Best way to see waterfalls on the Ruta de las Cascadas in Banos, Ecuador

Two waterfalls meeting together in a river. The river is in a valley outside Banos, Ecuador.

Though we’ve been in Baños for over a week, we hadn’t really seen any of the attractions yet. We did go on an ill-fated volcano tour, but we really wanted to see the waterfalls here, after enjoying rooftop views of the one here in town.

There are three ways to go on the Ruta de Cascadas (waterfall route). You can rent bikes for the day for $10 and have someone bring you back up to town afterwards for $2, you can rent a dune buggy for $15 an hour (and apparently you’d want around 3 hours to see it at a leisurely pace), or you can take the Chiva bus for $5.

If only for irony’s sake, we decided to take the Chiva bus. How do you pass up a guided waterfall tour for $5? We were starting to regret this decision when the tour started with a 30 minute wait for the bus to arrive. This was after we hurried to eat lunch so we could make the 1:15 start time. Around 1:55, we all got on and drove about two minutes down the road, then pulled over at a local eatery so that we could purchase food.

Once we finished rolling our eyes, we finally headed on down the road and got to see some pretty spectacular waterfalls. In a way that generated increasing levels of hilarity, each of these waterfalls had some kind of add-on that you could purchase for a reasonable fee.

The first had a cable car you could ride across for $1.50. That was fun, albeit sort of terrifying, and though it was only about 60 seconds long, it did give us a great view of the falls, and frighten us enough to help us be grateful to be alive and in such beautiful surroundings.

We passed a few along the road without stopping, then pulled over so that everyone could take a picture of a rock that looks like Jesus.

At many times during the tour, the guide told us which side of the chiva we could move to in order to get wet. This was a bit of a dubious feature, as it’s long-sleeve weather and the bus is open-air, with neither windows, nor doors, but I did admire his salesmanship.

At another waterfall, we were given the opportunity to zipline, superman-style, across a canyon. We had another laughing fit as this part of the tour was also 100% sales pitch – Zipline rides are normally $20, but as Chiva customers, we could do it for $10. And we did, superman-style. I expected this one to be kind of frightening, and it was throughout the rickety staircase climb and the whole aerial-supine strap-in session. It was pretty funny to watch the woman in front of us become increasingly nervous as each group was thrown through the gate. Once we were moving, though, it was really just beautiful. I wish I had brought my go-pro for the ride, but I didn’t realize that this $5 chiva ride would turn into cafeteria-style thrill tourism.

The next waterfall was the most impressive, and it cost $1.50 per person. We paid it, but a lot of the passengers stayed back – this was a 30% hidden fee, after all. It was totally worth it. We really didn’t know what to expect, other than that somewhere through the gates there would be a waterfall. We hiked a bit on pretty little paths shaded by the ubiquitous green canopy growth, then crossed a bridge that would not have been out of place in an Indiana Jones movie, and eventually joined some nuns next to the largest body of falling water I’ve ever been so close to.

Apart from the fact that seeing nuns on tour is awesome, this was really a good time, and well worth the $1.50. All in all, I’m happy we did the Ruta de Cascadas, and I’m even glad we took the Chiva bus, because it made the whole thing so simple and low maintenance.


Posted on by Brandon Green in Uncategorized

About Brandon Green

Brandon is a former investment banker who now travels the world full time. Brandon is on twitter @brandonbrucegreen and on Google +.