Perfectly located in the heart of Ecuador, Baños is sure to make you fall in love with it. The surrounding volcanos which heat the thermal baths have quite literally given the city its name and played a huge part in putting Baños on the map.
Also known as ‘Baños de Agua Santa’, the town is uniquely located between the Andes and the Amazon basin which means that the temperatures are mild year round, with rain being a frequent feature. When it comes to packing, think t-shirts and shorts for day wear and jeans and fleeces for the evening.
Baños is a Mecca for adventurers and adrenaline junkies flock there for a whole range of sporting activities from rafting to canyoning. There is plenty you can do in Baños without the need for a tour but if need be, trips can be easily arranged from the centre.
Where to stay in Baños
As Baños is so popular with tourists and backpackers, there are plenty of budget hostels available and a lot of competition keeps prices low. Most of these are located in the centre but there are some good options further out. Be aware that rooms may be more expensive on holidays and weekends. Here are some of our top picks for the best hostels in Baños…
Top 7 Hostels in Baños, Ecuador
1. Community Hostel, Baños – TOP PICK!
If you are looking for a clean, comfy option with an incredible social scene then you need to check out the lovely Community Hostel. There are nightly activities which encourage backpackers to get to know each other and the staff go above and beyond to ensure your stay is the best it can be. The food provided (at an additional charge) is also phenomenal and definitely, a must eat while you’re in the city! Dorm beds start at $9 US per night. Read our full review of Community Hostel, Baños here!
2. Erupción Art Hotel & Hostel
For a great budget hostel in the centre of Baños, look no further! Erupción Art Hotel & Hostel is within walking distance of all the best restaurants and boasts an amazing rooftop view of the surrounding mountains. They offer a range of rooms, all with private bathrooms, starting at just $8.99 US for a dorm bed. The reception is located in an excellent restaurant on the first floor which serves incredible breakfasts. Cheesy chips anyone?! They also have an even cheaper option called Erupción Backpackers with dorm beds for $6 US per night.
Read our full review of the Erupción Art Hotel & Hostel here.
3. Hostal Timara
Located just outside of the centre, Hostal Timara is a popular choice owing to its multilingual staff. It is possible to arrange activities directly through the tour desk situated there and they also have bicycles available for rent. Rooms start at $7 US per person for a basic single with shared bathroom.
4. Balcon del Cielo
Situated just one block from the bus station and overlooking the river gorge, Balcon del Cielo is a scenic yet convenient location. The views are the main selling point here and the owners know it, which is why all the rooms have a balcony. It is slightly pricey as a backpacker option with a queen room coming in at $22 US.
5. Santa Cruz Backpackers Hostal
Santa Cruz Backpackers Hostal is located just a short walk from the centre of Baños where it is possible to find many good restaurants. They have a communal kitchen which can be used by guests and hammocks where people can chill out. Breakfast is provided at an additional cost. Dorm beds start at $9pp.
6. Hostal Plantas y Blanco
Hostal Plantas y Blanco is located in the centre of town and boasts a great rooftop with amazing views across the jungle-clad countryside. Free breakfast is served with homemade bread and strong coffee. Clean and neat private rooms start at just $11 US, with dorm beds from $6 US per night. It’s a sociable place and a good hostel to meet people if you’re a solo traveller.
7. Hostal D’Mathias
Hostal D’Mathias is located just a few minutes walk from the bus station and the town centre. The hostel is a homely and clean place to stay with a great communal kitchen. Dorm beds cost $6 US per night and double rooms for $18 US. It’s a great place to meet fellow travellers.
Top 7 Things to do in Baños, Ecuador
Take a swing at the end of the world
Casa del Arbol is the image that Baños is most famous for. The treehouse is a great spot for snapping photos and there are two giant swings hanging underneath.
Get strapped in and enjoy the freedom of the wind in your hair and the mountains beneath you! Beware, this is not an activity for those who don’t like heights. Buses leave the city at 6 am, 12 pm, 2 pm and 4 pm and cost just $1 US. The entrance fee to Casa del Arbol is just $1 but a tour (which really isn’t necessary) can be up to $8 US.
Relax in the thermal baths
There are two main public hot springs to choose from in Baños. The first of these is Termas de la Virgen which is situated in the centre of town and costs $3 US. These are the busiest of the springs owing to their convenient location. Alternatively, you can visit El Salado, which is either a 10-minute taxi drive or 40-minute walk from the centre. The entrance fee is $3 but tends to be less crowded. Aim to visit the springs during the week at around 6 pm to avoid the crowds.
Enjoy a massage
There are plenty of massage parlours dotted around the city, varying in quality and price. Steer clear of the ones which poach for business on the streets as they tend to be set out more like shops and can compromise on your privacy. Jade Spa is a great choice a little way out of the city and a relaxing hour massage will cost $25.
