The last stop on our BFF Ecuadorian Adventure was the small town of Mindo, located in a valley about 2.5 hours northwest of Quito. Mindo is known for its biodiversity, and after a few days in Quito, we were ready for a slower pace!
Tip: Bring enough cash for your entire stay in Mindo. There is no ATM!
Where to Stay
Casa de Vista Alta
This place is magical! I don’t consider myself a birder. Birds are cool and all, but I need someone to point them out to me. Even still, I rarely actually see them. I feel like it’s mostly people going, “Hey! Look at that bird!” and me going, “Yeah… I see it!… ???”
Spoiler alert. I don’t see it.
BUT! At Casa de Vista Alta, I saw ’em!
Casa de Vista Alta was started by Fernando, who used to be a guide but decided it was time to start his own hotel. He’s really made something special here, and I’m not just saying that because he let us borrow his telescope and binoculars and spotted all the birds for us. 😆
Well, not all the birds! Plenty of Choco toucans, parrots, and hummingbirds flew by the porch. So, both mornings were spent on the porch, drinking coffee and watching birds!
Beyond the birds, the hotel itself is beautiful. Fernando has made the rooms feel really welcoming, and John, the chef, made some delicious meals. Meals that I wish I could have eaten more of. Remember how I said I think I got some altitude sickness after going to Quilotoa? Unfortunately, that hit my little tummy full force on our first day in Mindo. So, I wasn’t up to my full eating capacity. However, I can confirm that the bathrooms are nice! 🤦♀️😩
What to Do
Cable Car and Waterfall Sanctuary
The Tarabita de Mindo is a bit out of town. You’ll definitely need to take a taxi. Lucky for us, it was a ~20-minute walk from Casa de Vista Alta!
Five dollars per person gets you a return trip on the tarabita and access to the sanctuary of waterfalls across the valley. We hiked for maybe three hours, but you could easily fill an entire day on these trails. Especially if you bring lunch! There was also a restaurant near the start of the trails, so that’s an option.
Even if you plan on lunch elsewhere, bring plenty of water! We were shocked at how tough some of the trails were. The paths are well marked and easy to navigate. But, we didn’t really consider that to reach the river we flew over in the tarabita, you have to go down… and those who come down must come back up!
El Quetzal de Mindo Chocolate Tour
Fernando, the owner of our hotel, recommended the chocolate tour to us, and it was a fantastic activity! The $10 hour-long tour gives you the full run-down on the chocolate process: from cacao bean to chocolate, which was really interesting and informative! Moreover, there’s plenty of tasting involved at the end–several types of chocolate, hot cacao tea, and a brownie!
The best part of this place is that they are completely self-sufficient. Everything used in their chocolate is grown in-house, including their chocolate additions, like nuts or coffee.
Tours are offered every hour on the hour until 5 pm. You can book online, or just walk in, which is what we did. Naturally, I forgot to take any pictures, except this one of Mary Beth holding a freshly cracked macadamia nut (yep, got to taste those, too!)
Mariposas de Mindo Butterfly House
I mean, Shane and I are IN Ecuador for butterflies, so how on earth could we possibly skip the butterfly house?! We couldn’t.
The Mariposas de Mindo butterfly house was also within walking distance from Casa de Vista Alta. However, the walk there was mostly downhill (~45 min), so you may consider taking a cab back to the hotel. 😆
This place was pure joy. Butterflies are all over the place from the moment you enter the grounds! The entrance fee is $7.50 per person, but you can stick around for as long as you like. Plus, you can feel good about your contribution since Mariposas de Mindo also does conservation work for the native Mindo butterflies.
Given that we only had two nights in Mindo, I feel like we fit in a lot! Mindo offers a lot of outdoor activities. There’s zip lining, tubing, and more waterfalls to explore. Plus, BIRDS! So, if birds are your thang, then you can’t miss Mindo. Apparently, the Cock of the Rock (heh heh) is THE bird to see… maybe next time. 🤪