How To Prepare For Biking 'La Ruta de las Cascadas'
Biking along the ‘Route of Waterfalls’ in Banos is a great full-day activity that costs you under $20.
The route follows a single main road but there are a few things you will want to plan before heading out. Here’s a list of things you will want to do to prepare for the day:
- Rent a bike in town
- Pick your waterfalls to stop at along the route
- Decide on your return journey
Renting A Bike In Baños
Before biking the route of waterfalls, you will need to grab yourself a bike in Banos.
Renting a bike should cost around $10 for the whole day and you will also be provided with helmets, a bike lock, and a repair kit.
You can rent a bike from almost any tour company in town and there won’t be much difference between shops. Just check the tyres, brakes, gears and seat before heading off as the entire route is around 15 kilometres so you will want to have a half-decent bike.
Take it for a quick spin around the block to check everything is working smoothly – you don’t want to end up 5km along the road and realise your breaks aren’t working!
We rented ours from Wonderful Ecuador, a tour agency close to the bus station. The bikes were well kept in comparison to some others we saw, the tyres were well pumped and the brakes all in working order. They also provided us with a map and told us which waterfalls to visit.
Planning Your Stops Along 'La Ruta De Las Cascadas'
As mentioned, the shop should provide you with a paper map, but I found it better to plan my stops in advance using google maps. I found it easier to star each waterfall into google maps and use my phone.
There’s a total of 6 waterfalls you can stop at including the biggest and best one – Pailon del Diablo (The Devil’s Cauldron).
Here are the 6 main waterfalls to stop at:
- Cascada Ulba
- Cascada Silencio
- Cascada Agoyan
- Cascada Manto de la Novia
- Pailon del Diablo
- Cascada Machay
If you’re a waterfall fanatic, then go ahead and do all of them. However, be careful with your timing.
The earlier you get to Pailon Del Diablo the better as you will avoid the inevitable crowds that tour buses bring along later in the day. You could always do Pailon Del Diablo first and then stop at the smaller waterfalls on the way back.
Our bike rental company gave us a printed map with all the stops on. Here’s an online one if you want to check out the route before you start.
How Long Does Biking La Ruta De Cascadas Take?
The whole journey, along with returning to Banos took us 5 hours in total. This included multiple stops at the smaller waterfalls and a good hour and a half at Pailon del Diablo.
However, the great thing about this activity is that it can take as long as you like. Stops at the smaller waterfalls should take no longer than 30 minutes and you can spend between an hour and two hours at Pailon.
If you only have half a day to spare, I recommend you just visit Pailon Del Diablo. Riding there and back with an hour stop should take around 3 hours.
If you want a full day out, then take your time and stop at every possible place along the route. Spend longer at Pailon taking loads of photos and visiting the bottom of the falls and the top as well. A final option is an overnight stay. You can carry on riding after Pailon Del Diablo to the town of Puyo and stay here for the night and then ride back the next day.
Planning Your Return Journey From 'La Ruta De Las Cascadas'
One-way from Banos to Pailón del Diablo should take between 45 minutes to an hour if you cycle directly there.
After a day of cycling and exploring, you will likely be tired, and the return journey may not seem as appealing to you.
But don’t stress out about having to ride back though. Luckily, there are trucks waiting outside the entrance of Pailon Del Diablo, waiting to take you and your bike back to town for a small fee of $2.
For $2, this is well worth it. It means you can spend a bit longer at the waterfall and then be back to Banos in about 20 minutes rather than cycling for an hour. Just make sure you catch the last truck; there are no timetables but the last one likely leaves just before closing time at the falls.
Where are you staying whilst in Banos? Check out the post below for some of our favourite backpacker hostels:
What to Bring When Visiting 'La Ruta De Cascadas'
A couple of things are a must for this trip. Things we wish we had brought but ended up learning the hard way. Of course, bring your standard sun scream to battle the equatorial sun, water bottle (although you can buy some along the route) and google maps or maps.me to track yourself along the road.
Here are a couple of others we failed to foresee:
- Rain jacket or waterproof – the devil’s cauldron is an insanely powerful waterfall and even standing 50m away from it on a viewing platform will cover you in a fine layer of spray. Also if you wish to climb up a bit further and get behind the waterfall you can, but here the spray is even worse and you will get wet, potentially very wet.
