- Ride a cable car to a volcano overlooking the city of Quito
- Spot colorful butterflies in the Mindo Cloud Forest
- Zip around the Galápagos Islands on a speedboat
- Observe giant tortoises at the Charles Darwin Research Station
- Go snorkeling with colorful fish around the rock formations of Los Tuneles
|Day 1||Arrive in Quito||Quito|
|Day 2||Quito Walking Tour, Cooking Class, Mitad del Mundo & Inti Ñan Museum||Quito|
|Day 3||Day Trip to Cotopaxi National Park||Quito|
|Day 4||Day Trip to the Mindo Cloud Forest & Chocolate Workshop||Quito|
|Day 5||Fly to the Galápagos, Santa Cruz Hike & Tour Charles Darwin Research Station||Puerto Ayora|
|Day 6||Day Trip to an Uninhabited Island||Puerto Ayora|
|Day 7||Transfer to Puerto Villamil via Snorkel or Hike Excursion on Las Tintoreras Islet||Puerto Villamil|
|Day 8||Day Trip to Snorkel at Los Tuneles||Puerto Villamil|
|Day 9||Hike Sierra Negra Volcano, Speedboat to Santa Cruz Island||Puerto Ayora|
|Day 10||Speedboat to San Cristobal Island, Visit Tijeretas Hill||San Cristobal Island|
|Day 11||Boat to & Snorkel Kicker Rock||San Cristobal Island|
|Day 12||Day Trip to Española Island||San Cristobal Island|
|Day 13||Return to Quito & Enjoy the City||Quito|
|Day 14||Depart Quito|
Day 1: Arrive in Quito, Explore
Welcome to Ecuador! Standing at 9,350 feet (2,850 m), Quito welcomes visitors with its colonial plazas between mountain peaks. Spend your first day exploring this UNESCO World Heritage Site and sampling Ecuadorian street food. Kids will love visiting the city's artisanal markets where everyone from shamanistic healers to fourth-generation hat makers ply their trade.
If the weather is favorable, take the family on the TelefériQo cable car up to Pichincha Volcano. Trails lead up to the summit through the páramo (high-altitude Andean vegetation). From there, enjoy panoramic views of the city and the surrounding mountains. Later, ride back down to the base station, where there's a small amusement park. Return to the city center for dinner.
Day 2: Quito Walking Tour, Cooking Class, Mitad del Mundo & Inti Ñan Museum
Your English-speaking guide will take you and the gang on a walking tour of the city's colonial center in the morning. Quito was founded in the 16th century over the ruins of an Inca city, and today it's the most well-preserved historic center in all of Latin America. Visit the Plaza Grande and the beautiful churches La Compañía and La Basílica. Then, stroll down the oldest street in Quito, La Ronda.
After working up an appetite, it's time to attend a family-friendly cooking class. Head to the local market to shop for fresh ingredients and marvel at the variety of exotic fruits available. Enjoy some hands-on culinary instruction from a professional local chef and feast on your creations at the end.
Later, you'll visit the equatorial monument, Mitad del Mundo. This is the precise spot where, back in 1736, French scientists determined the position of the equator's line. Kids will love hopping back and forth from one hemisphere to another. More family fun awaits at the interactive Inti Ñan Museum, with fascinating exhibits on Ecuadorian culture. Plus, kids can try hands-on experiments like balancing an egg on a nail. Enjoy dinner at a traditional restaurant in Quito.
Day 3: Day Trip to Cotopaxi National Park
Today, you and the family will travel a couple of hours south of Quito to Cotopaxi National Park, a forested area in Ecuador's highlands. Your arrival point is Lake Limpiopungo, a glacial lake. From here, there are spectacular views of the snowcapped Cotopaxi Volcano. This is Ecuador's second-highest peak, rising to 19,347 feet (5,897 m).
Upon arrival, you'll take a short hike around the lake. Both kids and adults will love the abundant wildlife here. There's a wide variety of birds, including the majestic Andean condor, as well as wild horses, llamas, deer, foxes, and rabbits. You can learn more about the volcano and its eruption history at a local interpretation center. Then, if time permits, you'll hike to the José Ribas Refuge at 15,748 feet (4,800 m), where you can take family photos amid unforgettable views. In the afternoon, return to Quito.
Day 4: Day Trip to the Mindo Cloud Forest & Chocolate Workshop
Today you'll explore the fertile green cloud forest of Mindo. Its location on the western slopes of the Andean highlands means this region enjoys mild temperatures and a lot of rainfall. Mindo has an incredibly rich biodiversity thanks to the favorable conditions, making it a wonderful place to visit with children.
During today's tour, you'll see some of the countless birds, butterflies, and insects that call Mindo home. Visit a butterfly sanctuary to see various species and cocoons, hike to beautiful waterfalls, or soar above the treetops on a zipline. Afterward, indulge your sweet tooth with a bean-to-bar chocolate class where you'll make this delicious confection the old-fashioned way. After you've had your fill of chocolate, return to Quito for the evening.
Day 5: Fly to the Galápagos, Santa Cruz Hike & Tour Charles Darwin Research Station
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
The big day is here! In the morning, your driver will transfer you to the airport for your flight to the Galápagos Islands. Your family will arrive on Santa Cruz Island, where the adventure begins. On a guided hike, you'll see incredible volcanic scenery like the "twin craters." These unique magma sinkholes are home to a variety of bird species, like the Galápagos short-ear owl. Kids will love descending into caves and exploring the vast networks of lava tunnels formed by volcanic eruptions.
Take a break for lunch at a local farm in the highlands. Then everyone will get to observe some giant tortoises roaming around the wild. Afterward, you'll continue to the town of Puerto Ayora and check into your hotel.
