Experience the best of family-friendly Ecuador and the Galápagos with this 10-day trip that delivers an exhilarating few days in Quito before some much-needed downtime on the island of San Cristóbal. Starting in the historic capital, you'll zipline through a cloud forest and zoom up a volcano by cable car before flying to the Galápagos to make friends with the sea lions and tortoises. End your trip back on the mainland with a relaxing night at the hot springs of Papallacta.


  • Fly up the slopes of the Pichincha volcano by cable car 
  • Zipline through the cloud forest canopy and spot birds and butterflies in Mindo
  • Discover blue-footed boobies and playful seals on Isla Lobos
  • Snorkel among sea lions, rays, and tortoises at Kicker Rock
  • Wind down your trip in the natural hot springs of Papallacta

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Quito, Explore Quito
Day 2 Quito City Tour, Visit Mitad del Mundo, Games Evening Quito
Day 3 Mindo Cloud Forest Adventure Quito
Day 4 Free Day in Quito Quito
Day 5 Fly to Isla San Cristóbal & the Galápagos Isla San Cristóbal
Day 6 Explore Isla San Cristóbal's Beaches Isla San Cristóbal
Day 7 Wildlife Discovery at Isla Lobos Isla San Cristóbal
Day 8 Snorkeling Excursion to Kicker Rock Isla San Cristóbal
Day 9 Fly to Quito, Transfer to Termas de Papallacta Papallacta
Day 10 Transfer to Quito, Depart  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Quito, Explore

Quito's Plaza Grande
Start your adventure with a ride on the TelefériQo cable car

Welcome to Ecuador, the gateway to the Galápagos Islands! Your flight lands in the capital city of Quito, located in the foothills of the Andes and home to a rich cultural history, impressive culinary scene, and an array of picturesque plazas and market stalls. Upon arrival, your driver will collect you from the airport. Settle in at your hotel, and head out to explore after a refresh and a regroup.

If the kids are buzzing with excitement after the flight, then head straight to Parque La Carolina. With 65 acres (66 ha) of green space, and plenty of lakes, fountains, and children's play areas to explore, it's an excellent way for kids to burn off some energy. Take advantage of the park's food stalls to grab a bite to eat and stop in at the on-site botanical gardens. A network of paths takes you through the gardens and to the greenhouses, where you'll find a wide variety of beautiful orchids on display.

If energy levels are still high, ride the TelefériQo cable car to the slopes of the Pichincha volcano, where you'll be rewarded with stunning views 12,900 feet (3,932 m) over the city. The kids won't want to miss a go or two on one of the nearby swings—the world's highest! Afterward, head to Quito's La Floresta neighborhood and grab a cool drink at one of the artsy cafés as you people-watch. It's a great family-friendly spot for dinner, with plenty of restaurants, street food, and eye-catching street art to admire. 

Day 2: Quito City Tour, Visit Mitad del Mundo, Games Evening

The rosette window in Ecuador's famous La Basílica del Voto
The rosette window in Ecuador's famous La Basílica del Voto

After breakfast, meet your guide at the hotel and set off to explore Quito's UNESCO-listed historic center with a private family tour. Make your way to La Compañía de Jesús, a 17th-century gold-filled church made of volcanic rock and cedar that took over 160 years to complete. Next up is the neo-Gothic La Basílica del Voto, widely considered to be Ecuador's most important church and the largest neo-Gothic basilica in the Americas. 

Then, make your way to the famous La Ronda, a long narrow, cobblestone street brimming with cafés, art galleries, and boutiques that adorn the quaint walkways and open courtyards. If you and the kids have built up an appetite, this is a great area to grab a bite. Your guide will be happy to help with recommendations. Afterward, head with your guide by car to the north of the city, where you'll find the famous Mitad del Mundo—a monument commemorating the point where the Northern and Southern Hemispheres divide and the perfect spot for a family selfie. 

This evening, you have a couple of options to help entertain the youngsters before dinner. Head to La Bodeguita de los Juegos, a board game café in downtown Quito with a relaxed and cozy atmosphere and a wide variety of games to choose from. Older ages might prefer the gaming lounge at the JW Marriott Hotel, where they can explore the large selection of video games and more traditional pursuits. If you and the kids enjoyed a hearty lunch, both places offer drinks and snacks so you can settle in and relax after your day of exploring. 

