This family-friendly Ecuadorian adventure starts in historic Guayaquil, where you'll take a guided tour of the city's most notable landmarks before heading to the coasts of Manta. Visit howler monkeys at Pacoche Wildlife Refuge and kayak the Pacific coast, then continue to Puerto López for snorkeling with colorful fish (and maybe some curious sea turtles!) at the islands of Isla de la Plata and Isla Salango. Return to Guayaquil in time to canoe through the greenery of Churute Mangrove Reserve.


  • Say hello to curious howler monkeys at Pacoche Wildlife Refuge
  • Swim and snorkel along the remote beaches of Isla de la Plata
  • Head out to sea on an all-day ocean fishing adventure 
  • Canoe through the peaceful greenery of Churute Mangrove Reserve 

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Guayaquil, Explore Guayaquil
Day 2 Guayaquil City Tour, Transfer to Manta Manta
Day 3 Pacoche Wildlife Refuge, Beaches of Manta Manta
Day 4 Explore Manta via Kayak Manta
Day 5 Manta Bay Tour, Transfer to Puerto López Puerto López
Day 6 Sailing Excursion to Isla de la Plata Puerto López
Day 7 Free Day in Puerto López: Fish Markets & Isla Salango Puerto López
Day 8 Family Fishing Adventure  Puerto López
Day 9 Salango Beach Day  Puerto López
Day 10 Morning at Los Frailes Beach, Transfer to Salinas Salinas
Day 11 Explore Salinas: Whale Museum & Beaches Salinas
Day 12 La Chocolatera Visitor Site, Transfer Back to Guayaquil Guayaquil
Day 13 Churute Mangrove Reserve  Guayaquil
Day 14 Depart Guayaquil  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Guayaquil, Explore

Welcome to the historic city of Guayaquil 

Welcome to Ecuador! Your flight arrives in the historic city of Guayaquil, a busy metropolis that serves as Ecuador's main port. Your private driver will collect you and transport you to your hotel, and once you've had a chance to regroup, it's time to get out and explore! Nestled along the banks of the Río Guayas, this picturesque city is home to gorgeous architecture, family-friendly sights and activities, and plenty of shops and restaurants.

Start with a stroll down the Malecón 2000, a 1.5-mile (2.4 km) boardwalk along the riverfront that offers lovely views and will give the kids a chance to stretch their legs after the long plane ride. Then, visit Las Peñas, or "The Boulders," a neighborhood with a history that stretches back nearly 400 years, with pastel architecture that reflects 19th-century abundance. Climb the 444 steps from Las Peñas to the top of Cerro Santa Ana (Santa Ana Hill) to find a chapel, lighthouse, and gorgeous views of the city and the Gulf of Guayaquil. Relax at your hotel tonight before continuing your adventures tomorrow. 

Day 2: Guayaquil City Tour, Transfer to Manta

Meet the iguanas of Seminario Park

Get better acquainted with Guayaquil on a guided city tour today. Your guide will collect your family from the hotel, and you'll start with a visit to Seminario Park, best known for its resident land iguanas, which the kids will love seeing hanging out in the trees and sunbathing in the grass. From here, you'll head to the Metropolitan Cathedral, where you'll have a chance to appreciate its classic Gothic lines, then walk down the Malecón and to the Palacio Municipal (Municipal Palace)  and Palacio de Gobernacion (Government Palace).

See the Moorish clock tower, La Torre Morisca, and climb the stairs for views of the entire city, then continue to La Rotonda, a statue that marks the meeting between Simón Bolívar and Jose San Martin in 1822. If you didn't make it to the Las Peñas neighborhood yesterday, you'll have a chance to experience this colorful, vibrant district at the end of the tour. 

This afternoon, you're off to your next destination, the coastal city of Manta. The drive takes approximately four hours, taking you along the Spondylus Route, which has gorgeous Pacific coast scenery—be sure to keep your cameras ready! Along the way, you'll stop in the town of Ballenita, where you'll enjoy a traditional lunch, and the family can learn about the region's pirate history at the local museums, and you can also take a break at Playa Ayampe if the kids want some beach time. Arrive in Manta and check in at your hotel, then explore on your own a bit this evening. 

Day 3: Pacoche Wildlife Refuge, Beaches of Manta

See curious howler monkeys at Pacoche Wildlife Refuge

Today starts with a visit to Pacoche Wildlife Refuge, a protected area located about 15 miles (25 km) from Manta in the province of Manabí. The refuge includes more than 21,000 acres (8,500 ha) of coastal marine ecosystems and more than 12,000 acres (5,000 ha) of terrestrial ecosystems. Here, you'll find lush green forests, varied vegetation, and animals that include 200 different species of birds, as well as several different families of howler monkeys. See the monkeys in their natural habitat, and take a guided hike from the refuge's lodge, where you can go all the way out to San Lorenzo Lighthouse.

