There are many exciting things to do in Ecuador. Ecuador has the Equator, beautiful beaches, the highlands, jungle, rain forest, and amazing historical cities. One of the most unique opportunities in Ecuador is the whale watching. It is an unimaginable site to see the humpback whales, and their babies, frolicking in the alluring ocean. This South Americian country is also known for its many zip lines to conquer in the majestic Andes, many of which are easily handicapped accessible. The monkey reserve in the rainforest where the monkeys are in the wild jumping on your shoulders and climbing all over you and a fun short hike through the rainforest is a day trip that will never be forgotten. Fun ways to navigate through the Andes and the streets of Ecuador include jeeps, dune buggies, 4-wheelers, horseback riding, buses and taxis.
The Galapágos Islands are most commonly explored via a cruise but we prefer the path less traveled. The adventurous and those seeking to see the most wildlife with the least amount of tourist interaction will enjoy this trip of island hopping and taking local ferries to explore the islands. Each island has its own feel and different wildlife to see. Examples of what animals we will see are: blue-footed boobies, frigate birds, large iguanas, red-billed tropic birds, large bull-sharks, sea lions, waved albatross, turtles, pink flamingoes, whales, Galapágos penguins just to name a few. Activities will include ocean kayaking, snorkeling and hiking the lava fields. Taking the path less traveled will allow for more flexibility in itinerary for the maximum amount of wildlife interaction on different islands during the visit.
Ecuador will offer three different options; one week on the beach, one week in the highlands or a two-week trip combining both the beach and the highlands.
This trip will begin in Guayaquil and a day trip to the Parque Histόrico Guayaquil. This historic park is a great introduction to Ecuador and its traditions and local ways of life. Walking the raised pathways through several different ecosystems you will see native fauna and flora on display. The park offers areas to explore of native trees and wildlife as well as a re-created boardwalk giving visitors a glimpse of what life was like 100 years ago.
After spending the morning at the Historic Park we will make our way to the Cerro Santa Ana (Santa Ana Hill) and Las Peñas. This is a 465 stair climb to the top of the Santa Ana Hill. The views are spectacular of the city and at the top you are rewarded with a small historic war memorial and the very top the little chapel of Santa Ana and a beautiful lighthouse. The path is lined with restaurants, cafes, bars, galleries and shops. The beauty of the walk are the buildings lining stairs that are painted in bright and contrasting primary colors creating a beautiful view as you climb the steps that are numbered to let you know how close you are getting to the top. After the climb or if you are not up for the climb taking a stroll along the Malecόn Simon Bolivar is a great way to get a feel for the city along it beautiful river walk. Ice Cream stands and local McDonalds with its own ice cream walk up window line the path as well as monuments to local leaders and local families enjoying the afternoon as common sites.
We leave Guayaquil for our trip to Montañita. Here we will stay at a lovely little hostel on the beach. We will have a rare pool and hot tub, and hammocks to relax on every balcony. This is a very small but lively town. Restaurants are plentiful, a local brewery is located at the end of the beach and night life is plentiful for those who want it. If you have wanted to learn to surf this is the place. It is cheap and you can watch those new surfers every morning. We will spend the rest of this day and the whole next day just relaxing on the beach and enjoying this lovely little town. For those that would like to visit the local school that No Boundaries supports we will be making a trip in the afternoon to visit the school and take anyone that would like on a tour. This school and local Catholic Church is also the host of the historic Mary statue that on three occasions has cried blood tears. The church has been visited by several popes and Mother Teresa had even made the journey to see this spectacular open air church on the hilltop with the Mary statue.
Day five we will make our way from the hotel to the Machalilla National Park and the Isla de la Plata (little Galápagos). This full day tour will include a boat ride out to the park and opportunity to see the large population of humpback whales that have migrated from Antarctica and giving birth in these shallow warm waters. The opportunity to see mothers and their newborns is almost guaranteed during the month of July. We will spend time floating and watching the whales and then make our way to the National Park. We will hike to the top of the island and see the whales off in the distance with a 360 degree view from the top of the mountain. We will also see the rare blue-footed, masked, and red-footed boobies, frigate birds, albatrosses, sea lions and large sea turtles. This area is protected and an official guide will walk us around the island. There will be a short time for snorkeling in the protected waters. Then we make our way back to mainland and back to our hotel. We will leave Montañita late morning the following day and have plenty of time to rest or shop before our afternoon flight home the next day.
For those wishing to make it a two week trip and visit the highlands we will fly to Quito in the late afternoon and make our way to our hotel. We will meet up with those flying in for the one week highland trip at our hotel.
Our first whole day in Quito will include a tour of the city and all the spectacular sites it has to offer: the El Panecillo (virgin monument), Iglesia de San Francisco which was the first church built in Quito in 1535 and several other prominent sites of Old and New town Quito. Day two we will make our way to the town of Baños. Baños is located at the base of the volcano Tungurahua and offers both adventure and relation. It is best known for its thermal pools which are nourished by mineral-rich naturally heated springs. Locals (and I agree) claim that the springs can alleviate anything from muscular pain to kidney ailments. Besides the baths this town offers adventure. The three free days here one can rent dune buggies and tool over town. Make your way to Puno to the monkey reserve, go horseback riding up the volcano, take a swing off the side of the mountain, bungee jump off the bridge, zip line on one of the many different courses or just relax in the pools. Trust me when I say that there is no good time to leave Baños. We travel from relaxation to shopping in the largest market in South America. In Otavalo we arrive early enough to watch locals arrive from the hills and set up their stands. Early the next morning is the best and the cheapest time to buy anything that you would like to take home? You can get locally made sweaters, blankets and just about any textiles you can imagine at the lowest prices in all of Ecuador. Even if you don’t buy anything the experience of the market is one not to be missed. The afternoon we will take an optional tour of the area.
After a full day of shopping and touring the local countryside we will make our way back to Quito and visit the La Mitad Del Mundo (middle of the world). You can’t come to Ecuador and not visit the equator. You can get a great picture of straddling the equator and having one foot in either hemisphere. After a full afternoon of exploring the equator we will make our way to the hotel for our early morning flight back to the states.