Get in touch with nature like never before!
Visiting the Rainforest in Ecuador will let you get close and personal with nature and mother earth. The connection you feel with the distinct sounds of the rainforest cannot be explained but has to be felt. You will feel like you are part of this amazing landscape and will understand how you fit in this planet we call home.
Breathing in the abundant oxygen, heals you from within and brings about a sense of calm which you have never felt before.
You can learn a bit more about my experience in the Amazon Rainforest by clicking HERE
Sunsets in the Amazon Rainforest are out-of-this-world magnificent!
Amazon Rainforest Basics
The Amazon Rainforest in Ecuador consists of six provinces but we will focus on three of these; Orellana (El Coca), Sucumbios (Lago Agrio), and Napo (El Tena). Most if not all rainforest lodges are located within these provinces or can be accessed from their main cities.
The region is basically made up of large national parks and untouchable areas where the indigenous people (sometimes uncontacted) live. These untouchable areas are stretches of land set aside for the indigenous community, where they can live their lives in a traditional manner. The area has also been exploited by oil companies but these are usually are located close to the capital cities of each province. To visit the distant lodges you have to take a speedboat from either El Coca or Lago Agrio and go deep inside the rainforest.
You can choose to go deep into the Amazon Rainforest, to the Cuyabeno or Yasuni, for an off the beaten path experience and for a chance to spot an interact with a plethora of wildlife in one of the most biodiverse regions in the world. Or go for a lite disconnect and get an introduction to the Amazon Rainforest at a more accessible lodge in the Tena area.
You have three types of lodges to choose from in the Amazon Rainforest.
Each type of lodge has its pros and cons.
The Yasuni National Park is home to many exclusive premium lodges. The area of the Yasuni National Park is considered to be the most biodiverse region in the world!
Pros of Yasuni Lodges
Easily accessible from the town of El Coca in the Orellana province, Yasuni Lodges are second to none. They will provide the most luxurious and comfortable lodging options when it comes to jungle lodges.
Amenities include; hot-tubs, gourmet meals, top-notch observation towers, private balconies, luxurious accommodations, tailor-made experiences, quality guides, and an overall fantastic experience.
These secluded and distant lodges provide an authentic rainforest experience miles away from civilization, in a place where you can easily connect with nature and have a once in a lifetime experience and encounter with nature.
Cons of Yasuni Lodges
The biggest con of Yasuni Lodges is their high prices. Even though you get a lot for your money, the high rates of these lodges might scare the budget-friendly traveler. Another downside is getting there. Even though you can make your way by car or bus, it really only makes sense to go there by means of a flight. The road to El Coca is usually down because of the heavy rains that bring about landslides. Trust me I lived in the El Coca and know first-hand what landslides and other problems in the roads can be like. A flight, on the other hand, is quite handy, hassle-free and not too costly so you definitely should opt for this option.
Another con is how remote the lodges are. Yasuni lodges are located about 2-3 hours on a speedboat from El Coca. This means that a short stay is neither possible or advisable. You take most of the first and last day getting there and back, so a short 2-3 day stay is out of the question.
Cuyabeno lodges are located in the Cuyabeno National Park which is another incredibly biodiverse region in the Ecuadorian Amazon Rainforest. At these lodges you will have a more rustic and down to earth rainforest experience.
Pros of Cuyabeno Lodges
These lodges will provide a fantastic Amazon experience. They include amazing activities such as; swimming in the Big Lake, spotting caimans at night, canoeing through small rivers and a good chance to spot the renowned Pink Amazon Dolphin.
Another great thing about these lodges is the rates. These are definitely budget-friendly lodge options, but without sacrificing on the experience. You will also be completely disconnected from the bustle and hustle of the modern world as you enjoy the beauty and charm of the Amazon Rainforest in Ecuador.
Cons of Cuyabeno Lodges
Although the fact that these lodges are budget-friendly can be seen as a Pro, it can also be considered a Con. Reason for this is that you get what you pay for. Your rooms will be pretty rustic and will not have many amenities to write home about. Rooms are quite standard as are the rest of the services such as food, accommodation, and things to do at the lodge. These lodges will suit those travelers focused on getting a great experience and who don’t care much for luxury and pampering.
The lodges located in the Tena area are easily accessible by car or bus. Tena lodges provide an introduction to the Amazon Rainforest and a lite disconnect from modern day life.
Pros of Tena Lodges
The great thing about lodges in Tena is how close they are to Quito. You can easily plan for a short stay (2-3 days) at a Tena Lodge, which will provide a great lite-disconnect from everything. These lodges are great for family travel since you might not want to venture deep inside the jungle with kids or elderly guests. You will still have cellphone reception and in most lodges access to WiFi and convenience stores at a nearby town.
Tena lodges are a perfect add-on to your Ecuador travel plans since you can add a couple of days after a trip to Baños or if you have time to kill while in Quito. You don’t need 4-5 days to experience these lodges either. I just came back from a Tena Lodge (3-day stay) and I really liked the fact that I was away from it all but close enough to be able to read my email, answer phone calls and do some work while enjoying beautiful views and a lite disconnect from everyday life. They are also quite budget-friendly.
