Ecuador: highlands and the Galapagos
Ecuador | Aug 4 - Aug 16, 2022

Christian
Christian G.
Worcester, MA | Reviewed on Aug 18, 2022

Our 14-day vacation started on the right foot with Alejandro picking us up at the Quito Airport and giving us an intro to the country's history on the way to the hotel. He was also great helping us through the airport for getting to the Galapagos and going home. The Old Town Quito Suites apartments were a perfect oasis for our family to relax between activities in the busy city. La Teleferico afforded a neat ride up the Pichincha volcano over Quito on our last day.

Jose and Oscar were... read more

Our 14-day vacation started on the right foot with Alejandro picking us up at the Quito Airport and giving us an intro to the country's history on the way to the hotel. He was also great helping us through the airport for getting to the Galapagos and going home. The Old Town Quito Suites apartments were a perfect oasis for our family to relax between activities in the busy city. La Teleferico afforded a neat ride up the Pichincha volcano over Quito on our last day.

Jose and Oscar were our guides for Cotopaxi National Park. Lodging at Tambopaxi was surreal with the volcano looming closeby. Our family bike tour along the flanks of the volcano was 12 miles and mostly flat with a 5 mile gwntle downhill section ending at the Inca ruins and lunch. We all made it!

Christian took us to Mindo and guided us to El Quetzal's chocolate tour, the Tarabita and waterfall hike/swim, amazing lunch lunch spots, and San Tadeo birding, where we saw hummingbirds, a crimson-rumped toucans, and many pale-mandibled aracaris. The Terrabambu Lodge bungalows (deluxe and family) were so peaceful and the kids loved the pool and pizza with the view..
On the way back to Quito, Christian guided us to Pululahua Crater and Mitad del Mundo. We shared a lot if interests with Christian, especially a love for mountainbiking.

On Santa Cruz, Astrid met us on Baltra and was our guide, introducing us to Los Gemmelos, El Chato tortoise reserve, and the Charles Darwin Research Center. La Isla Hotel was an elegant and modern resting place.

Pablo was very helpful for the interns land ferry.
On Isabela, Ricardo guided us to Las Tintororas, where we saw blue footed boobies, penguins, a green sea turtle, and many fish. He was great especially with offering breaks with hot tea and cookies and for helping our boys set up for snorkeling.. Javier guided us up Sierra Negra and Volcan Chico... a long, but moderate level hike over staggering geologic features. His knowledge of the area's history and geology was fascinating.

Every activity was different, exciting, yet hard to rank since each was so wonderful. Our family spent a good 6 to 8 months reviewing and discussing options for our trip with Linda, and what we ended up with was perfect for our family... not over ambitious and we had some downtime at the end of each day... even with a few last minute changes. KimKim was always very accommodating. Everyone we met was also a pleasant experience. We had the trip of a lifetime and will miss everyone and everyplace.

Hotel Reviews
Old Town Quito Suites
Centro Historico, Quito

A perfect oasis in the Old Town just a few blocks from the Basilica, a ~10 minute walk to Plaza Grande, and ~10 minute taxi to the Teleferico. Cafe San Blas just a few doors up the street for a nice dinner. Very helpful and friendly staff. We stayed in the Attic and Room with a View, both perfect for a family. Both so unique and beautiful.. Nicely stocked kitchen with agua pura, coffee, and food for breakfast or light lunch. We felt very safe there.

Authenticity & Character
Old world feel.
Location
Close to the Old Town and easy in/out of the city for getting to the airport (~45 minutes) and points north or south.
Staff
Very helpful at any hour to call for a taxi or hold luggage while exploring the town after checkout.
Cleanliness & Comfort
Modern kitchens and bathrooms, and agua pura and toiletries provided. Soft beds and couches. Quiet rooms... you would hardly notice you were in the city.
La Isla
Puerto Ayora

Modern vibe and elegant. Close to restaurants, shopping, and the Charles Darwin Center. Easy to set out from towards Tortuga Bay by foot.

