2020 Updated Information about visiting Mindo Cloud Forest in Ecuador. From where to stay, to what to do and what to eat, this complete guide covers everything that you need to know about Mindo.
Cupped in a valley deep in the magnificent Andes mountain range, Mindo Cloud Forest is just a 2-hour drive from Quito. The dense trees create a canopy that remains unspoiled by human intervention. The trees trap condensation in the atmosphere which means that the entire place is covered in clouds, leaving a beautiful and haunting sight to be seen.
Escape into nature by taking on an expedition into the beautiful and luscious forest. Here is one of the best places in Ecuador to get up close and personal with clouds, as they lay low in the trees and thick foliage. You can also find plenty of rare wildlife, hiking trails, beautiful waterfalls, zip lines and other extreme activities for the adventure seekers. There is an adventure for all speeds to be found here!
Nature-lovers rejoice, Mindo Cloud Forest is the perfect nature sanctuary for you away from Quito. If you are looking for a slower-paced life then you can take a breath and enjoy some of the more peaceful activities, from night walks, a tour of the butterfly farm, and even a guided tour of the chocolate factory found in the village.
Tours of Mindo Cloud Forest tend to be very budget-friendly. Starting from around $5 for a night walk, you can see and do as much as you like for however long you choose to stay here (as there are a few hostels in the town of Mindo, just next to the forest).
Bird Watching (also known as birding) is one of the most popular things to do in Mindo Cloud Forest. This is because there are a lot of rare species that can be found amongst the trees. Birders from all over the world visit the forest to admire its rich biodiversity and try to catch some rare sights. Nesting here are hundreds of species of birds. They range from the elusive Andean cock-of-the-rock to the unique Ecuadorian toucans. Go on an early-morning bird-watching tour to witness the lek ritual of the cock-of-the-rock.
If you are interested in visiting Mindo cloud forest to birdwatch, then you will be pleased to hear that there are local guides who know the secret hangout spots of the birds and will take you to them. However, these tours can cost up to $50 per person. Travelers on a budget can go on a self-guided bird watching tour. One of the best bird trails in the forest is the Yellow House Trail. The Yellow House Trail costs just $6 to enter.
The Mindo cable car is a half-kilometer ride to the Nambillo Waterfall Sanctuary, which is a beautiful area known for its collection of waterfalls. The cable car ride gives you an impressive view of the forest from 150 meters above the trees while keeping the secrets of what is inside for your arrival at the start of the trail.
After about 15 minutes of riding on the cable car, you will reach the start of the route. Each waterfall is clearly signposted and you will receive a map with your ticket that directs you to where you need to go. The longer route is said to be more scenic, and visits 6 different waterfalls, whereas the shorter just visits one fall.
It is allowed, and almost encouraged, for you to take a dip in these falls, and helps to make this 2-hour trek into a half-day activity. Make sure that you remember to pack your swimsuit! Enjoy the walk through the rocky woodland and the views of the falls. The Nambillo Waterfall Sanctuary is a 10-minute taxi from the town of Mindo.
Mindo Cloud Forest is host to several adrenaline-pumping adventures. From tube rafting and canyoning to zip lining across the canopy, there are lots of things to do in Mindo forest. Those with an athletic spirit can even go mountain biking or take on the ski style chair life that can be found in the neighboring park of the Minjoy. There is even zorbing available in Minjoy! You can find this park just 10 minutes away from the center of Mindo by taxi, or 2.4 kilometers away on foot.
If you are torn between the cable car over the river valley and the ski lift style ride, then if possible, try to do both. Both offer very different experiences, and it is difficult to compare the two, as they present different scenery as well as experiences.
The high chairlift ride is thrilling even if you have already ridden the cable car. Both present a very different, but equally stunning scenery. Miss either and you will miss an unforgettable experience.
To get from Quito to Mindo Cloud Forest, one must first get to the village of Mindo, which sits in the Valley of Mindo. You can take a tour here from Quito, which will allow you to visit the town and the forest with no concerns about tours, returning or accommodation. As always, choose your tour carefully to ensure that you see and do everything that you wish to.
If you prefer to do things at your own speed, and exactly to your liking, then you can travel under your own steam. There are a few ways to do this. If there are a few of you traveling, you can take a taxi. This will cost you around $70-$90, so it is definitely not the cheapest option, but the most convenient and probably the most comfortable as well.
If the cost of a taxi doesn’t appeal to you, then you can catch the public bus. This is the most budget-friendly option, but also the most time-consuming. From the old town, you must first get to the “La Ofelia” terminal located in the north of the city. You can do this by catching any bus that says “La Ofelia” on the front of it. This will cost you around 25c and take about an hour to an hour and a half. If you choose then you can catch the 207 bus to the stop “Piedras Negras y N71”. Ask the bus driver to give you a shout if you’re not sure where it is. From there, it is a short walk to the Ofelia terminal. This is the express route and will take you 30 minutes, costing $1. Alternatively, you can get a cab here for around $7 from the old town. Remember to negotiate a price before getting in.
Once you arrive at the Ofelia terminal, find the bus that says “Mindo” on the front. It should cost $4 for a ticket and take around 2 hours. The bus runs five times a day with the last bus leaving at 4 pm, so don’t try to travel in the evening!
Accommodation in Mindo varies greatly depending on your budget. From a bed in a dorm for as little as $9 to a luxury suite with a view of the forest at $200 a night, there are plenty of options for all budgets. You can book in advance or arrive and see where there is space! Whichever option you find works best for you.
Alongside the typical “menu” offers that are seen almost everywhere in Ecuador, and even in Peru- where you can find a starter, a main and a drink for around $2- there are plenty of cheap eats and slightly nicer places for you to indulge after a long day. One of the most popular cuisines in the town is pízza, and you will find plenty of pizza places to moisten your mouth with.
Since Mindo sees a lot of tourists, you will also find plenty of vegetarian options along the way, as well as typical Latin food for those who want to maintain the authentic feel of their adventure. You will even find some beautiful resto-bars deep in the trees, with beautiful views and an incomparable atmosphere. Mindo is a place where you can eat well, cheap, and create some truly brilliant memories.
Mindo Cloud Forest is a beautiful part of Ecuador, and it can be visited and enjoyed appropriate to many different budgets. Whether you are searching for a luxury forest retreat or you are a backpacker on a shoestring, there is no one who isn’t welcome in this gorgeous little town and the beautiful forest next to it. Stay for one night, or two if you want to really take your time or experience some of the more extreme sports.