Wild Wonders: Top 15 Things To Do In Ecuador - Updated 2021

Wild Wonders: Top 15 Things To Do In Ecuador
Germaine
Germaine
Updated

Scroll on down and check out the top 15 things to do in Ecuador.

Looking for an epic adventure to tell your friends, family, kids, and even future grandkids about? Journey to a land that is filled with an abundance of wild things for your upcoming holiday! Ecuador is one of the world’s most colourful countries, rich in wildlife, culture, and natural beauty. Trek through the wild jungles of the Amazon, hike up the fiery volcanoes, and follow in footsteps of the legendary Charles Darwin to the Galapagos Islands. An unforgettable escapade awaits you in Ecuador.

Wildlife watching

1. El Chato Tortoise Reserve (Reserva El Chato) - Puerto Ayora (Galapagos Islands)

Why visit? - Admire the endangered Galapagos tortoises, the largest species of tortoise in the world! - Observe the exotic Galapagos animals in the wild, where you can get up close and personal!

Hang out with colossal beasts at El Chato Tortoise Reserve! The Galapagos tortoise definitely leaves an impression, with its prehistoric looks and odd, extendable neck! There are plenty of other curious animals in the reserve too. Look out for mockingbirds, finches, the Galapagos flycatcher, and yellow warblers, to name just a few. If you are lucky, you can even spot the beautiful short-eared owl. A friendly guide will be waiting to introduce you to the amazing Galapagos fauna.

El Chato Tortoise Reserve

Address: Isla Santa Cruz, Puerto Ayora, Ecuador

Price: from 3 USD

Opening Hours: 8.00 am - 5.00 pm

Duration: around 2 hours required

Access: 2 hours 10 minutes by flight from Mariscal Sucre International Airport in Quito to Seymour Airport on Baltra Island

Contact: +593 (0)5 252 6189

Website: Galapagos Park

2. Las Loberias - San Cristobal (Galapagos Islands)

Why visit?

  • Enjoy a gorgeous beach with wild animals in their natural habitat!
  • Only 10 minutes from the airport.

A stunning coral sand beach teeming with wildlife, Las Loberias is one of the top places to visit in the Galapagos if you want a more immersive wildlife experience. Lie on the beach with dozens of sea lions, and perhaps spot the humongous marine iguanas on the rocks, which you can find nowhere else in the world! If you are quite the botanist, enjoy the exotic mangroves, morning glories, cotton trees, and more around the area.

Tip: always keep a safe distance from the wildlife for your own personal safety!

Playa Loberia

Address: frente ala pista del avion, Ecuador

Duration: around 2 hours required

Access: 3 hour 10 minutes by air from Mariscal Sucre International Airport in Quito to San Cristobal Airport, then a 40-minute walk from Puerto Baquerizo Moreno

Contact: +593 5-252-0031

Website: Galapagos Park

Tours

3. Amazon Jungle (from 699 USD)

Why visit?

  • Exotic jungle living experience in the world’s largest tropical rainforest!
  • Meet the indigenous people of the Amazon.
  • Learn how to use a blowgun.

The Amazon Rainforest is a treasure trove of wild adventures, and a visit is the ultimate experience you must have in your lifetime! Stay in an exotic hut with a friendly Quichua family, embark on jungle walks to magnificent waterfalls, and ride a canoe to an animal shelter. You will also have a taste of the local culture through a visit to a local school and a shaman ceremony. Feel at one with Mother Earth in the depths of the greatest tropical rainforest in the world!

Local Living Ecuador - Amazon Jungle

Address: Quito

Price: from 699 USD

Duration: around 7 days required

Contact: +1 720 506 4317

Website:

Beaches

4. Galapagos Beach at Tortuga Bay - Puerto Ayora (Galapagos Island)

Why visit?

  • Lie on the sparkling white sand beach.
  • Walk through gorgeous forests of cacti and exotic trees.
  • Snorkel with the teeming aquatic wildlife.
  • Spot sea turtles.

