Cajas National Park Near Cuenca Ecuador

We enjoy hiking in Cajas National Park just outside Cuenca Ecuador because of its natural beauty and amazing diversity of plants and animals. Lower Cajas is warmer and with more jungle-like foliage while Upper Cajas is much cooler with high altitude plants.

Hiking in Upper Cajas National Park – Cuenca Ecuador (Episode 79)

Hiking Upper Cajas National Park just a short drive from Cuenca Ecuador is an otherworldly experience that makes it hard to believe you’re still in Ecuador. If you’re looking for things to do in Cuenca, this should be near the top of your list.

Edwin picked us up about 9:30AM and the drive took us about 45 minutes to reach the check in station.

Cuenca to Cajas Map

Entry into Upper Cajas National Park is free, but we did have to sign in at the building by the parking lot before venturing down the trail toward the lake.

Upper Cajas Lake

We followed Ruta 1 Rosada, which was an easy/intermediate trail. There was quite a bit of elevation gain and loss with a few spots that were quite difficult to traverse so I would consider it intermediate, not easy.

Upper Cajas Ruta 1 Rosada

We saw lots of mushrooms and beautiful flowers, but this lone yellow flower set against a dark backdrop was truly stunning.

Yellow Flower

These circus flowers were also visually captivating.

Circus Flowers

Edwin was nice enough to hike up the 1,000 foot incline at the end of the hike to get the van. My legs haven’t fully recovered from the nerve damage so they were very weak by that point. Edwin sent us down the hill to the lower parking lot where he picked us up. If you need a safe and reliable driver who speaks fluent English and really takes care of his clients, Contact Us for an email introduction.

Edwin

Hiking in Upper Cajas National Park is an unforgettable experience. You can keep it easy by hiking around the lake that’s a short walk from the parking lot, you can do the intermediate hike that we did, or you can climb up a mountain and scramble across boulders. There’s something for everyone, including exotic bird watching.

See More: Cuenca Parks

Hopefully you enjoyed our video, and if you did, please LIKE, COMMENT and SHARE it, and SUBSCRIBE to our YouTube channel. ¡Muchas Gracias y Hasta Luego!

CLP Bus to Guayaquil Ecuador from the Coast (Episode 10)

We couldn’t live at Villa de Los Sueños forever and we eventually had to go back home to Cuenca Ecuador. This video covers our CLP Bus to Guayaquil Ecuador from Olón, including the Guayaquil Bus Terminal and the busetas that run between Cuenca and Guayaquil.

We took a taxi from Guayaquil to La Entrada on our way to the Ecuador Coast, but after speaking with some of the other guests and getting more information from Marsha at the B&B, we decided to take the CLP bus back to Guayaquil Ecuador.

The Cooperativa Libertad Peninsular (CLP) bus was much nicer than the other buses we have taken in Ecuador. The seats were comfortable, the ride was smooth and it didn’t stop as much. I was even able to sleep for about 30 minutes during the 2 hours and 45 minute ride from Olón to Guayaquil, something that NEVER happens to me on public transportation.

Once we got to Guayaquil, we took a taxi from the bus terminal to the Operazuaytur buseta office to catch our small bus back to Cuenca.

Other videos from this trip: Ecuador Coast 2018

People & Places

CLP Bus to Guayaquil Ecuador

1 Bus Ride from Olón to Cuenca Ecuador Libertad Peninsular

This is the tiny bus station in Olón Ecuador from where the CLP bus to Guayaquil Ecuador leaves. It also stops in Montañita, which is only about 10 minutes from Olón on the way to Guayaquil. The cost was $7 per person one-way, which is about double the cost of the regular interprovincial buses.

2 Bus Ride from Olón to Cuenca Ecuador CLP Bus

The bus was large and very nice. It had a smooth ride and didn’t stop as much as the interprovincial buses to pick up passengers along the way, although it did stop more than we thought it would.

A Taste of Ecuadorian Driving

3 Bus Ride from Olón to Cuenca Ecuador Moto TV

These two guys are transporting a large flat screen TV on a motorcycle…on the highway. Think about that for a minute. He’s basically carrying a sail in a high-wind zone. ¡Que loco!

