Baños is an essential stop on any backpacking trip through Ecuador. I’ll admit, it took a few days for Baños to grow on me. It felt very touristy at first, but eventually, I learned to love this bustling hub of adventure. This lush, green city in central Ecuador is tucked away in a valley amidst endless cliffs and mountains. Over a hundred waterfalls call this city home, pouring into the powerful Rio Pastaza where rafters go on adrenaline-inducing escapades.
How To Get To Baños
Baños is in a very central part of Ecuador and very easy to get to by bus from anywhere you go. One of the most convenient ways for travelers to get around Ecuador without worrying about safety or getting your stuff stolen is EcuadorHop. If you’re starting in Quito, the journey to Baños will also detour through Cotopaxi and Quilotoa, allowing you to knock off two of Ecuador’s most iconic spots along the way.
Local buses are the cheapest way to get around Ecuador but also run the risk of potentially getting your stuff stolen. Taking a bus during the day lessens the risk of you falling asleep and getting your valuables snatched.
Where To Stay in Baños
There are over 200 hostels in Baños which gives you a lot of options. Just walking around the town, you inevitably stumble into dozens and dozens of these hostels. However, the best ones in town based on my personal experiences and word of mouth are the ones below.
This is where I stayed for nearly a week in Baños. Like the name suggests, the community and social aspect of the hostel is unmatched. I’ve never found it easier to make friends than when I stayed at the Community Hostels in Ecuador. Family dinners every night, cheap alcohol, and activities every single day makes it incredibly easy to make friends. The types of travelers that Community Hostel attracts are only the best. Everyone is laid-back and social without ever getting too out of control.
Selina is a massive hostel chain across the world with 68 properties and counting. They run like a well-oiled machine and have an incredibly beautiful and aesthetic property. It also has the most central location in Baños, located right next to the main church. These tend to be a bit pricier and less social, but for a good night’s sleep, you can’t go wrong.
Other hostels that are popular in Baños include:
What To Do in Baños on a Budget
Ruta de las Cascadas
One can rent a bike for the day and cycle down the iconic Ruta de las Cascadas. This mostly-downhill adventure will take you to many incredible waterfalls in and around Baños. The icing on top of the cake will be the incredible Pailon del Diablo waterfall, one of the strongest and most powerful that I have ever seen in my life. Each waterfall will cost at most $2 to enter and renting the bike will only cost around $5. At the end of the journey, you can throw your bike in the back of a truck and hitch a ride back to Baños for about $2.
The waterfalls here are incredible and you can hike down to most of them. Others involve ziplines and incredible viewpoints. The bike ride itself is one of the most beautiful you can imagine, showcasing just how lush and marvelous this region of Ecuador is.
Hike To The Mirador at La Banca de Amor
I think the official name for this trail is the Los Sauces Trail but who knows. It shows up on Maps.Me past the Puente del San Francisco. Follow it along some very strange paths which takes you through some farms and properties that will have you totally convinced that you are trespassing like crazy. However, trust the map and you’ll be able to circle around the city for some epic views.
Casa del Arbol and the Swing at the End of the World
This might be what Baños is best known for. It is basically the most iconic thing you can do in Baños, even if there are plenty of other activities that deserve all the attention that this swing gets.
For $1 to enter, you can spend as much time as you want in this little park featuring swings, a short zip line, a tree house and some beautiful scenery of the valleys and mountains of Baños. On a rare, clear day, one can also see the absolutely majestic Tungarahua Volcano.
If you take the bus from town, it can be a very cheap way to spend a few hours in Baños. A taxi there and back will cost you $20, which isn’t terrible if you can split it with three other people. Get your killer insta pics on a budget by hitting this swing.
Hike To The Virgin and To Mirador Bellavista
This was one of my favorite hikes that I did in Baños. Go up to the cemetery on the corner of town and start hiking up the stairs to the Virgin. The Virgin itself isn’t anything particularly magnificent but the views are only going to get better and better. From there, continue hiking along the side of the mountain until you get to Cafe del Cielo. Have a coffee break there and then continue down until you reach a fork in the road. Head right towards the cross that towers above the city and you will have one of the best views you can get of Baños. Have a seat and pray for the clouds to clear up so that you might be able to catch of glimpse of Volcan Tungurahua.
Check Out The Healing Hot Springs
I didn’t do this myself but it is what Baños is famous for. There are a couple of them in and around town so just ask around for where the best one is. I can’t imagine a better way to relax after all of the adventures that Baños has to offer.
What To Do in Baños on a Bigger Budget
For $60, you can take to the skies over Baños. It does seem a bit steep but $60 for a 20 minute flight is still relatively cheap compared to prices in most western countries. I didn’t do this myself but my friends highly recommended it as an awe-inspiring type of fun. With good weather, there’s nothing quite like paragliding over such a beautiful region like Baños.
For $30, you can get a horseback ride up through the mountains and some beautiful scenery for around 2 hours. For a pretty chill activity in between the more adrenaline-inducing adventures in Baños, this is a good way to spend the day.
