GringosAbroad Ecuador

3 Months Exploring Ecuador: Our Top 12 Experiences, Dishes & Attractions

Posted in: Ecuador Food, Ecuador Travel

What can you expect when exploring Ecuador? In this guest post by Carla of Exciting Adventure, you’ll learn about her favorite experiences, food and attractions in Ecuador while visiting her mother’s native country.

Exploring Ecuador

3 Months Exploring Ecuador: Our Top 12 Experiences, Dishes and Attractions

Today we want to share with you our experience in Ecuador. For me, Carla it wasn’t the first time in Ecuador, in fact, my mom is Ecuadorian and I had been there many times before. For Oliver, it was the first time though.

Even though it wasn’t my first time it was very exciting for me to go this time because it was the first time that I was going to travel around the country with someone who wasn’t from my family and with someone that hadn’t been there before.

So I was very excited to show Oli Ecuador, a country that is some way, a second home to me.


1. Arriving in Guayaquil

Our first stop was Guayaquil. Not because we thought is a must see place in Ecuador, but because my family lives there. We wanted to travel around Ecuador and see the country, but another reason for going to Ecuador was to visit my family.

So, since my family lives in Guayaquil this is the city where we spend probably most part of our trip. Oli had never been to South America before, so he didn’t really know what to expect.

Monument at Malecon 2000 Guayaquil Ecuador

Monument at Malecon 2000, Guayaquil Ecuador

How the weather in Guayaquil? See the full guide.

Guayaquil is the biggest city in Ecuador, nevertheless, it has not so much to do and see. One or two days are more than enough. The good thing about it is that you are not too far from the beach.

It has also some nice things to see like the Malecón 2000, the Parque Histórico, Iguana Park, Isla Santay, Las Peñas and the city center.

The bad thing about Guayaquil is that it is pretty dangerous and people are not used to being on the streets. Life is more from one place to another and always inside, usually inside malls.

But even here we had a bad experience, but we will leave that to the end. First the nice things!

Watch on YouTube See more Guayaquil photos.

2. First surfing lesson ever!

Surfing is something I always wanted to do, and Oli as well. We visited Montañita, one of the best surfing spots in the world, and thought we would give it a try.

So in on of our trips to the coast we took a surfing lesson in Montañita. When we got there, there were barely waves and we thought it would be a calm day, perfect to start out.

It was so much fun, even though it was very hard to stand. I would try to stand up and immediately fall down again. Oli was a bit better than me, but he wouldn’t stay up for long either.

Even though we kept on falling, and at some point I thought to myself that I had just gone there to swallow water, it was really cool.

We loved it and we knew that we wanted to surf again, so we decided to plan other trips to the coast.

So if you go to Ecuador don’t forget to take a surfing lesson. You can take surfing lesson pretty much in any place in the coast, and they are fairly cheap. Prices are $15-20 for about 2.5 hours.

Ecuador surfing lesson

Ecuador has many amazing beaches. Check out our guide to Ecuador beaches

3. Spending time at the beach in Manta

While we were in Ecuador my cousin was working in Manta. Well, officially, but he was traveling a lot within the country. That meant that his house in Manta was pretty much always empty.

That was great for us because we got to stay there. It was an amazing building in a really nice part of Manta.

We were a short walk away from the beach, where we would go every day to keep on practicing our surf skill.

Here we wanted to take surf lessons and came across Rene Burgos. A surf instructor from the City of Manta. He lent us the surfboards, so we got to go every day and practice.

This was probably one of the things we enjoyed the most in our trip to Ecuador. Surfing is so much fun … until a jellyfish stings you!

Exploring Manta Ecuador

4. Welcoming the New Year in Ecuador

We got to Ecuador at the end of November and stayed until the end of February. That meant spending Christmas and New Years away from home, but with my family.

For Oli, a completely new experience and a different way to spend the holidays. I personally love new years in Ecuador and was very excited to spend it with Oli this year.

So we went out with my family to buy an “Año Viejo”, these are the figures that are burned on new years. After going to several markets in Guayaquil, we ended up buying a very cute Mickey Mouse.

So at 00:00 these cute figures are burned on the side of the road along with firecrackers and fireworks. I think is a really cool tradition and Oli enjoyed it as well.

5. Try the amazing Bolón

Bolón is a typical dish from Ecuador. The preparation in the Sierra is slightly different from the one by the coast. I personally prefer the one on the coast, while Oli prefers the one in la Sierra.

The base is made out of green plantain, and it usually has also cheese, pork rind or both, and is formed as a ball.

It is eaten for breakfast and it will keep you full for a big part of the day since a whole one is usually pretty big.

Here’s how to make your own Ecuadorian bolon de verde:

Watch on YouTube

6. Eating by the sea

One of my favorite things in Ecuador is the food by the ocean. There is so much seafood and fish that there is a lot of choices.