4 Bus Ride from Olón to Cuenca Ecuador Moto Texter

This guy is on track to win the Darwin Award. You can see in the video that he was on his phone the entire time I filmed him while he was riding his motorcycle on the highway. Dude. That’s a toilet posture. You’re not on the can! You’re on the highway! On a motorcycle! Pay attention!

5 Bus Ride from Olón to Cuenca Ecuador Rey de Reyes

Religion is a big thing in Ecuador, but I’m always surprised to see commercial vehicles with religious iconography on them. This translates to “King of Kings.”

Guayaquil Bus Terminal

6 Bus Ride from Olón to Cuenca Ecuador Guayaquil Bus Terminal

This is the Terminal Terrestre de Guayaquil or the Guayaquil Bus Terminal. It’s located just north of the airport. As the crow flies, it would be about a 5 minute walk from the bus terminal to the airport terminal. However, you can’t walk how the crow flies. It would probably be about a 20 minute walk going several blocks out of the way, so the cab drivers make bank charging $5 to drive people the relatively short distance between the terminals.

Guayaquil Bus Terminal

We were VERY impressed with the bus terminal! It was basically a giant shopping mall packed with people coming and going. The restrooms were big, super clean and energy efficient. As usual, the men’s restroom was very quick. It had lots of urinals so I was in and out of there in under 3 minutes. The women’s restroom was a different story. Amelia said it was packed and chaotic, so she opted to wait until we got to the buseta terminal a short cab ride away.

8 Bus Ride from Olón to Cuenca Ecuador Cab Driver

The taxis are located just outside the north entrance/exit on the main floor of the Guayaquil bus terminal. Our diver saw that I was filming and gave us a pose, making his fellow drivers behind him laugh.

Operazuay Buseta Station

10 Bus Ride from Olón to Cuenca Ecuador Papa

These guys were goofing around waiting for the buseta to leave at the Operazuay buseta station. Everyone is so friendly in Ecuador, especially to us gringos. They seem to really get a kick out of us, as you’ll see in our videos.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get a picture or usable video shot of the Operazuaytur office, but they were moving to a different location a few days after we were there so it really wouldn’t help anyway. The new office is only a block away, and both are very close (walking distance) to the airport. The busetas cost $12 one-way between Cuenca and Guayaquil. I’m not sure where else they go.

11 Bus Ride from Olón to Cuenca Ecuador Buseta

We really liked taking the busetas (small buses) through Cajas National Park rather than a big bus. The mountain roads are very curvy with steep inclines and declines so the smaller buseta is able to handle them much better. We took a large interprovincial bus between Cuenca and Machala and the motion almost made me sick. I was able to acquire some motion sickness pills for the return trip.

12 Bus Ride from Olón to Cuenca Ecuador Mike Wazowski

I bet you didn’t know Mike Wazowski could skateboard! Ecuador is full of murals and I thought these were pretty cool leaving the airport area (more shown in the video).

The Drive from Guayaquil to Cuenca

13 Bus Ride from Olón to Cuenca Ecuador Bud

American brands are so common here that sometimes it’s easy to forget we’re in a foreign country. The buseta terminal was directly across the street from a Holiday Inn and there was a Sherwin Williams paint store and a Formica store in the same area as the buseta terminal.

14 Bus Ride from Olón to Cuenca Ecuador Sugar Cane

Sugar cane is one of Ecuador’s exports, along with chocolate, fruits and flowers. This is a baby sugar cane field that was probably planted within the previous month. The sugar cane will be almost as tall as those trees in the middle of the field once it’s fully grown.

15 Bus Ride from Olón to Cuenca Ecuador Into the Clouds

It takes about an hour and a half from Guayaquil to reach the base of the Andes Mountain range. Then it’s a quick climb to ascend through the clouds.

16 Bus Ride from Olón to Cuenca Ecuador Cajas

Be sure to check out Part 1 in this series to see more beautiful shots of Cajas National Park.

17 Bus Ride from Olón to Cuenca Ecuador Amelia Head Bob

Amelia is an expert sleeper. I almost never nap on public transportation, even overnight flights. But it’s common for Amelia to be asleep before they close the door. I’m certainly envious of that trait. Especially when I have to sit there and watch her head bob up and down while I’m bored silly!

