It is a place that few travellers squeeze into their Ecuador itinerary but the quiet jungle town of Misahuallí has plenty to offer curious visitors. If you have made the trip to the city of Tena with a view to exploring the rainforest, hold off just one minute before you start booking those jungle tours. Many of the trips which leave from Tena will take you straight to the small town of Misahuallí and charge you way over the odds for the privilege.
Misahuallí is not only an easily accessible town from Tena but also a niche destination in its own right. To travel to Misahuallí, catch one of the regular buses from the Jumandy bus station in Tena. The journey will take around one hour and cost just $1 per ticket. Definitely cheaper than that pre-arranged tour!
Monkey see, Monkey do
Perhaps the first thing that you will notice when you arrive in Misahuallí’s central plaza is its most famous inhabitants. The main square and surrounding beaches are home to a troop of pesky Capuchin monkeys who wreak havoc around the town. My favourite thing to do as dusk is drawing in is to pull up a chair in one of the local watering holes and watch the monkeys as they scam their way around town. Be warned, they will steal anything from sunglasses to beer bottles so make sure you keep your drink close and your belongings off the table! Enjoy an evening chuckling to yourself as you watch angry shopkeepers play tug of war with them over fizzy drinks.
The Thousand Year Old Tree
A popular stop on many jungle tours is the impressively ancient tree just outside of the centre. This giant of nature is actually very easy to reach from the centre of Misahuallí. Head out of town in the opposite direction to the big bridge in the centre. You should be going towards Pununo. Stay on this road until you come to the Pununo crossing which is marked by a big suspension bridge. Continue over this bridge for a few minutes and look out for a trail on the right, directly opposite a gravel path on the left. Follow it round to take in the sights of one of nature’s biggest marvels. Make sure you walk all the way around the tree (it takes longer than you think) and be sure to keep an eye out for any exotic insects. Indigenous communities claim that the Jaguars take refuge amongst the roots during birthing season as it provides shelter from the elements.
Cascada de Latas
Whilst there are better places for wildlife watching than Misahuallí, the area hosts some truly magnificent birds and gigantic butterflies. For a scenic walk and to escape the town for a few hours, catch a bus heading in the direction of Tena and ask for ‘el camino a las cascadas’. It will cost roughly $0.50 for a one-way ticket and the driver will drop you directly outside the entrance. Follow the signs which take you to the entrance of Cascada de Latas, a quaint but impressive waterfall outside of town. The hike from the ticket point takes around thirty minutes and costs $2 per person. The trail weaves through forested cliffside which is home to a whole range of interesting (and often frighteningly large) insects. The rocks are slippery when wet so make sure you wear grippy shoes and bring a bathing suit for swimming.
Go with the flow
For those who like to get stuck in where water is concerned, spend an afternoon tubing down the Misahuallí river. Riding the river on an inner tube is simple and the techniques are easy to pick up. Tubing is a great way to spot the local wildlife from the comfort of your tube on the (mostly) lazy river. Don’t forget to lather up with suncream and insect repellent before setting off as you will be exposed to the elements for the duration of your journey. Runawa tours come highly recommended and a tubing tour complete with a guide will cost you around $25.
Just keep chewing
At weekends, the street food vendors come out in force and line up along Misahuallí’s main river beach. There are some tasty eats here and you can choose everything from Choclo con queso (corn on the cob, rolled in mayo and sprinkled with cheese), Salchipapa (Fried sausage with chips and cabbage) to Maduro con queso (Fried platano sliced and stuffed with mayo and cheese). For those of you that are really adventurous, there is also the option of Pincho de chonta curo which is essentially fried grubs on a stick. I was all psyched up to try the grub until Tim informed me it pops in your mouth. Despite a little gnawing at the saggy edge, my gag reflex decided it was a no go. Don’t be put off by me though, the locals love them!
Time to relax
Now that you are armed with some tasty weekend snacks, make the most of the beautiful beaches in Misahuallí by grabbing a spot on the riverfront with a book. The abundance of food and drink nearby mean you can stay for hours with very little need to move. Toilets are just in front of the beach but you will need small change to pay to use them. Always remember that the monkeys are never far away as they will wait until your back is turned to nab anything within reach! Keep an eye on your belongings and stow anything valuable in a safe place.
Have you been to Misahuallí?
Love it? Pin it! 🙂