Ready for an adventure in Ecuador’s Amazon Rainforest? Let’s head to Tena Ecuador – gateway to the jungle!
Tena Ecuador is perfect for a quick and easy trip to the Amazon. Even better, most Tena jungle tours are gentle on the wallet. From do-it-yourself backpacker adventures to all-inclusive lodge tours, the town of Tena Ecuador has you covered.
There are activities for all tastes in & around Tena. You’ll find some of Ecuador’s best white water for rafting and kayaking. Local Kichwa Indian communities invite tourists to share their cultural traditions. Of course, there are also rainforest hikes, waterfalls, and wildlife watching too.
So, for a quick 2-3 day getaway, and a nice introduction to the Amazon Rainforest, Tena Ecuador should be firmly on your radar.
Keep reading for the ultimate visitor guide to Tena Ecuador and the surrounding rainforest. Discover everything you’ll need to make your Tena trip a success - from trip planning to packing lists, travel tips, and practicalities.
Everything You Need to Know About Tena Ecuador
Before we get into the nitty-gritty of how to visit, let’s kick off with some fast facts about Tena.
Elevation: 598 meters above sea level.
Town Population: 29,724.
Tena Municipal Website: www.tena.gob.ec
The town of Tena Ecuador was founded by Gil Ramirez Davalos, a Spanish explorer and conquistador, in the year 1560.
In Ecuador, Tena is locally known as the city of orchids, guayusa, and cinnamon.
Where Is Tena in Ecuador?
Tena is located in the Amazon rainforest region of Ecuador, to the east of the Andean mountain range that slices the country down the middle. Every drop of water that falls on this side of the Andes works its way into the Amazon River basin, eventually flowing out into the Atlantic Ocean.
Located close to the Andes, Tena is not considered a “deep jungle” destination. The towns of Coca and Lago Agrio are located considerably deeper into the Amazon region for more remote tours.
Zooming in, Tena Ecuador lies on the Napo River (Rio Napo), which is the 11th largest tributary of the mighty Amazon River.
Tena’s good road access from Quito makes it a popular weekend destination for both Ecuadorians and foreign tourists alike. Other nearby towns of Misahualli, Archidona, and Ahuano are also worth checking out.
How To Visit Tena Ecuador?
The journey to Tena is both quick and easy, which is the town’s biggest draw. Tena is the closest jungle gateway to Ecuador’s capital city Quito.
Public Transport Quito to Tena
The Quito to Tena public bus ride takes approx 5 hours in total, with a fare of $6 to $8 per person. Cooperatives that operate this route include Transportes Amazonas, Transportes Flota Pelileo, Expreso Baños, and Transportes Baños.
Buses depart throughout the day from Quito’s Quitumbe Terminal in the south of the capital. The route from Quito ascends high over the Papallacta Pass, before gradually descending to the Amazon region via Baeza Town.
Tena is also accessible by bus from Baños town (3-hour ride) via Puyo. This completes a popular and recommended tourist circuit from Quito to Tena via Papallacta, then through Puyo to Baños, and finally northwards to Quito through the Andes via the famous Avenue of the Volcanoes.
Go prepared for bumpy, winding roads. Also, remember to take extra care of your belongings on public buses. Always keep your day pack and valuables with you on your lap – do not use the overhead rack, as unattended bags sometimes go walkabouts.
Private Transport Quito to Tena
A more expensive transport option would be to hire a taxi or Uber for the journey. Expect to pay anywhere from $100 to 130 in total.
Hiring a private minivan driver through a Travel Agency is likely to set you back $160-220 each way.
The advantage of private transport is safety, speed, and the flexibility to make some stops along the way.
Lodges & Hotels Tena Ecuador
Do-It-Yourself Jungle Trip From Tena
In the town itself, Tena has a wide selection of hotels and hostels. Most are fairly basic and easy on the budget. For backpackers, we recommend using Tena as a base and heading out on local agency day tours, or to places that you can easily explore for yourself. This is the cheapest way to experience the jungle in Ecuador.
Amazon Lodge Tours From Tena
Most tourists instead choose to stay in a Tena Jungle Lodge out of town. Not only are multiday lodge tours all-inclusive, but you’ll also be staying in the forest for a more relaxing and authentic vacation.
Check out our 4 most highly Recommended Tena Lodge tours:
1. Anaconda Lodge, Tena
Tena’s Anaconda Lodge is located on Anaconda Island, a 40-hectare terrain between the Napo and Arajuno rivers, surrounded by primary rainforest.
