Galapagos & Ecuador: A Smithsonian Family Adventure


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Our Smithsonian Family Adventure to Ecuador provides a fascinating overview of the natural wonders of the Galápagos Islands and the cultural history of the Andean Highlands. Start your Galapagos family vacation on a boat tour through a mangrove reserve outside Guayaquil before making your way to the Highlands, passing cacao, coffee, and banana plantations on your way to Cuenca. For three nights, quaint and colonial Cuenca will become your home. Wander the cobblestone streets and watch ceramics being made. During your time in the Highlands, go rock climbing and horseback riding, or opt to visit the city of Biblián to learn the art of hat weaving and attend a cooking demonstration, learning about the blending of traditional indigenous ingredients with colonial Spanish influences. Children can also meet a local Ecuadorian pen pal friend in the Highlands. 
Then fly to the Galápagos for a four-day exploration of Isabela and Santa Cruz Islands. Learn about Darwin and see up close his thesis on the evolution of species. Gaze in amazement (and amusement!) at blue-footed boobies, flightless cormorants, giant tortoises, and the only penguin species north of the Equator. On Isabela Island, take a boat from Puerto Villamil to explore the lava formations, volcanic underground caves, and tunnels and arches of Los Tuneles, renowned for fabulous snorkeling. On the island of Santa Cruz, relax on beautiful beaches, learn about protected giant tortoises, admiring these amazing creatures up-close, and take a boat ride to Bahia Ballena (Whale Bay) to see an astounding array of wild and marine life. Return home with fun family memories to last a lifetime. 
2015 Dates
Dates Adult Price Child Price Internal Air
12/26 - 01/04 $6,790 $6,590 $1,000
Space is Limited!

Single supplement: $2,000

Triple discount (child under 12 sharing with two adults): $100

Internal Air Discount for Children under 12: $150 in December, 2014 and $100 for all 2015 trips 

Day 1 – Depart Home / Arrive Guayaquil

Welcome to Ecuador! Our Smithsonian Family Adventure through this treasured country is full of great opportunities to experience the rich culture of the Andean Highlands and the famous biological diversity of the Galapagos Islands.

Days 2-4 – Guayaquil / Cuenca

On the way from the coastal city of Guayaquil to the Andean Highlands, drive past rice paddies, banana plantations, and cacao trees, stopping off at the Manglares Churute Ecological Reserve for a boat tour through a tropical mangrove ecosystem brimming with bird life. Continue up into the rolling terrain of the Highlands, home to the ruins of lost civilizations, including the Cañari, a sophisticated society of astronomers who ruled the area for a thousand years before being conquered by the Incas. The Incas controlled the Andean Highlands for less than a century before the Spanish arrived in the 1530s.


  • Boat journey through a tropical mangrove ecosystem
  • Meet your kids’ Ecuadorian pen pals at a rural school
  • Rock climb at Cojitambo Mountain
  • Inspect the Cañari ruins at Cojitambo
  • Learn traditional Andean hat weaving in Biblián (alternate activity to rock climbing)
  • Pick out fresh produce at a local market by using the Spanish words for your groceries
  • Learn horseback riding technique and ride through scenic hills
  • Prepare an authentic dish with  a local family (alternate activity to horseback riding)
  • Wander the cobblestone streets of Cuenca, a UNESCO World Heritage Site
Days 5-6 – Isabela Island, Galápagos

Fly to Guayaquil and then to the famed Galapagos Islands, connecting in Baltra and ultimately landing on Isabela, the largest island in the Galapagos—it’s bigger than all of the rest combined!


  • Visit the Galápagos National Park Tortoise Breeding Center
  • Walk through wetlands past mangroves, sea shore birds, and reptiles 
  • Boat through lava tunnels and volcanic caves at Los Tuneles
  • Observe Galápagos penguins, sea birds, eagle rays, and sharks 
  • Snorkel in crystal-clear water brimming with marine life
  • Hike at Tintoreras, where you may spot white-tipped reef sharks
  • Swim at Loberia Chica and encounter playful sea lions
  • Stargaze on the beach
Days 7-8 – Santa Cruz Island, Galápagos

We’ll fly from Isabela to Baltra and connect to the island of Santa Cruz, the second largest in the Galapagos and home to the bustling port city of Puerto Ayora.


  • Learn about finch research in the famous Daphne Islands
  • Walk the Enchanted Beach and snorkel, looking for marine turtles
  • Visit private farms set aside for giant tortoise conservation 
  • Explore an immense 1,300-foot lava tunnel 
  • Navigate by boat using just a sextant and the sun’s position as early explorers did
  • See marine iguanas and sea lions on a sandy beach
  • Snorkel around wildlife-rich mangroves 
  • Go fishing in search of dinner
Day 9 – Galapagos Islands / Guayaquil

Today we say goodbye to these enchanted isles and hello to mainland Ecuador once again!


