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Updated by Jon Jared on Jul 21, 2014
Jon Jared Jon Jared
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The Adventurist's Guide to Getting your Thrills in Ecuador

Thrills abound in Ecuador. The country’s soaring volcanoes, deep jungles, miles of beaches and the wealth of the Galapagos Islands make it many an active explorer’s playground. For those looking to broaden their horizons while making the most of the country’s adventurous spirit, here are ten things to consider putting on the list. Check back with this site weekly for a new series featuring adventure in Ecuador. (Photo credits to follow.. If interested, email me for more information.)


Rumble in the Jungle-Tour the Country with Ecuador Freedom’s Off Road Tour

Ecuador’s winding roads take riders through dense jungle, the quilt-work hills and valleys of the Quilotoa Loop, past small fishing ports and surf meccas and beyond the reach of buses or cars. Ecuador Freedom’s Court Rand and Sylvian Gallea rode the length and breath of the continent before deciding on Ecuador as the best place for luxury tours on high-end bikes. Their stable has grown to include BMW 650 gs , Triumph Tiger’s, Suzuki V-Strom DL 650′s as well as smaller bikes and scooters. The roster of tours include 7 day journeys through the cloudforest, coast and volcano craters, a 12 day introduction to Ecuador adventure and a 10 day trek through the high Andes and deep into the jungle. For the intrepid motorcycle rider, these tours provide adrenalin filled days and fun filled nights in far off places. For more information, check out their webpage.

A Step back in Time-Galapagos Safari Camp

Whilst most visitors to the Galapagos flock to book cruises and find last minute deals once on the ground in Ecuador, the Galapagos Safari Camp is another option for those seeking luxury adventure on land a stone throws away from the beaten path.

The concept is inspired. Elegant tents nestled in the hills above Puerto Ayora on Ilsa Santa Cruz surround a main lodge which serves as the central meeting point for meals, socializing and home base for excursions through the amazing land and sea options of the islands. Owner’s Michael & Stephanie Mesdag go over and beyond to show guests such as Prince Charles and Peter Gabriel why the enchanting environment of the Galapagos and the classic setup of the camp lend themselves to an experience not likely to be forgotten. For a complete range of what they offer, checkout their website.

.Catch a Wave-Betty Surf and Yoga Camp in Canoa

Canoa has long been the local’s secret as the relaxed surf spot thriving beneath Ecuador’s reigning surf town, Montanita. It’s sleepy beach scene caters to those looking for a quiet getaway where the days are spent surfing, kayaking and body boarding along the 10 mile stretch of coast and the nights are spent enjoying the laid back nightlife.

Betty Surf and Yoga is owned and run by Patricia White, a long-term expat who offers day lessons and week-long camps combining yoga with surf lessons. Certified instructors are available for beginners and those seeking to polish their skills. Accommodations and Spanish lessons also can be arranged within friendly, comfortable confines. The expertize of professional locals make Betty Surf and Yoga a step above the rest when trying to figure out the lay of the land and the motion of the ocean. For more info and camp dates, check out their website.

Harness the Wind-Kite Surfing in Playa Marianita

Playa Marianita is a stretch of wind swept beach hidden fifteen minutes south of Manta. Short, daily flights from Guayaquil and Quito from the coastal, shipping city make it a great spot to getaway from the crowd and enjoy the simple pleasures of life. The beach itself has a handful of hostals, a few seafood shacks and some of the best kite surfing in the country. During peak season winds can reach up to 25 knots without big gusts or changing direction. The 5 km stretch of beach is a haven to those in passionate about the sport and hosts an internationally recognized kite surfing competition annually. A few schools offer day and week lessons towards certification.

Shoot the Rapids-White Water Rafting in Tena

While Banos is considered Ecuador’s outdoor sport capital, the oft overlooked Tena has some of the best white-water rafting in the country. Rafting ranges from class III+ down the Jatunyacu river to class VI+ down the Misahualli river, which has six rivers feeding into it. Tena is also known as one of the gateway to the jungle and any trip on the water is an education in the diversity of its flora and fauna and the creatures that call it home.


Get on the Rock-Rock Climbing in Banos

Get on the Rock-Rock Climbing in Banos

At first glance, the town of Banos can be deceiving. Restaurants, bars and tour companies line the streets vying tourists while dune buggies and Chivas can do a circuit around town at all times of the day and night. Beyond this facade is the real reason people gravitate towards the outdoor capital of Ecuador four hours South of Quito.

Extreme sports reign supreme as bungee jumping, rafting, canyoning, paragliding and rock climbing are all within a short drive from the city. The sheer, volcanic cliffs outside of town are considered the best climbing spots in the country. If you ask around town at the local tour agencies, you can find guides headed to their favorite spots during quiet times and guiding enthusiastic rock heads during the peak times. GeoTours is one the pioneers in the region, charting many of the original routes up sheer faces which are used by many of the climbing guides and other agencies in town.

Down by the River-Ecuador’s Deep Jungle Awaits!

Any trip to the jungle is an adventure, those who pull the trigger head to Coca and begin the journey to the Oriente and its creatures. Just a few hours downstream many new species of plants and and mammals are still being discovered beneath the towering canopy shielding the tributaries and lagoons of the Napo River.

To experience the wonders of nature’s most diverse territory, stay at the Sani Lodge or Napo Wildlife Center for local guides from river communities and above- the-board creature comforts. For shorter trips with backpacker friendly rates, check at Happy Gringo in Quito for the best of the rest.

Paragliding-Flying High in Ecuador’s Skies..

Paragliding in Ecuador is a sport that’s been overshadowed by the countries volcanoes, islands and the deep reaches of the jungle. Ibarra, Canoa and now Quito are the places that those seeking soaring heights and an birds eye view find solace. The recent move of the airport in Quito presents a new opportunity to see the city by air launching high above the city from Pinchincha and landing at the old airport in the North Quito. Twenty minutes North of Otavalo lies Ibarra, one of the country’s best places to get certified. For more information check out Fly Ecuador. For those seeking some fun in the sun, get in touch with Pete at the Surf Shak or Alicia Harmon at Betty Surf and Yoga for a rare view off of Canoa’s towering cliffs.

Summit Cotopaxi-Climb above the clouds.

For climbers craving a vertical challenge, Vulcan Cotopaxi’s glacier accent gives ample reason to make the trek. The most popular of Ecuador’s peaks is worth a few days high in the Andes. Summit trips are arranged through many different agencies and guides such as Freddy Tipan at Andean Face are experts in reading the mountain, having summited the route hundreds of times. An acclimation period is completely recommended and hostals such as the Secret Garden, Cotopaxi and neighboring Hosteria Tambopaxi offer opportunities to climb smaller peaks nearby including the Pasochoa and North Iliniza to get ready for the challenge.

The Bucketlist, Ecuador

For more adventure in Ecuador as well as weekly series about travel in the small Andean country, check with the Bucket, Ecuador for what's hot, what's not and news from the field from a writer and researcher for Moon Travel Guides.