- Play cowboy for a day with a horseback ride through Cotopaxi National Park
- Brave ziplines, swings, and waterfalls as you adventure through Baños
- Make your own souvenirs during an artisan pottery class in Cuenca
- Sail to the real-life "Treasure Island" of Isla de la Plata for snorkeling and swimming
|Arrive in Quito
|Quito City Tour, Family Cooking Class & Mitad del Mundo Monument
|Transfer to Cotopaxi National Park, Afternoon Horseback Ride
|Hike at Laguna de Quilotoa, Transfer to Baños
|Avenue of Waterfalls Adventure & Treehouse Swing
|Free Morning in Baños, Return to Quito
|Fly to Cuenca, Guided City Tour
|Family-Friendly Pottery Class in Cuenca
|Transfer to Guayaquil via Cajas National Park
|Transfer to Puerto López
|Machalilla National Park Excursion: Los Frailes & Agua Blanca
|Day Trip to Isla de la Plata
|Return to Guayaquil via Santa Elena Marine & Biological Reserve
Day 1: Arrive in Quito
Welcome to Ecuador! After arriving at the airport in Tababela, your driver will meet you and take you into Quito, less than an hour's drive away. After taking some time to settle into your hotel, venture out into the city for some leisurely family sightseeing. Sitting at an elevation of 9,350 feet (2,850 m), Quito is one of the highest capitals in the world, so make sure to take it easy after arrival so everyone has a chance to adjust to the altitude.
You could take a gentle stroll through Plaza Foch, a bustling hub for shopping, dining, and people-watching, then head over to Parque Metropolitano Guangüiltagua, one of the largest urban parks in the Americas, with plentiful playgrounds and even a resident herd of llamas. Depending on the time and how the kids are feeling after the trip, end the day with a cable car ride to the top of Cruz Loma to admire Quito's skyline at sunset.
Day 2: Quito City Tour, Family Cooking Class & Mitad del Mundo Monument
After a good night's rest, get to know the city better today with a family-friendly city tour and a cooking class. Start with a guided walk through Quito's UNESCO-listed historic center. Learn about local history and culture while visiting Plaza Grande and the beautiful churches of La Compañía de Jesús and La Basílica del Voto, then take a stroll down the oldest street in Quito, La Ronda. This narrow, cobbled avenue is lined with shops and cafés and follows the same route as an ancient pre-Columbian walking trail.
After working up an appetite with all that walking, it's time to head to your cooking class to learn more about Ecuadorian food. Working together as a family, you'll cook delicious, traditional Ecuadorian dishes under the guidance of a professional chef. Make the most of seasonal vegetables and fruit so everything you make is fresh and nutritious. Your instructor will guide you step-by-step and give the kids age-appropriate tasks using child-safe utensils. Follow the class by eating your starter and main course together.
After lunch, head to the north of the city to see a monument marking the point where the Northern and Southern Hemispheres meet and divide, the Mitad del Mundo (Middle of the World) monument. Sneak in a geography lesson as the little ones hop between hemispheres for a photo op, then visit the many appealing attractions nearby, which include a planetarium, a fun scale model of Quito, several museums, an old train station, and a small chapel.
Day 3: Transfer to Cotopaxi National Park, Afternoon Horseback Ride
After breakfast today, your driver will take you two hours south of Quito to Cotopaxi National Park, where you and the kids can experience the wild beauty of Ecuador on a grand scale. Admire the sweeping landscapes of the Andean highlands, crowned by the snowcapped peak of the Cotopaxi volcano.
Get settled into the cozy local hacienda (ranch), where you'll spend the night, then explore more of the national park with an epic horseback ride. Animal-loving kids will especially enjoy learning more about how the local chagras (Ecuadorian cowboys) live and work in the high mountains of the Andes. Take a gentle ride up to a traditional hacienda for sweeping views of the páramo (typical Andean landscape) and the snowcapped peak of Cotopaxi. Remind the kids to look out for wild horses, rabbits, birds, and deer along the way.
Day 4: Hike at Laguna Quilotoa, Transfer to Baños
Travel farther south today, but not before stopping for some family fun at Laguna Quilotoa, a blue-green volcanic crater lake within the Andes. Depending on how everyone's feeling, you have the option to walk along the crater's rim or hike for 45 minutes down a path to the water's edge. The views of the lake are spectacular up close, and if the weather's good, you might like to have a paddle in a kayak. Otherwise, there's a jetty here that you can walk down for some family photos with a stunning backdrop, and you can sit on the beach and take in the views while the kids play.
The return journey up to where you started is uphill, but you can rent a mule to carry the kids (or all of you!) if you're feeling tired. After this scenic excursion, you'll get back on the road for the three-hour transfer south to Baños de Agua Santa, a mountain city famous for its dramatic waterfalls and outdoor adventure sports that serves as your base for the next two nights.
Day 5: Avenue of Waterfalls Adventure & Treehouse Swing
Your driver will take you on a spectacularly scenic drive today along the Ruta de Cascadas (Waterfall Route). Journey toward the village of Río Verde, spotting the route's namesake cascades as you travel. When you arrive, you'll take a short hike or a bike ride to one of the best-known waterfalls in the area, the Pailón del Diablo (Devil's Cauldron). Here, dramatic cascades drop steeply 265 feet (81 m) through the lush cloud forest. Cross a suspension bridge and descend many steps to get to the falls, which are definitely worth the effort.
In the afternoon, don't miss a visit to the most famous treehouse in the world, the Casa del Árbol. This quaint-looking simple playground is home to the Swing at the End of the World, popular with all ages as the perfect setting for a dramatic photograph. Enjoy the views of Baños and Mount Tungurahua from the mountain's edge as you and the kids swing your hearts out—just make sure someone remembers to take the photos!