Authenticity & Character
Modern and clean.
Location
On a quiet street, but close to everything.
Staff
Breakfast on the open main floor.
Cleanliness & Comfort
Clean rooms and soft beds.
La Casita de la Playa
Puerto Villamil

Our family stayed in two rooms (connecting door optional) for three nights on the third floor. Went to sleep and woke up to the sound of the ocean. Relaxing patio area shaded by palm trees with tables. Self-service mini bar in the office perfect for grabbing a soda (Fiora was our favorite) and soaking up the scenery. Soft, sandy 3 km beach three steps away. A short walk to shopping and resaurants. Breakfast is on the open, shaded 3rd floor patio. We loved it.

Authenticity & Character
Unique design and patio.
Location
Right on the beach.
Staff
Very helpful staff to offer great dining options.
Cleanliness & Comfort
Even with all the sand we dragged into our rooms each day, the staff somehow made it all immaculate the next day.
Tambopaxi Cotopaxi Lodge
Parque Nacional Cotopaxi

You can't beat this amazing lodge right inside the Cotopaxi National Park. The main lodge has a dining room with wide windows for gazing out at the landscape and TV area. VIP rooms are very warm and clean, each with a stove lit each night. There's even wifi in such a remote spot. Easy to set out on guided adventures like mountainbiking, hiking, and horseback riding.

Authenticity & Character
Neat lodge design fits in well with the rustic surroundings.
Location
Remote and wonderful setting. Viewing the perfect, snow-covered stratovolcano and wildflowers is an activity by itself. Our family did a moderate guided mountainbike ride (12 miles) to the Salitre Inca ruins.
Staff
Friendly staff. They even brought out a birthday cake for my son's 13th bday during our visit.
Cleanliness & Comfort
Clean rooms and common areas. Rooms are larger with extra chairs and a common indoor balcony/viewing area for the volcano.
TerrabambĂș Lodge
Mindo

Wake up to the sounds of birds in this perfect spot above the Mindo Valley. Open view points, unique deluxe and family bungalows, a swimming pool, ziplines, swing, and bridges await. My boys spotted a pale-mandibled aracari from the parking area and many other birds can be seen from the restaurant.

Authenticity & Character
Wonderful deluxe (rustic on the outside, but modern on the inside) and family bungalows.
Location
About 5 minutes from town across the river on the way up to the Tarabita.
Staff
Friendly service at the restaurant for meals and ziplinging/swinging.
Cleanliness & Comfort
Spacious and clean bungalows.
Activity Reviews
Biking in the Cotopaxi National Park
Cotopaxi

My favorite (I'm an avid mountainbiker).

Quality of Experience
Nice mountain bikes and gear.
Food
Wonderful and balanced picnic lunch provided.
Guides, Drivers and Staff
Very friendly, helpful, and informative guides rode with us (one on a mountain bike and one in a support van)
Transport
Our guides adapted to each family member's ability level.
Transfer to Mindo & Activities in the cloud forest
Ecuador

We saw our bucket list crimson-rumped toucans and pale-mandibled aracari at San Tadeo. Dozens of hummingbirds and some other small , colorful birds as well.

Quality of Experience
Friendly owners and staff. Beautifulcloud forest setting.
Guides, Drivers and Staff
Our guide helped my son spot birds, which he loved to point out to his mom either taking pictures or sharing the camera so he could capture.
Transport
Quick transport from and to Mindo for this afternoon activity.
Additional activities in Mindo & Return to Quito
Ecuador

Our guide took us to El Quetzal chocolate factory to see the process of making chocolate and tasting several varieties. On the way back to Quito,, we stopped at Pululahua Crater, with is gently green surroundings contrasting to to the more harsh landscape of Cotopaxi.

Quality of Experience
Food
Good coffe and desserts.
Guides, Drivers and Staff
Our guide gave us a detailed history of the volcano and people living in and farming in the caldera.
Transport
Easy Detour off the road between Quito and Mindo.
Kayaking & Snorkeling at Las Tintoreras
Galapagos Islands

Fun and relaxing (a little challenge to get around the outer islet) paddle through bright/medium blue waters and with luck see green sea turtles, penguins and blue footed boobies. Super experience for all abilities and families. After that, put a wet suit on (if not already on from the kayaking) and take a short walk to a calm lagoon to snorkel amongst colorful fish and green sea turtles.