  • Farewell dinner
Day 10 – Depart Ecuador



Hilton Colon Guayaquil

The Hilton Colon Guayaquil Hotel is conveniently located a 5 minute drive from the airport. Each of the hotel's 294 rooms features broadband and wireless internet, plasma TV, air conditioning, coffee maker and hair dryer. Other highlights of the hotel include 5 restaurants, fitness center, spa and an outdoor pool.

Mansion Alcazar

Mansión Alcázar, situated in the center of the quaint, old-fashioned city of Cuenca, oozes all the classical charm and grandeur one would expect from a renovated 1870s mansion. The hotel is beautifully decorated in an elegant colonial style, from the wrought iron balcony to the antique furniture, the crystal chandelier to the fountain and grand piano. Even the enchantingly colonial guest rooms have long drapes and chandeliers. Mansión Alcázar also has a bar called Le Bar and a restaurant called Casa Alonso, with an accomplished local chef cooking gourmet cuisine from Ecuador and elsewhere. 

Iguana Crossing

Iguana Crossing is located on the southern part of the island, with only National Park beyond it. The hotel is the only one on Isabela with an oceanfront swimming pool, and each of its rooms features great views of either the beachfront or Sierra Negra Volcano. Iguana Crossing also has central air conditioning, wireless internet, laundry facilities, rooftop Jacuzzi, and a restaurant and bar. Rooms here feature a flat screen TV, alarm clock with an iPod dock, hair dryer, safety deposit box, and tasteful, rustic design.

Angermeyer Waterfront Inn

The Angermeyer Waterfront Inn offers top-notch comfort and all the necessary amenities amid constant reminders that you’re still in the Galapagos Islands, one of the most unique places in the world. The inn was built using lava rocks and drift wood for that authentic Galapagos feel, and each spacious room is equipped with cable television, air conditioning, and a private bathroom. Located just a 2-minute water taxi ride from the bustling Puerto Ayora, the property has its own dock and a waterfront restaurant prime for observing sea lions, sea turtles, and marine iguanas. 

Hotel Silberstein

Hotel Silberstein is located in the center of Puerto Ayora, the most heavily populated city in the Galapagos Islands. The hotel offers 24 comfortable rooms, quality service, and a lovely atmosphere, with lush gardens and a pristine swimming pool. Amenities include a tourist information center, a dive center, internet and hair dryers.

Why Ecuador?

Galapagos Islands geography
When you think of Ecuador, the Galapagos Islands surely come to mind. Stunning beauty and an abundance of wildlife are the trademarks of these volcanic islands. For years to come, you and your children will reminisce about all of the wonderful species you saw on these islands – many of which are found nowhere else on earth.
Galapagos Islands wildlife
The Galapagos Islands are home to more than 25,000 species of plants, 6,000 species of butterflies and 1,600 species of birds. There's no place on the planet with habitats more protected than here, and it shows is the total lack of fear the animals have of humans; you can get right next to many of them and they won't be the least bit concerned, because they have no reason to recongnize the human form as a threat.
Darwin's theory
Charles Darwin visited the Galapagos Islands in 1835 on his return to England after repatriating the Fuegians. He collected various birds, which he took back to John Gould, a famous ornithologist, in England. While Darwin initially thought the birds were not closely related, Gould concluded that the birds were in fact, "a series of ground Finches which are so peculiar" as to form "an entirely new group, containing 12 species." This story made the newspapers and formed the basis for Darwin’s groundbreaking theory.
Cuenca is a fascinating and very easy-on-the-eyes little city. The mix of cultural influences resulting from Cuenca’s long history makes for such a unique feel, you’ll never want to leave. With a Spanish colonial base, strong French influences, and a history rooted in the ancient Inca and Cañari cultures, Cuenca is as charmingly multi-faceted as this itinerary!
We take family vacations to get away from the daily grind of our normal lives and just be with our families. The Galápagos Islands offer the perfect opportunity to leave it all behind and enjoy each other’s company. Many of the islands you’ll visit are virtually uninhabited by humans, because they are protected lands of delicate ecological splendor, so you will be far away from any kind of hustle and bustle.

Why Ecuador and the Galapagos with Thomson and Smithsonian?

Perfect place for a family reunion
When was the last time your extended family got together? A Smithsonian Family Adventure is the perfect way for your entire family – near and far – to spend time with relatives that you might not see as often as you would like. Pick a destination and a date, and we’ll do the rest! Let Thomson and Smithsonian help you plan the perfect family reunion amidst the beauty and splendor of Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands.
Use a sextant as a navigational tool
Learn how to navigate the way it was done in the olden days, with just a sextant and the position of the sun. Then put this newly-acquired knowledge to use as you sail through the Galapagos waters.
Variety is perfect for multigenerational families 
 This family adventure provides constant options between more active and more relaxed activities. Based around freedom of choice, there’s no type of traveler and no type of family this itinerary can’t please, making it ideal for multigenerational and intergenerational families. Whether you’re up for an adventure, tired from your last or just looking to take it easy in some breathtaking settings, there's always something to suit your mood.It's a revolutionary experience that takes the idea of variety to a whole new level, so children, teens, parents, and grandparents can get the utmost enjoyment out of their visit to this incredibly multi-faceted location.