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Day 6: Free Morning in Baños, Return to Quito
Take a break from the itinerary and choose your own adventures on a free day in and around Baños. Take it easy if your kids need some rest at this point in the trip, or get active if they don't want to stay still and head to the nearby San Martin Adventure Park. Located just 10 minutes outside of town, this adrenaline-themed park offers a variety of guided outdoor activities for the whole family. Take a tarabita (cable car) through lush forest canopies or a heart-stopping 3,000-foot (850 m) zipline ride. Walk the Tibetan bridge, which spans nearly 300 feet (90 m), go rock climbing, and rappel down the surrounding cliffs.
Later in the day, your driver will pick you up for the three-hour transfer back to Quito, where you can enjoy dinner before turning in for an early night ahead of tomorrow's flight.
Day 7: Fly to Cuenca, Guided City Tour
Depart Quito this morning for the beautiful city of Cuenca, known for its historic waterfront and fine artisan crafts. You'll leave from Quito airport, taking a 50-minute flight into the city, where your driver will collect you and deliver you to your hotel. Once you've settled in, take a tour of the city's UNESCO-listed historic center. Starting in the San Sebastián neighborhood, you'll visit the Museo Municipal de Arte Moderno (Modern Art Museum) and its colorful gardens. Then it's on to Cuenca's famous cathedrals: the Iglesia El Sagrari and the Catedral Metropolitana de la Inmaculada Concepción.
Later, visit Museo del Sombrero de Paja Toquilla (Panama Hat Museum). These famous hats are made in Ecuador from toquilla straw. Learn how weavers create them and the techniques that can turn one into an expensive accessory. Next, head to El Barranco, which borders the Río Tomebamba, and the kids can run along the riverbank while you admire the terraced houses. Finally, end the tour at the Mirador de Turi, an observation deck where you can enjoy stunning views of the whole city and nearby mountains and, more often than not, catch a beautiful sunset.
Day 8: Family-Friendly Pottery Class in Cuenca
Creative families will love the chance to get their hands dirty today during a family-friendly pottery class with a local artisan. The raw clay comes from the clay mines of Sinincay, a nearby village. Your host will welcome you into their workshop and tell you all about the local processes, then guide you in spreading the dough out and molding it into the desired shape.
Once this is done, the pieces are polished and sanded and then left to dry, followed by firing in the kiln. If you or your kids have never used a potter's wheel before, then this will be an especially exciting part of the class—and harder than it looks! You can also buy beautiful pre-made pottery souvenirs here.
Day 9: Transfer to Guayaquil via Cajas National Park
Swap the highlands for the coast today as you transfer four hours west to Guayaquil, Ecuador's largest city. Break up the drive with a stop in El Cajas National Park, located just west of the city. With its 200 glacial lakes and numerous hiking trails, it's the perfect spot to let the kids stretch their legs with a scenic hike through forests and moorland. Hop back in the car to continue the drive, admiring the views of rice plantations as you descend to the coast toward Guayaquil, a busy metropolis nestled along the Río Guayas that serves as the country's main port.
Upon arrival, get settled at the hotel before heading out to explore. Start at Seminario Park, well-known for its land iguanas that laze about in the trees while they catch the sun. Visit the Guayaquil Metropolitan Cathedral, built in classical Gothic style, before moving on to Malecón 2000, Guayaquil's wide, tree-lined waterfront that runs alongside the Río Guayas.
Day 10: Transfer to Puerto López
Head up the coast today to the small village of Puerto López, stopping along the four-hour drive to visit beautiful beaches and scenic viewpoints. This small coastal fishing village is the gateway to the dry forests, desert islands, and dramatic coastline of Machalilla National Park, which surrounds the town.
You'll explore more of the park in the coming days, but for now, get settled and rest up after the drive. If the kids are itching to start exploring, head to Playa Puerto López, where little ones can play on the sand and watch the colorful fishing boats coming in. Fishing is the main industry here (as well as tourism), so when evening falls, head out for a seafood dinner at a local restaurant.
Day 11: Machalilla National Park Excursion: Los Frailes & Agua Blanca
Learn more about ancient Ecuadorian culture this morning with a day trip into Machalilla National Park. Today's destination is Los Frailes (The Friars), a series of three stunning beaches connected by a hiking trail. Start with a short hike along a natural path until you reach the black-sand beach of La Tortuguita, which boasts a panoramic viewpoint over the coast. Keep an eye out for the region's plentiful wildlife along the way—the kids are likely to spot exotic birdlife like blue-footed boobies, and the waters offshore are known for their plentiful whale populations.
Continue to Agua Blanca, a village that was the capital of the pre-Inca Manteña culture of the region. You'll find an interesting museum with archaeological items, and it's a great chance to teach the kids more about Ecuador's early history and its Indigenous people. Head back to Puerto López in the afternoon, where you can spend the remainder of the day relaxing at the beach.
Day 12: Day Trip to Isla de la Plata
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 13: Return to Guayaquil via Santa Elena Marine & Biological Reserve
Say goodbye to Puerto López today as you return to Guayaquil. You'll take the scenic coastal route past the Santa Elena Marine and Biological Reserve. One of the most popular attractions of the reserve is 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 14: Depart Guayaquil
It's time to say goodbye to Ecuador today. Depending on your time of departure, you might have time to do some last-minute souvenir shopping in Guayaquil or perhaps hang out in the Parque Bolívar for a while, home to some cool wildlife that will amuse the kids. At the right time, you'll be picked up from your hotel and transferred to the airport. Safe travels!