We flew from Manta to Quito and then used ground transportation to get to Mindo in the cloud forest. Having been stuck in the airport for 12 hours on New Years Day we had time to explore. We discovered a local bus back to Quito which cost a fraction of the cost of the tourist bus. We got from the airport to Rio Coca for $2.00 US each. From there we could have used the city buses to get to the correct long distance bus station, Terrestre Norte, La Ofelia. (Quito has two major long distance interstate bus stations) we were a bit short on time so we took a cab. This was one of two trips were we got slightly taken by the driver. He over charged us, claiming the meter did not work (it did and it was running) but we had a bus to catch and limited language skills so we did not fight it.
There are serveal buses a day from Quito to Mindo but not all of them go all the way into Mindo. We caught a bus we though would take us right in knowing that we could get a taxi if need be. The bus trip included some great scenery. Vendors got on the bus along the way to sell food which was common on buses in Ecuador we also had a couple of people get on the bus and pitch products. One gentlemen had a cream of some sort which even in my limited Spanish I understood could cure anything from acme to impotence. We did not buy any but a number of other people on bus did.
Mindo is a world renowned centre for bird watching. Bird watchers pay western prices to hire guides and get up at 4 in the morning to see exotic species. We saw lots of humming birds and heard lots of birds but the only ones we saw were in the streets of town. If you want to see birds in the forest you really do need a guide.
We stayed at The Dragonfly Inn which is run by a friendly German expat. Breakfast was included and served across the street. Breakfast was tasty and the view generally included humming birds.
Mindo is largely a one street town and when we were there they were ripping it up! But I am sure it will look lovely later.
Mindo is known for Chocolate they have two Chocolate factories which both give tours. We did not do that. Mindo also has butterflies we went to the Mariposas de Mindo which has an impressive array of butterflies you are encouraged to feed.
We took a taxi there and walked back. As with all tourist destinations Mindo has lots of tour operators. Having learned from our Peurto Lopez experience we went to the one the hotel sent us to. We booked a trip with a taxi one way to go zip lining above the forest canopy. They were very friendly and highly amused by Canadian Money. We traded them $5 Canadian for a US $5 best exchange rate we got all trip!
Our favorite restaurant in Ecuador was in Mindo. It was not in any of our guides but we highly recommend it. It was on the main street and it had excellent pizza baked in a wood fire oven in the middle of the restaurant. They also served meals of fish and chicken. It was obviously family run grandma was in the kitchen and the wait staff we the owners kids. The place was full of backpackers from multiple countries playing cards and hanging out. Great food, really cheap and we really felt welcome. We ate there every night.
We had seen vendors selling fresh coconuts from carts on the street all trip and we tried one in Mindo, Cool and fresh although I had to admit I did not like the taste.