ll find a lot here to interest you. Visiting a market is a great way to learn more about foods typical to the Amazon region of the country and give them a try.
Famously, the large and squishy chonta worms that are considered a delicacy in this part of the Amazon will catch your eye. They’re generally served barbecued on a stick.
There are also food stalls with delicious and inexpensive options – market food stalls are some of my favorite spots for inexpensive yet delicious food in Ecuador, so I highly recommend giving them a try.
Where To Stay in Tena
Tena has countless places to stay at all price points, from super cheap backpacker hostels to luxury lodges. You’ll find plenty of hostels and hotels located within the city of Tena, but many others take advantage of the jungle surrounding the city and offer a peaceful jungle setting that is a fantastic feature for visitors.
As a gateway to the Amazon, you won’t find the most luxurious of the luxury lodges here – if you’re looking for that, try Sacha Lodge or the Napo Wildlife Center.
However, the jungle area surrounding Tena has some of the best Amazon lodges at all different price points, definitely worth considering if you’re looking for an Amazon lodge experience.
Tena Ecuador Hotels
Hostal Zumag Sisa ($)
A popular hostel in the heart of the town of Tena, Hostal Zumag Sisa, makes it easy to walk to restaurants, grocery stores, tour agencies, and everything you could want as a traveler. The hostel offers dorm room rates of under $10 a night, and private rooms as well.
The incredible rooftop terrace will make you feel close to the jungle despite staying in town, and with its hammocks will quickly become your favorite spot.
Hostal Pakay ($ – $$)
My personal favorite place to stay in Tena – and one of my favorite places in Ecuador – Hostal Pakay is just on the edge of the town and the forest.
Hostal Pakay will make you feel like you’re staying in a remote lodge with all the conveniences of Tena minutes away.
You’ll never want to leave the front terrace where breakfast is served in the morning. Rooms are slightly more expensive than a standard hostel, but the difference is well worth it. Their jungle tours are fantastic, too – our full-day trek was incredible.
Kuyana Amazon Lodge ($$ – $$$)
Kuyana Amazon Lodge is a fantastic option for a relatively low budget lodge just outside of Tena, it is a great value for what feels like a luxury stay.
The setting of this lodge is ideal – it is quite “deep” in the jungle and feels very remote, but it still accessible by car.
Tour options through the lodge are plentiful and include everything from making chocolate and midnight wildlife tours to more jungle treks.
El Jardin Lodge & Spa ($$ – $$$)
Located outside of Tena, nearby the jungle gateway town of Mishualli, El Jardin Lodge & Spa is a fantastic option, one of the nicest spots near Tena.
Rooms are fantastic and luxe – check out the rooms with private pools, and walls of glass facing the jungle and the river. You’ll love their gourmet meals, included with your stay, and the options for tours and activities.
Where To Eat in Tena
Cafe Tortuga is a favorite in Tena. They have a great mix of international food and Ecuadorian dishes, plus great desserts, coffee, and more. It’s a welcoming and social environment with a book exchange and strong wifi connection. Head here for breakfast, and make sure to get the banana pancakes!
La Fogata is a local spot with huge portions of delicious, fresh food. Nothing fancy here, just great, local food and great flavor.
Ecuador isn’t known for its pizza by any means, but Bella Pizza is a pretty good pizza place overall! If you’re tired out from a long jungle walk or excursion, order in.
Parilladas de Nancy
Parrilladas de Nancy has good food and big portions in a casual, local spot. Nothing fancy!