The afternoon includes a visit to the Charles Darwin Research Station. Here, scientists from all over the world collaborate on environmental projects such as water analysis, animal protection, and measuring the effects of tourism on nature. But it's not all a science lesson—a major highlight is a visit to the turtle-rearing station, where these animals are raised before being released into the wild. Look out for Land iguanas, which are also common in the area.
Day 6: Day Trip Yacht Excursion to an Uninhabited Island
Today, you'll travel by yacht to an uninhabited island near Santa Cruz. Depending on the weather, scheduling, and permissions granted by the national park, you'll visit one of the following islands: Santa Fé, South Plaza, Bartolomé, or North Seymour.
Each island is unique, offering spectacular scenery and opportunities to see rare wildlife. Santa Fé and South Plaza are home to endemic land iguanas, while Bartolomé is known for its beautiful volcanic scenery and lava flows. On North Seymour, look for frigate birds, land iguanas, and blue-footed boobies. In the evening, return to Puerto Ayora and enjoy some free time.
Day 7: Transfer to Puerto Villamil via Snorkel or Hike Excursion on Las Tintoreras Islet
Today you'll visit Las Tintoreras Islet on Isabela Island for a short hike. All around are natural channels formed by lava flows, home to Humboldt penguins, marine iguanas, sea lions, and even sharks. It's the perfect place for a family outing to view exotic wildlife.
To see the Galápagos' famous marine life up close, you can snorkel in the turquoise water amid colorful fish, sea turtles, rays, and penguins. Another option is a hike to the volcanoes of Chico and Sierra Negra or an excursion to Sucre Cave. After a long day, you and the gang can spend the evening relaxing at your hotel in Puerto Villamil.
Day 8: Day Trip to Snorkel at Los Tuneles
In the morning, your family will head to Los Tuneles, one of the best snorkeling spots in the archipelago. A series of lava flows have produced unique geological formations, including arches and tunnels above and underneath the water. This makes the area a rich haven for marine life, and the shallow waters mean it's accessible for all ages.
The kids will love paddling around with tropical fish, rays, and seahorses. Look out for penguins and blue-footed boobies on the rocks, and be ready for the possibility of swimming alongside majestic sea turtles. Alternatively, head to the beautiful Concha Perla Lagoon.
Day 9: Hike Sierra Negra Volcano, Speedboat to Santa Cruz Island
On your agenda today is the Sierra Negra Volcano, located at the southeastern end of Isabela Island. This is a group hike, where you'll embark with other visitors. It's a 5.5-mile (9 km) excursion that takes around six hours roundtrip. If your kids are too young for the hike, there are fun alternatives suitable for all ages. These include cycling around Isabela and exploring the wetlands at Concha de la Perla Beach.
Besides, the views from the top are well worth the effort. You'll witness incredible volcanic landscapes and lava fields from the volcano's caldera. There are also vistas of the northern volcanoes of Isabela and Fernandina. After breaking for a box lunch, you'll head to Isabela's port and take a speedboat to Santa Cruz Island, where you'll overnight.
Day 10: Speedboat to San Cristobal Island, Visit Tijeretas Hill
After breakfast, catch a speedboat from Santa Cruz to San Cristobal Island, which takes about 2-2.5 hours. After checking in to your hotel, you'll visit the Interpretation Center, where a local guide will offer a fascinating exposition of the natural history of the Galápagos.
Then, your family will witness the splendor of these islands firsthand on a visit to Tijeretas Hill. Not only is this a popular nesting spot for frigate birds, but it also offers spectacular views of the island. Afterward, it's back into the water for more snorkeling with sea lions, turtles, and colorful fish.
Day 11: Boat to & Snorkel Kicker Rock
In the morning, enjoy a boat ride to the famous Kicker Rock, also known as Leon Dormido ("the sleeping lion"), a volcanic formation that rises straight up from the ocean. It's the perfect family outing where everyone can snorkel with exotic reef fish like parrotfish. Sea turtles and sea lions are here; if you're lucky, you may also see hammerhead sharks.
Currents at Kicker Rock are strong, and the water is cold; however, the excursions are well supervised, and guests receive life vests and safety lines. If the conditions are too harsh, the national park will close Kicker Rock, and tours will be rerouted to another site, such as Isla Lobos. After lunch on the boat, head to an unspoiled beach where you can relax and defrost in the sunshine. In the afternoon, return to your hotel in Puerto Baquerizo Moreno.
Day 12: Day Trip to Española Island
Depart in the morning on a boat ride to Española Island. Upon arrival, you'll disembark at Suarez Point and head out on a nature hike the whole family will love. It's an excellent opportunity to do some birding, as common specimens on the trail include Nazca and blue-footed boobies. You'll also likely see the famous waved albatross.
After the hike, return to the boat for lunch, then head to a snorkeling spot to look for tropical fish and rays. Enjoy one last sunset in the Galápagos before flying back to Quito tomorrow.
Day 13: Return to Quito & Enjoy the City
This morning you and the family will catch a flight back to Quito. Then you'll have the rest of the day to explore this historic city. The colonial center is full of parks that offer various activities for all ages. These include the ecological haven Guápulo Park, known for its lovely lagoon; alpine Metropolitano Park, with its mountain trails; and Parque Bicentenario, a great spot for biking and rollerskating.
If the weather doesn't cooperate, check out the Yaku Water Museum, which is devoted to water's scientific and social significance. Then enjoy one last Ecuadorian dinner before the trip ends.
Day 14: Depart Quito
Today marks the end of your grand Galápagos adventure—one that will leave you and your family with memories to last a lifetime. In the morning, transfer to the airport to catch your flight home. Safe travels!
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