- Relax in natural hot springs, surrounded by mountain scenery
- Explore the museums, parks, and markets of historic Quito
- Kayak and snorkel in the crystal-clear waters of Tortuga Bay
- See Galápagos giant tortoises and sea lions up close in their natural habitat
- Take a family bike ride around the peaceful island of Santa Cruz
|Day 1||Arrive in Quito, Take a Dip in the Papallacta Hot Springs||Quito|
|Day 2||Explore Quito's Highlights at Your Own Pace||Quito|
|Day 3||San Antonio de Ibarra Woodcarvers Experience||Quito|
|Day 4||Visit the Vivarium de Quito Reptile Park||Quito|
|Day 5||Discover Quito's Colorful Art Scene||Quito|
|Day 6||Get to Know Quito's Historic Monuments||Quito|
|Day 7||Fly to Isla Santa Cruz & the Galápagos, Afternoon Bike Tour||Isla Santa Cruz|
|Day 8||Relax on Isla Santa Cruz||Isla Santa Cruz|
|Day 9||Go Kayaking at Tortuga Bay||Isla Santa Cruz|
|Day 10||Boat Tour of Isla Santa Cruz: Sea Lions & Shark Channel||Isla Santa Cruz|
|Day 11||Discover the Charles Darwin Research Station||Isla Santa Cruz|
|Day 12||Snorkeling at Isla Pinzon & La Fé Beach||Isla Santa Cruz|
|Day 13||Explore an Uninhabited Island||Isla Santa Cruz|
|Day 14||Ferry to Isla Baltra, Fly to Quito & Depart|
Day 1: Arrive in Quito, Take a Dip in the Papallacta Hot Springs
Welcome to Quito, Ecuador! Known as "The Middle of the World," this is one of the largest cities to lie near the equator and one of the world's highest capitals. With layers of history spanning thousands of years, this is a fascinating place to visit. Get settled into your accommodation and then sweep the family off to the perfect place to relax after your travels—the Termas de Papallacta, located an hour east of the city.
Made up of eight natural geothermal pools in a beautiful forest setting, complete with a view of Antisana volcano, this luxurious complex will wash any lingering stress away. With a shallower pool for kids, hot pools, steam baths, Jacuzzis, mud baths, and massages, there's an option to suit each member of the family. The mineral-rich water is famous for its therapeutic powers, and for those needing nourishment of another variety, there are several great restaurants. When you're ready, head back to your accommodation in Quito, refreshed and ready to start your family holiday!
Day 2: Explore Quito's Highlights at Your Own Pace
Time to get to know the city itself! Nestled high in the Andes, at the foot of the active Pichincha volcano, Quito has a distinctive feel. Spend today touring the parts that will most captivate your family. For a kid-friendly first activity, ride the cable car (TelefériQo) to gain panoramic views of the city, the surrounding forest, and the volcano. Spend some time at the top for scenic walking trails, a café, and a photogenic swing with the ultimate view (the top is 13,280 ft/ 4,050 m above sea level).
Next, head back down and explore the city. Quito is family-friendly, and there are loads of parks and playgrounds. Try the Botanical Gardens to learn about native Andean flora—there's also a treehouse-style playground that will keep the kids happily entertained. Alternatively, jump on one of the free walking tours to get a good overview (be sure to stop off at Plaza Mariscal Foch to sample Ecuador's excellent chocolate—it's home to not one but three local boutique chocolate companies), or take a stroll through the Guapulo neighborhood, one of Ecuador's oldest settlements.
Day 3: San Antonio de Ibarra Woodcarvers Experience
Today your family will take a day trip out of Quito to the small village of San Antonio de Ibarra. Nestled in the foothills of the Imbabura volcano and full of colonial charm, San Antonio is not known as Ecuador's woodcarving capital for nothing—there are over 15 artisanal workshops here, preserving traditions that are hundreds of years old and producing both religious and secular carvings that are sought after the world over.
Stroll through the peaceful streets and pop into any of the galleries that take your fancy—some look just like normal houses from the outside, so let the kids have fun spotting them all. You'll barely believe your eyes when you see the delicacy of the artworks, carved in both traditionally religious and modern decorative styles. You'll also get the chance to watch the artisans at work and learn about their traditional methods. If you wish, this is a great place to purchase one-of-a-kind souvenirs, directly supporting the artisans and their families. Afterward, you'll head back to Quito.
