From pictures in guidebooks and online, Banõs’ baths looked greenish and unappealing, thus the initial plan was to back-track to Quito and Mindo after the Quilotoa Loop. However after hearing tales of how much fun there was to be had in Banõs, I put my (dung-soaked) trekking shoes back on and caught the bus to Ambato and the subsequent transfer to Banõs.
The first adventure was white water rafting and after going to a few different shops we bought our trip from Geotours. There is a marginal difference in price amongst competitors and they will claim that you are paying for safety but it is all the SAME. Just get the cheapest tour or go to Geotours. The ride was insane, our guide was energetic, gave our muscles a hard time, and brought us through the craziest waves. We did capsize once and all thought we were going to drown under the overturned raft, however the rescue was pretty quick and here I am to write this post. Thoroughly recommended and would definitely go again.
Our second adventure was cycling along the waterfall route. Bike rentals are ubiquitous and they will rent you “better” bikes for a higher price. Most shops loan you a spare tire and an air pump. The route was not all downhill (and thats probably why you would need a better bike), and at some parts you share the road with cars but generally it is quite safe. There are a few flying fox and bungee stops along the way, and we were not sure whether we were paying tourist prices but it was about USD$10 for one way and a discounted 2 way price. Try bargaining.
So, regarding the safety of the flying fox:
The first Zip line stop was overflowing with tourists who mostly opted to zip across but come back on the yellow cable cars. Going towards the other side was fine but I got stuck right in the middle of the Zip line back due to the excess slack. I was too afraid to move, dangling 500m from either side of the mountain overlooking a ravenous waterfall, as merely a few twists of rope wound me around the metal bar across the cable. No carabiner or knots were used. I might have even prayed. One of the workers attached a harness onto himself and manually pulled himself out to reach me, and I held onto him in trepidation as he pulled me back.
After recovering from the near death experience, I sussed out one of the next Ziplines and decided that it was safer than the first. We made it back without any drama this time. Look out for how they secure flyers on, and whether other flyers make it back safely. I did not dare to do bungee jumps as there was only one point of attachment for the rope and did not want to try my luck a second time.
Piscinas Baños de Agua Santa is the closest to the main city centre, and there are shops along the way that sell the mandatory swimming cap for less than the rental price you get at the bath itself. There are very specific timings (5am to 4.30pm, and 8pm to 10pm) and it can get very busy on weekends. We went on a sunday night after our biking trip, and found ourselves shoulder to shoulder with a pool full of locals who were extremely friendly. The mid temperature bath was upstairs exposed to the stars and too crowded for us, so we braved the high temperature bath at ground level. Getting in was quite a torture and even my toes could not take the heat. We were also not allowed to linger at the steps to acclimatize as we were blocking the entrance. Thus at the encouragement of the bemused locals, we jumped into the ice pool to numb our skins in preparation for the heat. As for the colour of the water, it is probably green but going at night you cant tell, and its probably better that way. Tips: Bring a bottle of cold sparkling water to place at the side of the pool.
We had the best risotto ever in Baños in Amarelo Cafe & Restaurante. We first had a steak, with the Prawn Risotto and HAD to come back for the mushroom risotto so ended up eating there again. No regrets, this place was amazing.