Ecuador & the Galapagos for Families
Ecuador is an educational, culturally enriching and adventurous choice for your next family vacation. It’s also a great way to introduce your kids to Latin America. Ecuador straddles the equator on South America’s Pacific Coast, making weather here beautiful throughout the year so no matter if your family is thinking about traveling for Winter Break or Summer Vacation there isn't a bad time to go.
A fascinating land of distinct ecozystems from the Andes, jungles and the coast to the Galapagos Islands. All of these regions are crammed into an area the size of Nevada, which makes it an especially easy to navigate country for families. No little ones will get bored and grumpy during long car rides. And there’s an abundance of activities for families, no matter your interest. Ecuador is a country filled with impressive volcanoes, picturesque colonial towns, colorful markets and lush Amazonian rainforest. Then, head to the Galapagos for the unique opportunity for your family to meet an astonishing array of friendly wildlife. Ecuador and the Galapagos are small, safe, effortlessly traversable destinations for your next family vacation.
Before exploring the rich natural offerings of Ecuador and the Galapagos, uncovering Ecuador’s enchanting capital city, Quito is a must. It’s a charming colonial gem, where your family can climb rickety ladders up the spire to the imposing Basilica del Voto Nacional, marvel at the ornate gold detailing in the San Francisco Monastery or tuck into a delicious dinner in one of the regal plazas.
Colorful market stalls spill out onto cobbled streets and smiling, friendly shop owners will welcome your family in to look at their vivid wares. And a trip to Quito wouldn’t be complete without visiting the famous Otavalo Market. Three hours north of Quito, the main market is held on Saturday, but your family can find a smaller version on Tuesday, which may be a better option if you’re traveling with young children. Stands with heaps of vibrant knit sweaters, Ecuadorian musical instruments and intricately designed souvenirs will draw your family in. This is a great place for your kids to find something special and unique to bring home with them.
Once your family has gotten their culture fix, nature and wildlife are next on the list. Ecuador’s Amazon rainforest is a rich tapestry of snaking rivers, crashing waterfalls and bright flora, all offering a myriad of exciting adventures. Set deep in the steamy jungle, full of dense vegetation, your family will find a high concentration of unusual and wonderful creatures from giant otters to howler monkeys. You can also choose to meet the Huaorani and Kichwa tribes and learn blow-pipe hunting or partake in invigorating night safaris.
Just off the coast of Ecuador are the Galapagos Islands which is the perfect place to head after exploring mainland Ecuador. The wildlife in the Galapagos is phenomenal and the landscape, hauntingly beautiful – filled with craters, lava fields, mangrove swamps and black sand beaches. This is an exciting and educational region for adults and kids alike.
The best way for families to get around the Galapagos is by boat. There are many small, family-friendly boat options that offer interconnecting cabins, plenty of space to hang out and a wide range of activities to keep both young kids and teens entertained. These boats also offer experienced guides, giving your family the choice of which activity you’d like to do. And you certainly won’t have to worry about your children getting restless while on-board. Many ships offer a “Pirates Aboard” program where special kid-centric menus and activities are offered. Since many of these boats are geared towards families, your children will likely meet other youngsters, forming friendships that will last way beyond your trip to Ecuador and the Galapagos.
At a Glance
Explore the fantastic mix of Spanish colonialism and Amerindian influences in the architecture and markets of Quito.
Get up close and personal with friendly sea lions and blue-footed boobies in the Galapagos.
Hike through the mystical landscapes of Southern Ecuador, spotting fascinating Inca ruins and stopping at the the town of Cuenca for its colorful flower market and traditional Panama hats.
Delve deep into the steamy jungles of the Amazon for wilderness adventure and the chance to meet the Huaorani and Kichwa tribes.
Ecuador has the most biodiversity per square kilometer of any nation.
In the Galapagos, don't be afraid to snorkel with sea lions. When you're in the water, they are gentle, friendly and curious - it's incredibly charming.
Ecuador has the world's first (the Galapagos) and second (Quito) UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Charles Darwin based his theory of evolution on the discoveries he made in the Galapagos.
Bring sunscreen and insect repellent because it's more difficult to find in Ecuador than you might expect.