Sign up for some adrenaline activities
Baños is to adrenaline junkies what Posh is to Becks. They just go together. Check out zip-lining, canyoning, rafting and mountain biking in various spots all over town. There are plenty of places to book these adventures around the city, with tour operators located in the centre as well in different hostels.
During our stay in Baños, we booked our activities through Takiri Travel which runs out of Community Hostel and we would definitely recommend them. We tried canyoning, zip-lining and even went on a taster farm tour, all three of which were brilliant! (You can also rent a mountain bike for around $5 US per day from many hostels in town.)
Although lots of the adventure activities in Baños come with a fee, this one is a completely budget-friendly option. There are some great hiking trails around Baños which really showcase the spectacular scenery. Remember to bring plenty of water and sunscreen because many of the routes offer little respite from the sun.
The trek up to Mirador de la Virgen is a good choice if you have limited time as it only takes around an hour. From there you can either go back into the city or continue up to Casa del Arbol. If you choose to continue, the route will take around four hours from bottom to top. Look out for eagles flying overhead and lively grasshoppers jumping on the ground!
Relax at Luna Volcan
This is definitely a splurge for the average backpacker but well worth the price. Take a taxi ($6 US) up the mountain to the exclusive hotel resort of Luna Volcan for access to their infinity pools and hot springs. A pool and jacuzzi only ticket costs $20 US and allows you to use the facilities for up to three hours. Aim to arrive around 4 pm to make the most of the sunset and the cityscape at night.
Cycle to Pailón del Diablo via Ruta de las Cascadas
Biking the Ruta de las Cascadas from Baños to Puyo is one of the most budget-friendly attractions in the city. Simply hire a bike for the day and whizz alongside the river taking in the beautiful views. You will see plenty of waterfalls on route and the trip culminates in the most impressive of them all: Pailón del Diablo, also known as the Devil’s Cauldron.
The waterfall itself is stunning but the most sought-after activity is hiking down the bottom, through the tunnel, to really experience nature up close. It is actually possible to creep behind the cascade but I’d advise bringing a rain poncho because you will get very wet!
Food in Baños
For those who would like to chill out rather than get active, you could spend a whole afternoon in one of Baños’s quirky book cafés or treat yourself to a fancy dinner in one of the excellent but great-value-for-money restaurants with all different types of cuisines available. There is no doubt that for backpackers, Baños is a food lovers paradise!
The restaurants represent some of the world’s best cuisine and it is possible to get almost anything you are craving. In particular, we loved…
These are without question the best burritos in the city. Choose between chicken or veggie and customise your fillings and sauces. Not only is the service friendly and quick but a burrito with a side of tortilla chips comes in at the bargain price of $5.50.
There are plenty of pizza restaurants in Baños but Leoni’s is consistently selected as one of the best. The staff speak good English and the food is prepared quickly. The pizzas are cooked in a wood fire oven and cost between $7-$12 for a medium, depending on the type and toppings that you order.
Located opposite La Casa de la Abuela Asadero, this tiny doorway business is a popular choice with both locals and Gringos. Pick up five fresh churros for just $1 and choose from a range of sugary sauces to accompany them. It doesn’t get much sweeter than that!
Nightlife in Baños
Baños is a city populated by watering holes aimed specifically at travellers. There is everything from karaoke places to alternative bars and even traditional Irish pubs.
This spot comes alive at the weekend when Baños really puts on its party hat. The staff are extremely welcoming and serve up some excellent cocktails. Not just content with being a bar, it also doubles up as a disco, offering three dance floors for those looking to boogie the night away! Be careful of leaving your jacket unattended in drinking establishments and instead ask a member of staff to keep it behind the bar for you.
Stray Dog Brewpub
A favourite for craft beer lovers, Stray Dog offers some great brews on tap and also bottled options. The pub is a favourite for its friendly vibe and social atmosphere. The food here is also rated highly with the pulled pork sandwich being particularly popular with punters.
Getting to Baños
Getting to Baños is easy, no matter where in the country you are. Its central location means that buses regularly come and go from all directions so you have no excuse not to visit this lively traveller city.
There are regular daily buses to Quito which cost $3.50 and take around roughly three and a half hours. Tena is four hours away and costs $4 and it will set you back $2 and a two-hour journey to get to Riobamba.
Where to go next?
Quito: Experience the first ever UNESCO World Heritage site and wander through the impressive Old City. As the city is the second highest capital in the world, there are plenty of amazing viewpoints around to take the perfect travel snaps. Don’t miss out on the chance to grab some cheesy empanadas on La Ronda.
Tena: Head to the Napo province and experience rafting on some of Ecuador’s best rivers. Tena is a great jungle town in which to relax in for a few days or even to organise a trip into the surrounding rainforest. With a big expat population, Tena is a great place to get your fill of western food and especially pizza!
Riobamba: Climb up Ecuador’s highest volcano Chimborazo and see how the altitude affects you! There is also a large indigenous population living in Riobamba so it is a great place to perfect your haggling skills at the local markets.