Tucked within the Cloud Forest is the small Ecuadorian village called Mindo, a.k.a. Mindo Valley. It’s especially known for its breathtaking natural scenery and diverse wildlife – including over 500 species of birds, exotic butterflies, and many reptiles who call the cloud forest home. Located just a couple hours northwest of Quito, it makes for an easy day trip. One full day could give you a great sense of Mindo, but if you’ve got more time in your schedule, two days would be optimum. This would allow for one “chill” day to check out the town, and another more active day to explore the unique cloud forest. Read on for the best things to do and see in Mindo..
And btw – speaking of day trips from Quito, you can find more of them in our blog post: Quito Itinerary: 7 Essential Things to Do and See.
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Stroll the Town – Shops and Restaurants in Mindo
The town of Mindo itself is very compact, meaning just about everything is within walking distance. While Mindo grows more developed each year, it’s still very much a small town full of local village charm. It’s the perfect place for a leisurely stroll without a concern for schedule. And along the way, you’ll be greeted by the many friendly dogs that roam the streets. Doesn’t get any more charming than dogs, as far as we’re concerned!
Mindo has a variety of shops offering the usual tourist-y fare along with locally made handicrafts. There are also some birding and nature stores selling things like binoculars and other nature-related items.
When you get hungry, there are several restaurants serving traditional Ecuadorian cuisine such as empanadas, locro – a hearty potato soup (which we fell in love with!), and you should definitely belly up to a serving of ceviche while in Ecuador. There’s also a variety of international cuisine, vegetarian, and vegan options to be found.
Need that caffeine and sweet tooth fix? Mindo’s got you covered with a handful of cafes and bakeries to grab an amazing cup of locally grown coffee, a pastry, or sandwich.
Mindo Coffee Making Tours and Tastings
As well-known as Mindo is for its cloud forest, it’s arguably as well known for its coffee production. A perfect destination for coffee lovers, there are several tours available for visitors who want to learn more about the coffee-making process and taste some of the local offerings.
There are tours that take you through coffee plantations, where you can see the coffee plants, learn about the harvesting process, and observe the roasting and brewing of coffee.
Some of the coffee making tours available in Mindo include the Mindo Coffee Lodge and Spa, a couple of eco-lodges – Hosteria Pachijal, and Sachatamia Lodge, and highly immersive experience that we recommend can be found at El Quetzal de Mindo.
If you’re a coffee lover, a coffee tour in Mindo should definitely be on your list.
Mindo Chocolate Making Tours and Tastings
Mindo is also very well known for its high-quality chocolate production, thanks to its lush cloud forest. Similar to the coffee making tours in town, there are several chocolate making tours available.
During these tours, visitors can learn the history of chocolate, see the cacao trees, learn about the harvesting process, and see how the cacao beans are fermented and roasted. You’ll learn all you could hope to know about chocolate – from bean to bar. And of course, there are chocolate tastings and plenty of high quality, mouth watering chocolate available for purchase.
A few of the chocolate making tours available in Mindo include Mindo Chocolate, Mashpi Chocolate, and we can personally recommend the chocolate making tour at Yumbo Chocolate. We toured Yumbo in 2022, and it was fantastic. The variety of chocolates offered during the tasting were paired with fresh Ecuadorian fruits, and the combo was out of this world.
If you love chocolate (and who doesn’t?), one of these tours is a must for your Mindo itinerary.
Wildlife and Nature Activities in Mindo
Mindo is a haven for wildlife and nature enthusiasts. Its lush forests, cloud forests, and numerous rivers provide some of the best wildlife and nature activities in the world. These are some of the most popular wildlife and nature activities to explore in Mindo:
Visit a Butterfly Farm
Visitors can observe some of the world’s most beautiful and exotic butterflies at Mariposas de Mindo.The farm is home to over 1,200 butterfly species and offers guided tours that provide visitors with an insight into the life cycle and habits of these stunning insects.
