Your Ecuador honeymoon will begin in either Quito (the capital) or Guayaquil (the biggest city). Quito is where you’ll start excursions into the mountains or the Amazon. While you prepare for your plunge into the hinterlands, the capital has enough history and culture to keep you busy for a couple of days. Guayaquil is the main gateway for the Galápagos Islands.
While the Galápagos and the Amazon are the top destinations for honeymooners, several other towns and regions should be on your list of places to go. Visit Cuenca to experience beautiful Spanish architecture, Canoa for a peaceful white sand beach and Mindo for luxury cabins in a bird-filled cloud forest.
Shoppers will delight at the traditional crafts available in Otavalo. If you like flowers, and who doesn't on a honeymoon, roses will be for sale wherever you go. It's easy to stop at markets and streets to pick up a few long-stemmed Ecuadorian roses for your sweetheart.
If trekking through virgin rainforest and paddling on dugout canoes to spot parrots, howler monkeys, caiman and other creatures sounds like an exciting way to start your marriage, then head for the Amazon.
There are a number of different wildlife lodges to choose from, many of them offering gourmet meals, spa and massage treatments and lavish bungalows. Great options include the Napo Wildlife Center and the Hamadryade Lodge.
Many of these lodges offer visits to indigenous communities to learn about ancient traditions, receive a blessing from a shaman and hike to waterfalls. Start your trip into the region at Papallacta, just 42 miles east of Quito, where you can enjoy a soak in hot springs.
Note that October to November is the best time of the year to visit the Amazon when the rivers are all passable and it’s not too wet for wildlife spotting.
#2 Galápagos Islands
The Galápagos offer a special mystique and solitude that will create lasting memories. The main reason to visit is for a few days marveling at the amazing wildlife that calls these islands home. You'll enjoy spotting various birdlife, plus marine iguanas, seals, and giant tortoises.
Besides wildlife watching you can go scuba diving, hiking and kayaking at the islands – there are 837 miles of coastline to explore. Tour operators can arrange boat trips around the islands. At night, enjoy incredible stargazing under clear skies.
Isla Santa Cruz has the largest town in the Galápagos, Puerto Ayora, where flights arrive from Guayaquil. Here you can visit the Charles Darwin Research Station, where scientists and volunteers are involved in research and conservation. If you are craving a long stretch of white sand beach, visit Garrapetero Beach.
The Galápagos can cater for newlyweds wanting a high-end experience and several luxury resorts are located here, such as Finch Bay Hotel. The resorts offer suites overlooking the sea, spa treatments, and gourmet meals. If you really want to get away from the crowds, there are a number of isolated islands and villages, such as Puerto Velasco Ibarra on Floreana Island.
The historic center of Cuenca is a Unesco World Heritage Site of soaring church steeples, balconies overflowing with flowers, leafy plazas and craft workshops – a timeless and romantic setting for honeymooners. Couples can spend a day exploring the historic landmarks of Cuenca and then take a sunset ride up to Mirador de Turi, a romantic viewpoint overlooking the city. You can eat well in Cuenca, with both international and Ecuadorian restaurants serving high-standard meals.
Just 30 km west of Cuenca is Parque Nacional Cajas, an important conservation area for birds and wildlife. Another day trip takes you to Ingapirca, an archaeological site sacred to the indigenous Cañari people.
Cuenca’s collection of vintage hotels are often located in mansions set around pretty courtyards with fountains. The most famous of these is probably Mansíon Alcázar, a top-end property with a garden, library, and themed-rooms. For shopping, don’t forget to pick up a pair of matching Panama hats (which are originally from Ecuador, not Panama), there are several famous hat makers in town.
Ecuador is not known as a beach destination but if you are looking to build some sand and sea into your honeymoon, try Canoa. This small village on the north coast of Ecuador has a nice stretch of sandy beach and a peaceful atmosphere where you can find solitude. There’s good surfing here and a few simple bars, restaurants and guesthouses. Hotel Bambu is a low-key place to stay. The lack of 5-star resorts here is part of the appeal for many couples looking for a more authentic Ecuadorian experience.
A popular place to visit is the Río Muchacho Organic Farm, located 10 miles north of Canoa. The farm produces coffee, chocolate, fruits and vegetables; horse riding is also possible here.
Mindo is a small, somewhat ramshackle town located 2.5 hours from Quito. The main reason to visit is the extraordinary cloud forest around here, which offers excellent opportunities for hiking and bird watching – more than 600 bird species have been identified. Hummingbird spotting is particularly popular here.
Lush retreats located outside town offer heated pools and luxury cabins with private porches and hammocks. Mindo makes for a great night or two of rainforest adventure, without having to stray too far from the capital.
More Expert Tips:
- Adventure Tourism: This is best done in Baños, a great place for horseback rides, jungle trips, biking, zip lines and rafting.
- Hiking: Visit Parque Nacional Cotopaxi for hiking and terrific views of the Cotopaxi volcano. You can also visit the stunning Quilotoa Lake for excellent day hikes.
- Shopping: Ecuador has a number of very good craft markets, where you can pick up souvenirs and gifts. Try Otavalo Market, a three-hour ride from Quito, where you can shop for crafts, scarves, gloves, and jewelry.
- Romantic Train Ride: Take the Tren Crucero, a luxury train that travels from Quito to Guayaquil.
- Haciendas: Across Ecuador you can find a number of haciendas that cater for couples. These countryside hotels are often converted colonial-era mansions, offering romantic rooms, horse rides and other activities.