Ecuador was the first country to officially recognise the rights of nature. Rather than treating nature as property, the country recognises that nature has constitutional rights.
Don’t let traveling with younger children scare you off from going to South America. Countries like Ecuador offer a safe, adventurous, educational getaway for kids. Little ones exhibit a wonder and curiosity for the unknown world, and Ecuador and the Galapagos give them plenty of opportunities to explore. Through land-based guided tours, families with young children have the flexibility to plan your days as you please, if someone doesn’t feel well or is being a little fussy, you can skip the tour or choose another option. And when traveling by boat, the guides on-board are particularly good with children, and the ships have flexible menus, and comfortable, large rooms. Whether traveling by land or sea, the youngest members of your family will be well cared for.
Galapagos Safari Camp is a 55-hectare farm in the highlands of Santa Cruz Island. The camp was built with the owner’s young family in mind. The farm is rich in birdlife with finches, warblers, mockingbirds, Galapagos doves, egrets and owls — tortoises also make frequent visits. The family suite comprises three connecting rooms which can sleep a family of 6. Children are very welcome to come and stay at the Galapagos Safari Camp, there is an outdoor pool and games room for little ones, the camp offers kid-friendly art and cookery classes, beach combing, treasure hunts, movies, and story-telling. And the camp works with guides who have their own children, so they can adapt activities to suit all ages. The camp is a perfect base from which to explore the islands where private guiding, full day excursions to other islands, inland walks, horse riding, trekking and diving can all be organized. Similarly, it can offer a relaxing and peaceful extension after a Galapagos cruise.
The M/V Santa Cruz is a particularly good option for families wishing to visit the Galapagos islands, with its variety of accommodation, special children's activities and selected family departures during the summer. A trip to the Galapagos is a great experience for children, combining both learning and adventure. Children aged 6 years and above are welcome on-board the M/V Santa Cruz and the 'Young Pirates' program, for ages 6-12, makes sure children have a fun time whilst allowing adults some free time. There are special children’s menus, earlier meal times and children’s activities including handicrafts, Galapagos movies, puzzles and stargazing.
Ecuador and the Galapagos open up even more as children get older. The activities on offer become more exciting and the accommodation options increase. Energetic teens can have a real adventure kayaking, snorkeling, surfing and biking in the highlands, all while getting up close and personal with fascinating wildlife. Or, if your teens and tweens are interested in culture, head to the charming colonial town of Quito or Otavalo, famous for its weavers and indigenous market. This will give your kids the opportunity to meet locals, experience a piece of colonial life, and shop for their pick of souvenirs like leather goods, blankets, sweaters and pan flutes.
The eco-friendly Pikaia Lodge provides guests with the unique opportunity to explore the fascinating natural heritage of the Galapagos Islands while staying on dry land. The lodge is located at 1,300 feet above sea level in the highlands of Santa Cruz Island and is close to some of the best land and sea visitor sites of the Galapagos National Park. The lodge welcomes children 8 years and older, but they should be accompanied by an adult during all explorations and activities to ensure safety. Pikaia Lodge operates a varied schedule of daily land and boat excursions in small groups on their private yacht. There is so much to see, do and explore in the Galapagos - observe wildlife, go hiking, swimming, sea kayaking, snorkeling. scuba diving, fishing and mountain biking. The "Homo Sapiens" Explorers Lounge is located in the main building with a 24-person seating capacity where programd nature talks take place. Temporary art and photography are also exhibited to promote local artists and scientific knowledge.
Napo Wildlife Center is superbly situated overlooking Lake Anangu and is the only lodge within the protected Yasuni National Park, offering an exclusive rainforest experience. The lodge is run with the full participation of the native Añangu community and is 100% community owned. There are lots of exciting and educational activities for children. Home to an incredible variety of flora and fauna, several trails lead through pristine forest. Days can be spent on paddle dugout canoes along tannin-rich black water creeks and lakes in search of wildlife from river otters to water-loving birds, and by night walk in the forest to observe nocturnal wildlife and canoe on the river in search of caiman and night bats with the aid of torches. Unique to the lodge, there are also two clay licks within easy reach, where your family can watch hundreds of brightly colored parrots and macaws congregate in huge flocks to feed on the clay.
