The Best Ways to Access the Amazon From Tena, Ecuador

Tena, Ecuador | © Eddyl / WikiCommons
Tena, Ecuador | © Eddyl / WikiCommons
Tena is a small but rapidly growing city located on the E-45 Amazon Basin highway – with a dynamic restaurant and bar scene as well as well-established hotels and hostels, it provides direct and affordable routes into the Amazon. Here are the best ways to access the jungle from Tena.

Take to the rapids

Already popular with American kayakers looking for adventure during the frozen winter months, the rivers of Tena provide some of the best white water rapids in South America. Class I to Class IV rapids on different tributaries provide plenty of opportunities for beginning to advanced kayakers or for an exciting white water rafting tour.

Rafting on the Río Jondachi, Ecuador ©Mikko Koponen /Flickr

Experience the wildlife

Even without even heading upriver it’s still possible to see a wide variety of animals in the secondary forests dotted around Tena, including several species of monkeys and stunning birds. Laguna Paikawe, a small lagoon with a pristine island in its center, is a bird watching paradise. Board a flat-bottomed boat or a small canoe while a guide quietly paddles past pre-historic Hoatzins, a mohawked bird with a brilliant blue face and chestnut brown feathers, and spider monkeys hanging from tall trees.

Hoatzin ©Kate/

Hike cascades and hidden caverns

Water springs forth from these Andean foothills, adding to the already dense web of streams and rivers heading to the Amazon. Many local communities, like Yanayacu, offer hiking trips onto sacred lands, guiding tourists up trails to see bridal veil cascades, deep pools, and naturally eroded caverns home to bats hanging from the dripping walls.

Caverns at Yanayacu, Tena, Ecuador ©Angie Drake /Flickr

Head upriver

Accessing the Amazon Basin can be a less expensive, Amazon-lite experience close to roads, or only a short distance upriver for a more intensive, deep jungle trip. The lodges furthest up the Río Napo are usually accessed via Coca rather than Tena but that doesn’t mean the Yasuni National Park is off limits from this direction.

Cotococha Lodge

Located along the Río Napo between Tena and Puerto Misahuallí, the Cotococha Lodge works with the Rainforest Alliance to improve their environmental, social, and economic practices. Their spacious bungalows are surrounded by rainforest and are lit at night by oil lamps. With a pool, playroom, and plenty of space to spread out, this location is perfect for families looking to introduce their kids to the wild jungles without being too far from town.

Napo Province, Ecuador, +593 2 244 1721

The Ecuadorian Amazon ©Dallas Krentzel /Flickr

Huasquila Lodge

Situated near the Río Mishaullí, the Huasquila Lodge provides several tour options from pure adrenaline adventure trips to easy going cultural exchange visits with local indigenous tribes. Huasquila Lodge specializes in accessible tourism, offering wheelchair access in seven special bungalows and along many of their trails.

Cotundo, Napo, Ecuador, +593 2 237 6158

Itamandi Lodge

The Itamandi Lodge is located on a small tributary that feeds the Río Napo, the Río Arajuno. This eco-friendly desination works to foster sustainable development and provide economic opportunities to the native Kichwa community. Tours can include outdoor hikes to see wild animals, visits to a parrot clay lick, and cultural exchange with local tribes.

Napo Province, Ecuador, +593 2 222 0827

Ecuadorian Amazon ©Dallas Krentzel /Flickr

Selva Verde

Selva Verde Tours start their trips in the small town of Puerto Misahuallí, just north of Tena. They offer day trips up the Río Napo and overnight tours that head into the Yasuni National Park ending in Coca, Ecuador.