Afterward, let the kids enjoy some downtime at Playa San Lorenzo. This quiet 2-mile (3 km) stretch of beach is a nesting ground for sea turtles, with hundreds of turtles journeying there to lay eggs each year, so you're likely to see a few relaxing on the shore. While this area isn't great for swimming, if you have very young children, teens or older kids who are strong swimmers might enjoy the waves here. 

Later this afternoon, see more of Manta with a stroll around town. See the cruise ships landing at the port, or head to the nearby village of Montecristi, the birthplace of the Panama hat, and learn all about the hat's history and legacy. The kids might also enjoy a visit to the Museum of Manabí, known for its collection of artifacts that showcase the history and culture of the Manabi province. 

Day 4: Explore Manta via Kayak

Set off on a family-friendly kayak tour of Manta

Get out on the sparkling Pacific waters today with a guided kayak tour! You'll meet with your guides in the morning, and after a safety and equipment briefing, you'll head out. The tour takes you on a two-hour paddle along the coast, and your guides will share the history behind the geography of the region and its various points of interest. The kids can keep their eyes peeled for the many seabirds soaring overhead, as well as turtles and colorful fish in the water. Pull up on the beach and enjoy lunch at a nearby hotel, then, you'll have the option to kayak more or just hang at the hotel pool for the rest of the afternoon. 

Day 5: Manta Bay Tour, Transfer to Puerto López

Enjoy the sight of breaching humpbacks while touring Manta Bay

The day starts early with a tour of Manta Bay. Your driver will collect you from your hotel and take you to Playa Murciélago, where you'll meet your guide and board a boat that will take you out to sea. Cruise the open waters, with stops for snorkeling, swimming, and bird-watching. If you're lucky enough to be there between June and September, you're also likely to be treated to the breathtaking sight of breaching humpback whales—sure to be a huge hit with the kids! 

After your boat tour, you'll take a private transfer to Puerto López, a drive of about two hours that takes you along the scenic coast. This small fishing village is the headquarters for Machalilla National Park, with a host of outdoor activities to choose from, a beach promenade, and lots of shops and restaurants. Check in at your hotel, then enjoy dinner at a local café this evening and take the kids for a walk along the beach. 

Plan your trip to Ecuador
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.

Day 6: Sailing Excursion to Isla de la Plata

Swim and snorkel at Isla de la Plata, the real-life "Treasure Island"

The high seas beckon today as you board a small, family-friendly yacht and set sail for Isla de la Plata (Silver Island), located just northwest of part of Puerto López within Machalilla National Park. The kids are sure to be intrigued by the island's swashbuckling history: local legend says English mercenary Sir Francis Drake buried treasure here, and it's rumored to have been the inspiration for Robert Louis Stevenson's "Treasure Island." They'll also be delighted to keep a lookout for humpback whales (especially from mid-June to mid-October), which can often be seen on the journey to and from the island.

Once you've dropped anchor at Isla de la Plata, spot the boisterous sea lions and blue-footed boobies that frequent its shores, as well as distinctive frigatebirds, red-footed and masked boobies, waved albatrosses, and tropicbirds. After a walk along the island's guided trail, adventurous and older kids can go snorkeling in the pristine waters, while younger ages might want to stay on shore and start their own dig for buried treasure on the beach.

Day 7: Free Day in Puerto López: Fish Markets & Isla Salango

Visit blue-footed boobies on Isla Salango near Puerto López

Explore more of Puerto López on your own today, starting with a visit to the morning fish market. This bustling morning event begins quite early, with fishermen landing along the waterfront to sell fresh fish to local restaurant owners and residents. Watch the boats jockey for position, fish being cleaned and quickly sold, and birds diving for scraps. If you like, you and the kids can even purchase some seafood and ask one of the restaurants to cook it for you—there's nothing like some fresh-caught fish for breakfast! 

Later, take a boat tour to Isla Salango, located across from the nearby village of Salango. The island's steep slopes don't allow for hiking, but there's a small, white-sand beach with a reef that attracts colorful tropical fish, making it the perfect snorkel spot. The wildlife that occupies the beach includes blue-footed boobies, frigates, pelicans, and the occasional sea lion or turtle sunning on the shore. Head back to Puerto López in time for some great local food at one of the town's many restaurants. 

Day 8: Family Fishing Adventure 

Catch fresh fish for dinner on a fishing adventure

You'll be up and about before the sun today as you head out for a full-day family fishing trip. Arrive at the dock and meet up with your captain, then navigate 45 miles out from the shore on a fully-equipped yacht. Your guides will set you up to fish, with all the necessary equipment provided onboard, and your family will have the option of keeping what you catch and having it prepared at a local restaurant for dinner or doing a catch and release back into the ocean. The kids will get to experience all the ins and outs of fishing, and your expert guides will take you to the best secret spots for catching the big ones!

Day 9: Salango Beach Day 

You might see friendly sea turtles at Playa Salango 

Spend some time at Salango today, where you can head out to Isla Salango if you didn't get to go earlier or relax on Playa Salango. Little ones can swim and play along the shore, and older kids can hone their surf skills with surf lessons right on the beach! Enjoy a fresh seafood lunch, then explore the quaint streets of the village, picking up a few souvenirs at local shops. You can also learn about the history of the area at the museum here, which documents the ancient civilizations that once lived in the area through various exhibits. Return to your hotel in Puerto López just at sunset. 