Share the Love

We hope you enjoyed our trip from Olón to Guayaquil and then to Cuenca, Ecuador in the fifth and final part of our first trip to Ecuador’s Southern Coast. Please remember to like, comment and share our video, and also subscribe to our YouTube channel. If you’d like us to make a video about something specific or if you have questions, please let us know in the comments.

We’re Leaving Cuenca for an Ecuador Beach Vacation (Episode 6)

This was our first Ecuador beach vacation and we LOVED IT! We’d heard great things from our friends about Ecuador’s beaches, Montañita and the Bed & Breakfast where we stayed, Villa de Los Sueños. And they were right! It was amazing!

This video covers our trip from Cuenca Ecuador to La Entrada where Villa de Los Sueños is located. La Entrada is about a 20 minute drive north of Montañita Ecuador.

See more from this trip: Ecuador Coast 2018

People & Places (and Animals)

El Cajas National Park

1 Cuenca to La Entrada Cajas

El Cajas National Park is about a 30 minute drive east of Cuenca Ecuador. It’s located in the highlands of Ecuador and looks like it’s from another world.

2 Cuenca to La Entrada Cajas

El Cajas has lots of these perfectly rowed trees. That’s not a genetic mutation; they’ve been planted. We were told that during World War I and before, every tree in Cajas was cut down for timber used to build things, including the war machine.

Over the past 30 years, they’ve been planting trees to regrow the forest that once stood there. It’s kind of a shame that they planted them so geometrically, though. Perhaps a random pattern would be more authentic?

3 Cuenca to La Entrada Cajas

El Cajas has lots of hiking trails and it’s home to the world’s largest hummingbird. That makes this a popular place for hikers and bird watchers. However, the weather is very unpredictable and the trails aren’t clearly marked so plan accordingly. Bring layers of clothes, food, water and a GPS so you can find your way back to your car or the bus stop.

4 Cuenca to La Entrada Cajas

5 Cuenca to La Entrada Cajas

It truly is otherworldly. This looks like it could be a scene from a sci-fi movie.

6 Cuenca to La Entrada Cajas

A beautiful mountain lake. We’ve been told you can hike around this one.

See More: Hiking in Upper Cajas National Park – Cuenca Ecuador (Episode 79)

Leaving El Cajas

7 Cuenca to La Entrada Cajas Clouds

You may notice the American flag air freshener hanging from the rearview mirror, but that’s not the point of this photo. Just below that are the yellow lines of the road. On the eastern side of Cajas, it’s common to drive down (or up) through the clouds. A few meters before this picture was taken, we were in bright blue, sunny skies. The fog is often so dense on this part of the drive that you can barely see the yellow lines. It’s quite terrifying!

8 Cuenca to La Entrada Cajas

A little further down in altitude is a tropical rainforest. This part of the drive lasts about 20 to 30 minutes with lush green foliage and palm trees often blanketed in a shroud of fog.

The Plains to Guayaquil

9 Cuenca to La Entrada Cacao

Once we left the rainforest, we entered the flat plains on the way to Guayaquil. This isn’t a great picture since we were in a rapidly moving buseta (a small passenger bus operated by Operazuaytur), but these are cacao trees (bushes?). Ecuador is known for its amazing, high quality chocolate and most of Ecuador’s cacao is grown in this region and south of here.

Cacao is a very picky plant and will only grow in very specific conditions near the equator making this area perfect for the beans that will become the magic dark brown elixir to the gods.

10 Cuenca to La Entrada Bananas

Ecuador is also a huge exporter of bananas. We used to buy Ecuadorian bananas in Denver. They’re covered with plastic bags to minimize pesticide exposure. Hopefully, they recycle all that plastic.

11 Cuenca to La Entrada Toll Booth

There are several toll booths between El Cajas and Guayaquil. A car costs 25 cents if I remember correctly. Commercial vehicles like the buseta that we were in have different rates, apparently based on the number of people since I heard the driver tell the toll booth attendant how many people were onboard.