One of our favorites is one of the most simple things, the fried fish that comes with rice, salad, and fried plantains or as they are called patacones. Eating this sitting by the beach with the oceanview is as good as it can get.

Another typical thing and definitely worth a try is the ceviche which can be found all along the coast.

And if you want to turn into a real costeño then try encebollado for breakfast. This is a fish soup with onion and yuca. It is very typical in the coast and eaten for breakfast, especially after a long night.

Food in Ecuador

What do people in Ecuador eat? My 15 favorite foods

7. Pan de yuca we love you!

Pan de yuca is probably the best thing Ecuador has to offer, at least for us. Oli tried some kind of pan de yuca for the first time in Germany with me, where I tried to do it. But nothing like the pan de yuca in Ecuador.

This little breads are made out of yuca flour and cheese and are eating with frozen yogurt. This has been my favorite since I was a kid. It turned out to be Oli’s as well and we could’ve spent our whole trip eating this.

yuca-bread-cuenca

8. El Cajas National Park

El Cajas is a national park that is located in the highlands of Ecuador at an altitude that ranges the 3100 to 4450 meters. So we decided to go there for the day to see the beautiful landscapes.

Oli had had already a bit of problems with the altitude when we arrived in Quito first, but nothing so serious.

So we decided to go to El Cajas, and just in case we took some pills before starting to go up. In our first stop in El Cajas, Oli was already feeling bad. So we got some canelazo, which is a hot drink made out of aguardiente, sugar, and cinnamon and it supposed to help you with altitude sickness. Learn more about popular beverages in Ecuador.

Cajas National Park Ecuador

Once at the top his was feeling really bad and didn’t get it to enjoy as much as he would’ve liked to. But he got to try something he really wanted to and it was coca tea. Even though in Ecuador and in the Andean countries this is something normal, in Germany something made out of coca leaves is not normal at all.

Despite the altitude sickness, it is a beautiful place, and we definitely loved it.

Watch on YouTube

9. Quito and the Middle of the World

As the capital of Ecuador, and know for its beautiful city center we had to visit Quito. And we loved the city.

Unlike Guayaquil, in Quito, you feel like you can walk more on the streets. The city center is just amazing and super beautiful with its colonial architecture. We took a free walking tour to visit this part of the city and it was definitely worth it and I would recommend it.

In Quito, you can also find the Mitad del Mundo (or middle of the world). Where the line crosses the city you can find an interactive museum, Museo Intiñán, which is a lot of fun.

The city has a lot of things to discover and we would definitely love to go back to see what we missed.

Mitad del Mundo Ecuador

10. Baños, the city of waterfalls

Baños was definitely our favorite part of the trip. This small town located in the mountains is just amazing and so much fun.

Not only that you are surrounded by mountains and nature, but there are also so many funs things to do around, and their people are also amazing.

We took a bike to go explore the different waterfalls that are just outside the city, and it is just so beautiful. Riding through the beautiful green mountains and stopping as you wish to enjoy the amazing views. Just wonderful.

Banos Ecuador

11. Eating BBQ with locals

In Baños, a girl that Oli knew from Facebook and that was married to an Ecuadorian guy from Baños invited us over to their place. This was on our first day in Baños and we were kind of tired, but we decided to go anyways – it was so much fun.

We got there and they were so welcoming, we felt like we had known them all along. We got to sit with their friends and party like Ecuadorians do.

It was great and it gave us an insight into the Ecuadorian culture in a different way that we had had until that moment.

12. Did I get drugged?

As we said at the very beginning we also had a bad experience. This was in Guayaquil, in a mall. We went out with my family to the mall just to go to the supermarket and withdraw some money. My aunt’s card wasn’t working so I had to withdraw some money for her.

Once by the ATM, my aunt tells me pretty loudly to withdraw as much as my bank would let me. So I did, and since she had been a bit loud I decided to give her the money right away. What she does is to start counting the money right at the spot.

With that done we walk around the mall and sit down to eat something. While sitting a kid comes up to us and seems to be asking for money. All of the sudden he gets called by some older man and runs away.

Until there everything seems ok. But when the kid leaves Oli tells us that he got really dizzy and when that happened he realized that the kid was touching him. When he took his arm away was when the kid got called by the older men.

Lately, they have been using a drug in Ecuador called scopolamine, which causes cause dizziness, drowsiness, or blurred vision, and affects your ability to defend yourself against crime. And this drug can be transmitted through the skin and it was what the kid was holding on Oli’s arm.

The good thing is that he noticed it and the guy ran away. We think they wanted him to feel bad or faint so that we were distracted and they could steal the money that we had just taken out of the bank.

