- Stand with a foot in each hemisphere at the Mitad del Mundo monument
- Watch colorful flamingoes at Las Bachas Beach
- Visit giant tortoises and iguanas at the Charles Darwin Research Station
- Hike along the volcanic rim of gorgeous Laguna Quilotoa
- See wild horses in the Andean highlands of Cotopaxi National Park
|Day 1||Arrive in Quito, Explore||Quito|
|Day 2||Colonial Quito City Tour & Mitad del Mundo Monument||Quito|
|Day 3||Mindo Cloud Forest Excursion||Quito|
|Day 4||Fly to Isla Santa Cruz, Board Cruise Ship & Visit Las Bachas Beach||Cruise Ship|
|Day 5||Isla Isabela: Las Tintoreras & Wetlands Tour||Cruise Ship|
|Day 6||Punto Moreno & Tagus Cove||Cruise Ship|
|Day 7||Visit Espinoza Point & Vicente Roca Point||Cruise Ship|
|Day 8||Explore Isla Santiago: Espumilla Beach, Buccaneer Cove & Puerto Egas||Cruise Ship|
|Day 9||Bird-Watching at Isla Rábida, Visit Chinese Hat Islet||Cruise Ship|
|Day 10||Isla Santa Cruz: Charles Darwin Station & Highlands Hike||Cruise Ship|
|Day 11||Birds of Isla Seymour Norte, Fly Back to Quito||Quito|
|Day 12||Transfer to Cotopaxi National Park||Cotopaxi National Park|
|Day 13||Visit Laguna Quilotoa, Transfer to Quito||Quito|
|Day 14||Depart Quito|
Day 1: Arrive in Quito, Explore
Welcome to Ecuador! Your flight lands in the capital city of Quito, located in the foothills of the Andes and home to a rich cultural history. Upon arrival, your driver will collect you from the airport, and after you and your family have a chance to regroup, you're free to explore on your own.
If the kids are looking to stretch their legs after the long plane ride, head over to Parque La Carolina, one of Quito's largest parks. Here, you'll find 165 acres (66 ha) of green space, with lakes, fountains, children's play areas, and plenty of food vendors if you'd like to grab a bite. The park also has a children's library and a defunct Ecuadorian Air Force plane-turned-museum! You can also head to Itchimbía Park and Quito's Crystal Palace, where you'll find art and cultural exhibitions.
Take a dive into the city's history at La Casa de La Cultura and the MINDALAE museum, or explore local art at the Museum of Contemporary Art. Afterward, stroll through the La Floresta neighborhood. The kids will love the abundance of colorful street art here, and you can grab a bite to eat from one of the many vendors. If you want to take in the city from a different angle, take a ride on the TelefériQo cable car, which climbs the slopes of the Pichincha volcano and offers stunning views of Quito and the surrounding countryside.
Day 2: Colonial Quito City Tour & Mitad del Mundo Monument
Start your day with a guided walking tour around Quito, and see why its beautifully-preserved historic center was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978. Your guide will collect your family from your hotel, and you'll make your way to the Plaza Grande, where you'll see the Baroque La Compañía de Jesús, a church with a gold-covered interior, and the neo-Gothic La Basílica del Voto.
Take a walk down La Ronda, one of the oldest streets in the city. Here, you'll find quaint, lantern-lit walkways, open courtyards, art galleries, shops, and restaurants. End your tour at Panecillo Hill, where your family can climb up to see skyline views of the city. Keep in mind that in addition to having plenty of culture and beauty, Quito also has quite the altitude, sitting 9,350 feet (2,850 m) above sea level, so make sure you and the kids take time to acclimate during your walk.
Afterward, visit Mitad del Mundo or the "Middle of the World." In 1736, a French expedition determined that this spot was the location of the equator. The true equator line was about 650 feet (200 m) north, but by the time the mistake was discovered, the huge monument had already been built! Despite the slightly "off" location, this remains a popular attraction. Take some photos of the kids standing with one foot in each hemisphere, and visit the exhibition halls, which include a planetarium, an ethnographic museum, a small-scale model of Quito city, an old train station, and chocolate exhibits.
Day 3: Mindo Cloud Forest Excursion
This morning, head out for a full-day tour of the Mindo-Nambillo Ecological Reserve. The reserve's biggest draw is its cloud forest, located in the subtropical Mindo Valley. Due to its location between the Choco Lowlands and the tropical western side of the Andes, the Mindo region is incredibly biodiverse, with mild, often rainy weather.