Cons of Tena Lodges
The biggest con of Tena Lodges is the fact that you will be in both primary and secondary rainforest. Primary rainforest is rainforest that has not been cut down. while secondary rainforest has been cut down and has regrown. Obviously, this marks a difference. You are close enough to towns and roads and can hear cars and city sounds in the background. Activities are not as intricate and unique as in other lodges in other areas of the rainforest.
How to get there…
It all depends on what region of the Amazon Rainforest in Ecuador you are visiting.
If you are heading to lodges located in and around the Yasuni National Park area you can;
Take an overnight public bus from Quito to El Coca:
Taking a bus to El Coca in the Orellana province is an option when heading to Yasuni area lodges.
You can catch a bus at the Quitumbe Bus Terminal, located in the south of Quito. This bus takes about 7-8 hours (depending on road conditions). You will depart at night from Quito and arrive early in the morning to El Coca. From the bus terminal in El Coca, you have to make your way to the speedboat docks, to get there you must catch a cab for a short 10-15 minute ride. At the docks, you can leave your bags at the La Mision hotel and go for breakfast in town. You can walk along the boardwalk, check out the Napo river (which you will navigate to get to your lodge) and kill some time before the rest of your travel companions arrive.
Roads to El Coca are not the most dependable roads, I used to back and forth from Quito to El Coca when I was living there for about a year and many times the road was down and I would have to go all the way to Lago Agrio and then to El Coca, making it a 10-12 hour ride. Also, arriving very early in the morning after a long overnight bus ride is not very advisable. You will feel like a zombie making your way to the lodge, and that’s not a great way to begin your Amazon journey.
Take a flight from Quito to El Coca:
Taking a flight to El Coca is the best option when making your way to your Yasuni area lodge. It’s a short 40 min flight that departs from Quito’s airport. We can easily book the tickets for you so that everything is taken care of. At the Quito airport, you will have a dispatcher who will assist you during the boarding process. It’s an easy hassle-free option, where you will be picked up upon arrival to El Coca airport, and will not waste time boarding the speedboat and making your way to the lodge. You will arrive fresh and ready to have a great experience at the lodge of your choice.
Flying to El Coca is true bliss. It’s a short flight and will be a great start to your Amazon adventure. The cost of the flight is not terrible, it usually ranges from $200-250 USD. If you want a hassle-free trip, please opt for a flight to your Yasuni area lodge.
If you are heading to lodges located in and around the Cuyabeno National Park area you can;
Take an overnight public bus from Quito to Lago Agrio:
Taking a bus to Lago Agrio in the Sucumbios province is the option most used by travelers when heading to Cuyabeno area lodges.
You can catch a public bus at the Quitumbe Bus Terminal, located in the south of Quito. This bus takes about 8-9 hours (depending on road conditions). You will depart at night from Quito and arrive early in the morning to Lago Agrio (cost- $10 USD per way). From the bus terminal in Lago Agrio, you have to make your way to the lodge meeting point, to get there you must catch a cab for a short 10-15 minute ride. At the meeting point, you can have breakfast and relax a bit and make use of their WiFi.
If you are taking the overnight public bus from the Quitumbe terminal in the south of Quito, make sure to take the bus departing around 10 pm. This will have you arriving in Lago Agrio at around 6 am. The bus terminal in Lago Agrio is pretty decent, it was recently refurbished and you can find breakfast there. I would advise to stick around the bus terminal for a bit until it’s a bit later (7:00 am) and then make your way on a taxi to the meeting point. Reason for this is that Lago Agrio is a bit on the unsafe side and I’ve heard of travelers who have had to wait outside the meeting point until they opened. This could be a bit dangerous since you might encounter issues while standing on the sidewalk, with your bags, in the wee hours of the morning.
There is a private transport that heads to Lago Agrio which you should definitely book. It’s a small van that only takes travelers that are heading to Cuyabeno lodges. It departs from a better location in the Mariscal Foch area at around 11:00 pm. This will guarantee that you will not arrive too early in the morning to Lago Agrio and the shuttle will take you directly to the meeting point at a time when they will definitely be open. The cost for this shuttle is $20 USD per way. If you consider the taxi you would have to pay to the bus terminal in Quito, plus the taxi in Lago Agrio, you will end up saving money if you take the private shuttle and will have peace of mind as well.
If you are heading to lodges located in and around the Tena area you can;
Take a public bus from Quito to Tena:
Taking a bus to Lago Agrio in the Sucumbios province is the option most used by travelers when heading to Tena area lodges.
You can catch a public bus at the Quitumbe Bus Terminal, located in the south of Quito. This bus takes about 4-5 hours (depending on road conditions). You will depart early in the morning from Quito and arrive at around noon to Tena (cost- $8-10 USD per way). From the bus terminal in Tena, you have to make your way to your lodge. To get there you must catch a cab which will take you directly to your lodge or to the lodge’s meeting point.
Take a public bus from Baños to Tena:
If you are traveling in Ecuador and happen to be in Baños before your Amazon lodge adventure, you can easily make your way from Baños to Tena on a public bus or on private transportation. The roads from Baños to Tena are in great condition and will get you there in about 3-4 hrs. Adding on a short stay at a lodge in Tena after you explore and enjoy Baños is a fantastic idea!
We can arrange for private transportation to Tena from Quito or from Baños. The hassle of having to make your way to the southern bus terminal in Quito and then heading to Tena after backtracking is not a great experience. I would definitely advice to take a private shuttle or taxi.