Most visitors here brave the outdoors on a horse, bicycle or boat. Numerous tour operators in town can set you up. Baños also offers an innovation in freefall insanity called puenting (think bungee jumping without the bounce). It crudely translates as ‘bridging,’ but it’s really swinging, in this case along a rope tethered to two bridges.
Most of the baths are fed by thermal springs burbling from the base of Volcán Tungurahua.
Massages & Spa Treatments
Baños has an endless supply of spas with such treatments as the baños de cajón (steam baths in a box), massage, medicinal mud baths and, yes, even intestinal drainage. The high-end hotels all have spas open to nonguests.
Several companies rent mountain bikes starting at about $7 per day ($15 gets you disk brakes and suspension), but check that the bike, helmet and lock are adequately maintained or even ask to take a quick test ride before agreeing to rent. The most popular ride is the dramatic descent past a series of waterfalls on the road to Puyo, a jungle town 61km to the east. Various other mountain-biking options are available and the outfitters will be happy to tell you about them.
On the issue of safety, the Baños–Puyo road has several narrow, long and pitch-black tunnels. Bike riders should bypass the tunnels by veering down on the signed trails that swing around them.
The tourist office provides a useful map showing some of the trails around town. Reports of assaults on nearby hikes have dropped in recent years. Nevertheless, it's advisable to bring just the cash you need and leave the expensive camera at your hotel.
The walk down to Río Pastaza is easy and popular. Just behind the Sugarcane Stalls by the bus station, a short trail leads to the Puente San Francisco, the bridge that crosses the river. You can continue on trails up the other side as far as you want.
Going south on Maldonado takes you to a path that climbs to Bellavista, where a white cross stands high over Baños. The path then continues to the settlement of Runtún, some two hours away, where the views are outstanding. From here, you can continue up to the Casa del Arbol, or loop around and back down to Baños, ending up at the southern end of Mera. This takes you past the statue of La Virgen del Agua Santa, about half an hour from town. The whole walk takes four to five hours.
West of town on Amazonas, turn right by a religious shrine and walk down to Puente San Martín and visit the impressive falls of Cascada Inés María, a few hundred meters to the right of the bridge.
Many Baños tour operators lead trips to the jungle, but they vary in quality and experience.
Three- to seven-day jungle tours cost about $70 to $85 per person per day, depending on the destination (usually with a three- or four-person minimum). Always full of travelers, Baños is a good place to organize a group if you are not already with one.
The climbing conditions on Tungurahua (5016m), an active volcano, are naturally in flux. At the time of research, climbing to the peak was allowed, but only with a licensed guide (six hours for those in optimum condition; others may be well advised to take the two-day approach and sleep at the refuge). You can also climb just to the refuge at 3830m, a steep three- to four-hour climb from the village of Pondoa. It's 4km to the refuge from the park entrance-checkpoint at 2800m, and another 3.5km (four to seven hours depending on fitness level) to the summit. Round trip from the center of town the total distance is 25km.
Horse rentals cost around $10 per hour or $35 per day. Many half- or full-day trips start with a long jeep ride out of town, and the actual riding time is short – inquire carefully to be sure you get what you want.
The town’s tour operators offer guided trips (half-day $30) on the Río Patate and Pastaza. The trips bring you to Class III and IV water (Class IV is enough to really get your heart pumping). Kayak classes are also available ($80).