Have you ever asked yourself…”What do I know about Ecuador?” I mean, it’s a pretty small country, and sometimes it can get overlooked next to it’s neighbor countries Colombia or Perú. You’ve probably heard about The Galapagos Islands but maybe not much else. Now, should you plan to family travel to Ecuador?
In this article I’m gonna share with you not only why you should visit my small (but mighty) Ecuador. I’m also gonna give you 5 reasons why you should add it to your Family Travel Bucket List, and bring your kids along for the ride.
Reason # 1: You can visit Ecuador on a low budget.
Traveling to countries where you can maximize your budget is a great plus when you’re traveling with kids. You’ll be able to stretch out your cash further and possibly travel longer. This is one of the main reasons why Ecuador is a great Family Travel Bucket List addition. Although there are many restaurants priced similar to the US, you can easily find meals for $3 -$4. A good example is an “almuerzo”, which is a low cost meal offered at lunch in many cities around Ecuador.
The local currency is the US dollar which is a great plus if you’re coming from the US. Not only will you avoid having to exchange money, you’ll also notice that in most cases, you’ll get more bang for your buck in this part of the world.
You can expect to spend an average of $100 a day for a family of 3 including food, accommodation, transportation and some activities. You’ll notice you’ll spend slightly less on smaller cities, and about $200/day at The Galapagos Islands. Find all the details about visiting this part of Ecuador right here.
Reason # 2: Ecuador is one of the most biodiverse countries in the world!
This literally means that you’ll be surrounded by life everywhere you go! There are over 1600 bird species and more than 18000 different plants in Ecuador! There truly is beauty all around and it took me 11 years of living on a different country to notice how unique Ecuador is. As you travel through the diverse regions of the country, expect to see different plants in multiple tones of green, so many (ohh so many) animals, the most vibrant flowers and landscapes that’ll take your breath away.
Of course there are some places where this biodiversity is a lot more notorious, and where you’ll have a great opportunity for your kids to get in close proximity to it. Some of our favorite “secret” stops during our Ecuador trip (with plenty of wildlife), that you should definitely add to your family bucket list are: Ayampe, San Miguel and Puerto El Morro, as well as the more visited Baños, The Galapagos Islands and the queen of diversity: The Amazon.
Reason # 3: Ecuador is pretty small, which makes it easy to see.
Another reason why you should add Ecuador to your Family Travel Bucket List is that Ecuador is a relatively small country, which gives you a high chance of seen more of it in less time. Ecuador is actually smaller than California and it’s one of the smallest countries in all of South America!
Now, the transportation you choose will definitely impact how easy you move around places and how “off the road” you can get with your children. If your budget allows, I would strongly suggest renting a car. You’ll be able to have a lot more freedom with your itinerary and you’ll be able to move around the Coast, the Highlands and part of the Amazon within hours.
Here are a some average driving distances as reference:
Guayaquil – Montañita: 2h30min
Guayaquil – Puerto Lopez 3h20min
Guayaquil – Ambato 5h16min
Ambato – Quito 2h22min
Quito – Baños 3h20min
Quito – Otavalo 1h50min
Quito – Laguna de Quilotoa 3h06min
Quito – Ibarra 2h20min
Baños – Tena 2h45min
Keep in mind that, although most roads are well maintained, driving is a little “different” in this side of the world. You can expect drivers to cut you off or not to use proper light signals, so always be extra cautious (and patient) when driving. Also, during rainy season landslides are somewhat frequent in the highlands, so always check on road conditions before departing.
If you’d like to stretch out your budget, or would like to avoid driving, you can definitely see Ecuador through local transportation. It is quite simple to connect main cities by bus but take into consideration that not all buses will give you the same experience. The cheaper the bus, the less comfort you’ll have, the more stops the bus might make in the road, the less secure it’ll be and probably the longer it’ll take to arrive.
If you’re traveling with your kids, I suggest booking trips on buses that don’t make any stops, and that have A/C and restrooms.
For our trip we used a car, which definitely helped us plan a couple of quick escapes to the beach and visit cities in the highlands many times.
Nevertheless, the closeness of it all is a great benefit when you travel to Ecuador. In 15 days you can expect to travel through many meters above sea level and to see islands, mountains, beaches, rivers, and jungles with your adventorus kids.
Reason # 4: You’ll get your kids in deep contact with nature.
We touched a bit on this on a previous point, but I wanted to highlight Ecuador’s nature on it’s own because, unlike other destinations that have a lot of city, a lot of modern feel, a lot of museums and a lot of things to do “inside”, I love that Ecuador is IDEAL for getting your kids to spend more time outside and in deep contact with nature. This fact alone makes Ecuador a great addition to your Family Travel Bucket List.
Something that I love about nature in Ecuador, is that it is quite easy to find, even on the bigger cities like Guayaquil or Quito. For example, a quick drive to Guayaquil’s downtown will take you to the iconic “Parque de las Iguanas” (iguana park), or to “El Parque Histórico”, where you’ll find colorful parrots and trails surrounded by trees.
Although you’ll find tons of nature mostly in the Ecuadorian highlands, you’ll be surprised about the natural beauty you and your kids can witness in the Coast. Our favorite region was Manabi, a province in the coast that is very tropical and that has some of the most beautiful beaches in Ecuador.
Here you’ll find the rustic and colorful Ayampe where you’ll be able to spot little crabs walking in the sand; and if you’re lucky, bioluminescence in the ocean at night. Another great stop in Manabí is Puerto López, a city best known for amazing whale watching.
Reason # 5: There is a lot of culture in it’s music, it’s food and it’s art.
One of my favorite things about traveling with my children, is that I get to expose them to different ways of living around the world. This allows them to experience different cultures, different foods, languages, music and art. And they get the opportunity to do all of this since early childhood! Ecuador is a must destination in your Family Travel Bucket List, if you also love sharing life around the world with your kids.
You’ll always remember the Andean music your heard as you traveled through cities like Quito, and how you fell in love with textiles as you walked through the streets of Otavalo, and what to say about the flavors you’ll try that change throughout the regions! Ceviche, Llapingacho, Locro, Melcocha, Morocho. These are all foods you and your kids will be able to try (and possibly crave on later on).
As I mentioned before, Ecuador is a small country, but it is extremely rich, diverse and oh so beautiful. Every city, every town, every beach that you visit will prove to be a complete learning experience for you and your adventurous family.
In November 2021, me and my family left our house in California with a one way ticket to South America!
Find out where we’ll travel next, and follow our round-the-world family travel adventures LIVE on our Instagram account @monosviajeros.