Quality of Experience
Perfect gear and setting as an introduction to Isabela.
Guides, Drivers and Staff
Friendly guides adapt to each family member's abilities.
Transport
Taxi will drop you off at the kayaking Beach. A short walk on a boardwalk (barefoot is fine) for snorkeling. Taxis are waiting for when you finish up.
Transfer to Quito Airport, Arrival to Galapagos & Highlands of Santa Cruz
Ecuador

The Quito Airport is about 45 minutes from the Old Town and very modern and clean, but small enough to get around and through security very easily. You can get your Transit Cards in advance and skip a line when going to the Galapahos. The Baltra airport is even more friendly and quaint... we were even greeted outside of baggage claim by a passing land iguana. Remember to have your $100/person cash national park fee ready at customs. We were met by our Charles Darwin Research Center guide and escorted on the airport bus to the Itabaca Channel ferry to Santa Cruz and then to a private van to head into the highlands. We stopped at Los Gemmelos (pit crater) and then El Chato tortoise reserve for lunch and a tour passing by several giant tortoises and down through a lava tunnel. Our last stop was to tour the Charles Darwin Research Center and see the famous Lonesome George and then the baby tortoises.

Quality of Experience
The whole day was planned seamlessly and each site was so wonderful.
Food
El Chato's menu was family friendly and delicious.
Guides, Drivers and Staff
Our guide was very informative and entainyained all of our questions.
Transport
Comfortable van and friendly driver.
Visit to the Charles Darwin Research Station
Puerto Ayora

The Charles Darwin Research Center has a small museum containing very interesting exhibits about the Galapagos islands and its research and conservation efforts. Several trails wind their way to the baby tortoises and the preserved tortoise, Lonesome George.

Quality of Experience
The museum exhibit texts were in Spanish and English.
Guides, Drivers and Staff
Our guide was very educated and provide an encyclopedia of information to us in just a short time.
Transport
We walked from town to the center and back. It was nice to stretch the legs after our flight.
Hiking Sierra Negra Volcano
Galapagos Islands

This is a 10 mile round trip out and back hike. The first mile ascends up to the Sierra Negra crater rim and then follows the rim on a relatively flat trail for a few miles to the pavillion. After that, the trail goes down hill and the landscape changes to bring you out to a series of lava fields and craters, including Volcan Chico. Circling around Chico, the trail comes back to the start.

Quality of Experience
A spectacular hike to two very different volcanic craters.
Food
A nice box lunch was provided by the guides including a sandwich, juice box, apple, and crackers.
Guides, Drivers and Staff
Our guide was great for the kids and detailed the history and geology of the park, island, and volcanic feature as we past them. Probably the best part of the hike was our guide!
Transport
A taxi dropped us off at the trailhead with our guides and was there to pick us up to return to town.
Local specialist: Linda Schulz
Linda
Linda Schulz
Local specialist in Quito | Reviewed on Aug 19, 2022

Hi Chris,
thank you so much for your kind words and your detailed review! I am very happy to hear that you've enjoyed all your hotels, visitor sites, and activities, and that you and your family could share many of your interests with your guides throughout the trip.
I know that there hasn't been enough time to visit and explore everything, so I hope that you can come back one day to see the places that you haven't seen yet - maybe the Amazon and / or San Cristobal Island?
It was a... read more

Hi Chris,
thank you so much for your kind words and your detailed review! I am very happy to hear that you've enjoyed all your hotels, visitor sites, and activities, and that you and your family could share many of your interests with your guides throughout the trip.
I know that there hasn't been enough time to visit and explore everything, so I hope that you can come back one day to see the places that you haven't seen yet - maybe the Amazon and / or San Cristobal Island?
It was a pleasure to help you plan the perfect itinerary for you and your kids, and I hope to meet you again one day!
All the best for future travels,
Linda