We spent 3 weeks in Ecuador this summer with our 3 young kids - ages 10, 8,4. I organized the vast majority of the trip myself and learned a lot in the process that I'd be happy to share. Here's what we did:
-2 nights at a rental house with an indoor pool outside of Quito. I wouldn't do that again because we spent too much time traveling in and out of the city/to and from places.
5 nights in the Amazon at La Selva Lodge. It was amazing. The lodge was beautiful while fitting right into the environment. Very clean and comfy, even though only a screen door separates you from the Amazon Rainforest. It took 2-1/2 hours by boat to get there and was an incredible adventure from the very start when they served us passion fruit and other fun snacks on the boat ride. The food was truly amazing, we saw 5 different kinds of monkeys, a sloth, and too many other animals, etc. to count. We had our own guide for the entire time and didn't pay extra - this is a must for a family with young kids as the itinerary/pace has to be amended.
- 2 more nights at the same rental house with the pool including an English guide to tour us around the Otovalo area. The Andes were magnificent and Otovalo was the best place we encountered to buy anything you want to take home as a souvenir, etc.
- 4 nights in Guayaquil. We connected with an Ecuadorian guide who lives there and prior to our trip, raised money to fund the building of a new elementary school. The small pour rice farming town was 30 minutes outside of Guayaquil and we spent the days helping to build the school, meeting the families, etc. We stayed at the Sheraton in Guayaquil which was wonderful.
......Santa Cruz: We rented a condo called Torre Mar which was perfect for us - affordable, very clean, pretty, walking distance to everything - 2 bedrooms and a kitchen. Don't miss the tortoises here - this is the best island to see them!
......San Cristobal: We took a boat from Santa Cruz to San Cristobal. It was cheap, but pretty horrible as a 2-1/2 hour ride turned into a 4 hour ride due to our motor breaking down several times and very rough seas. My recommendation: only take the boat if that's the only way you can afford to get around. In this case, book with someone local who can find out which boat you're on,it's condition, how old the equipment is, etc. Also, the rough seas go from June-December, so early in the year should be just fine. Our return ride was world's better. In San Cristobal, we stayed at Casa Iguana Mar Y Sol. Wonderful - I literally cannot say enough about how beautiful it was and how wonderful the owners were. Highly recommend it! San Cristobal was our favorite island and it was FULL of sea lions. Also, we snorkeled at Kicker Rock and Los Lobos with sea turtles, galapagos sharks,etc. Don't miss it!
.....Isabella: We took a small plane from Cristobal to Isabella, which was quick and easy, but of course more expensive. Isabella is beautiful with the long stretch of pristine barely inhabited beach. Tons of wildlife including a few sea lions, galapagos penguins, marine iguanas and of course, blue footed boobies. It is an amazing place. We stayed at Albemarle, which was OK. If you consider it, call first and find out if the bars next door are a bit more under control. Other than that, the hotel was tremendous. Also, we snorkeled at Los Tuneles. It was incredible and we saw sharks, sea horses, sea turtles, boobies, penguins, etc. I'd highly recommend it, but be sure you know what you're getting. We weren't aware that they didn't bring lunch or towels (like our other trips had), so we weren't prepared. Also, when they estimate how long the boat ride is, always add about 50%.
.......Then we took the boat back from Isabella to Santa Cruz. The ride this time lasted less than 2 hours and the seas were much calmer!
Our trip ended with a final night at the Swisshotel in Quito, which was great. If I did it again, I'd fly into Quito, stay for 4 nights together so we could see the Old City, Otovalo and the Andes, maybe Cotopaxi if I had time, then fly home out of Guayaquil. The altitude was tough on us because we flew in and out of Quito, so just as our bodies assimilated, we left, only to return and have to start over...
It was an incredible adventure - truly a once in a lifetime for our family!