The Silver Galapagos is a 100-guest ship that forms part of Silversea Expeditions’ luxury fleet, and a cruise around the Galapagos Islands aboard this vessel is simply the most luxurious way to experience this enchanting archipelago. We would recommend a minimum age of 7 years to fully experience all that this ship has to offer. When traveling with children, the interconnecting suites are the best option. Expeditions ashore are guided by Silversea's experienced expedition team. Observe unique highland ecozystems, hike through lush mangrove forests and across volcanic fields, explore natural lava tunnels, watch for wild flamingos, read cave inscriptions from the 1800s, and learn about conservation efforts at the Charles Darwin Research Station. There will be many opportunities to swim and snorkel while learning more about the sea life found in the clear waters that surround the islands.
Ecuador and the Galapagos offer something for every member of the family. There’s exciting active adventure, exceptional (and up-close!) wildlife viewing, unique flora and fauna, beautiful historic towns and a wealth of culture. Many of the experiences can be adapted to suit any age and ability level. And many of the boats and properties allow your family the flexibility to do as you choose, so as many or as few members can participate as they’d like. Traveling here will surely be an incredible, exhilarating, bonding journey for your entire family.
The 142-foot M/V Origin combines a high level of comfort, attention to detail and service, with quality guided land excursions. Head out in small groups with expert naturalist guides for a highly personalized introduction to this unique corner of the Earth; a truly life enriching family experience. Your family can go on guided nature walks, venture out in a clear-bottom kayak, glass-bottom boat or stand up paddle board to get a different perspective on the unique marine life. Meander along stretches of secluded beach, swim with playful sea lions, and snorkel among penguins and sea turtles. A trip to the Galapagos can be very rewarding and informative for children and the Origin offers special family departures during school vacations. Children are looked after by dedicated guides who organize educational and fun activities and kid friendly meals. Kids can visit the bridge and learn about astronomy, navigational charts and tie nautical knots with the Captain. Special parties include movies and popcorn, games with prizes, drawing...
The hotel has 31 sumptuous guest rooms, some with Plaza views, and a wide terrace on the third floor offers further impressive views over the Old Town, the Panecillo hillside, the Pichincha Volcano and special events such as the Easter procession from the San Francisco Church. The hotel's cozy glass-roofed patio, meanwhile, is perfect for relaxing, with a garden planted with orchids and flowers just beyond. At Casa Gangotena, your family is perfectly located to explore the beautiful city of Quito, one of the best preserved colonial cities in the Americas, with a wealth of beautiful churches, monasteries and other historical buildings. It is possible to arrange a ride on the teleferico cable car with fantastic views over the city and the snow-capped mountains, a visit to the equatorial monument, or a trip to one of the colorful Indian markets such as Otavalo or Saquisili.
Mashpi Lodge, built with the latest techniques in sustainable building, has been designed to blend beautifully with its surroundings. The biological wonders at Mashpi Lodge will delight the most jaded nature lover. Surrounded by lower montane rainforest and cloud forest, the lodge is engulfed by a profusion of plant species, from ferns and bromeliads to hundreds of orchid species, many newly-discovered. An incredible 500 species of bird, call the surrounding forest home, while monkeys, peccaries and even puma also inhabit the reserve. A sure highlight for your family at Mashpi Lodge is the Dragonfly aerial tram, which glides you over 2 km through and above the forest canopy. Trails loop around the reserve, taking you to waterfalls, and right into the heart of the forest.
Ecuador and the Galapagos are incredible destinations for active adventure. In the Ecuadorian Highlands there’s mountain biking and hiking. Baños is a huge draw for active travelers. Your family can soak in the town’s thermal baths, bike the famous “waterfall route” or go kayaking, rafting, and bungee jump, all with the backdrop of the active smoking Tungurahua volcano. A hop, skip and a jump away, the Amazon is an excellent stop for active families. Accompanied by naturalist guides, explore the meandering rivers, riotous waterfalls, vibrant flora and curious creatures of the jungle. Then, head to the Galapagos. The list of invigorating adventures for families in the Galapagos is nearly endless; meet fascinating animal species (many of them only found in the Galapagos), go snorkeling, discover alien landscapes, and for adrenaline junkie families, try your hand at cave rappelling.