Day 3: Mindo Cloud Forest Adventure

Zipline above the clouds at Mindo Cloud Forest
Kids will love the zipline through the forest canopy of Mindo 

Take a break from the city today as you and your family set off on a day trip to the Mindo-Nambillo Ecological Reserve. Your destination is the cloud forest of the subtropical Mindo Valley, at the Choco Lowlands intersection and the Andean highlands' tropical western slopes. Thanks to its location and position (the forest lies at around 4,100 ft/1,250 m), the forest is famous for its incredibly high biodiversity, with over 400 species of birds, including hummingbirds, woodpeckers, and the elusive cock of the rock. 

Explore the forest and let the little ones keep a tally of the countless birds, butterflies, and insects that call the region home. Depending on the kids' ages, visit the beautiful Butterfly Garden, hike to nearby waterfalls, or fly between the treetops on a zipline for older kids eager for an adrenaline hit. Reward yourselves afterward with a visit to Mindo Chocolate Makers and meet the Michigan couple harnessing the region's perfect cocoa-growing conditions to create their own ethically sourced chocolate, which, naturally, you and the kids will need to sample. 

Day 4: Free Day in Quito

Plaza Grande, Quito
Head to the many family-friendly parks and squares of Quito on your free day

It's your final day in Quito, and today is yours to spend as you wish. Either stay local and revisit your favorite sights, stroll the plaza and pick up some souvenirs to take home, or sharpen your tastebuds with a private family cooking class where you'll learn the secrets of Andean cuisine. 

If you fancy venturing farther afield, families with older kids should take a day trip to the Cotopaxi National Park. Amid sweeping views of the Andean landscape, volcanoes, and the snowcapped peak of Cotopaxi, you and the kids will enjoy an epic horseback ride as you trek through the vast landscape and experience the life of a chagras (Ecuadorian cowboy). In the afternoon, you'll return to Quito, where you and your family will have plenty of great dining options to choose from. 

Day 5: Fly to Isla San Cristóbal & the Galápagos

Welcome to the Galapagos Islands!
Meet the locals as you transfer to the Galápagos 
Plan your trip to Galapagos Islands
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.

It's off to Isla San Cristóbal in the Galápagos today! At the appointed time, your driver will pick you up from your hotel and take you to the airport, where you'll catch a 3.5-hour flight to the famed volcanic archipelago located roughly 621 miles (1,000 km) off Ecuador's Pacific coast. Upon arrival, a private transfer will take you to your hotel. Settle in with the kids and then head out to explore. 

Start your exploration of the Galápagos' natural wonders with a visit to the island's Interpretation Center. The museum is a great starting point for families to discover the island's volcanic origins, climate, and the different species of animals that call San Cristóbal home. You'll see several of these as you hike to Las Tijeretas Hill, including the local frigatebirds, after which the hill is named. The male birds are known for their balloon-shaped large red chests, making them an easy spot for the kids. 

End your day at La Lobería, a beach home to sea lions and marine iguanas. It's the perfect spot for a family snorkel, where you'll likely encounter the famous Galápagos sea turtle and a variety of colorful fish. As dusk falls, dine out on sparkling fresh seafood and toast the start of your island adventure.

Day 6: Explore Isla San Cristóbal's Beaches

Explore Isla San Cristobal with the kids
Explore Isla Isla San Cristóbal's beaches with the kids

Enjoy relaxed island life today and explore Isla San Cristóbal's natural beauty and stunning beaches at your own pace. Head first to Playa Carola, a perfect spot for families with gorgeous views and plenty of activities. Relax while the little ones snorkel in the clear, calm waters and discover the sea stars and local marine life. If you fancy a stretch of the legs and some shade, there's a small forest nearby where the kids can run and play. 

For a change of scene, head to Playa Mann. Surrounded by cliffs, the area is renowned as a great place to bird-watch. Here you can watch the seabirds nesting on the cliffs or diving for a meal in the ocean. The beach's white sands and shallow waters are a perfect introduction for first-time snorkelers, and the various marine creatures will transfix the kids.

