One of the fundamental aspects of going on a guided white water rafting trip is that you listen to instructions and carry them out. Do that and youâ€™ll be fine… Easier said than done! Hanging on to what felt like dear life, itâ€™s not always easy to listen when your instincts kick in. This I learnt in Banos!
Banos in Ecuador is one of the best adventure travel hubs in South America, visited by locals and travellers alike. Just make sure that your kitted out with decent outdoor clothing which you can get from places such as Zalando, Blacks or Cotswold Outdoor.
You are spoilt for choice in Banos for things to do. I actually spent 10 days there because it has a nice array of activities to get involved with, a decent flow of other travellers, some good food spots and a fairly decent bar scene. One of the first activities I signed up for is White Water Rafting.
White Water Rafting in Banos
Having done White Water Rafting numerous times around the world, I think I felt confident. Iâ€™m half listening when I hear â€œIf you fall inâ€¦â€ and I thought â€œI never fall inâ€. Famous last words.
Within the first 2 minutes I was over the side, eyes closed, paddle in the air, hoping someone would pull me in. But that wasn’t the worst of it and it certainly wouldn’t be the last time I fell overboard that day.
A friend and I are in the front of the raft. All we can hear is â€œPADDLE! PADDLE! PADDLE!â€
Suddenly, the raft is 10 feet in the air (unconfirmed height but itâ€™s what it felt like) and there is nothing to paddle but air. We can still hear the yells of â€œPADDLEâ€ and yet my friend and I just look at each other with resignation in our eyes. We duck down before we come crashing down into the river, water pummeling our faces. We were given a telling off for not following instructions but at the time cowering like frightened children seemed like a good idea!
Iâ€™ve done rafting in numerous places but the Grade 4/5 in Banos has to be one of my favourite. If youâ€™re in the area this is a must.
Rock Climbing in Banos
We grab a bottle of water each from the small kiosk at the side of the road and take in the view of the river and the raggedy cliff faces which are a rock climbers dream. (Bottom left is the base of the climb, more pictures below).
As I am re-learning how to tie a rope, I ask our rock climbing instructor when he first started to climb.
He tells us that he started when he was really young. His brothers and friends would come down to the rock face and climb it barefoot AND without ropes. Eventually they saved up enough money between them to buy one pair of rock climbing shoes and shared them between five of them. Hi family runs a local restaurant in Banos and he now, older, teaches rock climbing. I love stories like that.
Although it may look quite daunting to a complete novice, anyone can give this a try as there are beginner, intermediate and advanced routes. Be honest with your skill level and you’ll get the most out of your day.
Other Adventure Activities in Banos
There is more than just rafting and rock climbing in Banos. Other popular activites include canyoning, tandem paragliding, horse riding and kayaking. You can also get round the city by renting a mountain bike or if youâ€™re feeling flush a dune buggy!
If youâ€™re feeling really energetic you can hike to the top of Banos to get this rather epic view (or just get a taxi) and to soak away your woes there is always the popular hot springs.
There are a lot of adventure activity shops. One block over from the main square is a street lined with them. Here’s some tips for you:
- Ask to see the equipment. Some companies have worse gear than others. We went with Imagine Ecuador, although off the main street of companies, it had superior equipment at the time we went.
- Try and get a group together from your hostel to increase your bargaining power for discounts. Having said that, the activities here are very cheap.
- As there is a lot of companies offering tours, the group sizes can be small and diluted. If you’re a solo traveller, the experience is as much about the people as it is the activity. Inquire late in the day or even first thing in the morning to see which company has the most people signed up to the trip you want.
Places to Eat in Banos â€“ Top Restaurant Choices
Having just got over a nasty stomach bug I played it fairly safe in Banos with restaurants. My friend did not.
Near our hostel we spot a couple, cooking up a storm in the street. We stop to ask him whether the meat is chicken. He laughs and grabs his crotch. I politely decline but my friend decides to go for it. It did not go well for him for the next few days.
To avoid all of that the best place I ate at was Casa Hood as it was very good food, niche decor and reasonably priced. The Swiss Bistro and Arte Cafe & Te are also worth a mention. For pizza, Leoni Pizzeria are your best bet and there is a great vegan cafe called Sativa Studio Cafe, who do great veggie burgers.
Where to Stay in Banos â€“ Good Hostel
There are a lot of hostel options for Banos. Iâ€™m not kidding, hostels are everywhere. We stayed at the Hostel Chimenea. It was the only hostel we saw that had any semblance of life. The hostel is well located but Banos is relatively small so you can walk everywhere. Although I never stayed there, I also heard great things about the La Casa Verde Eco Hostel.