- Hiking boots or waterproof shoes – for the same reason as above, but also if you visit some of the smaller waterfalls like Ulba or Silencio, the paths can be wet and muddy.
Aside from this, you won’t need much else. A good camera, portable charger and a decent backpack to carry everything.
How To Bike 'La Ruta de las Cascadas'
To get onto the route, simply head to the bus station in the middle of town, take a right and you are on the main road (E30). Make sure you are heading east towards Puyo.
The ride is mainly downhill to begin with, and then mostly flat for the rest of the journey so the ride isn’t too hard on the legs. There are multiple stops on the way to grab a drink or to check out a waterfall, so you never feel like you’re cycling for long.
Quick Safety Tip – Along the route, the road will go through several tunnels. The golden rule is to only go through the first tunnel on the bike. The others are not for cyclists as they are narrow and dark. Going off-road next to the valley will lead you on the safe path for cyclists, one which is far more picturesque.
Stop 1 - Cascada del Silencio and Cascada Ulba
- Time: 30 minutes
Before aiming to get to some of the larger cascades, after about a 10-minute downhill ride you should see a big sign for waterfalls on your right, just before the town of Ulba.
These waterfalls weren’t recommended to us by the person who we rented our bikes from, but we saw the sign and went for it, and they ended up being our favourites by the end of the day!
It’s a short 5-minute walk to each waterfall and both were equally impressive. I would recommend visiting these if you want to avoid some of the crowds at the bigger ones as they are often overlooked and were empty when we went.
We had the two waterfalls to ourselves and were able to take loads of photos without having to worry about people getting in the way.
Stop 2 - Cascada De Agoyan
- Time: 30 minutes
- Activities: $10 Zipline
You will find Cascada De Agoyan a 15-minute ride from Silencio and Ulba.
This will be the first stop where you will be able to fully appreciate the beauty of the Baños valley. You will have an incredible view of the Agoyan waterfall as well as the Rio Pastaza.
There is a zipline here which costs $10. You will get a great view of the valley as you fly across but this zipline is more for the view that the excitement. However, I would recommend waiting until the next stop to pay for the cable car if you want to get into the middle of the valley and take some better pictures.
If you are interested in visiting places some other great places in Banos like Casa Del Arbol and Mirador de Bellavista, then make sure you check out the full Banos backpacker guide linked below:
Stop 3 - Cascada Manto De La Novia
- Time: 30 minutes
- Activities: $10 Zipline, $2 cable car
After another 15 minutes of riding, you will reach Cascada Manto de La Novia. The waterfall’s name is due to the colour of its white waters that resembles the veil of a bride.
There are more budget looking ziplines and swing but none of these looked that exciting, or safe for that matter, so again we avoided them and just took in the incredible Baños valley and the Rio Verde.
You will see a red cable car, costing $2, that will take you across the valley. If you want to see the waterfall more closely you can walk along the path and cross a suspension bridge where you reach the foot of this amazing waterfall.
You can also walk down to the bottom of the valley to get a view from down under, just remember you’ll have to trek back up!
Stop 4 - Pailon Del Diablo
- Time: 1-2 hours
- Activities: $5 entrance fee
Pailon Del Diablo, which translates to ‘The Devils Cauldron’ is Ecuador’s tallest waterfall plunging 61 metres (200 ft) into a huge pool of rapids and rocks. This is the main attraction for the day and your final stop most likely.
It’s hard to miss as you will come to the small town of Rio Verde with shops, restaurants and lots of signs pointing you in the direction of the falls. Outside most of the restaurants, there are bike stations where you can lock up your bike.
You have two separate entrances and options to visit the falls. The original route is a 20-minute walk down to reach underneath the falls whereas the newer, shorter route that takes you above the falls for a birds eye view. Each option has its benefits, but I would personally recommend doing both if you have the time as you can see the falls from two different perspectives and get lots of photos. If you decide to do both, it will take around an hour and a half.
If you go with the original route first, once you reach the bottom of the soil path, you will see the cliff and the stairs cut into them. You can either stand on the viewing platforms here or take the narrow path further up to the peak of the fall. The spray from the fall is powerful and you will get wet the closer you get to it so bring waterproofs and cover up your valuables.
