Our Favorite Secret Swimming Holes in Ecuador
We love to combine adventure motorcycling with enriching and unusual off-bike activities.
One of our favorite things to do is stop at local swimming holes for a refreshing swim while scouting new routes. If the swimming hole is outstanding, we add it to our guided or self-guided motorcycle tours.
Over the past ten years of riding and exploring Ecuador, we have found the best places to take a refreshing dip and jump back on the bike to finish the ride refreshed. Waterfalls, swimming holes, and hot springs are now an integral part of our tours, giving you the chance to discover some of the secret spots around the country that most never find. We have many more that are even more secret, so join us on a tour to find your favorite swimming hole in Ecuador!
Please keep reading for a few of the places we visit on road trips that make the grade.
Cascada Verde and Blue Lagoon
On the western slope of Ecuador's cloud forest en route to the beach are the Cascada Verde and Blue Lagoon, one of Ecuador's best-kept secrets. The cloud forest's location between the beach and the mountains make the climate a natural paradise where the plants and birds that call it home thrive. The cloudforest is a great place to ride; winding roads weave their way through dense, cloud-covered terrain where the green canopy hides natural attractions that are miles away from the ordinary. To reach the swimming spots, we hike through exotic foliage until the falls appear. The water is warm, as is the air, and the deep pools are a refreshing break before setting off again for sights unseen.
Cascada de las Latas
The town of Misahualli is literally at the end of the road between two Amazon rivers. It's is one of the gateways to the jungle and is on our Ecuador motorcycle trips as the spot where we load bikes into canoes to explore the incredible abundance of nature on an adventure into the Amazon Basin. A team of monkeys visits the main square in town every day, mischievously taking water and food bottles from visitors. The lowland Quijos and Chibcha Indigenous groups are active in the region, and one of the in-the-know favorite local swimming holes is the Latas waterfalls outside of town. After a boat trip and a hike through the lush rainforest, the façade of the falls appears, great for swimming as the water is pleasant and can jump under the cascading stream coming down from above. This place is a genuine pairing of an Ecuador adventure on motorcycles and the natural luxury of the jungle-giving you a chance to experience an area that has drawn explorers from all over the world for centuries.
Rio Sucio Falls
Between the Valle Hermoso and the foothills that lead to Quito is the valley of the Rio Blanco, a region where the rafting and kayaking are best in the country when the river is high between January and May. The sprawling scenery along fun-filled roads hides the Rio Sucio Falls, a local swimming hole where families and groups gather for a refreshing dip and a bite to eat at one of the local restaurants serving Ecuadorian favorites.
The town of Cielo Verde sits alongside the Huanduriaco River in an off-the-beaten-path location that immerses you into an often overlooked side of Ecuador. While small in size, the warmth of the people here is fantastic. The Huanduriaco River and the swimming spots along its beach are finds for those looking for a natural dip in clear waters before starting, or after ending, a day's adventure of crossing rivers and streams on two wheels.
Tufiño Hot Springs
A little known hot spot in Ecuador's northern reaches that is a great excuse to take one of our dirt bikes for a spin is the Tufino Hot Springs. Our self-guided tours in this area take you away from the "gringo" trail and put you amid a seldom-seen side of Ecuador's culture. The springs are in Tufiño, 15 miles away from the border town of Tulcan.
Also close to the Colombian border and a tremendous out-of-the-way stop on a self-guided motorcycle tour in Ecuador are the Barquilla waterfalls. This waterfall can be hard to find; it is not on any map but is well worth the trip for its stunning scenery and the tranquil waters in the pool at its base. We reach the falls by taking the Bonita Road that skirts the border and is a fun mix of dirt and pavement that brings out Ecuador motorcycle tours' adventurous side.
Cascada Gallito de la Peña
The village of Pacto in the cloud forest is in a region where the pre-Inca Yumbo people lived before a nearby volcano erupted and made it impossible to farm the land. Today, the rolling hills and green valleys are in bloom, making trips on bikes excursions that bring the natural surroundings to the forefront. The remains of the Yumbo culture in the form of petroglyphs deep in the forest at the base of far off waterfalls. Closer to town are favorite swimming holes, including waterfall-fed pools that find you in an exotic setting that's a step in the right direction for those looking for a break away from the fray.
A few hours from the capital and on many of the routes that our tours take, the small village of Papallacta's Andean location disguises its star attraction. The hot springs here are among the best in the country and are Ecuador's answer to a luxury spa retreat. Outdoor pools overlook the hills and valleys close at hand, and in the distance-making any visit a relaxing day in the confines of Mother Nature. Getting here is half the fun. Roads skirt valleys with miles of hillsides in the distance.
Banos de Agua Santa
Banos de Agua Santa in the central highlands is the outdoor adventure capital of Ecuador. Canyoning down waterfalls, world-class rafting rivers, climbing towering cliffs, and the Swing at the End of the World brings people from far and wide to enjoy the outdoors and the town's general vibe. The small city's other claim to fame is its hot springs. Public and private pools around town offer treatments to soak the bumps in the road away, heated by the nearby active Tungurahua volcano. The way in and out of town goes through dramatic changes in scenery, making the riding on adventure and dirt bikes an intense endeavor.
The Piragua waterfall in Ecuador's Nanegal region is another in-the-know spot where nature takes center stage both on and off the bike. Nearby is the Maquipucuna Reserve, at the base of the towering Santa Lucia mountain- where 340 species of birds, 50 species of mammals, and 250 species of exotic butterflies have been identified to date. Locals come to spend a few hours relaxing, a swim in the waters of the Alambi River, and a snack of ceviche from the nearby food stand.
Nangulvi Hot Springs
An hour outside of Cotocachi and the nearby Cuicocha lagoon in the Intag region is a retreat that appears after riding through sweeping routes of overgrown landscapes and small villages where coffee is refined. The hot springs and the riverside restaurant are a stop to relax and for lunch-the friendly staff welcoming groups with big smiles and hearty portions.
Tubing the Napo River
While not a swimming hole or hot spring, tubing down the Napo River using Misahualli as a base puts you center stage to the wilds of the Amazon, far from being full-on, this trip takes you through peaceful stretches of river where the animals of the jungle fly overhead or watch from the trees along the shore. Part of Ecuador Freedom's ethos is taking our clients on excursions to places seldom visited by others that are an immersion into the country's natural beauty and living culture. Discovering the local favorites and exotic locales of Ecuador is one way we share the fun of travel here and strive to meet our vision for riders. For more information about an adventure on two wheels or a 4x4 tour that sets the bar higher for future getaways, contact a team member.