We had a great time at the Casa del Arbol. It's a little touristy, sure, but also a fun trip up and back, and the swings and zip line bring out your inner fun-loving kid. The café is quite good - we enjoyed a hot chocolate, canelazo, and delicious empanadas.
Unfortunately, we had a cloudy day without a view of the volcano, but oh well.
Getting there: take the bus, it's only $1 and very quick! The stop is on calle Pastaza between Montalvo y Luis A. Martínez, by the panadería Don Gato. There are multiple Don Gato locations, so make sure you go to the right one. I recommend asking a local since we were misled by online directions that had become outdated.
Getting back: Your bus will take you back after 2 hours, or there is a hiking trail back to Baños. We decided to be adventurous and take the trail. Overall it was fun but challenging at times, with some steep descents.
Finding it is also difficult. It is not marked at all. Luckily one of the workers at the café gave us detailed directions, even drawing a little map on a post-it note! Once you find the trail, it is pretty straightforward - follow the orange markings.
Alternately, you can walk back down the same road that cars/buses take (be careful!) until you see a sign pointing off to the left advertising a refugio as well as camionas (trails) back to Baños. This takes a little longer but makes the trail easier to find.
Hiking took us about 2.5 hours to get back to our hostel close to the town center. But that includes getting a little lost at first as well as a detour to the Mirador de la Virgen. (The mirador is pretty cool but not essential, in my opinion.) You can easily do it in 1.5 hours or maybe less.
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