Outdoors Adventures in Baños

Everyone talks about Baños as the place to go for budget adventures, so we were ready to take on some of the more famous outdoor offerings of the city.

Adventure the first: Canyoning!

This was the one thing I swore she wouldn’t do. Naturally, it was at the top of Mike’s list.

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Canyoning is a misleading word for “rappelling down waterfalls.” They throw you in a wetsuit, give you a quick tutorial and then expect you to lower yourself down several waterfalls. They assure you it’s perfectly safe while laughing at you for asking them to hold the brake line. Kind of a choose-your-own-adventure.

Mike chose to fly down the rock walls as though he was the water itself – total professional.

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I chose crying and refusing to go over the side because vertical drops are terrifying. They wait to take the picture until you suck it up and smile as though you’re not about to die, though, which is nice.

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Our guides were the real heroes of the day in that they helped me get through our four gorgeous waterfalls without plunging to my doom, and our groupmates were nice encouraging people as well. Mike loved it but wished MORE fear could be involved. I have no regrets but will never ever ever do that again.

Adventure the second: Paragliding!

This is one of those things that looks like it might be scary but is actually the chillest, coolest adventure on the planet. You get to sit in a chair, be gently lifted into the sky and have a nice Ecuadorian guy tell jokes in your ear for ten minutes while you soar past volcanoes. We got to do this at sunset, and it was one of the best experiences of my life.

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We were both really surprised at how easy the whole thing was. You take three steps forward, three steps back and the wind just picks you up. There’s no swooping stomach sensation, so it’s pretty relaxing if you just want to hang out in the sky for a while. Mike describes it as “the world’s most extreme baby björn.”

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Adventure the third: Bicycling on la Ruta de las Cascadas!

People describe this as an easy downhill bike ride, but they are liars. The first parts are kind of up-and-down and you are alongside traffic the whole way. It’s not the gentlest trip if you’re not used to bike riding. The appeal, though, is that the trip takes you on a tour of many magnificent waterfalls!

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I love a good waterfall, and even the fact that each fall is surrounded by expensive tourist attractions doesn’t take away from how cool they are. At each stop you can usually zipline or take a cable car or jump off a bridge if you wanted, and we skipped most of those in favor of just enjoying the view.

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The end of the trip is the famous Pailon del Diablo, or Devil’s Cauldron. It’s a massive thundering waterfall that you can actually walk behind if you are willing to do some cave-crawling.

Perhaps the best part is that once you’re done hiking around the waterfall, the modern equivalent of a covered wagon will stow you and your bike (and like twelve other people and THEIR bikes) in the back and give you a lift back to town. This part of the journey is about as adventurous as the ride down.

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Everything was pretty affordable for what you got out of it, but this definitely blew up our budget a little bit. Canyoning (with lunch and photos) was $28 each, and paragliding was $60 per person. We booked both through GeoTours, and they were amazing. They actually let us reschedule free of charge when Mike got food poisoning. Biking cost $5 per bike (with a lock, map, repair kit and helmet) and then most of the cable cars or park fees were $1. Super cheap day, and sort of fun. Ha.

There’s a ton more to do in Baños if you’ve got the time: white water rafting, jumping off of bridges, taking trips to the rainforest. Or you can check out suggestions of less extreme things to do in Baños here.

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