Things to do
The capital Quito, is a city with a lot of history where you can walk in downtown, enjoying the beautiful colonial buildings. There is also the "Teleférico" (cable-car) which takes passengers from the highest mountain in Quito to see the whole city from the sky. Admission is $8.50 per person (November 2010). There are many welcoming cafes as well as many dancing clubs open every weekend, often until 5AM.
In Guayaquil, an excellent place to visit is the Malecón 2000, which is very similar to Navy Pier in Chicago, Illinois, offering food, shopping, boat rides and a beautiful view of the river. Except for electronics, prices are quite low; however, almost everything sold with any sort of brand name is a knockoff. This area is very well patrolled and quite safe. For a real adventure, it is possible to visit the more authentic, less expensive, and far more dangerous Bahía or "Informal Market". It is not advisable to visit it without a native. It is possible to purchase a knockoff of almost anything here. Pirated video games and movies also abound; it is possible to purchase game systems modified to play such games as well. Make the proprietors prove to you that any movies or games you might purchase actually work before buying though. In the Bahía, it is necessary to haggle for all items.
Baños is the perfect city for the outdoors or extreme sports enthusiast, offering rafting, mountain climbing and backpacking excursions of all sorts. It is possible to get an English speaking guide. Be sure to get all the necessary vaccinations, as it is possible to get some nasty infections from prolonged exposure to the water. Baños also offers a public hot spring mineral bath, which only charges $1 admission. Other, more expensive baths also exist, but are fed from exactly the same water. It is best to arrive at these baths as they open, as the water is freshest and cleanest then.
Ibarra -and the whole Imbabura province- is about a 90mins ride from Quito and offers many touristic activities such as community tourism, adventure tours (rafting, swing jumping, kayaking, trekking, etc.) and indigenous visits. The most recommended places in Imbabura to visit are: Ibarra, Otavalo, Intag and Cotacachi
The north of Ecuador offers the best beaches, including Bahia de Caraquez, Manta, Crucita, San Jacinto, and San Clemente. They offer very inexpensive hotel accommodations, great food and friendly people.
Ecuador is perhaps the most bio-diverse country in the world. The Galapagos Islands are justly famed for their wildlife, but there is also lots to see on the mainland. Ecuador has over one hundred different types of hummingbirds. Good places to see them include Cuyabeno Wild Life Reserve, Mindo and San Luis de Pambil.
Montañita Town On the coast, 3 hours from Guayaquil, this is a growing town with many particularities which makes it great to visit: Goog Beach and incredible surroundings, the people, incredible nightlife, and surf. There are many people who live in the town permanently from all over the world.
Many people who visit Ecuador choose to give back to the community by volunteering. The Peace Corps alone has more than 200 volunteers in Ecuador at a time. From conservation projects to building houses to teaching English, there are many ways to help development in Ecuador. You can choose to volunteer through a third-party organization that arranges accommodations and connects you to a local organization to volunteer with. The other option is to volunteer directly through a local NGO. This will take more time and research but can also be significantly cheaper.
- Fundacion Bolivar Education [www] is a volunteer foundation based in Quito, the cities capital, and has many volunteer projects through all Ecuador's regions including the Pacific Coast, Amazon, Andes and Galapagos Islands. Volunteers must be 18 years or older, and can volunteer in any of the following categories: Children and Youth, Health, Environment, Teaching, Gender, Elderly, Development and Animal Welfare. No previous education or organization experience is needed. Students, families, senior citizens and groups from various schools, universities or programs are all able to volunteer with Fundacion Bolivar Education. Host families or hostels are available accommodations to choose from. Packages are also available for those who to volunteer but also travel throughout Ecuador.
One way to work on your Spanish skills is to go to a movie. Films in modern theaters cost about $3 to $4 in the larger cities, less in smaller towns. Foreign films are typically shown in the original language with subtitles - but not always, so ask first.