Guayaquil Ecuador

12 Cuenca to La Entrada Guayaquil

A long bridge over Río Guayas delivered us into the heart of Guayaquil, Ecuador, just south of the airport and bus terminal. The busetas are run by a private company with their own drop off location near the airport. When we got off the buseta, a line of taxis were waiting to take people to places unknown.

Our plan was to take a taxi to the bus terminal, which was about a 5 minute drive away. However, the taxi driver asked us where we were going and offered to drive us all the way to Montañita, Ecuador for $80. It took us less than 3 hours in a taxi, but the bus ($7/ticket) takes between 4 and 5 hours. My back was already hurting from the buseta ride, so we decided to take him up on it.

Sadly for him, he got a speeding ticket about halfway there. He was going 9 kilometers over the speed limit (that’s about 5 miles/hour). I’m pretty sure a taxi on the highway with two gringos in it had something to do with that ticket….

13 Cuenca to La Entrada Hand Sculpture

Ecuador has lots of these giant sculptures along the major roads. We’ve noticed more of them in Guayaquil and Quito than in Cuenca, but Cuenca does have a few unique sculptures.

14 Cuenca to La Entrada Street Vendors

Street vendors are also common throughout Ecuador. As soon as the light turns red, people come from out of nowhere selling everything from bottled water and food, to electronics and floor rugs. It’s like IKEA comes to you for 2 minutes, and then disappears into thin air!

Ecuador’s Southern Coast

15 Cuenca to La Entrada Fish Shacks

The first ocean sighting may not look like much, with beachfront shacks galore. But these are actually fishing shacks that are bustling with activity in the mornings. The fishermen go out in their boats at night and return in the morning to sell what they caught.

As vegans, we’re not in support of this activity, but these aren’t giant commercial fishing boats dragging nets behind their boats for miles scraping everything off the seafloor and capturing everything from fish to dolphins, turtles and baby whales. These are tiny fishing boats with one or two guys on them. They’ve been doing this for generations so convincing them to stop won’t be easy. My guess is they’ll be forced to stop in the next 20 years when there are no more fish to be caught and the oceans are dead thanks to the industrial fishing operations.

Please, for your own health and the survival of our oceans, stop buying seafood!

16 Cuenca to La Entrada Oil Dock

This is an oil pipeline dock that goes out into the sea. On the other side of the highway is what appeared to be an oil holding station. It wasn’t a refinery; it only had large storage tanks. I’m guessing they pump the oil from the tanks out to oil tankers.

Before the oil bust, oil was one of Ecuador’s main sources of income. Now they have a more balanced portfolio with food and flower exports, some manufacturing, and tourism.

17 Cuenca to La Entrada Horse Pasture

We saw so many different types of terrain and climates on our short 6 hour ride from Cuenca to La Entrada it was sometimes hard to believe. Close your eyes for 5 minutes in a dessert and you might wake up in a rainforest! This picturesque farm looks like it could be a Kentucky horse ranch. On the other side of the highway from this ranch is the ocean and beaches. What a diverse country!

Ecuador Beach Vacation

Ecuador Beach Vacation - Villa de los Sueños

The tide was out when we arrived for our Ecuador beach vacation, and the rocky oceanfront by Villa de Los Sueños was clearly visible.

Most of the beaches in this area are very wide and sandy, but they’re rocky in front of the B&B. It was only a short 2 minute walk south on the beach to get to the sandy shores where you can swim or boogie board. Surfing is popular in Montañita and Olón a little bit south of La Entrada, but the waves weren’t quite big enough on this stretch of beach.

Ecuador Beach Vacation Villa de Los Sueños Penthouse Room

We rented the penthouse apartment on our Ecuador Beach Vacation, mainly for the kitchen so we could cook our own food, but we were really happy with the larger room size, private hot tub and amazing views of the ocean.

The owners are Shell and Marsha. On our first night there, Shell took us into Olón to buy some vegan staples such as fruits, veggies, rice, pasta and hot sauce. We cooked several meals in our room and had romantic dinners with ocean views and sounds.

Share the Love

We hope you enjoyed the first part of our Ecuador Beach Vacation. Please remember to like, comment and share our video, and also subscribe to our YouTube channel. If you’d like us to make a video about something specific or if you have questions, please let us know in the comments.