Visit a Bird Sanctuary
A short while outside of Mindo is a fantastic bird sanctuary called San Tadeo Birding that we highly recommend. You’ll pass it on your way up to Mindo, and it’s more than worth a stop if you’re able. Since it’s a sanctuary, the birds are completely free to come and go as they please. Visitors can feed hummingbirds by hand (you won’t believe the breeze and hum from the force of their flapping little wings!), and spot toucans and countless other species of exotic birds up close.
Take a Bird Watching Tour
Mindo is famous for being one of the best bird watching destinations in the world. Hummingbirds, toucans, and tanagers are just three of the over 500 species of birds in Mindo. One of the best places to go birdwatching is the Mindo Nambillo Ecological Reserve, where visitors can take guided tours to spot rare and exotic birds. Ecuador Best Tours bird watching tours are popular, and there are many other companies available as well, to suit your specific needs.
Attend a Frog Concert at Night
Yep, it’s a thing! Looking for a unique experience? Every evening, the Mindo Lago hosts a “Frog Concert,” where the vocal frogs serenade visitors with their calls.
Nature Adventure Activities in Mindo
Ride the Tarabita De Mindo Across the Rio Nambillo
The Tarabita cable car is a very popular attraction in Mindo. It’s a small cable car that rides across the Mindo River, connecting the town to the surrounding forests and cloud forests. It consists of two small gondolas that hold around six passengers each.
The Tarabita cable car ride is approximately 1,740 feet long and lasts about six minutes. During the ride, visitors can enjoy stunning views of the surrounding landscape, including the lush forests and the Mindo River below.
The cable car is an essential part of many hiking trails in the area. It gives visitors access to some of the most popular trails, including the famous Nambillo waterfall. The cable car is also a convenient way for visitors to get to the butterfly farm and other nearby attractions.
Full disclosure: the ride might be a little intimidating for anyone with a fear of heights, but it’s an exciting way to experience the natural beauty of Mindo and it adds an extra element of adventure to your visit. It’s a must – be sure to include it in your Mindo itinerary.
Furthermore, this cable car ride will lead you to the next few activities below.
Hike to Multiple Waterfalls in Mindo-Nambillo Ecological Reserve
Mindo is a hiker’s paradise, with a network of trails that wind through the surrounding forests and cloud forests. Some of the most popular trails include the San Luis Waterfall Trail, the Mindo Loma Trail, and the Tarabita Trail. Along the way, hikers can enjoy seven breathtaking waterfalls, stunning views, and will likely spot some of the local wildlife.
Go Canopy Zip Lining Through in the Cloud Forest
You have got to do this – trust us! Zip lining in the Mindo Nambillo Ecological Reserve is an exhilarating experience that offers breathtaking views of the surrounding lush forest and diverse wildlife. You’ll enjoy the adrenaline rush of zip lining through the treetops, gliding along cables suspended between platforms high above the forest floor. The zip lining adventure typically lasts for several hours, with multiple lines and platforms to explore. It’s quite a hike, but a worthwhile and unique way to experience the beauty of the Mindo Nambillo Ecological Reserve. We’ve visited Mindo twice over the past eleven years or so, and we recommend booking your cloud forest zip lining adventure with Mindo Ziplines.
Wanna see what this zip lining experience is like? See it all in our Mindo vlog: Zip Lining and Hiking in the Cloud Forest!
Go River Tubing On the Mindo River
One of the most popular activities in Mindo is river tubing down the Mindo River. This fun experience takes visitors down the river in an inflatable tube, allowing them to take in the stunning scenery while experiencing the rush of the rapids. The river is relatively calm in some areas, making it suitable for visitors of all ages. And there are more intense tubing excursions available, too, if you’re more of a white water rapids fan.
As you can see, Mindo has a lot to offer. No matter what level of adventure you choose, you’ll leave with memories to last a lifetime.