This 18km trail starts in Baños and makes its way (mostly) downhill to the 'El Pailón del Diablo' waterfall. Most people rent a bicycle (for as little as $5) and make the trek down the trail while stopping at numerous beautiful waterfalls along the way. Keep in mind that this bike ride will require you to bike on a heavily trafficked road alongside numerous cars, trucks, and buses so don't forget a helmet. However, if you're like us and need a break from riding bikes, you can also rent little go-cart thingys for about $16/hour. Also, if you're willing to bike for another 42 kilometers, you can make it to the town of Puyo, a starting point of the Amazon Jungle; this is a full day's trip though so you'll need to start early in the morning. Also, be sure to spend at least an hour or two at the 'El Pailón del Diablo' waterfall and don't forget to grab a map from the bike rental place so that you can explore other waterfalls as well. Once you've reached the final waterfall, most people pay a small fee to put the bikes in the back of a pickup truck and ride back up to Baños.
While its basically an overhyped tree swing that sits on the top of a small hill, it does provide for some pretty spectacular photos. If you've got extra time to spend, you can take a taxi (about $20 round trip) to the treehouse or you can make the very strenuous 2+-hour hike. Don't expect to spend a lot of time there though as there's not anything else to do in the area. A small donation is suggested.
Baños (Spanish for 'baths') gets its name from the famous hydrothermal springs in the area. Don't expect anything immaculate however, as the hot baths are always full of people and the water even looks dirty (but this is due to the water's high mineral content). The most popular hot bath, i.e., busiest, is La Piscina de la Virgen (open from 4:30am-5pm, and 6-10pm) and it features three large pools of differing temperatures from cool to very hot; it's right in town and very easy to find. However if you're looking for something a bit more secluded and quiet, we'd recommend Piscina El Salado (open from 4am to 5pm), which will require a taxi ride (about $3) to get there. Admission ranges from $1-$3 and you'll also need to buy a shower cap. Getting there early in the morning is probably best as the water is a bit cleaner and the locations are less busy.
Baños is also full of numerous places to get relatively cheap massages and steambaths. We stayed in Hostel Chimenea and paid about $4 to get an hour-long steam bath treatment. We enjoyed ourselves so much that we went back for an hour-long massage.
Get maps from the local tourist office or your hostel and spend a few hours hiking up the mountains or exploring the town. The hike up to the statue of the Virgin Mary is a popular one and can be quite exhausting. Also, don't forget to check out the basilica, Nuestro Señora del Agua Santa.
Baños is overflowing with high quality (but slightly expensive) restaurants. Our favorite was Casa Hood (which also shows movies daily, just check the schedule on the restaurant door). Fresh baked goods from Plantas y Blanco are also tasty and cheap. Also, due to the abundance of sugar cane in the area, sugar cane juice and sugar cane taffy (melcocha) are popular food items that are worth a try. And lastly, there's a restaurant near the corner of 'Rafael Viera' and 'Luis A. Martinez' that serves THE BEST pancakes (we went there 3 times). We've posted a picture of the place to the right, but its name has been changed and we can't find it on google... Sorry.
On our entire trip we pretty much avoided the typical backpacker party scene. However, due to the small size of Baños, you'll run into many of the same people during your stay there and inevitably someone will ask you out to a bar or club. Go out and enjoy the atmosphere and remember that everyone ends up at the Leprechaun Bar at the end of the night (and according to WikiTravel, the 'flaming Bob Marley shot' is a must-try.)
For all of your adventure needs in Baños, we strongly recommend booking through Geotours. There are many different travel agencies in Baños and some of them can kind of rip you off, whereas Geotours is the real deal. They'll provide you with several Amazon options such as one to four-day trips, visits to the primary or secondary jungle, and other activities. We'd definitely recommend going to the primary jungle (it's more remote and your chances of seeing animals are better), just keep in mind that it will require you to take an overnight bus from Baños and that you should go during the rainy season. If you're going to the primary jungle from Baños, nearly every travel agency will take you to the Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve. While there are definitely better (and more remote) Amazon Rainforest locations, Cuyabeno remains to be one of the easiest areas to access and one of the cheapest.
Stop into the GeoTours office and see what they can offer you. Go bungee jumping, ziplining, or even paragliding. They'll have many options. From what we've heard, one of the most exciting things to do in Baños is to go...
9. White water rafting
We've heard great things about this. It will require an entire morning to go and it's relatively cheap at about $25 per person. It's an excellent way to meet groups of other people and when the water is high it supposedly gets pretty crazy. We had originally intended to do this, but instead we decided to try going...
After completing our trek down the Mississippi River, we were longing to experience some faster moving water. Luckily, Andres at Geotours took us out for three days of kayaking lessons and we had an absolutely amazing time. At about $80 per day, it's definitely more expensive than rafting, but it's still cheaper than taking lessons in the states. If he's available, have Andres take you out; he's a great guide with years of experience and he even took out his personal GoPro to take pictures and video for us.
For the first day of lessons, we spent the time in a natural pool practicing our paddling for an hour or so and then we got into an artificial pool to practice the Eskimo Roll for a few hours. It was TOUGH. By the end of the day, we barely got the roll down and we definitely still need a bit more practice. On day two, we went down some Class Two rapids which is what you'll see from the video below. These rapids were perfect for beginners as they were not difficult to navigate yet still provided a bit of challenge and excitement. On the third day, we drove about an hour away to some Class Three rapids which were absolutely INSANE. It was like being on a rollercoaster for an entire hour and our adrenaline never stopped pumping. This was definitely a highlight of our entire trip and we think that we may have found our newest hobby. Check the video below for our trip down the Class Two rapids...