Somewhere up in the mountains not too far from the small town of Mindo, Ecuador is an amazing cloud forest. We stumbled upon it during our motorcycle tour just a few weeks ago. It was a worthy stop, and the proprietor was excellent. The video below is narrated by the owner himself – he is the David Attenborough of Ecuador.
What is a Cloud Forest?
A cloud forest is a moist subtropical climate that has persistent cloud cover. Think rain forest, but with less rain and more clouds. Aside from an epic cinematic feeling while walking through it, minimal pesky insects. Due to the elevation, there are typically no mosquitos, this is the case at the Bella Vista Cloud Forest Reserve.
How to Get There
If you have your own transport and are coming from Quito- you are likely going along the highway to Mitad del Mundo / Calacali / Mindo / Los Bancos on the route which is called Colectora Quito-La Independencia. Quito-La Independencia is one of the highways in Ecuador, and it it will be represented on google maps with the number 28 (E28). You can also take a bus route. Several tourism companies also provide transport if you want to make things easy.
You can also take a bus route and several tourism companies provide transport if you want to make things easy.
Self-Driving Highway route:
If you type in Tandayapa on google maps and route yourself there, it will get you 80% there. The rest of the route is literally off the maps.
- Head towards La Indepencia / Mitad del Mundo / Calacali / Mindo on Quito La Indepencia.
- At km 52, there is a turn to the left just after the bridge. Follow this road past “El Paraiso del Pescador” and straight through the village of Tandayapa. Climb uphill to Bellavista. Total distance from the main road 12 km.
- At km 62, there is a turn up to the left, which takes you along the ridge 12 km to Bellavista. Follow the signs all the way.
Public Transport / Bus Route:
- Take any bus to Nanegalito from Terminal Microregional de La Ofelia in north Quito. Any bus heading for Mindo, Los Bancos or Puerto Quito passes through Nanegalito.
- In Nanegalito, ask any pickup truck for a ride up to Bellavista. It costs about $15 price for the ride, not per person. *See the bus schedule – for a bus to Nanegalito.
There are a ton of activities nearby the nature preserve, and there to keep you busy. From epic views to serene nature – it’s all there.
For a small fee, you can watch the hummingbirds at Bella Vista. I imagine if you spent money on other things this fee could be waived, that happened to be the case when we were there. We purchased a tour hike and he allowed us to take photos of the hummingbirds for free.
You can go for a hike at the cloud forest reserve on your own or with a guide. The guide is just a little extra – which was well worth it as the experience is much better that way. The guide told us about all the plants, wildlife, and the history of the cloud forest – quite the story!
Yep, bird watching. You may not be 50 years old, and your 401k might not be stacked. However, you still have time for a little bird watching. When you find a rare bird – you get some weird sense of accomplishment. Binoculars can be rented on site.
Tandayapa Bird Lodge
Very nearby is the Tandayapa Bird Lodge, it should just be a 20 minute drive. Here you can do bird tours. Ecuador is a big bird place apparently. For $165 (Summer 2017) you can also stay at the lodge. This includes 3 meals.
When it comes to accommodations you can stay at the Bellavista Reserve itself or about 30 minutes away in Mindo. The reserve itself has destination worthy accommodations.
Staying at the Bella Vista Cloud Forest Reserve Hotel
When it Waking up on top of a mountain with insane views of a cloud forest is a special thing. That does come at a higher price – around 135 dollars for a nicer room. While 135 dollars is not a lot for a hotel, it’s more than a hotel in Mindo. It does include meals, however. The hotels in Mindo can run as little as $35 a night, but this will limit you to a day trip to the cloud forest. You can also talk to them about their budget accomodations – they have shared rooms at much lower rates.
Hotels in Mindo
- Dragonfly Inn BnB – for just $49 (Spring 2017) a night, and it was an excellent place. They provided secure/gated parking for our motorcycle and the manager even woke up at 5 am to give us our complimentary breakfast. This place has impeccably clean rooms and there is a calming stream that flows out back. You can hear it in the morning as you wake up, and late at night as you are drifting asleep.
- Mindo Lago – for $73 (Summer 2017) a night you can stay in the scenic eco-lodge. They even have a little paddle platform which you can have dinner on in their restaurant.
- El Abrazo del Arbol – This hotel is another boutique hotel. It has an awesome water feature. Yep, I just said water feature.
When it’s all said and done – the Bellavista Cloud Forest Reserve gets an A+ from us. It is a very reasonably priced activity that is tons of fun. The hikes through the cloud forest are beautiful and refreshing (little to no mosquitos). The proprietor is on-site often and has a wealth of knowledge he will share with you. Also, the dome rooms at Bella Vista are some of the coolest we have ever seen. We highly recommend the Bella Vista Cloud Forest Reserve!