Ultimate Guide to Mindo: An Ecuador Cloud Forest Paradise

Mindo is like a tiny, hidden gem in Ecuador – home to the Mindo Cloud Forest, it’s a small yet vibrant town perfect for relaxing, enjoying nature, and doing adventure sports.

I visited this Ecuador Cloud Forest paradise at least five times over the course of two years living in Ecuador – and will definitely return on my next trip!

While just a small town, Mindo has an outsized offering of activities like waterfall hikes, ziplining, birdwatching, and even tours to learn how to make chocolate and coffee. Check out our guide to the best things to do in Mindo for more!

Mindo Ecuador is close enough to Quito for a day or weekend trip, public transport from Quito to Mindo takes only 2 hours – but I recommend spending at least 3 days here to enjoy the incredible adventure activities and relax in this cloud forest paradise.

After visiting so many times, I’ve tried almost everything that Mindo has to offer – keep reading our Mindo guide for our top recommendations for one of Ecuador’s best small towns.

mindo cloud forest

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Mindo Ecuador

Why Mindo?

Set in the middle of the Ecuador Cloud Forest, Mindo truly feels like a jungle paradise. Mindo is a small, walkable town, but is minutes away from countless waterfalls to hike, zipline destinations, and much more – including its famous adventure sports and birdwatching excursions.

Mindo has plenty of good food options, too, and accommodations at all budget ranges.

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 with their diversity of flora and fauna unlike anywhere else.

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.

The cloud forest ecosystem generally thrives at 900 meters to 2,500 meters of elevation, with Mindo right in the middle.

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.

Mindo Weather

Visiting Mindo from Quito, you’ll notice the change in elevation and slightly warmer temperatures and humidity once you step out of the car or off the bus. The temperature hovers around 70-75°F / 21-22°C year-round.

Humidity in the Mindo cloud forest generally hovers between 60-80%, given its subtropical climate.

The highest precipitation can be expected during the rainy season, from December through May.

However, even during the rainy season, normally you’ll experience warm and pleasant weather in the morning and about an hour of rain in the afternoon – don’t fear if your weather app shows Mindo Ecuador with straight rain during your time there!

Best Hotels & Hostels in Mindo

Ecuador 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, plants, and other unique flora and fauna.

What is a Cloud Forest?

A cloud forest is also known as a subtropical rainforest, and has temperatures cooler than those of a tropical rainforest, though still warm, but with similarly high humidity. This combination of cooler temperatures and high humidity causes the frequent clouds that give this ecosystem its name.

Mindo Cloud Forest

While this cloud forest ecosystem is not unique to Mindo, Mindo has become one of the best places to enjoy the cloud forest Ecuador has to offer.

Set up with plenty of restaurants and accommodation options, and frequent transport to and from Quito, Mindo makes for a great base for exploring the Ecuador cloud forest.

Other popular options include more remote nature reserves or high-end eco-lodges in the area, including the brand new, 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.

Getting to Mindo

Most visitors to Mindo Ecuador travel from the capital of Quito, just two hours away by bus making it an easy weekend trip or even a day trip away from Quito.

Even on a short trip through Quito, Mindo is an easy addition to any short Quito itinerary. Buses travel back and forth several times a day from Quito, however, buses are also available from nearby cities as well include Santo Domingo.

More Ecuador Itineraries

Bus to Mindo

To reach Mindo by bus, you’ll 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. Tickets are purchased directly from the Flor del Valle office at the bus station.

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. From here you’ll be right in the heart of plenty of places for accommodations and restaurants.

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.

Mindo Bus Schedule

Quito to Mindo

Buses from Quito to Mindo depart from La Ofelia bus terminal in north Quito, with tickets being available from the Flor del Valle ticket booth at the terminal during normal business hours.

  • Monday through Friday: 8:00AM, 9:00AM, 11:00AM, 1:00PM, 4:00PM.
  • Saturday and Sunday: 7:40AM, 8:20AM, 9:20AM, 11:00AM, 1:00PM, 2:00PM, 4:00PM.

Mindo to Quito

Buses from Mindo to Quito depart from the center of town, on the main road into Mindo. The bus ticket station is in the middle of the main road and is open during normal business hours.

  • Monday through Friday: 6:00AM, 11:00AM, 1:45PM, 3:30PM, 5:00PM.
  • Saturdays and Sundays: 6:30AM, 11:00AM, 1:00PM, 2:00PM, 3:00PM, 4:00PM, 5:00PM.
mindo ecuador bird

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Private Transportation to Mindo

Private transportation to and from Quito can also be arranged – hostel and hotel owners in Mindo will know exactly who to direct you to for an affordable price and timely service, and you should find it easy to arrange transport from Quito and other nearby cities as well.

A private car to or from Mindo will take under 2 hours and should cost between $60 and $75.

Transportation in Mindo

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.

Additionally, white and green pickup trucks serve as taxis as well and are popular for transporting groups to excursions out of town – hop in the back seat or in the cab.

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.

Best Things to Do in Mindo

Ziplining

Ziplining is easily one of Mindo’s best attractions and adventure sports, and each time I’ve gone ziplining here I’ve had a great experience. While it is quite exhilarating, it’s extremely safe and I’ve always felt the guides are very knowledgeable yet easy-going.

