Two Days in Banos, Ecuador: Canyoning and The Swing at Casa de Arbol
Originally, I had planned on spending two or so weeks on the mainland of Ecuador. But once I decided to add Colombia to my itinerary, I decided to just spend four days in Banos and one day in the capital of Quito . My time on the mainland was shortened again when I fell absolutely in love with the Galapagos and stayed for three extra days.
So other than the Galapagos islands, I only spent two full days in Ecuador in the popular hotspot of Banos.
Banos is one of the most popular destinations in Ecuador, especially for backpackers who flock to this tiny mountainous town to engage in a bunch of adventure activities.
Banos is one of the cheapest places in South America, if not the world, to get your adrenalin fix. Whether it be rock climbing, or abseiling, or paragliding, or zip lining, mountain bike riding or white water rafting, Banos has it all, and at a ridiculously good price.
But the combination of being completely exhausted from my time on the Galapagos, and the fact that I only had two full days, meant that I only squeezed in two activities during my time in Banos.
Day 1- A Journey to the Swing at the End of the World (Casa de Arbol)
This is by far the most popular thing to do in Banos. Almost every backpacker that has passed through Ecuador has a photo of them swinging on this tiny swing. With the right photo angle, it looks like you are swinging right off a cliff, supposedly into the sky.
In Banos, I caught up with Vanessa and Boyd, a young couple from New Zealand that I met on my Galapagos cruise. We all headed off to the swing together which was great because I had two patient people that were willing to help me get the perfect photo. I’m not usually one for posing and taking photos of myself, but I couldn’t help it at Casa de Arbol. While the weather looked a bit crap on our way up the mountain, the clouds cleared enough while we were up there to snap a good photo. I don’t think there are too many super clear days where you can fully see the volcano from the swing.
We spent a good hour having fun on the swing, with Boyd having way too much fun scaring the shit out of Ness and I by swinging us far too high. I felt like I was going to fall off and the drop below was not a pleasant thought.
We had packed some snacks and some beer and enjoyed just sitting up a the Casa de Arbol drinking beer and eating lunch.
How to Get to Casa de Arbol from Banos
It is easy enough to jump on a local bus from town. We walked to the bus stop on Pastaza st between Montalvo and Luis A Martinez. It was easy enough to get the guy on the front desk at the hostel to mark the stop on my map. The bus departs every day at 6am, 11am, 2pm and 4pm and costs $1 USD each way. The bus returns at around 6.45am, 1pm, 4pm and 6pm. We grabbed the 11am bus and headed back on the 1pm one.
Day 2- Canyoning
For my second full day in Banos I really wanted to sign up for one of the extreme sport activities. I’d done white water rafting already in Slovenia, so I wanted to try something new. Canyoning was super cheap ($30 USD) and I had never given it a go. I didn’t even know what it was until I saw it on the sign up list and googled it.
Canyoning is basically abseiling down waterfalls.
Given the not so warm weather we got suited up into wetsuits, helmets, harnesses and special wet shoes before leaving the office in Banos. It was a short ride in a minibus up the mountain to the drop off point. This is the reason why I only have one photo from the day! The company took photos but I’ve since lost them. From the drop off point it was a small uphill walk to the first waterfall. I was super hot and bothered because of the wetsuit and all the gear attached to me!
The canyoning course was a series of interlinking waterfalls. We started at the very top with the first one and abseiled down about 10 of them. Two guides helped us safely abseil down the waterfall, with one guy going ahead and the other belaying us from the top. The first couple of drops were a little nerve wracking. Even though I had abseiled before, canyoning was trickier because the rock I was trying to grip with my feet was wet and slippery. There were a couple of times when I went flying face first into the waterfall. I was very relieved to have that helmet on my head!
But once I got the hang of it, it was lots of fun! I didn’t love it as much as I loved white water rafting in Triglav National Park, but it was still the right amount of adrenalin for me! It ended with two of us linking hands and literally sliding down the last waterfall into a deep pool at the bottom.
We arrived back in town just in time for some lunch that was included in the half day tour price. I could easily have squeezed in another afternoon activity if I had the time but I was feeling a little budget conscious after the Galapagos islands.
We had plans to head to the Hot Springs as an afternoon/night time activity but just never got round to it.
Even though I only spent two short days in Banos, I felt like it was the perfect amount of time. I wasn’t keen to every single activity they offered and outside of the organised activities there aren’t too many things to do other than head to Casa de Arbol. I heard of some people hiring bikes and getting dropped off at the top of the mountain and riding down. This looked like lots of fun but I didn’t have enough confidence in my riding skills to risk breaking a limb!
I stayed at Santa Cruz Backpackers Hostal. It was a nice, clean hostel with a great area for socialising and a good kitchen if you wanted to cook. It was conveniently located in the middle of town and even at midnight I felt safe walking 10 minutes from the bus station to the hostel. I arrived in Banos on a bus from Quito that cost me $5 USD and then left on an early morning bus to Guayaquil ($10) where I caught a connection over the border to Mancora in Peru.
A Word of Advice for Bus Travel in Ecuador
Bus travel in Ecuador is easy and super cheap. But the buses are notorious for thefts. NEVER PUT YOUR BAG ON THE GROUND. I’ve heard so many stories of people’s bags getting sliced up even when placed between their legs on the floor of the bus. People have had money, passports and other valuables taken out of their bags through these slices. The general advice for anyone travelling by bus is to have your daypack with all your valuable things on your lap with your arms wrapped around it. I find it makes a good head pillow!
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