An hour's hike from Playa Mann is Punta Pitt, where you'll find a lookout with breathtaking views of the bay and an excellent place for a memorable family photo. Task the kids to watch for the lava lizards lounging on the rocks and the brightly-colored finches flitting around the trees. Stroll back to the beach, where locals flock to watch the sunset, before returning to your hotel and heading out for dinner. 

Day 7:  Wildlife Discovery at Isla Lobos

San Cristobal sea lion
It's hard not to take a shine to the adorable sea lions at Isla Lobos

Rally the kids and pack a picnic as this morning you'll head out on a memorable boat trip to Isla Lobos, or "Sea Lion Island." Located 6 miles (10 km) north of Isla San Cristóbal, this island is famous for its noisy, jolly sea lions, and the adorable creatures are sure to enchant the kids with their playful antics. Spend a few hours snorkeling around the island where, as well as rays and turtles, you may see the brightly-colored Sally Lightfoot crab and perhaps even harmless whitetip sharks.

Back on shore, stroll the island's two sandy beaches and explore the lush vegetation as you follow one of the several hiking trails that lead to breathtaking views of the surrounding area. There's plenty of exotic birdlife for the kids to spot, including the blue-footed and Nazca boobies. Choose a spot to enjoy lunch before returning to the beach for one final dip. In the afternoon, you'll transfer back to your hotel, where the rest of the day is yours to spend as you wish.

Day 8: Snorkeling Excursion to Kicker Rock

Snorkeling at Kicker Rock
Spend the day snorkeling with the kids at Kicker Rock

After breakfast, pack your swimsuits and sunscreen and head out with the kids for an excursion to Kicker Rock, a large rock formation just off Isla San Cristóbal's coast. On today's guided snorkel tour, you'll drop anchor and experience the majestic marine life as you and the kids swim among the turtles, rays, and tropical fish. 

When you're ready, hop back on the boat and head to Cerro Brujo (Witch's Hill), where you'll have time to relax on the beautiful beach at Bahía Sardina. Kids will love visiting nearby Punta Pitt, where your guide will show you how the locals fish before letting the kids try reeling one in for themselves. Back on the boat, enjoy a delicious lunch before heading to the white sands of Rosa Blanca for a final swim before returning to the pier. Spend your last evening in the Galápagos at one of your favorite restaurants, dining out on the island's delectable seafood.

Day 9: Fly to Quito, Transfer to Termas de Papallacta

Papallacta hotsprings and pools
Relax and have fun with the kids at the Papallacta hot springs

It's time to say goodbye to the Galápagos Islands this morning as you take one final stroll through the town and then head to the airport with your family to catch your flight to Quito. But don't worry, the adventure isn't over yet! Upon arrival at Quito, you'll take a private transfer to the small village of Papallacta, an hour away from Ecuador's capital and a popular day trip for visitors from Quito. Surrounded by lush mountain slopes, the little town is famous for its eight natural geothermal pools.

Check into your accommodation at the Termas de Papallacta resort and spend your last afternoon soaking in the thermally heated water. On a clear day, you can take in the views of the vast glacier-covered Antisana volcano. Indulge in one of the on-site spa treatments, or if you're fully rejuvenated and the kids are clamoring for adventure, spend the afternoon exploring the nearby Laguna Papallacta. It's the perfect destination for a hike, and if the kids are so inclined, they can travel by horseback instead of walking. 

Back at the resort, enjoy a relaxed evening at one of the on-site restaurants. Dine on local specialties like grilled rainbow trout as you raise a toast to your Ecuadorian and Galápagos adventure and recount the highlights of your trip.

Day 10: Transfer to Quito, Depart

Say goodbye to the Galapagos Islands
Bid farewell to Ecuador and the Galápagos today as you catch your flight home. 

The time has come to say farewell to Ecuador and the Galápagos Islands. At the appointed hour, your driver will pick you up and transfer you to the airport for the flight back to Quito and your onward journey. Safe travels! 

More Great Galápagos Islands Itineraries

Looking for more inspiration for your trip to the Galápagos? Check out these other Galápagos itineraries, discover different ways to spend 10 days in the Galápagos with your family, or explore the best time to visit the Galápagos


Map of Ecuador & the Galápagos Family Nature Tour - 10 Days
Map of Ecuador & the Galápagos Family Nature Tour - 10 Days