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.

The views across the mountains are incredible, and the guides are really helpful in showing and informing about the area, flora and fauna, and more. There are a few sections between some of the lines that require several minutes of hiking uphill, but nothing too challenging.

Mindo Canopy Adventures

I’ve gone ziplining at least two or three times in the Mindo cloud forest and always had a great experience with Mindo Canopy Adventure.

While the ziplining is their most popular excursion, they also have other experiences as well including the “Tarzan Swing,” which can be added on to the ziplining and entails a 25-foot drop and then swings you over the canopy.

Waterfall Hikes

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, including to several nearby waterfalls. The Ecuador cloud forest is well 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 – and 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.

The hike to all seven of these waterfalls in the cloud forest Ecuador is known for should take around four hours.

Read More: The Best Things to Do in Mindo, Ecuador

mindo zipline

Best Hotels & Hostels in Mindo

Bird Watching

Mindo Ecuador is a birdwatcher’s paradise – home to around 20 percent of the world bird’s 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.

Mindo’s Favorite Birdwatching Guides

I’ve heard great things about Richard Hernandez as a Mindo guide for birdwatching guide with endless experience – he offers tours of various lengths, everywhere from just a few hours to two or three days.

Marcelo Arias is another well-known guide who offers multiple-day excursions for everyone from beginners to the most experienced birdwatchers.

Tubing

Tubing is one of my favorite activities in Mindo, and I try to experience it again each time I’m in Mindo. It’s a very popular activity you’ll find on any Mindo guide, and you’ll constantly see pickup trucks driving in and out of town with inner tubes!

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!

MindoXtrem

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 – only $6.00 in total!

mindo mariposario

Butterfly Sanctuary

For a more relaxing activity in Mindo, check out Mindo’s favorite butterfly sanctuary – the Mariposas de Mindo Butterfly Garden.

I’ll admit it, 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.

Mindo Chocolate Tour

The Mindo Chocolate Tour – an interactive chocolate-making tutorial and tasting – hosted by El Quetzal is another activity for those looking for a more relaxing Mindo activity.

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 – the chocolate tour will take you step-by-step through that process, and includes tastings of their different creations as well.

The tour takes place at the cafe every hour starting on the hour from 10:00 AM through 5:00 PM, and all you have to do is show up at the cafe to start. It is very popular and a must-do in Mindo!

Even if you’re not interested in a Mindo chocolate tour, El Quetzal has beautiful rooms for rent, and some of the best food in Mindo. You can’t leave town without trying their hot chocolate or a delicious brownie on their beautiful terrace.

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Where to Stay in Mindo

Casa de Cecilia ($)

Casa de Cecilia is my favorite spot in Mindo Ecuador by far, and I’ve chosen Casa de Cecilia over and over again when I visit Mindo for its incredible and dreamy location at a very affordable price. Located just a few blocks from Mindo’s main street, yet set back into the forest, it feels totally secluded and like a jungle retreat.

Common areas include two paved terraces overlooking a river with a swimming hole, a covered pavilion strung with hammocks, and a fire pit.

This small hotel has hostel dorm rooms available for budget travelers, though double rooms with private or shared bathroom options are extremely affordable as well.

While the breakfast at Casa de Cecilia is a delicious option (not included, but just a few dollars for a full spread), the hotel is located just steps away from El Quetzal, home to Mindo’s famous chocolate tour and some of the best coffee and breakfast food in town. I recommend starting the day with breakfast on El Quetzal’s terrace!

7 day itinerary ecuador

Mindo Coffee Lodge & Spa ($ – $$)

Mindo Coffee Lodge & Spa is a beautiful hotel located about 5 minutes outside of town by foot, set in a beautiful spot with a view of the forest-covered mountains. It feels like it’s a world away and immersed in nature.

The pool and patio area are perfect for lounging after a day of exploring the Ecuador cloud forest.

True to the name, the hotel has coffee plants on its ground and offers a coffee tour where you can learn about how coffee is cultivated and produced in Ecuador, fascinating even if you don’t like coffee.

Casa Divina Lodge ($$)

For a lodge outside of town for those looking to enjoy nature and the Ecuador cloud forest even more, Casa Divina Lodge is a beautiful and cozy option just outside of Mindo that feels like it’s a world away from the town.

The lodge features a huge lounge with tables and couches, overlooking the valley and mountains of the cloud forest.

Casa Divina offers a variety of room options for families and friends traveling together, including separate bungalows. The lodge offers plenty of excursions for birdwatching, canyoning and waterfall hikes, and much more.

Where to Eat in Mindo

Mindo has plenty of delicious local places with inexpensive lunch and dinner set plates to eat in Mindo, with seafood options and other local options always available.

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 a soup, a main dish with sides, and juice. These tend to be so delicious and so filling, and are a great way to try Ecuadorian food.

If you’re looking for something in particular, these are some of the best spots in town, which we always come back to when we visit.

El Quetzal

El Quetzal is one of the places that I visit without fail every time I’m in Mindo, Ecuador. The food and coffee are fantastic and the large terrace and farmhouse tables outside looking out over the mountains and are the perfect place for a leisurely lunch.

Come here for delicious breakfast or brunch, and 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 here.

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

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 a 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.