Ecuador sits on the southwest coast of South America and is quite an amazing country to visit. From a landscape perspective, Ecuador pretty much has it all – including hiking, diving and sightseeing.
The coast is lined with stunning beaches lapped by the Pacific ocean, it’s home to the Amazonian jungle, stunning mountains of the Andes, and, of course, the natural wonder that is the Galapagos Islands.
I don’t think you need any more reasons to visit Ecuador so when you’re there, you should definitely take a look at the best waterfalls in Ecuador. They are dotted around the country and you’ll find spectacular waterfalls near Quito, up in the Andean foothills, and in the jungle too. Here are the best waterfalls in Ecuador…
Also nearby to the town of Banos is the Manto de la Novia waterfall which means ‘veil of a bride’. The reason for the name is that the waterfall splits into two streams creating a double waterfall and thus resembles a veil worn by a bride before getting married.
The waterfall is just a 10-minute bus ride outside of Banos and is quite close to the road so there is no super long hike involved. Just let the bus driver know that you’re getting off at the Cascada and then you’ll find a suspension bridge to see the waterfall from.
You can also opt to view the waterfall from a cable car or join a tour from Banos that takes you past it. The views of the waterfall are stunning and the landscapes surrounding it are too.
One of the highest waterfalls in Ecuador is the Pailon Del Diablo which directly translated means the Devil’s Cauldron. You’ll find it in the Andes, just a few hours drive south of the capital Quito.
Pailon Del Diablo is the tallest waterfall in the Andes region of Ecuador and you’ll find it just a few miles outside the Andean town of Banos. It’s very easy to get to, you can either rent a bicycle a cycle down there or hope it a taxi or take a tour that will take you directly to the waterfall.
When you first see the Pailon Del Diablo waterfall you will be quite taken aback by both its power and beauty as the water tumbles 100 meters down into a plunge pool. Along the edges, you’ll find numerous viewing points that are perfectly placed for you to enjoy the waterfall.
There are quite a few other waterfalls to see in the area too so it’s certainly worth checking out the others along the Rio Pastaza while you’re there.
About an hour’s drive southeast of Quito is the Santa Rita Ecological Reserve which is home to the Condor Machay Waterfall.
The Santa Rita Ecological Reserve is a beautiful place to visit and offers incredible views of the local landscapes including the Avenue of the Volcanoes, which is a famous line of volcanoes that run along the Andes. From the highest point of the park, you can look right down the line, it is spectacular.
The Condor Machay Waterfall translates to ‘nest of the condor’ the national bird of Ecuador that you see on their flag. When you see the powerful waterfall, you’ll understand how it got its name, as the water thunders down from a great height.
Getting to this spectacular waterfall is easy and involves a stunning hike through the Santa Rita Ecological Reserve, making it another of the most stunning waterfalls in Ecuador. You’ll start at the Caldera and wander past stunning tropical vegetation, orchids, birds, and you will even see some rainbow trout swimming in the rivers.
The hike takes up to 5 hours depending on your pace and how long you spend at the waterfall. It is recommended to take a packed lunch and pick your favorite spot to enjoy and soak in the stunning natural surroundings.
Just to the southeast of Quito, you’ll find a small town called Misahualli which sits on the banks of the Rio Napo, just below where the Rio Misahualli joins the Napo to make it quite a big river.
To find the Cascadas de Latas waterfall you will need to hop on a bus for 15 minutes and then follow the river upstream to reach the waterfall. The journey is quite an adventure as you’ll wade through and cross the river at certain points to make it to the waterfall, and you’ll find numerous swimming holes along the way which are well worth a dip.
This dramatic waterfall isn’t particularly large but it’s usually very quiet and a nice escape from the crowds. There are loads of places to stay in the area and there is even a special camping zone for visit the waterfall too, ideal if you’re on a budget or want a night spent sleeping in nature.
Just south of Quito you’ll find the Molinuco ecological reserve, a stunning ecological area high up in the mountains. The Molinuco ecological reserve is home to some amazing wildlife, dramatic landscapes, and to go with it, a bunch of beautiful waterfalls.
The reserve is an excellent place to go hiking with numerous well-laid out trails that are easy to find and follow. Once you’re hiking on a trail you can find quite a few different Ecuador waterfalls in the mountains including Molinuco Chorrera, Condor Machay, and the best of them all, Gran Casada Del Pita (Great Waterfall Pita).
The Gran Casada Del Pita drops some 60 meters in total and is a stunning waterfall, falling through the luscious rainforest. Be careful when hiking around the paths though, particularly near the waterfalls, as the ground will be damp and often slippery. And don’t forget to bring some sturdy shoes.
While in the reserve you can also hike to see the tops of volcanoes, swim in the river, see all the wonderful flora and fauna, plus you can even arrange to go fishing in the river.
If you travel north of Quito into the northern Andes of Ecuador you’ll arrive at a charming mountain town called Otavalo. Chances are you might have already chosen to visit Otavalo as it’s a great place from which to see and hike to the Imbabura Volcano and Lago San Pablo.
The Cascada de Peguche waterfall is created by water that flows off the Imbabura Volcano and is thus considered sacred by the locals and it is featured in their traditional ceremonies particularly during the summer solstice.
The waterfall isn’t the highest around at just 18 meters but it is very pretty and easy to get to. The Cascada de Peguche waterfall sits around 2-3 miles north of Otavalo town and it’s best to get to the area by taxi, bus, or bicycle. Once you’re there you’ll find numerous hiking trails to explore which will take you to the waterfall and more.
If you’re planning a visit to Ecuador, chances are you have been thinking about visiting a cloud forest and there is no better place to base yourself for a cloud forest adventure than in the town of Mindo which sits just a short drive to the west of Quito.
From Mindo, you will have direct access to the Mindo Nambillo Ecological Reserve which is a cloud forest. Cloud forests are amazing ecosystems that only occur at certain altitudes near the equator and are home to some amazing flora and fauna including endemic plants, amazing birdlife, and cool mammals like coated bears and deer.
The Nambillo waterfall also sits inside the cloud forest. The Nambillo river falls around 15 meters off the edge of a forested cliff into a stunning plunge pool. The water is crystal clear and you can walk down to the bottom and go for a swim in the pure waters. If you’re feeling brave, you can also climb up the edges and jump into the plunge pool – but do so at your own risk.
As well as hiking around the cloud forest to numerous waterfalls you can also mountain bike, visit a butterfly farm, hike to the top of Guagua Pichincha Volcano, rappel, go river tubing, and hop on the Tarabita which is a cable car that gives you a birds-eye view of the cloud forest.
While you’re in the town of Mindo, there are a few other Ecuador waterfalls worth seeing, one of which is the Reina waterfall. It’s a very beautiful waterfall that drops through the cloud forest and is quite similar to the Nambillo waterfall, but of course, each one is a little different.
The hike to the waterfall is stunning, as you’d expect when hiking through a cloud forest and you’re likely to see some beautiful birds, plants, and butterflies on the way.
If you’re a fan of waterfalls then you might have heard of the strange disappearance of the San Rafael waterfall. The San Rafael waterfall was Ecuador’s largest waterfall and attracted a lot of visitors to gaze upon its sheer power and beauty but in 2020 the waterfall disappeared.
It’s thought that a sinkhole was created and diverted a large amount of the water that used to make it to the San Rafael waterfall, leaving no waterfall to see. Not to worry though, there are lots of other waterfalls in the same area.
Roger is a little obsessed with travel. He has been to over 40 countries, broken 3 suitcases and owned over 10 backpacks in 12 months. What he doesn't know about travel, ain't worth knowing!