Ecuador Birds / Ecuador Lifestyle / Places in Ecuador

Swimming in Blue Waters: A Short Trip to Cascadas Azul near Mindo

Breath-taking, humbling, inspiring – Ecuador hides many secret places, where it’s just you and nature. I found one such tranquil space last week.

Our Spanish teacher, Ligia Perez, invited us to stay a night at her family house in a nature reserve near Mindo called Cascadas Azul (Blue Waterfall). Mindo is a small touristic town with a population of about 3,000 nestled in a cloud forest about two hours from Quito. In any country, a trip away with a local friend is sure to be special and we made a few interesting stops on our trip.

Falling Water at Cascadas Azul

Falling Water at Cascadas Azul

First stop was at the “best roadside toilet” according to Ligia’s husband, Vinicio. Just past La Mitad del Mundo (the Middle of the World), which is Ecuador’s monument of the equator line, every local stops at this Primax in Calacali because it’s clean.  The gas station is also a pit stop for cyclists who take the bike trail up to the extinct volcano Pululahua and its geobotanical reserve. There are people who live in the crater, and many visitors come to the Mirador de Ventanillas (The Lookout from the Windows).


One-stopover later was at a roadside restaurant at the entrance to El Pahuma Orchid Reserve. The cloud forest reserve was founded after scientists discovered a rare species of orchid in the surrounding jungle. They have since found more than 200 species of orchids.

tiny fungi i found at cascadas azul in ecuador near mindo

Fungi I found on an old fruit tree

By midday we reached our final stop in the Pedro Vicente Maldonado region about 25 minutes drive west of Mindo. I had no expectations but what we found was natural treasure. The Cascadas Azul (Blue Waterfall) reserve contains only a handful of houses amongst a large portion of preserved rainforest. A big, wooden cottage, Ligia’s house was perched on a hill above her mini plantation of bananas; trees of lemons and avocados; and yucca plants. A grand veranda looked out over the trees and sheltered two hammocks. We were the only people there.

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Tiny moss and plants at Cascadas Azul

The humid and cloudy weather called for a swim so we headed for the falls only a short walk away. Soon we were immersed in a narrow, jungle path, avoiding giant ants and peering down armadillo burrows. Toucans inhabit the forest, but we only spotted a colourful lagartija (lizard) sunbaking. Although a slippery walk, it wasn’t long until we heard the rush of water and the damp air clung to our clothes.

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The waterfall was much bigger, bluer and more powerful than I had imagined. Before we even reached the cascading water, it felt like we were walking through 1000 cool sprinklers. Acting like micro filters, the surrounding greenery had cleaned the water so it was good enough to drink. Simon was daring enough to swim under the thundering water. And further down the clean, cascading waters, we clung to a rope avoiding the swift rapids. It was like a natural spa and whirlpool. Pure exhilaration!

After some time, we decided to try a less turbulent swim in the river upstream. It was a long, winding walk into the valley passing an abundance of fruit trees, and picking guayabas (guavas) to eat later. The river was grey-blue from rain. Surrounded by the rainforest, the water had been slowed to make a perfect natural pool. How wonderful to live near a piece of magic like that.

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