Day 4: Visit the Vivarium de Quito Reptile Park
Start your morning with a relaxed breakfast, then head out to explore the city some more. Browse the shops, or, if you like, head uphill to the Yaku Water Museum. You'll get great views out over the historic center, and there are plenty of interactive exhibits for the kids. Take a break at the outdoor café and then head up to the Bubble Room—true to its name, the kids will have a great time making and popping bubbles with the different tools available.
In the afternoon, head to the Vivarium. Established to educate the public about the wonders of the local reptiles and amphibians and, correspondingly, to reduce the fear of them, the center will be a great primer for you and the kids before you head to the Galapágos Islands later in your trip. A guide will explain how the animals are cared for, and give you and the kids a rare close-up look at two of the specimens there. After your tour, head out for a family dinner and back to your accommodation to relax.
Day 5: Discover Quito's Colorful Art Scene
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Quito is one of South America's cultural centers, and today's tour of the arts will give your family a great introduction. Start outdoors at Ejido Park. A hive of activity, with street vendors, handmade crafts stalls, and artists displaying their work in the open air, there's plenty to entertain your family. Get to know some of the artists and watch them as they work on their latest masterpieces. Let the kids enjoy the fresh air at one of the playgrounds here and fuel up on tasty treats from the food stalls.
Next, you'll head to the Old Town. Here you'll learn about the "Escuela Quiteña" (Quito School) of world-renowned artists dating from colonial times. You'll also discover the works of more modern artists, such as Kingman, Guayasamin, and Stornaiolo, and visit La Capilla del Hombre, a museum founded by Guayasamin himself to provide education about the Indigenist movement. After your family has lingered over these masterpieces, head to La Floresta or Guapulo. Relax in a café there and give the kids a treat while you savor the atmosphere in the heart of creative Quito.
Day 6: Get to Know Quito's Historic Monuments
Spend today taking in Quito's historic buildings and monuments. With an extremely well-preserved historic center, there are plenty of colonial-era buildings to explore. Start with the Centro Cultural Metropolitano to get an overview, then head to the Baroque church, Iglesia de la Compañía de Jesús, which will be a highlight—its central nave decorated in gold leaf and wooden carvings will awe the entire family. You'll also want to peek into the Presidential Palace—time your visit for Monday morning, and you'll even see the changing of the guard.
Take a break in the palm-lined Plaza Grande, the heart of the Old Town, before you visit Quito's first church, Iglesia y Convento San Francisco. Nearby you'll also find the city's oldest markets—the kids will love the guava fruit, also known as the ice cream bean! Be sure to fuel up on some other local specialties—the cuisine is fantastic, with fried plantain, ceviche, and fanesca (stew) all on offer in the area. If there's time, consider heading just out of town to the Mitad del Mundo (Middle of the World), where you can grab the perfect shot of your family on the equator.
Day 7: Fly to Isla Santa Cruz & the Galápagos, Afternoon Bike Tour
Today's the big day—you and your family fly to the Galápagos Islands! Be sure to purchase your transit control cards at the airport, then relax and enjoy the trip. Your destination is Isla Santa Cruz, the island group's main hub. Head to your accommodation and settle in, then spend the rest of the day exploring the island at your family's pace by bike—your equipment will be waiting for you at the hotel, so you can head straight out and start exploring. There is very little traffic on the island, so it's a great place to cycle with the kids.
First up, explore the island's fiery history. Marked by volcanic rock, your path will lead to lava tunnels, lots of fun for the kids to explore. Nearby, there's an organic coffee farm, Lava Java—stop off there and treat yourselves while enjoying the ocean views. From here, either turn west toward the secluded beach of El Garrapatero or continue into the highlands. In your own time, make your way back to your hotel in the island's main town of Puerto Ayora, and pause at the Fishing Pier to see sea lions, iguanas, and pelicans watching the fishermen reel in their catches. From there, head back to your hotel and relax.
Day 8: Relax on Isla Santa Cruz
With no planned activities today, you're free to enjoy the island life —slow down the pace, relax, and discover Isla Santa Cruz's beauty for yourselves. Chill out at the hotel or head out exploring. Stroll through peaceful Puerto Ayora and shop for souvenirs, or head out for a hike around the bays. There are hidden coves to find and sandcastles to be built wherever you look!