Day 10: Morning at Los Frailes Beach, Transfer to Salinas

Visit the quiet beaches of Los Frailes today

Make the most of your last morning in Puerto López with a visit to Playa Los Frailes, one of mainland Ecuador's most beautiful beaches. Part of Machalilla National Park, the beach is a protected, isolated expanse with no modern amenities and usually very few people. You'll be able to swim and snorkel freely here, and there is a viewpoint that overlooks the entire Pacific coast and park area that is absolutely stunning. Do keep in mind that visits to the beach are only allowed during specific hours, and there is no smoking, alcohol, camping, or bicycles allowed. 

After all that sun and fun, it's time to transfer to the city of Salinas, a drive of about an hour and 40 minutes that takes you to the western tip of the Santa Elena province. Your driver will drop you off at your hotel, and you can either take the afternoon to settle in or explore some of the city. Salinas is known for its beaches and its lovely, palm-lined Malecón, which is a great place to start your immersion into the city. Take a leisurely stroll and let the little ones burn some energy after the drive, stopping in at a local restaurant for a meal or maybe treating the family to some ice cream. 

If the kids are clamoring for more beach time, visit La Lobería, which is located inside the Maritime Wildlife Reproduction Reserve, just a short distance from the Salinas main waterfront. The beach is actually part of a military base, but both locals and tourists are allowed to access it for free. Here, you'll find endless stretches of sand, turquoise waters, and walking paths, as well as lounging sea lions on the nearby rocks. Surfers also tend to gravitate to this area, and the kids can enjoy watching them ride the waves. 

Day 11: Explore Salinas: Whale Museum & Beaches

Play on the stunning beaches of Salinas

Make it an educational day for the whole family with a visit to El Museo de Ballenas (The Whale Museum). Since its inauguration in 2004, the museum has served as an educational center on the various species that inhabit Ecuadorian waters, with exhibitions that include specimens of deceased marine life found along the coast and collected by the Ecuadorian Foundation for the Study of Marine Mammals. Curious kids will be fascinated by the skeleton of a nearly 40-foot (12 m) humpback whale, as well as bones and skulls from sperm whales, dolphins, and other creatures. 

Later, head out to explore more of what makes Salinas so popular—the beaches! Visit Playa de Chipipe, a bustling beach that offers all kinds of activities and equipment rentals to keep the kids busy. The water here is fairly calm, with a gentle slope that makes it accessible for all ages. You can also stop at Playa Las Salinas, a family-friendly beach that has easy access to bars and restaurants. And for something a little less crowded, make the 10-minute drive to Punta Carnero, a great spot for swimming, surfing, and whale watching. Enjoy a beachfront dinner tonight before returning to your hotel.

Day 12: La Chocolatera Visitor Site, Transfer Back to Guayaquil

See the chocolate waters of La Chocolatera

After check-out from your Salinas hotel, your driver will take you to La Chocolatera, a rocky point near La Lobería where the strong currents and brown algae make the water look like swirling, boiling chocolate. Walk the trails to one of the several lookout points, and take in the crashing waves and foaming ocean set against the stunning contrast of the rocky coastline. Little ones might think they've come across a magical vat of hot cocoa, and the older kids will appreciate the gorgeous landscapes. Then, it's back to Guayaquil for the night, with a few beach stops along the way to break up the drive. 

Day 13: Churute Mangrove Reserve 

Herons and many other bird species can be found at Churute Mangrove Reserve

Get up close and personal with one of Ecuador's most incredible natural wonders at the Manglares Churute Ecological Reserve, located in the Guayas province, about 25 miles (40 km) from Guayaquil. Your guide will collect you in the morning, and you'll head out to what is the largest reserve of red and black mangroves in all of Ecuador, encompassing more than 70 percent of the 86,589-acre (35,041 ha) reserve.

Take a guided canoe ride through the miles of lush greenery, with views of wildlife that include badgers, anteaters, crabs, and an astounding 52 endemic species of birds. Birders in the family will be in their element, and even the youngest travelers will appreciate the peaceful cruise through mangroves and forests. Return to Guayaquil to enjoy your final evening in Ecuador. 

Day 14: Depart Guayaquil

Time to say farewell to beautiful Ecuador

It's time for you and the family to say farewell to Ecuador. At the appointed hour, your driver will pick you up and transfer you to the airport for your flight home. Safe travels! 

More Great Ecuador Itineraries

Looking for more inspiration for your trip to Ecuador? Check out these other Ecuador itineraries, discover different ways to spend two weeks in Ecuador with your family, or explore the best time to visit Ecuador.


Map of Ecuador's Pacific Coast for Families: Culture, Nature & Beaches - 14 Days
Map of Ecuador's Pacific Coast for Families: Culture, Nature & Beaches - 14 Days