We have driven through the small town of San Miguel de los Bancos several times on our way to the coast. Never did we realize that just on the south side of town, hidden by the buildings along main street, is a huge river valley. It was only on our most recent visit to the San Jorge Ecolodge in Milpe that we decided to eat lunch in town based on the recommendation of two different people, both locals to the area. Each said that the Mirador del Rio Blanco was the place to go. So go we did.

Mirador del Rio Blanco

The food at Rio Blanco was good… nothing to rave about but solid Ecuadorian fare at good prices. But there are two other reasons to visit. Immediately upon entering you will notice all the glass windows that look out onto a garden filled with birds. The best seats in the house are those with views of the feeders. In June, the feeder that attracted the most interest was covered several species of brightly colored tanagers eating with ripe plantains. At one point during our lunch, the tanagers all disappeared and six large Pale-mandibled Aracaris (toucans for the non-birders out there), took over the feeder. It was almost comical watching these birds attack the plantains with their huge, serrated beaks. It looked like a Fruit Loops commercial gone bad.

But there are more than birds. Just walk out onto the outdoor patio to see why. The view of the gorgeous Rio Blanco (or Rio Esmereldas according to Google) and the surrounding mountains, including the cloud forests of Mindo and the Cordillera Nambillo, is absolutely stunning. We have often been frustrated while traveling in Ecuador because finding places to take photos of stunning scenery alongside the roads, even the newly built highways, is next to impossible. So finding this little treasure of a vista was especially gratifying. Not only could we enjoy the view, we could do so without worrying about the next truck flying around the blind curve.

If you are up for a mini adventure, we recommend walking down the short trail to a narrow, wooden suspension bridge designed for a single person to walk across at a time. As it sways back and forth, you can look between your feet to the rapidly declining hillside below and then wonder at who decided to build this small architectural wonder. And, if you’re lucky, a friend will take your picture to memorialize the event! I’ve heard that the trip back is far harder than the trip out so consider yourself warned.

Directions

There are signs saying that you have arrived to San Miguel de los Bancos a couple of kilometers before you reach the heart of town. So don’t panic as you’re driving down the highway and wonder if you’ve missed the town altogether. You haven’t. When you actually reach the town, you’ll notice buildings on both sides of the street and lots of activity. The restaurant will be on your left hand side as you are headed away from Quito/Mindo and towards the coast. There is a large, billboard like sign with their name, Mirador del Rio Blanco. It is hard to miss while driving in this direction. The map on their website shows a place in Lima, Peru so don’t trust it for direction but do use the site for menu and hours of operation.

San Miguel de los Bancos

Mirador del Rio Blanco

Location of the restaurant with bird observation, walking trail, and view of the river.

Information For Your Trip

San Miguel de los Bancos is along a major road to the coast; it can be crowded on weekends and holidays so plan accordingly. 

  • Direction by Car, use WAZE and look for San Miguel de los Bancos, Pichincha, Ecuador (not to be confused with the one in Guayaquil).
  • Direction by Public Transportation  The best way to get to San Miguel de los Banco by bus is to look for trips from Terminal, Carcelen, Quito to the Coast that go along the Mindo corridor.