If you and the kids feel like an excursion, take a trip into the highlands to El Chato Reserve, where you can see giant tortoises up close, as well as plenty of other wildlife. Wander to the mud pools where the tortoises come to cool down or head up along the scenic walkway for ocean views. This is a great trip for the budding nature photographers in your family!
Day 9: Go Kayaking at Tortuga Bay
Your family's day starts with a 45-minute hike from Puerto Ayora to Tortuga Bay—with its soft coral sand and spectacular scenery, you could be forgiven for thinking you've stumbled into paradise. Bring the makings of a picnic with you and relax in one of the archipelago's most scenic spots. The beach is dotted with dozens of marine iguanas, and there are also plenty of marine birds—get the kids to keep an eye out for pelicans and flamingoes.
Get another perspective by taking a kayak out onto the water around the corner at Playa Mansa to see marine life up close—as well as iguanas, this bay is also frequented by sea turtles, rays, and loads of colorful fish (it's also a popular spot to snorkel if you wish to later on). Once you're back on the powdery white sand, enjoy some sunbathing while the kids play around to their hearts' content.
Day 10: Isla Santa Cruz Boat Tour: Sea Lions & Shark Channel
Wake to another relaxing island day—the morning is yours to do as much, or as little, with as you like. Go for a stroll and just follow your nose, or take the kids for a few hours on the beach. Alternatively, pop into the MAPRAE Museum for an augmented-reality look at pre-Columbian artifacts, and learn about Ecuador's ancient cultures. Afterward, enjoy a leisurely lunch at one of several seaside restaurants in the area.
In the afternoon, relax on a boat trip around the bays of Santa Cruz. Your first stop is the small islet of La Lobería— named for its large sea lion colony, there's fantastic snorkeling here. Next, you'll visit the (harmless!) whitetip sharks and blue-footed boobies at Shark Channel and play spot-the-sea-turtle with the kids in the Canal del Amor. A short walk will take you to a favorite marine iguana haunt, another great opportunity for a few photos. Return to Puerto Ayora for dinner and spend the rest of your evening at leisure.
Day 11: Discover the Charles Darwin Research Station
Today brings another treat for budding wildlife experts and scientists in your family—the Charles Darwin Research Station. World-famous for its tortoise breeding programs, this is one of the most important scientific centers in the world when it comes to studying the natural history of the Galápagos Islands. Its work is protective, educative, and research-oriented.
Take a guided tour to get the best experience here. The kids will love seeing how baby tortoises are hatched and cared for until they can be returned to the wild. You'll also learn about other native wildlife in the islands, as well as how this center fights against the threats to it. Your family will come away both educated and inspired to appreciate and protect this beautiful part of the world.
Day 12: Snorkeling at Isla Pinzón & La Fé Beach
Take to the water again, with a day trip to Isla Pinzón and La Fé Beach. Your first stop will be snorkeling at Penguin Bay. You and the kids will be amazed at the clear blue waters and abundance of marine life. Keep your eyes peeled for sea lions, turtles, reef sharks, rays, fish, and, of course, penguins! Local fishermen run the tour, so there'll be some time for fishing—and for sampling the sashimi, which will be made from the catch!
Next, you'll cruise over to La Fé, a beautiful white-sand beach on Santa Cruz. A delicious lunch will be served onboard, after which you and the kids can disembark and enjoy the beach for a few hours. Sunbathe, play, and be sure to make the most of the snorkeling—this is another famous spot to see all the wildlife stars of the local marine environment. You'll finish up in Puerto Ayora, where your family can spend the evening relaxing.
Day 13: Explore an Uninhabited Island
For the grand finalé of your trip to the Galápagos, you and the kids will take a day trip to one of its uninhabited islands. Depending on the permit granted, you'll cruise to either Santa Fé, Plaza Sur, Bartolomé, or Seymour Norte—strict control by the National Park authorities keeps these islands pristine. In the morning, you'll set sail on the turquoise waters before hiking over the untouched natural habitats of the islands. Keep an eye out for your favorite creatures—giant tortoises, iguanas, blue-footed boobies, and many others are all to be found here.
After a morning of exploration, take a break on the deck for a scrumptious lunch before continuing your adventure. Relax in the sun on the beach, or head out swimming in the crystal-clear waters with the kids. Take a few more family photos and make the most of being in such an immaculate environment. Late afternoon will see your family sailing back to Puerto Ayora for a last relaxing island evening.