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Best Things to Do in Ecuador (Epic Guide) What to See and Do: All Regions

How are your Ecuador travel plans? Are you looking for great attractions, tips and recommendations? The best cultural and food experiences?

Ecuador travel guide
Great – you’ve found the right place!

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How We Travel in Ecuador

We write about Ecuador travel from the perspective of a young family. We travel safe and like to sleep in a comfortable bed at night.

And while a little luxury is nice, it isn’t necessary. Sometimes we travel in our own car – other times we let an agency take care of all of the details.

Our goal is to see each place as it really is. To experience the culture and the local flavor. And to take lots of photos/videos. 

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Our site is for anyone planning on visiting Ecuador. If you are going to live in Ecuador, then you’ll have even more time to explore this amazing country.

As you plan your trip, you’ll want to know about these 23 Ecuador holidays. They can clog public transportation and fill hotels around the country.

Where Do You Want to Travel in Ecuador?

In this article, you’ll learn about the Galapagos, Quito, Cuenca, Salinas, and Guayaquil. At the bottom of the page, we also cover Ecuador’s food and animals.

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Ecuador Travel: Galapagos Islands

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There is no question that, of everything we’ve done in Ecuador, we have enjoyed traveling the Galapagos the most.

Even though we’ve been there three times – we can’t wait to go back.

There is just so much to experience. And so many things we want to do again. Things like swimming with sea turtles and sea lions, hiking volcanoes, and snorkeling with sharks.

More reading: Travelers Guide to Galapagos Islands Animals

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Here are a few of the highlights (thus far):

Some of our past Galapagos photos posts: Galapagos marine iguana, and (of course) the famous blue-footed boobies.

Check out our set of the top 17 Galapagos books!

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Ecuador Travel: Quito

Teleferiqo - Quitos Cable Car

Quito is a modern city located in the northern sierra of Ecuador. Parts of Quito remind me of a North American city (like Toronto) while other sections are more like Cuenca.

Quito is a great landing spot for new visitors to Ecuador. The new airport is modern and there are lots of transportation options into the city.

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Is Quito safe? Well, it’s a large city so you need to be careful. We haven’t had any problems but we are still careful – as we would be in any other large city.

Once, we thought that someone stole our camera in Quito. As it turns out, we had a lesson in human kindness and honesty.

Here are a few posts about Quito:

Something we love about Quito is all of the parks. Specifically Parque La Carolina and Parque El Ejido.

You should definitely check them out!

Parque La Carolina in Quito Ecuador (Video)

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Ecuador Travel: Cuenca

Of all of Ecuador, we certainly know Cuenca the best. Since we moved here in 2009, we have seen almost all the areas of the city – although there are still lots of restaurants left to explore…

Cuenca is a great mix of the old and the new. It is has a modern airport and a downtown full of old, and (mostly) restored buildings.

Cuenca has many large, well-maintained parks (Parque Paraiso and Parque de la Madre being our favorites) – and it even has a nice zoo

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Here are some of our favorite posts about Cuenca:

Getting around Cuenca is easy (and cheap) using city buses and taxis. Check the local news in one of Cuenca’s two daily papers.

Haines Family Casting Video (for House Hunters International)

This is a short video we created to showcase the best of Cuenca.

Cuenca’s Famous Flower Market (Video)

Just off of Parque Calderon is the famous flower market – one of our favorite places in the city.

Hiking in Cajas National Park (Video)

Just outside of Cuenca is the Cajas National Park.

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Ecuador Travel: Salinas

Salinas Ecuador beach

Salinas is one of the top beach areas in the country. It is close to Guayaquil airport so it’s accessible by a quick flight (then drive) from anywhere in the country.

Salinas has two beautiful beaches. One right on the Malecon and the other one just past the yacht club (which is more private – but still open to the public).

We love the atmosphere on the beach.

There are food and souvenir vendors walking the beach. We’ve bought fresh seafood from a cardboard box and there are beach chairs and umbrellas to rent for a few dollars a day.

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There are lots of hotels and vacation rentals located right on the main road, facing the beach. There are tons of restaurants (serving amazing seafood) and a couple of grocery stores in town.

You might also be interested in the taxi rates for Salinas.

Learn more about Ecuador’s beautiful beaches.

The Beach Malecon in Salinas, Ecuador (Video)

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Ecuador Travel: Guayaquil

Guayaquil Ecuador near Mall del Sol

Guayaquil is the country’s largest city – both in terms of population and economic power.