With its pristine white sands and panoramic ocean views, it is no wonder that the beach at Tortuga Bay is one of the best on the Galapagos Islands. Just 20 minutes from the ferry terminals on Puerto Ayora, this sandy gem is hidden away in exotic forests. Admire the intriguing flora on the way to the beach, such as cacti, palo santo, and matasarno trees. While at the beach, go snorkelling with the ocean wildlife, or check out the marine iguana sanctuary. If you yearn for more adventure, rent a kayak to get a closer look at the marine animals.

Galapagos Beach at Tortuga Bay

Address: South-eest of the town of Puerto Ayora | On the Galapagos Island of Santa Cruz, Puerto Ayora,Ecuador

Opening Hours: 6.00 am - 6.00 pm

Duration: around 2.5 hours required

Access: 37-minute walk from Puerto Ayora

Website: Galapagos Islands Tour Guide

5. Playa de los Frailes - Machalilla National Park

Probably the Best beach I have ever been to. Would highly recommend to anyone going to Ecuador. Love it. Peter W
Why visit?

  • One of the best beaches in Ecuador!
  • Avoid the crowds.

Hang out at Playa de los Frailes, the most stunning beach on the Galapagos Islands! This crescent-shaped sanctuary sheltered by towering cliffs is the perfect beach for a fun family day or a relaxing getaway. The entire stretch of sand gently slopes into the sea, providing a fun and safe play area. You will not find rocks on the beach, just the soft sands and crystal clear, lukewarm water. There are free public toilets, changing rooms, beach gear, and an ice cream kiosk. Go snorkelling near the cliffs, where you can swim with the vibrant fish!

Tip: there are no restaurants on the beach, so bring your own food for a nice picnic.

Playa de Los Frailes

Address: General Cordova y Juan Montalvo, Puerto López, Ecuador

Opening Hours: 8.00 am - 4.00 pm

Duration: around 2 hours required

Access: 12 kilometres (7.5 miles) from Puerto Lopez

Contact: +593 5-230-0218

Website: Ecuador Beaches

Snorkelling

6. Lava Tunnels (Los Tuneles) - Puerto Villamil (Galapagos Islands)


Why visit?

  • Snorkel in a natural aquarium!
  • Stunning volcanic landforms.
  • Boobies!

About an hour-long boat ride from Puerto Villamil, Los Tuneles is a stunning series of lava tunnels located near two active volcanoes. Along the way you can see all kinds of amazing wildlife, such as manta rays, sea turtles, penguins, and sea lions. At the tunnels, go snorkelling with the white-tip sharks, seahorses, and colourful fish. Most importantly, look out for boobies! In case you are confused, I am talking about the lovely blue footed boobies, which are birds with striking blue feet! Keep observing them and you may be able to watch their adorable mating dance!

Los Tuneles

Address: SE Isabela Island | Nr. La Union Rock, Puerto Villamil, Ecuador

Price: from 90 USD

Duration: around 3 hours required

Access: By tour

Contact: (593-2) 6046800 Ext. 560 / 561 / 563

Website: Iguana Crossing

7. Kicker Rock - Puerto Baquerizo Moreno (Galapagos Islands)

Why visit?

  • Swim with sharks, especially the rare Galapagos shark.
  • Stunning natural landforms owing to centuries of erosion.
  • Amazing SCUBA diving and snorkelling experiences

Standing at a height of 500 feet (152 metres) above sea level in the Pacific Ocean is the Kicker Rock, a stunning natural marvel. The rock is actually an ancient volcano, which was molded by the waves and winds. Incidentally, centuries of erosion have created a channel that is the perfect natural aquarium to snorkel with sharks and manta rays! Snorkel or SCUBA dive with spotted eagle rays, hammerhead sharks, white-tip sharks, and the rare Galapagos sharks! Above the surface, you can also spot some frigatebirds, tropicbirds, and blue-footed boobies.

Kicker Rock

Address: Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, Ecuador

Price: from 120 USD

Duration: Full day

Access: 2 hours from San Cristobal

Website: Galapagos Alternative

Cycling

8. Route of the Cascades (Ruta de las Cascadas) - Banos

Why visit?

  • Admire the Amazon Rainforest and Andes Mountains.
  • See the amazing Devil’s Cauldron (El Pailon del Diablo) waterfall.