Enjoy a guided hike through the misty cloud forest, enjoying the rich greenery and catching glimpses of the wildlife that inhabits the area. Bird watchers in the family will also want to keep an eye out for some of the more than 400 species of birds here, which include hummingbirds, woodpeckers, and the brightly-colored cock of the rock. And if you've got adrenaline junkies in your group, you can up the pace with a tubing adventure down whitewater rapids or soar from one tree to another on a thrilling zipline ride.
Later, you'll visit the town of Mindo and tour Mindo Chocolate Makers, where small-batch chocolate is created from locally grown cacao. You'll get a chance to see how the operation works, and the kids can try making some of their own chocolate (with taste-testing to go along with it, of course). And before you return to your hotel, stop in at a nearby butterfly farm, where you'll see upwards of 1,000 species of butterflies at all life cycles.
Day 4: Fly to Isla Santa Cruz, Board Cruise Ship & Visit Las Bachas Beach
The fun really begins today as you catch your flight from Quito to the Galápagos Islands! After you check out of your hotel, your driver will take you to the airport, and you'll catch the two-hour flight to Isla Baltra. From here, you'll take a quick, five-minute ferry ride across the narrow Itabaca Channel to neighboring Isla Santa Cruz, where you'll meet up with your naturalist guide and be transferred to the cruise landing dock. An inflatable dingy will take you and your family out to the ship, where you'll have a chance to settle in at your cabin.
This afternoon, see more of the island with a trip to Las Bachas Beach. This stunning white-sand beach is not only the hangout for sea lions, marine iguanas, and various seabirds, it's also the preferred nesting ground for Pacific green turtles. You'll have time to walk along the shore, taking in the shorebirds soaring overhead and perhaps even some flamingoes fishing for the shrimp and algae that make up the bulk of their diet. Return to the cruise ship in time for dinner and some onboard activities and entertainment.
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Day 5: Isla Isabela: Las Tintoreras & Wetlands Tour
After breakfast, you'll have the opportunity to visit Las Tintoreras. These small volcanic islets are thriving with wildlife, and the kids are likely to see penguins and blue-footed boobies on the nearby rocks, as well as sunbathing iguanas. The bay here is also connected to a crevice of crystal clear water, and you'll be able to watch reef sharks swimming with small fish and sea lions.
Enjoy lunch on board the ship, then disembark on Isla Isabela and take a walking tour of Los Humedales, the island's biodiverse wetlands. This area is characterized by sandy beaches, rocky shores, and mangroves. You'll hike along easy trails that are good for all ages and will get a chance to see all four species of mangroves found in the Galápagos, the nesting areas for migratory birds such as whimbrel, blue-winged beal, osprey, black-bellied, and semipalmated plovers.
Day 6: Punto Moreno & Tagus Cove
Today the whole family will take a panga (a small wooden boat) ride out to Punta Moreno, located on the coast of Isabela and one of the youngest islands of the archipelago. Say hello to the marine iguanas and blue-footed boobies on the nearby rocks, then disembark on the island for a hike. The trek takes you to a basaltic lava field, where you'll get a visual example of how this region was born and an indication of just how much magma is created in a single volcanic eruption. Your guide will share insight into the region's amazing geography, and the kids will enjoy seeing flocks of flamingoes feeding in the lagoon areas.
After lunch, visit Tagus Cove, once a well-known hideout for seafaring pirates! This was also one of the first sites Charles Darwin visited during his historic HMS Beagle journey. You'll take a beautiful hike that offers views of Darwin Lake and across a stunning volcanic landscape that showcases the island's northern volcanoes. Afterward, take advantage of the gorgeous waters here with some snorkeling, letting the kids swim with colorful tropical fish, turtles, and rays.
Day 7: Visit Espinoza Point & Vicente Roca Point
Your journey continues as you travel across the Bolivar Channel, which divides the islands of Isabela and Fernandina. You'll land at Fernandina's Espinosa Point, where you can enjoy a walking tour that takes you past colonies of marine iguanas and sea lions, culminating at the island's most popular highlight: the flightless cormorant nesting site. Depending on the tides, the kids can also explore the many tidal pools here, where they'll see crabs, small fishes, and other marine life.
From here, head back toward Isla Isabella via dingy and visit Vicente Roca Point, an area that has not only a wealth of marine life but also penguins, blue-footed boobies, and pelicans. This is considered a top snorkeling spot, so if you and the kids are inclined to get in the water, you can swim with sea turtles, sunfish, and seahorses.