Anaconda Island is a sacred place for the Kichwa indigenous people and provides a great place to learn first-hand about their culture and traditions.
Anaconda Lodge is relatively small, with a total of 10 cozy cabins, designed to personalize the guest experience. All food products that they use in the preparation of their meals are 100% organic.
There are many activities on offer to explore the rainforest environment, such as forest hikes, river tubing, wildlife spotting, and guided night walks. Tena rafting is also an optional extra activity.
Anaconda Lodge is a good choice at the budget end of the price scale of multiday Tena Lodge tours.
2. Huasquila Lodge, Archidona Ecuador
Another great budget choice is Huasquila Lodge, a complex of bungalows located in the sacred valley of Cotundo in the Tena region.
Their cabins are built in traditional Kichwa style in harmony with nature, with terraces to enjoy the rainforest views.
Huasquila itineraries are flexible, with possible activities including jungle & waterfall hikes, a visit to Jumandy Caves & petroglyphs, wildlife spotting, kayaking or river rafting, and a visit to a local Amazon tribe.
If required they can organize private transport from Quito to the lodge with stops along the way. Otherwise, for a cheaper rate, you can make your own way there.
If you are looking for an Amazon rainforest vacation offering a combo of relaxation, jungle tours, and outdoor adventures then Huasquila Lodge might be the place for you.
3. La Casa Del Suizo Lodge Ecuador
For a more luxurious stay, consider Casa del Suizo, one of the most established rainforest lodges in Ecuador.
Located on the shores of the Napo River, La Casa Del Suizo is the perfect place to enjoy fine river sunsets over the forest from the comfort of the swimming pool or bar.
Their 77 modern rooms all offer river-facing private balconies, relaxing hammocks, hot water 24-7, electricity, and ceiling fan.
Casa Del Suizo's social areas compare to a comfortable tropical resort, with al-fresco dining, a great variety of international and Ecuadorian food, an attractive bar area serving cocktails, and a magnificent swimming pool.
Tours excursions are also included with activities such as forest walks, wildlife spotting, explanations about medicinal plants & Kichwa customs, boat trips along the Arajuno and Napo Rivers, a visit to the Kichwa ceramic workshop, kayaking, river tubing, and much more.
4. Hamadryade Lodge
Finally, at the top end of the scale, we have Hamadryade Lodge.
Hamadryade is designed for splendor and exclusivity in the middle of the Amazon rainforest, providing the perfect balance of nature, comfort, and guest well-being.
Reawaken your senses and reconnect with nature in Hamadryade’s 65 hectares of lush rainforest. Options to explore include jungle trekking, rafting, bird watching, boat trips, and fishing.
A visit to Hamadryade Lodge is also a cultural experience. Optional activities include a visit to a local Kichwa Indian community, to see the reality of everyday living in the forest, and learn about local traditions and culture.
The grounds of the lodge are a place to relax in nature. Experience the view from the main lodge, discovering the green ocean that is the Amazon, and the view of the Napo River. Relax in the lounge, enjoying the sounds of the jungle, or swim in the open-air pool. The excellent Hamadryade spa also offers a range of treatments to whisk you into a deep meditation.
For something a little different try the Hamadryade chocolate tour, or visit their orchards full of pineapple, banana, yucca, and papaya.
Things To Do At Tena Ecuador
For those who love the great outdoors, Tena Ecuador is the perfect base for exploration, with something for just about everyone to enjoy.
On Tena Lodge tours, most activities are already included in prepaid packages. Sometimes there is flexibility to choose your own activities or add in an optional rafting excursion.
For backpackers staying locally in town, check out local Tena travel agencies for day trip excursions, or consider destinations that are cheap and easy to visit by yourself.
Here are our top recommendations for things to do in and around Tena.
1. Explore The Town Of Tena
Visitors don’t even have to leave Tena town in order to have fun. Within the town limits, you’ll find plenty to explore, including, a lookout tower (mirador), Lineal Park with walking trails & football pitches, El Sendero de la Mision walking trail along the river, and the Amazoonico La Isla Park Zoo.
2. Make a Splash At Swimming Holes & Waterfalls
For an action-packed day of adventure that won’t break the budget, head out of Tena in search of waterfalls and forest trails. There are various easy trips that you can do for yourself without a guide or tour. Don’t forget your swimming gear and a towel!
Laguna Azul is an area of natural beauty, with crystalline natural pools and waterfalls to explore via hiking trails through the forest. It’s just a short bus ride out of town from Tena Bus Terminal. For just a 2$ fee, you’ll have access to your own Eden of turquoise pools, picturesque waterfalls, and rocky paths along the river.
