At Our Whole Village, we plan meaningful vacations for families who want to create lifelong memories and show their kids the world in a more conscious and intentional manner.
We help families take meaningful vacations so that they can escape everyday life, show their kids the world and make lifelong memories - with care, confidence and peace of mind.
Your (free) guide to the top travel destinations for families with babies, teens and everyone in between.
One of the most biodiverse nations globally, Ecuador boasts four distinct worlds of diversity: the coast, the highlands, the Amazon, and the Galapagos Islands. The country contains approximately eight percent of all animal species and ten percent of the plants on Earth. Most of these species are concentrated in the Amazon rainforest.
But the compelling reasons to visit Ecuador with kids don’t stop there. From the harmony of Ecuador’s indigenous cultures to the delectable cuisine, your family will fall in love with this South American gem. Where to start planning the perfect trip to Ecuador with kids? Check out this sample itinerary filled with activities designed to let your family explore three of the nation’s four worlds in less than two weeks.
I had the pleasure to experience this exact same itinerary in 2021 and it’s been one of those life-changing experiences, where each day seems more incredible than the next.
After flying into Quito and spending the night there, it’s off to the Amazon Rainforest to sample some of Ecuador’s incredible diversity up close. After a short flight to Coca we transfer to La Selva’s office in town where we get ready to board a motorized canoe and ride down the Napo river. This will mark your first introduction to the rainforest.
After spending two hours taking in the sights and life around the Napo river, your family will transfer via a paddle canoe to La Selva Jungle Lodge, where the real adventure begins. This canoe ride is pretty magical and feels like a portal into a hidden world. Check our Instagram highlight for a glimpse of Ecuador with kids.
The lodge is located on a secluded lagoon, and this will be your home for the next three nights.
Once settled in, your expert guide will provide your family with fascinating information about the tropical rainforest. Then, embark on the Matalpo Trail, a Spanish name that pays homage to the Strangler fig, one of the many incredible trees you’ll see on this short walk. Besides Stranglers, keep your eyes open for majestic Mahogany trees, some as old as 400 years or more. The best time to take the Matalpo Trail is late afternoon. Not only does this timeframe allow for exceptional natural lighting, but you’ll also enjoy chances to scope out both diurnal and nocturnal animals as the transition to evening approaches.
After a hearty breakfast, depart on a 20-minute hike to the La Selva observation tower. Once you reach this attraction, climb 120 feet above the forest to gain a bird’s eye view of the canopy teeming with life. Accompanied by a naturalist guide, you’ll indulge in some of the most exotic and colorful bird watching in the world. And make sure you keep your eyes peeled for primates, too!
On your return trip from the observation tower, take the Tucaneta Trail. Your guide will point out many interesting sights along the way, including medicinal plants used today. They’ll also provide you with intimate insights into local conservation initiatives and the natural history of the rainforest. Along the way, stop at the Mandi Cocha, a breathtaking lagoon tucked into the verdant jungle. This additional stop requires an hour hike but lets your family check out an Igapo Forest, a portion of the jungle temporarily flooded by black water. These transient geographic features provide vital habitats for diverse species, including birds and giant otters.
After a delicious lunch at La Selva Jungle Lodge, take a late afternoon stroll along the Charapa Trail. During this hour-long walk, get ready for an animal adventure! As twilight approaches, monkeys, various mammals, and birds draw closer to the lagoon in the quest for food, providing your family with one-of-a-kind sightseeing opportunities and the chance to witness a gorgeous Amazonian sunset from the water via canoe. Following some downtime and dinner, take a night canoe ride where stargazing abounds, as do chances to search out nocturnal animals on a spotlight-guided tour.
On your final day in the Amazon Rainforest, ride a motorized canoe down the Napo River to the Parrot Clay Licks. The mineral-rich soil at this site provides vital nutrients for local populations of parrots and parakeets, which means these vibrantly plumed birds turn out in droves. Don’t forget to bring your binoculars to catch the best of the action. Next, it’s on to the Kichwa community to experience indigenous culture one-on-one. A handful of communities live near La Selva, and your family will learn about their lifeways with the help of a local guide. The most adventurous can try the local delicacy: the chontacuro worm.
Spend the late afternoon exploring the Garzacocha Lagoon and Ceiba Trail on a trip to Ecuador with kids. Garzacocha boasts a well-deserved reputation as the most beautiful lagoon in the Ecuadorian Amazon. And you’ll enjoy more opportunities to watch birds and monkeys in their natural environments. Lucky visitors get to observe families of capuchin and squirrel monkeys foraging. And the wide range of feathered friends you may see include toucans, macaws, and hoatzin.
Following an early morning breakfast, say goodbye to the Amazon before departing for the Andes. From Quito, transfer to the town of Otavalo, which contains one of the largest indigenous markets in North and South America. Rich with local Kichwa culture, tour one of the most fascinating towns in Ecuador. But nothing brings a new culture to life quite like tasting it, which makes the “Kawsaymi” gastronomical experience unforgettable.
Instead of taking lunch at a restaurant, your guide will introduce you to Claudia and Patricio, a local family dedicated to preserving the foodways of their ancestors. During the workshop, sample iconic native flavors while learning about the richness of natural products and time-honored preparations. After mastering a handful of local dishes, it’s time to savor them together.
Following this hearty meal, it’s off to the Otavalo Market in the Plaza de Ponchos. Ecuador’s most famous craft market, get ready to marvel at local artistry and handicrafts. After you’ve had your fill exploring the incredible products handcrafted for the market, take a stroll back to the Hotel Otavalo, where you’ll eat dinner and spend the night.