Another one of Baños’ most popular activities is rafting. It only costs $30 for what could be one of the most exhilarating things you can do in your life. My friend said it was an amazing experience, although she felt like she could have nearly died, it was worth it. Of course, something like this can always come with risks but the guides in Baños are very qualified and take very good care of you.
This was one of the scariest things I’ve ever done in my life. A lot of it involves trusting yourself and trusting your guides, something that I definitely struggled with when you’re trying to scale down a slippery canyon with a waterfall beating down all over you. For example, on the first waterfall, we had to jump backwards into the water and let go of the rope. Guess who instead held on to the rope for dear life.
Looking back, it is incredible to be able to say I’ve done something like this. It was definitely terrifying and there is no turning back once you’ve started rappeling down the waterfalls. There was a stretch where we had to cross over the full force of a waterfall and I stood frozen in fear for what felt like an hour trying to instead find a different path to dry land while everyone yelled at me to just trust myself. For a unique adrenaline rush, this $30 activity will leave you breathless.
Where To Eat In Baños
Ballin’ on a budget? Same. The mercado central is where you can get fat meals for $3 or less. You’ll have your almuerzo deals where you get soup and a main course for about $3. Most places will offer much more than just that though. Definitely get something with tortillas (mashed potatoe-y things?). Those were my favorite.
I’m gaining weight just thinking about this place. They served some of the best hash browns I have ever had in my life. It is run by a husband and wife from New Orleans and Tennessee so you know it’s going to be good. The cookies were among the best I’ve ever had in my life. Following up my fat plate of hash browns with a stack of pancakes might have been the worst idea I’ve ever had before going on a hike. It hurt so good.
Cafe del Cielo
This cafe will give you an unforgettable view of the city. It is a bit of a hike to get up there but your coffee (or ice cream) will taste ten times better as well. They serve food and alcohol as well and the view is unlike any other. If the hike tired you out that much, they even have a spa. Seriously, this place was amazing.
Community Hostel Baños
Aside from the incredible squad we assembled, the best part of staying at Community Hostel were the family-style dinners every night. This was food that you would not expect from a hostel. My final night there, we had steak cooked in a red wine reduction and a side of the most gluttonous mashed potatoes I’ve ever had. They serve breakfast and dinner for $3.50 and $5 respectively and it honestly is worth staying at the hostel just for that. Shakshuka, a fat Cuban sandwich, pasta nights with loads of garlic bread… It’s a different thing every morning and every night. I’m hungry just thinking about going back.
Nightlife in Baños
Baños has some pretty wild nightlife, especially during the weekends. Thursday is wild. Friday is wilder. Saturday is indescribable. The bars close at 3 AM and the streets will be packed with partygoers. The police do come out in full force to make sure everyone goes home and no one wreaks some late night havoc so follow directions and go home before any chaos happens.
This is pretty much the place to be in Baños. With four different dance floors (salsa, pop, reggaeton, more pop), you are bound to find a dance floor that fits your taste. For backpackers, this is where you’ll find a good mix of other travelers and locals.
This is the three-story club right across from Leprechaun. It was fun to hang out at but the party was not quite as wild as Leprechaun’s. It’s still a good option, though if you were looking for something different. After my third night in a row at Leprechaun, hearing different music was a pleasant change.
Cheap tequila? Yeah, this is your place.
This is a salsa bar that we stumbled into before we knew about Leprechaun Bar. They had cheap shots of tequila that we downed before moving on to Leprechaun Bar. This place had a very local crowd and we were definitely the odd ones out but it was still fun.
Where To Go After Baños
The Amazon Rainforest
Baños is known as the gateway to the Amazon. Many Amazon tours kick off from Baños since it is only about a 90-minute drive to get there.
Looking to party? Montañita is your place. If you’re on EcuadorHop (or want to be), they have a night bus from Baños to Montañita. As someone traveling with thousands of dollars worth in gear and worth equipment, it was a no-brainer for me to choose EcuadorHop. The peace of mind of not having to worry about your stuff and being able to get a proper night’s is worth paying the premium.
Guayaquil is Ecuador’s largest city and a sprawling metropolis. Most people view Guayaquil as a gateway to other parts of Ecuador and South America, but there is enough to do in this city to warrant a stop.
A few hours further east of Guayaquil, Cuenca is one of Ecuador’s most popular tourist cities. With a great mix of colonial vibes and surrounding nature, you can’t go wrong with a visit to Cuenca.
If you’re looking to get beachside without the crowds of Montañita, Puerto Lopez is a good option. It is a quieter, sleepier town just north of Montañita but it also offers some exciting adventures. The most popular ones would be whale watching or taking a day trip to Isla de la Plata.
If this post helped you out, show some love and support for the blog and help keep my adventures going by buying me a beer! My adventures are entirely self-funded, so any show of support is greatly appreciated, and allows me to keep writing helpful travel guides and creating travel content to help you all travel the world on a budget.