From there head to nearby Cascadas Pimpilala. Here you’ll find a network of cascades deep in the forest, along an enjoyable jungle hiking trail. A local guide can be hired at the entrance for those seeking a more hard-core adventure of rappelling, climbing, or crossing underneath waterfalls.
Another popular waterfall trail is to Cascada Las Latas. Take a bus towards Misahualli Town and ask to be dropped at the trailhead. During the rainy season, Las Latas is an impressive, large, and powerful cascade. There are also several swimming holes along the trail for bathing.
3. Get An Adrenalin Rush On A Tena Rafting Tour
The rivers around Tena boast some of the best white-water action in all of Ecuador, just perfect for rafting and kayaking.
There is no shortage of day tour rafting operators in Tena, but be sure to check that they use certified professional guides for your safety. Tena lodges such as Anaconda and Huaquila also offer the opportunity to include a rafting day into their itinerary.
For a more adventurous trip, look no further than Happy Gringo’s 2-day/1-night Arajuno Kayaking excursion. The silent kayaks are just the deal for wildlife spotting along the river banks, and overnight camping in a Kichwa community tops off a truly unique Amazon experience.
4. Try To Spot Amazon Wildlife
Okay, so Tena and the surrounding area are not home to the same biodiversity of spectacular wildlife as Ecuador’s deep Amazon lodges. But if you go to the right areas and keep your eyes peeled then you might still spot a few surprises.
Carry a good pair of binoculars and zoom camera, for the chance to spot rainforest monkeys and colorful bird species.
If all else fails, head to the Amazoonica Center. They take in wild animals who have been victims of illegal trafficking, with the aim to rehabilitate them and reintroduce them back into their natural habitats. Yes, essentially, it’s a zoo, but visitors can get face-to-face with animals they would not otherwise see around Tena. It’s also possible to volunteer at the Tena Amazoonica Center.
5. Learn How To Make Amazon Chocolate
Ecuadorian chocolate is famous for its exquisite quality, and the Amazon is home to some of our finest cocoa trees. So, why not take a Tena chocolate tour, to discover the whole process firsthand from bean to bar?
Kallari Chocolate is the place to go. Kallari is a Fair Trade community project based in Tena. They run full-day tours from the harvest of cocoa fruit to chocolate preparation and tastings. A typical community lunch is also included.
6. Go Caving At Jumandy
For something completely different, head to the Jumandy Caves to discover an underground world of stalagmites, stalactites, pools, streams, and waterfalls.
The Jumandy Caves are located 2km from the jungle town of Archidona, closeby to Tena. It’s easy to take a bus or taxi from Tena right to the cave entrance. For safety reasons, you’ll need a professional guide to lead you through the terrain of the caverns.
The caves are named after a famous local tribal warrior who stood up to Spanish conquistadors and was forced to hide out in these very caves.
7. Hit Forest Trails To Discover Unusual Plants & Trees
One of the best ways to get to know the Tena rainforest is to pull on a pair of rubber boots, and hit the trails. There are all sorts of hidden secrets just waiting to be discovered in the forest, from medicinal plants to unusual insects. It’s also your chance to reconnect with nature in its purest form.
On Tena Ecuador lodge tours, naturalist guides are ready to lead you along secluded, private trails.
For a DIY option, either book a tour directly from an agency in town or head out yourself to Jatun Sacha Biological Reserve. Jatun Sacha protects 25,000 hectares of mostly primary forest and is a renowned spot for bird-watching and hiking. Contact them ahead of time to hire a local guide.
8. Experience Kichwa Tribal Culture
A trip to the Amazon is not just about trees and animals. The cultural side of Amazon life is fascinating too, and there are various local tribal communities willing to give tourists a glimpse into their daily lives.
A visit to a local Kichwa Indian Community is a great opportunity to sample their traditions. Spending an hour or two with the Kichwa usually involves music and dance, a taste of chicha made from yucca, a wander around their thatched village, and perhaps a shamanic cleansing ceremony.
For some, such a tour can seem overly touristy, while others appreciate the uniqueness of the experience. Either way, community tourism is a positive influence, going a long way to providing these small tribal villages with a sustainable income.
Once again, most lodge tours will already include a community visit in their itinerary. Otherwise, short 2-3 hour tours can be booked through local Tena agents.