For a fantastic biking experience, head to the town of Banos, nestled between the Andes Mountains and the Amazon Rainforest. Rent a bicycle and take on the route of the cascades, an 18-kilometre-long (11.2-mile-long) route that will take you through green mountains, gorgeous valleys, and waterfalls. If you wish, some waterfalls have ziplines and cable cars so you can get a closer look! At the end of the road you will be rewarded with a breathtaking view of the El Pailon del Diablo waterfall.

Tip: wear a helmet and watch out for oncoming traffic, especially in tunnels! If you want a closer look of the El Pailon del Diablo, you may access a rock passageway through the falls for only 1.50 USD.

Ruta de las Cascadas

Address: Avenida Amazonas, Banos, Ecuador

Price: from 7 USD for bike rental

Duration: Full day

Access: 3-hour drive to Banos from Quito

Website: Ecuador

9. Mount Chimborazo - Riobamba

Why visit?

  • Gorgeous natural scenery.
  • Spot wild animals in their natural habitat.
  • Throttle down the tallest volcano in Ecuador!

Ride up to the top of the tallest volcano in Ecuador, and the highest mountain in the world from the Earth’s core! Chimborazo Mountain is located in the town of Riobamba, where you can go biking with one of the country’s best bike operators, Pro Bici. You will be taken to the best sights around the mountain, such as the La Chorrera Canyon, Colta Lake, the Riobamba Valley, and snow-capped mountains. Riding down the mountain though, is the most thrilling part of the experience! Wild vicunas and other animals are a common sight along the way!

Pro Bici

Address: Primera Constituyente & Larrea

Price: from 40 USD

Opening Hours: 8.30 am - 8.00 pm

Duration: Full day

Access: 3 hours and 14 minutes by road from Quito

Contact: +593-3-2941880

Nearby Food: Pizzería San Valentín (6-minute walk away)

Website: Pro Bici

10. El Cajas National Park (Parque Nacional Cajas) - Cuenca

Why visit?

  • Natural scenery and a breath of fresh air.
  • Look for llamas!
  • Only a 1-hour bus ride from the city.

Enjoy the peace and tranquillity that nature brings at El Cajas National Park! Just an hour from the city, admire 28,000 hectares (69,190 acres) of rugged rocks, dramatic green hills, and serene lakes at the park. Locals usually come to the park to fish, hike, or stroll around while admiring the toucans, hummingbirds, and Andean condors. You may be able to find wild llamas, or if you are really lucky (or unlucky!), you may stumble upon a bear, oncilla, or puma, though these are very rare occurrences!

Cajas National Park

Address: Azuay, Ecuador

Price: from 2 USD

Opening Hours: 6.00 am - 5.00 pm

Duration: around 4 hours required

Access: 45-minute bus ride from Cuenca’s main terminal, Terrestre, to Laguna Toreadora

Contact: 0993664508

Website: Parque Nacional Cajas

11. Las Grietas - Puerto Ayora (Galapagos Island)

Why visit?

  • Swim or snorkel in the crystal clear waters of the natural swimming pool.
  • Climb over lava rocks and admire colourful salt lagoons

Cannonball into nature’s own swimming pool at Las Grietas. But before swimming, you will have to navigate through the magnificent cacti and hike over lava formations. Gaze upon Las Grietas, translating to “the cracks” as the pool is formed via a crevasse in the volcanic rock! The bright blue colour is derived from seawater filtered by the porous rocks. Float around in the refreshing clear waters between two towering cliffs, or if you need an adrenaline rush, cannonball from the wooden platform!

Las Grietas

Address: Galápagos Islands, Ecuador

Opening Hours: 6.00 am - 6.00 pm

Duration: around 5 hours required

Access: From Puerto Ayora, take a speed boat taxi from the main dock to the “otro lado”. Follow the directions to the Finch Bay Hotel, and continue along a rocky wall and down a sandy trail

Website: Galapagos Islands

12. Laguna Cuicocha - Otavalo

Why visit?

  • Beautiful crater lake.
  • Take a scenic, relaxing boat ride.

Near Otavalo sits an ancient volcano with a secret. If you hike up to its crater, instead of a burning inferno you will find yourself staring at cool, azure tranquillity. It’s called Laguna Cuicocha, and it is a stunning crater lake with two humpbacked islands in the centre. The islands were thought to bear resemblance to the backs of guinea pigs, hence the lake was named Guinea Pig Lake in the Quichua language by the Incans. Take a scenic boat ride around the lake and have a closer look at the islands!