You can also get completely under the falls by crawling through a tiny path cut into the cliff. The path is called ‘La Grieta del Cielo’ which roughly translates to the crack of the sky. If you decide to crawl through, you’ve been warned, it’s a dead-end and killer on the knees. What’s the reward for your curiosity? You will get soaked and realise you made a huge mistake (which is precisely what happened to us).
After you’ve spent some time on the platforms, you can head out across the suspension bridge to get another great view and marvel at in the immense raw power of the falls.
If you want to avoid the walk back up and not get wet, take the newer route as it’s set further back from all the spray. You can find the entrance near the soccer field in town, and from there, you’ll see a well-signed path.
If biking to Pailon Del Diablo isn’t for you then don’t worry, I’ve detailed three other ways of getting there from local bus to guided tour in the guide below:
Stop 5 - Cascada Machay
- Time: 45 minutes
- Activities: $10 Zipline, $2 cable car
For many, Pailon Del Diablo will be the final stop on the route of waterfalls. However, if you love your waterfalls or are going to continue cycling to the town of Puyo then theres one final waterdall you can stop at.
Why stop at Cascada Rocio Machay? This is the only one you can swim at!
You’ll see signs pointing to the waterfall and where to stop. There are also bike racks for you to leave your back. It will take around 10 minutes to walk to the waterfall through the jungle path and across the suspension bridges.
If you want to see how to fit Banos into a larger Ecuador backpacking itinerary, check out our expertly planned itineraries linked below:
Step 6 - Puyo
After your visit to the final waterfall, you can either return back to Banos or carry on along the E30 to the town of Puyo instead. This would have been 60km in total on the bike!
This is another great town off the beaten track that is perfect for nature and wildlife lovers. If you decide to visit Puyo, then I would recommend booking an overnight stay here (just make sure you’ve rented your bike for 24 hours).
The centre of town isn’t much, but on the outskirts of town closer to the jungle you will find some incredible hotels and eco hostels. Try Finca de la Vaca for the glamping option and a beautiful outdoor pool or Hosteria Orkidea Ecolodge for somewhere fancier.
For things to do whilst in Puyo, try the Yana Cocha Animal Sanctuary to see rescued animals from the Amazon, Cascada Hola Vida for another beautiful waterfall and Mirador Indichuris where you will get incredible views of the Pastaza river and jungle.
In the morning you can make your way back along the E30 to Banos and stop at any places you didn’t get to see the day before.
If you don’t fancy the entire journey, then head out a little later in the day and ride to Pailon Del Diablo. You’ll be able to take a truck back from here with your bike.
Where to next after Banos? If you are looking to do an extended South America tour and include more countries then be sure to check out our expertly crafted itineraries below:
Ruta De Las Cascadas FAQ's
Is The Ride Along La Ruta De Las Cascadas Difficult?
The highway is mostly flat, so the ride isn’t strenuous. The only thing you may not enjoy is riding along the highway with other cars and trucks.
It’s around 16km total to reach Pailon Del Diablo, with multiple stops along the way so you won’t get tired. There are also trucks waiting to take you and your bike back to Banos for $2 if you don’t want to ride back.
Is The Ride La Ruta De Las Cascadas Dangerous?
Whilst riding along the highway might seem dangerous, the road is wide, flat, and not that busy.
There are 3 big tunnels along the route that go through the cliffs. You can go through the first one but DO NOT GO THROUGH THE SECOND TWO.
When you get to the tunnels, look to the right side of the road and you will see the dedicated bike paths which go around them rather. These paths are also an experience in themselves, as you ride through overhanging greenery and across miniature waterfalls that flood the path.
Can I Book A Tour To See La Ruta De Las Cascadas?
If you don’t enjoy cycling, then you can definitely book a tour to see La Ruta De Cascadas.
Guided tour will pick you up in Banos and drive along the route of waterfalls towards Diablo. Along the way, you will stop several times to admire the views of the Banos valley and some of the other incredible waterfalls such as Cascada el Manto de la Novia. You will also likely stop at some tourist traps such as the zipline companies and shops in the hope that you spend money.
It’s around $10 for the basic tour which takes you to Pailon Del Diablo and then back to Banos. The entrance fee to Pailon Del Diablo isn’t included to the tour will cost around $15 in total for the day.
- Pailon Del Diablo & Route of Waterfalls – 3 hours – $10.99
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