9. Kick-Back & Chill
Last but certainly not least, the rainforest is a place for relaxation. Few activities are more satisfying than chilling out in a hammock, enjoying pristine jungle views, and appreciating the gentle sounds of nature.
Some Tena lodges even have swimming pools to cool off or lounge around.
Typical Weather In Tena Ecuador
The weather in Tena Ecuador is broadly defined by 2 different seasons – wet season & dry season. There is no “best” time to visit per se, as each season has pros and cons to consider.
Note that the weather variations between seasons are not as pronounced as in deeper jungle locations such as Cuyabeno and Yasuni.
Rainy season – Tena receives most rain from March to July (ave. 13-15 inches per month). But, in some ways, the season name is misleading as it does not actually rain all day every day, but heavy showers are to be expected.
Dry season - lasts more or less from August to February (ave. 8-10 inches). Of course, this is the rainforest, so still expect precipitation, but usually less than during the rainy season.
The average temperature in Tena Ecuador is cooler than one might expect, clocking in at 20 to 22 Celcius (68-72 Fahrenheit) most days, up to a maximum of 25 Celsius (77 Fahrenheit).
Tena has humidity levels of between 80-85%.
Practicalities For Visiting The Amazon At Tena
- Vaccinations are not required to visit the Tena area. However, depending on advice from your doctor, it might be wise to vaccinate for yellow fever, tetanus, and hepatitis.
- Malaria medication is not required, although, again, it’s best to consult with your doctor before you travel. Bug spray is a must to prevent mosquito bites in the first place, and most lodges provide mosquito netting over beds.
- Packing List – be sure to go well prepared - check out our handy Amazon packing list blog for packing tips.
- Most lodges will provide rubber boots and rain ponchos for jungle activities. Life jackets are also available on canoe trips.
- A camera with a good zoom lens and/or binoculars is highly recommended for spotting wildlife. A dry bag is also a good idea to keep electronics, passports, and money dry.
- Tipping of guides and lodge staff is expected. Check out our detailed Ecuador tipping blog for guidelines.
- Bar tabs can be used at most lodges, usually payable in cash on the final night of your trip.
- Don’t forget, that most Tena Ecuador Lodges are rustic. Go prepared to disconnect without wifi & cellphone network coverage, and don’t be surprised if there is no hot water. This is all part of the jungle experience.
- Most Tena lodges provide potable water, so take along your own bottle to refill. Don’t drink water from the bathroom tap (faucet), it’s not filtered or safe to drink.
Misahualli is another excellent jungle gateway town in the Tena area of Ecuador. Most of the same tours are also available here, as are different types of lodging.
The main highlight of Misahualli is the troop of Capuchin Monkeys that visit the town plaza each and every day. Cute and mischievous in equal measure, this is a great spot in Ecuador to see wild monkeys up close.
There is also a beach to explore, with a trail following the river.
Tena, Cuyabeno or Yasuni?
In contrast to Tena, both of these regions are located much deeper in the jungle. The experience is also rather different – wildlife spotting is much better, but it does take more time & money to get there.
A common question that we receive is: which area is best, Tena, Cuyabeno, or Yasuni? In truth, it depends both on time and budget.
If expense is no concern, and you have 4 or 5 days to visit Ecuador’s Amazon region, then Yasuni comes out on top.
For a 4-5 day trip in the deep jungle but without blowing the budget, then check out Cuyabeno Reserve.
The lodges at Tena Ecuador, on the other hand, come into their own for tourists seeking a shorter 2-3 day introduction to the Amazon rainforest. No, you won’t see the same diversity or quantity of wildlife as at Yasuni or Cuyabeno, but there are lots of fun and adventurous activities to enjoy. It’s also a jungle gateway destination that is easy to reach by road, and cheaper than deep jungle trips.
At the end of the day, the choice is yours. Either way, I guarantee that Ecuador’s Amazon is not an experience you’ll want to miss!
Contact us for a free tour quote – Happy Gringo specialize in custom-made trips right across Ecuador, Galapagos and the Amazon. We’ll be happy to include an unforgettable trip to Tena Ecuador in a vacation itinerary for you.
In conclusion, Tena Ecuador is a great Amazon choice for a quick and easy jungle adventure. It’s within close access to the capital city Quito, with good road links. The mix of Tena rainforest excursions and activities is diverse. Visitors can enjoy Tena whatever their budget – from all-inclusive lodges to a cheap, do-it-yourself trip. Ecuador’s Amazon region is a must-see while in the country, and the Tena region is well worthy of your consideration in trip planning.