Tip: stay a night at the hotel by the lake, called Hosteria Cuicocha, to enjoy the views in comfort!

Laguna Cuicocha

Address: Otavalo/Cotacachi area, Otavalo, Ecuador

Price: from 1 USD for park entrance fee

Duration: around 3 hours required

Access: take a 2-hour bus ride to Otavalo from Quito, then a 20-minute bus ride to Cotacachi and alight at Quiroga. Lastly, take a 10-minute cab ride to Laguna Cuicocha

Contact: 59363017219

Website: Live Well Ecuador

13. Tungurahua Volcano - Banos

By far the most exciting time while finding the best vantage point to see the volcano erupt. My GF and I rented a buggy and went up mountain near the volcano to see it erupting. The sounds and views were breathtaking. I had goose bumps and was so excited to see it with my own ears. Pure joy. Gary S
Why visit?

  • Watch a spectacular volcanic eruption!
  • Enjoy natural scenery.
  • Ride the exhilarating swing!

Visit the fiery Tungurahua Volcano, and be in with a chance of watching a magnificent volcanic eruption, predicted to happen some time late in 2016! Hike up the grand Tungurahua with Imagine Ecuador, where you can enjoy breathtaking natural wonders of Sangay National Park, snow-capped mountains, and the raging inferno itself! If you want a more exotic experience, you can even hike the mountain on horseback! Also, ride on the “swing at the end of the world”, a thrilling ride with the volcano in the background! Do not miss the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of watching a live volcanic eruption!

Tungurahua Volcano

Address: Banos, Ecuador

Price: from 60 USD for the tour

Duration: Full day

Access: 3-hour drive from Quito

Contact: (+593) 0987286625

Website: Imagine Ecuador

White water rafting

14. Pastaza River - Banos (from USD 30.0)

Why visit?

  • Ecuador is the best place in the world to go white water rafting!

Get ready for your wet and wild experience on the Pastaza River! Go white water rafting in the best place on Earth to do so; Ecuador is home to raging rapids, warm rivers, and amazing natural sights. Start with a 40-minute scenic drive to San Francisco Town, and enjoy the gorgeous waterfalls along the famous Ruta de las Cascadas. Depending on the season, you can go rafting from Class III to IV rapids! Ride down the Pastaza River, from San Francisco to Topo!

Tip: go rafting from August to May to experience the thrilling class IV rapids!

Banos White Water Rafting on the Pastaza River Including Lunch

Duration: 5 hours

Sightseeing

15. Teleferico Quito - Quito

Why visit?

  • Amazing panoramic views of the Andean Mountains and the city from a bird’s eye view.

If you are ending your trip on a relaxing note, or want to warm up for more exciting days to come, a ride on the Teleferico Quito is the way to go. The highest skyrail in South America, Teleferico Quito will take you on a magical ride up to the top of Cruz Loma, adjoining the Pichincha Volcano. See the city from a bird’s eye view and the lush rolling hills along the way. The view from Cruz Loma is spectacular and, on a good day, you can see the majestic Andes Mountains!

Tip: the queue is incredibly long, so do visit early!

Teleferico Quito

Address: Quito, Ecuador

Price: from 7.50 USD

Opening Hours: 9.00 am - 8.00 pm

Duration: around 3 hours required

Access: 26-minute drive from Quito

Contact: (+593 2) 2222 996 / 2222 997

Website: Quito Adventure

When do I start?

It rains all year round in Ecuador, and the best time to visit depends on your activities. If you will be spending a lot of time on the beach, snorkelling, or diving, the rainy season from December to May is the best time as mornings are sunny and the weather is warm. If you plan to go wildlife watching and hiking though, visit during the dry season. Mountains are climbable all year round, no matter the weather.

Disclosure: Trip101 selects the listings in our articles independently. Some of the listings in this article contain affiliate links.

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Germaine is a free-spirited individual who likes to write and travel. She is also a TV junkie and an animal lover. She has been to several countries, and some of her favourites include Australia,...Read more

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