Ecuador has been on my personal travel bucket list for a long time. Recently, I decided to take my family there during the holidays. I wasn’t quite sure how my kids (17-year old boy and two girls ages 11 and 6) would react to an adventure vacation, unplugged from their iPads. After 11 days, some at altitudes as high as 15,000 feet in what felt like frigid temps to a family living in Florida and the Dominican Republic, I knew I made a brilliant decision. Everyone had an incredible time! Although I’ve spent countless hours arranging some successful small group trips to Ecuador, I was surprised at the dramatic natural beauty and endless array of fun and exciting activities. It’s a perfect destination for a family with children of varying ages. In fact, we took part in so much we needed a vacation from our vacation when we returned home.
We had the perfect start to our family adventure in Quito. Here we rode the TeleferiQo aerial lift toward Pichincha Volcano to an observation point boasting million-dollar vistas of Quito and the surrounding area. It’s one of the highest aerial trams in the world steeply rising from 10,225 feet to nearly 13,000! Once we caught our breath, we contemplated hiking an area of Pichincha Volcano but wisely opted to walk around and found each new spot we reached was better than the last for perfect family photo ops.
Following the gondola lift, we had a private guided tour of Quito which is the world’s first city named as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is renowned for being one of the most well-preserved historical centers in the world. Quito did not disappoint us with its 16th and 17th Century Churches, ornate Cathedral and Plaza of Independence. We also visited the spectacular San Francisco Church. There is a fabulous restaurant in front, perfect for a break to eat and taste local foods and fruit drinks, or a cold cerveza for the adults. At the end of the day, we found a tiny little shoe store that just happened to have the perfect pairs of shoes for my wife and oldest daughter.
One of the real highlights of the trip for all of us was an adventure to Cotopaxi National Park. We traveled up the precipitously steep and windy roads to the gateway, Jose Rivas Refuge, otherwise known as Cotopaxi’s “base camp”. The Volcano itself is one of the highest and most active volcanoes in the world topping out at more than 19,000 feet. Reaching the parking lot at just over 15,000 feet, this Dominican-Floridian family was unfortunately unprepared for the cold. But we did brave it long enough to take more phenomenal family photos just as the clouds cleared for postcard-perfect views of the majestic cone-shaped volcano peak.
At this point, we were just getting started. Next, the kids visited the cloud forest for the first time and took part in a thrilling zipline tour. We strolled the fascinating resort town of Mindo to learning all about how chocolate is produced. We stayed at Hacienda Cusin which is a stunning 400-year old restored Spanish Estate. From this enchanting hideaway, the kids got to experience another thrilling first; horseback riding through the Andean countryside. We also went to the world-famous Otavalo Market where we literally shopped until we dropped. Well, truth is, I found a nice restaurant overlooking the market where I could have a cold beer while my wife and three kids closed the market down!
Of course, it wouldn’t be Ecuador without going to the Equator where my wife was the only one of us to receive the Balance the Egg at 00º00’00” certificate. The encore was a two-night stay on Lake San Pablo where we spent an incredible New Year’s Eve. A local band accompanied us on a boat tour around the lake followed by a scrumptious dinner and lively New Year’s Eve party.
In Ecuador, a little chilly rain doesn’t ruin a perfectly good lake experience. So, the next day, in 54-degree weather, the girls donned wet suits, rolled into a big inflated ball and were towed behind a fast-moving motorboat for the ultimate high-speed water adventure. For my part, I jumped 12 feet into the lake for no other reason than to prove I could do it.
We never would’ve guessed another highlight would be the airport hotel we chose to stay at to get a head start on our early morning flight back to Santo Domingo. My 6-year was delighted to get her pool time on the last day of the vacation. Her first time getting out of a heated pool into a balmy 52 degrees was a bit of a shock! We all laughed and loved the moment.
There are plenty more stories our family will continue to tell over and over about our time in Ecuador. If you’d like to create some amazing memories of a lifetime for your loved ones to share with each other, think about Ecuador for your Ultimate Family Adventure. It’s beyond the ordinary and take my word for it – Ecuador will not disappoint!
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You might be interested in The Top Places to Visit in Ecuador.
Click here to see an 11-day suggested itinerary > Ecuador and Galapagos Islands Adventure.