If you’re looking for a unique, out-of-the-ordinary location to vacation with your kids, look no further than Ecuador. This small country in South America offers much with its varied terrain, culture, and exceptional wildlife. Here you can build family memories, learn about new cultures, explore nature, and maybe even inspire your children to love travel as much as you do.
One option during your Ecuador family travel adventure is to make a particular city your home base and enjoy day trips to the various natural sights not far away. Ideal locations for this include the capital city of Quito or the colonial city of Cuenca. You can also plan a few days at different locations for a more immersive experience in the various regions, including the Andean highlands, Amazon rainforest, and coastal beaches.
The activities and sights you choose will depend largely upon the age of your kids and their interests and abilities. But you’re sure to find several things to do as a family in Ecuador, and here are nine suggestions.
The Amazon jungle is often depicted in books and movies as a foreboding place. What better way to dispel that than by experiencing the Amazon first-hand? An experience rarely found elsewhere, the Amazon holds surprises of wildlife, flora, and fauna that can amaze and captivate even younger children.
Consider staying in one of the jungle lodges in Ecuador’s lowlands, and immerse your family in the rainforest environment. Activities include canoeing and various wildlife sightings, so be on the lookout for river dolphins, tapirs, monkeys, and many others. One place to stay is in the Mashpi Lodge in Mindo. Although technically in the Choco region west of the Andes, it’s a rich cloud forest area worth visiting. Here you can explore nearby paths and make your way to flowing waterfalls. You can also plan a ride on the Dragonfly Canopy Gondola for a high-level view of the tree canopies and surrounding habitat.
Exploring Ecuador with kids wouldn’t be complete without seeing at least one volcano up close. Build memories with your kids by exploring the various volcanic terrains throughout Ecuador. Learn about these powerful natural phenomena while hiking around one’s perimeter or observing it from afar.
You can venture to the Cotopaxi National Park and enjoy an easy hike circling the Limpiopungo Lagoon., gaining spectacular views of the snow-capped volcano. Another option is to join a tour out of Banos to see the highest volcano in Ecuador, the Volcan Chimborazo.
Banos is a town in Ecuador full of outdoor activities for adults and children of all ages. You can take a jungle tour, a family rafting trip, or watch as your kids enjoy zip-wiring or one of the many other outdoor activities. Afterward, you can all relax in a thermal pool at the base of a volcano.
Enjoy the various restaurants and shops in the town, including craft markets full of unique items such as carved balsa parrots. For a treat, stop in a shop and try the local candy called melcocha.
Ecuador has a fascinating cultural heritage that involves many arts and crafts. Explore the various markets throughout Ecuador and let your kids see and learn about these indigenous offerings. Some locations even offer workshops, so they can learn with their own two hands.
You can find indigenous markets in most towns, but for a treat, visit the famous one in Otavalo. Here you and your kids can find unique souvenirs of your time in Ecuador, including jewelry made from the tagua nut, llama jumpers, weavings such as blankets and shawls, and wood carvings.
Located on the Pacific Coast, Ecuador’s beaches offer unique experiences for you and your family. The beaches here are carved out of spots in the surrounding forests, rocks, and cliffs, providing dramatic scenery.
Visit the coastal town of Montanita and sign your kids up for a surfing lesson. Find a spot on the beach in Salinas and watch for whales or schedule time to see the turtles laying eggs on the nearby La Chocolatea beach. Another option is to visit Islas de la Plata to observe its abundant wildlife and also swim or snorkel.
Exploring by train is a great way for children to see the country and have fun along the way. Several day excursion rail routes can be found throughout Ecuador, and many are suitable for your whole family.
From Quito, you can climb aboard the Tren de los Volcaos railway and enjoy an excursion to the base camp near the summit of the Cotopaxi Volcano. If you’re near Otavalo, enjoy a child-friendly train ride into the Andean highlands and visit an Afro-Ecuadorian community. For a more thrilling adventure, discover the Nariz del Diablo, or Devil’s Nose, and experience a seemingly vertical ascent by way of a series of zigzags or switchbacks.
The Cloud Forest in Ecuador will surprise and please your family in a variety of ways. One way to experience it is by making your way to the Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve in the Andean Mountain foothills. Inside the reserve are eight different ecosystems where you can discover diverse wildlife.
The town of Mindo provides a safe place to stay while exploring the cloud forest as well. Take short hikes through the rainforest, and see how many different tropical birds you can find. Laugh with the howler monkeys in the tree canopy. Ride in a sky gondola high above the ground and into the tree canopy for a spectacular view.
Another natural feature to enjoy as a family in Ecuador is exploring the many waterfalls the country has to offer. Some of these falls even allow for swimming in the pools that form at their base. Nambillo Waterfall Sanctuary near Mindo is a good place to start, with numerous waterfalls to hike to and enjoy.
Another one, located a half-hour from the capital city of Quito, is within the Molinuco Ecological Reserve. Short, scenic hikes take you to nearby waterfalls encased in the forest. Enjoy a picnic here or wander around in nature for a few hours.
If your Ecuador family itinerary allows it, there’s nothing like cruising the Galápagos Islands and introducing your kids to some of the most amazing land and marine wildlife on the planet. Expect to see giant Galápagos tortoises, frolicking sea lions, blue-footed boobies, strutting penguins, and various types of iguanas.
In addition, the pristine beaches offer plenty of room to run, play, swim, and snorkel to your kids’ delight. You’ll also want to enjoy an afternoon at the Charles Darwin Research Center on Santa Cruz Island. Walkthrough the exhibition hall and adjoining garden, or venture into the public library.
Ecuador offers numerous activities and sights children will enjoy, without you having to give up anything you love also. Whether you’re looking for an educational vacation, unique outdoor activities or a relaxing time with your family, a custom tour of Ecuador can provide all three.
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