The list of amazing things you can experience in Cuenca – the city of the four rivers – is infinite! In fact, it can be quite overwhelming when you start asking yourself “Cuenca, what to do?”
So, keep reading for a glimpse of the main attractions of this magical city, whether you are traveling with company or as a solo wanderer.
Best activities for families in Cuenca
Cuenca, what to do with your family?
The city has plenty of fun and safe activities for families to enjoy. Here is a list of the things you won’t want to miss.
- Amaru Zoo: This animal sanctuary is different from most zoos you may have visited in the past, as the animals are very active and inhabit natural spaces. Some are not even in an enclosure, including the monkeys! The sanctuary is located on a hill, so make sure to visit on a sunny day to get the best views of Cuenca.
- Mirador de Turi: The views of the city are spectacular from this look-out, especially at night! Your kids will enjoy picking up some souvenirs at the craft store, and just down the hill, you will find an artisanal shop where mom can choose some ceramics to bring home as well.
- Paraíso Park: The biggest park in Cuenca and the perfect place for a family picnic any day of the week. Here, you and your kids can walk through the forest by the river or enjoy the playground equipment and green spaces.
- El Chorro de Girón Waterfall: A 40-minute ride from Cuenca will take you to this beautiful waterfall, which is only a few minutes walk from the road. Make sure to wear proper shoes for the short hike and a swimsuit to splash in the natural pool.
- Bellavista equestrian center: Only 30 minutes south of Cuenca is this equestrian center, which offers a variety of options for riders all levels, from amateur to experienced. Your kids will have the time of their life and learn about Ecuadorian culture while riding through the neighboring villages.
- Double Decker bus tour: This is a fun, cheap and educational way of taking in the highlights of Cuenca. For $8,00 per person, you and your family can enjoy a 2-hour tour around the city. There are two different routes; one covers the south and the other the northern part of the city.
What to do in Cuenca with friends
Cuenca, what to do with friends? If you enjoy traveling with your buddies, there are some awesome things to do and enjoy. Just check this out:
- Hiking: Cuenca is surrounded by a number of excellent places to hike, from a one-day tour of Cajas National Park (40 min. northwest) to the 3-day Inca trail trek to Ingapirca Ruins (1h 30 min north). There is also Busa Lagoon (1h 30min southwest) where, besides hiking, you can camp and fish with a spectacular view of the forest reflected in the surface of the lake.
- Fishing: Have you heard that “trout don’t live in ugly places”? This old saying definitely applies here! If you and your friends are passionate fishermen, fly fishing in one of the more than 300 stunning lakes within the Cajas National Park will blow your mind. On the other hand, if recreational fishing is more your style, there are a few restaurants in the same area where you can catch your meal in artificial pools!
- Canopy: Are you an adrenaline junkie? Only 30 minutes north of the city following the Machangara River, you will find Cuenca Canopy. Besides several zip lines, you can try tree climbing, tree bungee, and other extreme activities that will release your inner Tarzan!
There isn’t a better way to meet and make new friends in Cuenca than strolling and having picnics by the Tomebamba River. This activity is very popular with locals and outsiders alike. On a nice sunny day you won’t only enjoy the smell of hundreds of eucalyptus trees but views of the river and daily Cuencano life.
If you’re delighted by nightlife, Cuenca is for you! Paying a visit to the Jazz Society Cafe is one of the best options – good food and good music – but you can also enjoy great live music performed for free by the Cuenca Symphony Orchestra in public spaces. For something cozier, try the bar-restaurants located on Calle Larga and El Barranco.
Best places in Cuenca for solo travelers
Cuenca, what to do solo? Although all the activities I’ve already mentioned can be enjoyed as a lone traveler, I’d like to recommend some other things that you might enjoy on your own.
There are more museums in Cuenca than are listed here, but these are some of the most interesting:
- Municipal Museum of Modern Art (Mariscal Sucre and Coronel Talbot).
- Straw Hat Museum (Calle Larga and Padre Aguirre).
- University Archeological Museum (12 de Abril Av. and Solano Av.).
- Remigio Crespo Toral Museum (Calle Larga and Presidente Borrero).
- Canari Identity Museum (Presidente Cordova and Hermano Miguel).
- Museum of Popular Arts of America – CIDAP (Hermano Miguel and Paseo 3 de Noviembre).
- Museum of Indigenous Cultures (Calle Larga, between Hermano Miguel and Mariano Cueva).
- Pumapungo Museum and Ancestral Park (Calle Larga and Huayna Capac).
Prior to visiting any of them, it’s a good idea to check the website for opening hours.
Located in the heart of Old Town, in this small square the mixture of colors and fragrances will captivate you as much as the kindness of the vendors, who will show you a variety of roses, orchids, and lilies, among other types of flowers.
And how about enjoying yourself with a delicious coffee and a good book?
Cuenca has a wonderful selection of cafes:
- Nucallacta Cafe: Fresh toasted coffee and a rustic ambiance.
- San Sebas Cafe: Best breakfast in a cozy environment.
- Cafe Wunderbar: The perfect place to have a beer and mingle.
- El Francés: The best baguette and cheese with a genuine French taste.
And for the end of the day… ?
(A drum roll would fit perfectly here)
El Barranco: It has grassy slopes just asking to be lazed upon and some beautiful buildings overlooking the fast-flowing water of the Tomebamba River, including restaurants and cafes. No doubt this place is the heart of Cuenca’s nightlife.
Ok, so you definitely want to see all these fantastic things in Cuenca, and we definitely want you to have an unforgettable time in Ecuador… so what’s next?
Just check our passes! You will find more than a couple that will take you to the historical city of Cuenca, along with other fascinating sites in Ecuador. Considering a tour around the coast, sierra and jungle? Our WANDERPASS + AMAZONA PASS is your best choice!