La Selva is well-geared up for family adventures and offers specific family packages, as well as a Junior Naturalist Program to capture those wild imaginations. On arrival, children receive a special kit for young adventurers which includes items such as crayons and magnifying glasses. Junior Naturalists will be given a list of fun tasks from finding food in the jungle to learning animal calls and paddling canoes, all with the help of the specialist guides at the lodge. Here you can Hike forest trails, visit the butterfly farm, climb the observation tower and scout for wildlife, observe parrot clay licks and paddle along the river in kayak. Night walks and canoe rides are also included in programs and your family can even enjoy a cooling swim in the lagoon at your leisure.
Children are very welcome at the Finch Bay and the friendly staff do their best to ensure families have an enjoyable and comfortable stay. Four of the ocean view rooms are connecting and the pool is great for children. The Galapagos is home to a wealth of fascinating wildlife and is a truly idyllic destination for lovers of nature and the outdoors. Various activities can be organized by the expeditions team at Finch Bay. Finch Bay has its own motor yacht, the Sea Lion, which visits nearby islands. Other activities on Santa Cruz island itself include mountain biking, scuba diving, visits to ranches, bird watching and kayaking. A trip to the Galapagos is both educational and fun, with great opportunities to learn about the local flora and fauna and enjoy activities such as snorkeling with sea lions and sea turtles and coming face-to-face with ancient giant tortoises.
Children and families are welcome throughout the year on the Sea Star Journey. With children in mind, the ship has a twin connecting cabin, the Galapagos Grand Odyssey suite. The boat also has a play zone during family departures, which includes a Nintendo Wii, board games, movies and other entertainment. The Galapagos Islands are a must for wildlife lovers who will be enthralled by the curious nature of many of the unique inhabitants such as blue-footed boobies, penguins, giant tortoises and sea lions. Being in the Galapagos is much like a safari, the crew includes a bilingual Galapagos National Park Naturalist Guide who will explain the fantastic flora and fauna that you will see on the islands. If your family members are active enthusiasts, certain islands offer more adventure than others such as longer hikes or cave rappelling.
Time to unwind
Ecuador and the Galapagos aren’t all adventure all the time, there’s also many fantastic options for those looking to simply get away from it all. Leisurely explore the cobblestone streets of Quito, or shop for handwoven knits at local markets, then return back to your hotel to relax in the spa. All of your family’s rest and relaxation time will be accented by the beautiful landscapes surrounding you. This is the perfect place to take some time out for yourself to breathe in the fresh air and soak up the incredible views.
Hacienda Zuleta is a colonial working ranch surrounded by the natural beauty of the Andes Mountains and fertile farming valleys. Local farm workers are only too pleased to show guests the dairy and cheese factory, organic garden, tree nursery, trout farm, an embroidery workshop owned by the indigenous community, and the successful condor-recuperation and raising project. Wonderful Ecuadorian cuisine is created from fresh ingredients from Zuleta's organic garden and farm, and all meals are carefully prepared by hand. Other facilities include lovely gardens, cozy living and reading rooms, horse-riding, mountain bikes and horse drawn carriage rides. Children are very welcome at Hacienda Zuleta. Babysitting can be arranged upon request, and suites for families and adjoining rooms are available.
Quito Polo Club sits in the small neighborhood of La Palma in Puembo, a region of beautiful rolling scenery which benefits from the dramatic Andes Mountains as a backdrop. Quito Polo Club feels miles away from anything, yet sits conveniently close to Quito's International Airport, making it a fantastic place to unwind before or after a long-haul flight. Quito Polo Club itself is a great option for families, offering luxurious and comfortable accommodation, along with plenty of facilities to fill your days. As well as polo classes, you can enjoy playing tennis, or even use the football fields. Children especially will love the outdoor activities here and can make the most of the outdoor pools, riding lessons and extensive grounds.
Famous for its unique and fearless wildlife, the Galapagos Islands, just off the coast of Ecuador, are best experienced by cruise. You can swim with sea lions, float eye-to-eye with a penguin, stand next to a blue-footed booby feeding its young, watch a giant tortoise lumbering through a cactus forest and try to dodge the iguanas scurrying over the lava.