At this point, your family may have wondered where the products for the Otavalo Market come from. On a trip to the small communities surrounding Otavalo, you’ll find out while traveling Ecuador with kids. Start in Peguche, where you’ll embark on a trail used for centuries as a purification bath site before the famed Andean Inti Raymi festival. Continue to Agato, where a warm and welcoming local family will host you for the night. The community specializes in heritage weaving, , and you’ll get the chance to tour the stunning workshop of world-renowned master weaver Miguel Andrango.
After leaving Andrango’s shop, head to picturesque San Pablo Lake. Water discharged by the Peguche Waterfall formed the lake, which sits in the shadow of the Imbabura Volcano. There’s no better spot to indulge in standup paddleboarding or kayaking embraced by the expansive natural landscape.
Visiting Hacienda Zuleta feels like time-traveling into Ecuador’s rich and colorful past. This 17th-century working farm and hotel belongs to former President Galo Plaza Lasso and his family. There’s no better place to soak up local hospitality while savoring home-grown Andean cuisine and exploring the opulent antique rooms of the Hacienda.
Located in a stunning natural setting, you and your family will also enjoy one-of-a-kind opportunities to explore the great outdoors. These include an excursion to one of the property’s mountain vistas or lakes on the Hacienda’s own breed of horses. If you’re not equine-inclined, you’ll also find countless bike and hiking trails as well as the Condor Huasi facility, which provides fascinating insights into the conservation of local endangered species. And you won’t want to miss out on the chance to take a cooking class or local embroidery workshop.
Located in Ecuador’s central region, Cotopaxi National Park covers 128.9 square miles in the Andes Mountains. The park contains the second-highest peak in the nation, Cotopaxi, towering 19,347 feet into the clouds. Because of its immense size, this stratovolcano is one of the tallest globally and remains active, having last erupted in 2016. One of the finest examples of a symmetrical cone in the world, come prepared for breathtaking landscapes you’ll want prominently featured in your family’s travel photo album.
Besides photography, the park invites you to indulge in wildlife observation, hiking, and trail biking. One of our favorite courses remains the hike around Laguna Limpiopungo, a lake that varies in size seasonally. Here, you’ll scope out Andean gulls and hummingbirds as you walk along the trail. Give yourself at least 90 minutes to complete the adventure, savoring incredible views along the way. Don’t forget to keep your eyes peeled for the famed wild horses of Cotopaxi, often seen grazing the high paramo in the shadow of the Cotopaxi Volcano.
After a couple more days exploring the richness of Ecuador’s Andean region, the culminating point of your family vacation arrives, a trip to the famed Galapagos Islands. Start at Baltra Island, considered the gateway to the Galapagos. During World War II, this small island acted as a military base, and it still hosts the islands’ main transportation hub, Seymour Airport. The airport enjoys a reputation for its impressive sustainability and was designed using cutting-edge environmental techniques to reduce energy use and emissions. It holds the distinction of being the first ecological airport on the planet.
Next, explore the vibrant aquamarine waters of the Itabaca Channel through kayaking, snorkeling, or standup paddleboarding. This will also mark your family’s first encounter with the islands’ unique wildlife, including white-tipped reef sharks, herons, brown pelicans, sea lions, and blue-footed boobies. The Itabaca Channel separates the islands of Balta and Santa Cruz. Navigate through peaceful red mangrove forests and past rugged lava rock cliffs whose pristine clear waters invite marine animal watching.
After your first taste of the Galapagos Islands by water, go inland to discover a giant tortoise reserve, where you’ll spend the night glamping. The safari-style tents let you get closer to nature as you connect with the rhythms and sounds of the island. You’ll also enjoy endless views by day and skies chock full of sparkling stars at night.
One of the best ways to appreciate Ecuador with kids is by visiting the Galapagos archipelago. We recommend a cruise of its uninhabited islands, which comprise Galapagos National Park. You’ll visit isolated locales like Seymour and Las Bachas, which both boast distinct ecologies. On Seymour Island, head out on an easy hike to search for blue-footed bobbies and frigate birds. Next, at Las Bachas Island, snorkel alongside playful sea lions, sea turtles, and manta rays. Your family will be amazed by the incredible array of colorful fish and white-tipped sharks swimming the island’s turquoise waters.
There’s no better way to finish up a trip to the Galapagos than with a visit to Tortuga Bay, known as one of the most breathtaking beaches on Santa Cruz. These hidden gems represent the ideal spots to soak up the sun and play in the surf. Playa Brava (“Angry Beach”) showcases turquoise waters and white sand beaches stretching infinitely towards the horizon. Although the waves here prove too rough for swimming, it’s a must for surfers. Playa Mansa (“Calm Beach”) is celebrated for its isolation, calm water for swimming and kayaking, and incredible beauty.
When it comes to planning the perfect trip to Ecuador with kids, opt for a diverse range of activities from hiking and kayaking to cooking classes and local immersion experiences. Remember the nation’s exceptional diversity and incorporate experiences from the Amazon, the Andes, and the Galapagos Islands. Along the way, you and your kids will learn about Ecuador’s history and indigenous cultures, indulge in countless adventures, and savor tasty culinary experiences with local chefs.
What else do you need to know as you start planning the perfect family vacation to Ecuador? We’ve got you covered. Let’s schedule a phone call to discuss your family’s needs and travel style and how we can create a meaningful travel experience your entire family will never forget.
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