Day 8: Explore Isla Santiago: Espumilla Beach, Buccaneer Cove & Puerto Egas
Take a family excursion to some of the best-known turtle breeding grounds with a visit to Isla Santiago's Espumilla Beach. Turtles return to this location year after year, burying their eggs in the cinnamon-colored sand dunes. The kids might get to see some turtles relaxing on the beach, and the two nearby lagoons are home to flamingoes and other wildlife. Afterward, you'll have a chance to visit Buccaneer Cove, which was once a hideout for real pirates! The cove is now a popular spot for snorkeling and swimming, with a host of marine life and tons of seabirds soaring overhead.
Later today, tour Purto Egas, which sits on the west side of the island. Once the location for salt mining, the black-sand beaches here are quite stunning, and there are wide hiking trails that are easily accessible for all ages and abilities. The trails will take you along the shoreline, where you'll see iguanas and various seabirds, as well as plenty of tide pools for the little ones to explore. The trail finishes at the Fur Seal Grottos, a gorgeous area and one of the few places where you can see Galápagos fur seals.
Day 9: Bird-Watching at Isla Rábida, Visit Chinese Hat Islet
Your morning starts with a visit to Isla Rábida, one of the most colorful and volcanically-varied islands in the archipelago, and a great snorkeling site. See the unusual maroon-colored beaches here, swim and snorkel, and be sure to get a few photos of the many bird species that nest here, which include finches, large-billed flycatchers, and brown pelicans.
After spending some time on Rábida, visit Chinese Hat, an islet off the coast of Santiago named for its hat-shaped volcanic cone. The islet has a small colony of penguins, as well as sea lions and countless marine iguanas. Learn about the volcanoes that formed the islands, and see beautiful white coral-sand beaches next to lava fields. You'll have time to relax and explore before returning to the ship.
Day 10: Isla Santa Cruz: Charles Darwin Station & Highlands Hike
It's back to Isla Santa Cruz today, where you'll disembark at the town of Puerto Ayora and take a guided walking tour of the highlands region. Here, you'll find giant tortoises in their natural habitat, and your family can check out the impressive lava tunnels that dot the area and stop at the "twin craters" of Los Gemelos to see the various bird species.
From here, you'll head over to the Charles Darwin Research Station, a research and conservation station at the main headquarters of Galápagos National Park. Visit giant tortoises and various species of iguanas, and learn more about the foundation's efforts to protect threatened wildlife populations. See exhibits that showcase the natural flora and fauna of the region, as well as the impressive skeleton of a Bryde's whale—sure to be a hit with the kids!
Day 11: Birds of Isla Seymour Norte, Fly Back to Quito
Make the most of your last day in the Galápagos with a visit to the uninhabited island of Seymour Norte. The island is the nesting for large colonies of frigatebirds, with males known for their bright red chests, making them easy for the kids to spot as you hike. You're also likely to see blue-footed boobies and maybe catch some of them performing their famous mating dances, as well as gulls, iguanas, and even some curious sea lions! Return to the boat in time to sail to Isla Baltra, where you'll catch a plane back to Quito. Relax at your hotel in Quito this evening, or step out and explore a bit on your own.
Day 12: Transfer to Cotopaxi National Park
This morning, your guide will pick you up, and you'll drive two hours south to Cotopaxi National Park, a 128 square mile (333 sq km) expanse that is home to the active stratovolcano of Cotopaxi. Visit Laguna de Limpiopungo, located in the highlands of the park, and see spectacular views of the volcano's gigantic cone.
You'll take a short walk around the lake as your guide points out the various plant and animal life here, and it's not uncommon to see wild horses grazing around the area. If the kids are up for a hike, you can also visit the Jose Ribas Refuge, a public facility located on the northern side of the volcano with camp areas, huts, a snack bar, and a souvenir shop. Afterward, your guide will take you to a traditional Ecuadorian hacienda to overnight.
Day 13: Visit Laguna Quilotoa, Transfer to Quito
Visit Laguna Quilotoa today, a large volcanic crater with a gorgeous lake at its center and breathtaking scenery all around. There are wooden lookout platforms that offer panoramic views of the lake, and you and the kids can enjoy some hot beverages as you take in this stunning vista. Hike around the rim of the crater, or let the kids hike down to the lake's shore (just remember that the altitude here means the hike back up might be more challenging than the initial hike down). If the little ones get tired, there's always the option to rent a donkey for the ride uphill.
After a morning of hiking, it's time to put your feet up (and perhaps grab some naps) as your driver takes you on the three-hour journey back to Quito, where you can enjoy your final evening in Ecuador however you choose.
Day 14: Depart Quito
It's time for you and the family 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 your flight home. 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 two weeks in the Galápagos with your family, or explore the best time to visit the Galápagos.