While we have been through Guayaquil many times, we haven’t explored it like we want to. It is on our list and we’ll be covering it in more detail in the future.

Many of the international flights into Guayaquil arrive late at night – and many of the outbound flights (to the US) leave around midnight.

Because of this, having a great hotel – with a shuttle – is important. We stay at the Howard Johnson, which is very close to the airport.

Iguana Park Guayaquil Ecuador

Here are some posts about Guayaquil.

Although it can be very hot, Guayaquil is definitely worth exploring. There are many cultural and natural attractions to experience. And the local culture and way of speaking are notably different than in the sierra.

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Ecuador Food

Encebollado with plaintain chips and popcorn

The food in Ecuador is amazing. It’s worth traveling here just to experience it.

The bakeries in Cuenca are incredible. And as a family, we especially love the seafood dishes from the coast.

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Here are a few of the highlights of food in Ecuador:

 Freshly Made Yuca Bread (Cuenca)

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Ecuador is home to many craft towns. Here are some of the best items produced in Ecuador.

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Animals We’ve Seen in our Ecuador Travels

During our travels in the Galapagos, we’ve seen marine iguanas, giant tortoises, blue footed boobies, and sea lions.

We still have lots of photos and videos to publish about our adventures in the islands. Stay tuned!

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On mainland Ecuador, we’ve also seen lots of animals. Here are some of them:

So there you have it – an overview of travel in Ecuador.

Hungry for more? You should check out our site map for a full list of every post we’ve ever published.

Two of our other popular sections are: Living in Ecuador and Ecuador real estate.

Carlos Eduardo Polit

Wednesday 10th of November 2021

Bryan, the amazing amount of information about my native country constitutes a veritable Ecuador encyclopedia. Running into the first article about 22 beaches so well described, has allowed me to decide when and where to wrap up my life back there, as I approach my 79th BD next January. Born in Portoviejo, I grew up in Manta, became fluent in English as a boarding student for 4 non-consecutive years in High School at the Mackay School, a private K-12 in Viña del Mar, Chile. On September 1960 I landed in NYC, beginning my life in the US to this day, which finds me retired in Waterloo, Iowa. I am thinking we are going to be in touch quite a bit in the next few days and months. In fairness to the overwhelming amount and variety of information in your various articles, one mentions the size of this relatively small country as about the same in area as the State of S.Carolina. That State area is about 32,000 sq. miles, whereas the area of Ecuador is 109,000, better than three times that of SC. A more accurate comparison would be the state of Colorado, with a little over 104,000. As I said, I am thinking we will be hopefully in touch from time to time, as I am totally intrigued and delighted to have run across your impressive writing. I am especially glad and thankful to see how you give full coverage to the Costa, as opposed to so many pieces that deal either with the wonderful Sierra or the Galapagos, as if the Coast almost did not exist.

Warmest regards for now, and I promise not to hound or impose overly on your time with too many questions,

Bryan Haines

Wednesday 10th of November 2021

Hi Carlos - thanks for your comment. And thanks for catching the comparison error. I found it here. This is a guest post and that fact was missed during editing.

We covered the size of Ecuador in this post about provinces. And you're correct about it being close to the size of Colorado. In fact, it falls right between Nevada (slightly larger) and Colorado (slightly smaller).

All the best on your plans!

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Friday 26th of February 2021

[…] couple years ago we flew from Ecuador to Florida, and then drove from Orlando to Canada with my […]

Houston Taylor

Monday 7th of January 2019

your website is a wealth of information...thank you. i will be traveling through ecuador for a couple of months starting late march with the intent to discern where i will relocate to in ecuador. i assume using a bus is the best way to travel from city to city but would appreciate any insight you have in this regard or websites you suggest will be helpful in planning the transport part of the trip. thx.

Steve Kuhns

Saturday 28th of April 2018

My wife and I will be returning to Cuenca for the third time, and at the end of our trip, will be taking on an Amazon lodge/tour of some sort for five days in the first half of July. There are several lodges listed at Happygringo.com, and we're looking for any recommendations of a good lodge/tour that is reasonably priced. We saw Sacha lodge, but is on the expensive side. Do you have any suggestions? Steve

Ryan

Tuesday 13th of March 2018

Hey, Just wanted to share my experience in Ayampe, Ecuador last month. I had a lovely trip & met this amazing Chef 'Galvan' the food was amazing and I made a little video about it. Check it out if you're interested! https://youtu.be/mKyBT9AiOfQ Regards, Ryan