We were lucky and it as just a really bad dizziness for two more days for Oli, but nothing worst happened.


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Final Thoughts

We had a bit of everything in this trip, from beach to mountain, from fun to not so much fun and everything in between. We loved Ecuador and we definitely want to go back since we still have a lot of things to discover!

Ecuador surfing

Your turn: Have a question for Carla? What are you planning on seeing, doing or eating in Ecuador? Let us know in the comments!

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Meet the Author

Bryan Haines is co-editor of GringosAbroad - Ecuador's largest blog for expats and travelers. He is a travel blogger and content marketer. He is also co-founder of ClickLikeThis (GoPro tutorial blog) and Storyteller Media (content marketing for travel brands). Work with GringosAbroad.

4 comments… add one
  • Tom and Grace Dunham Jun 17, 2018, 11:02 am

    Greetings to everyone, Our 4 1/2 years stay is sadly coming to its end. My name is Grace and my husband’s is Tom and he just recently got diagnosed with Pulmonary Emphysema Stage 3. and he is 70 years old so fighting for a reversal of many ailments from many years of US Military Service has taken it’s toll. Now the time has come for us to fully return back to the US for family time and better options of treatments. We have accumulated a nice one bedroom apartment full of household products, appliances and funiture that we needed to make our stay here more homey. We have a double bedroom set a new washer a refrigerator and stove etc. If anyone is interested please feel free to call me on our cell 0998560923 ask for Grace
    Thank you very much for your time and our location is in Esmeraldas (Quininde) Ecuador
    Cordially, Tom and Grace Dunham

  • Ken Callahan Jun 15, 2018, 11:59 am

    I really enjoyed your website and blogs–the best and most useful I have come across. My son and I are planning a trip in November to Guayaquil (2 days) and Cuenca (10 days). He is an anthropologist and fluent in Spanish. We’re looking forward to the trip. Perhaps we will meet while there.
    Ken Callahan

  • Andrew Estes Jun 15, 2018, 9:07 am

    Add Alpaca to your list of superlatives, also the fact that Ecuador is the worlds largest tuna exporter.

  • Rob Jun 13, 2018, 3:38 pm

    This summer will be our 4th trip to Ecuador, and our last until we start wintering there in January 2020. So far, we have visited Quito, Guayaquil, Otavalo, Cotacachi, and most of the villages along the coast from Canoa to Anconcito. Along the coast, we have stayed in San Clemente, Puerto Lopez, Olon and Salinas/Punta Carnero. By city, these have been our favorite activities …

    Quito
    1. The Hop on Hop Off Bus Tour – The best value around! For about $12 each, we toured the city, visiting El Panacillo, La Basilica, La Campania and many other sites. While at La Basilica, climb up to the roof and view El Panecillo between the bell towers.
    https://quitotourbus.com/en/quito-city-tour/
    2. The Teleferico – along the bus tour, hop off and ride the cable car up the mountain to get a view of the city. Expensive at $18 each, but worth it!
    https://teleferico.com.ec/
    3. Centro Historico – walk through the historical district and enjoy the Spanish architecture. Take time to sit in the many squares (plazas) and enjoy the street entertainment and food. Plaza Grande, Plaza de San Francisco and Plaza de la Independencia were our favorites.
    https://www.goraymi.com/es-ec/quito/plaza/plazas-del-centro-historico-de-quito-a1192cd44
    4. Mitad del Mundo – everyone has to get the mandatory picture straddling the equator! But take the time to visit the smaller, lesser known Museo Inti-Nan, and the Pululahua Crater while you are there! Avoid the expensive tours … it is an easy bus ride from the main bus terminal in Quito!
    https://www.lonelyplanet.com/ecuador/la-mitad-del-mundo/attractions/mitad-del-mundo/a/poi-sig/1021208/1327276
    https://www.lonelyplanet.com/ecuador/la-mitad-del-mundo/attractions/museo-solar-inti-nan/a/poi-sig/1170061/1327276
    https://www.notyouraverageamerican.com/pululahua-crater/

    Guayaquil
    1. Malecon 2000 – a lovely walk along the river. Nicely reconstructed in 2000.
    https://www.notyouraverageamerican.com/malecon-2000-guayaquil/
    2. Iguana Park – worth the short walk from the Malecon. Not every day you are going to see this concentration of iguanas and turtles!
    https://gringosabroad.com/iguana-park-guayaquil-ecuador/
    3. Parque Historico – well worth the $5 cab ride from the Malecon. See native wildlife in its natural habitat, and architecture from the turn of the last century.
    http://www.guayaquilesmidestino.com/en/nature/out-of-guayaquil/Historic-Park
    4. The 444 Steps of Santa Ana – an easy walk, with many platforms and resting areas. Go to the top for a beautiful view of the city.
    http://www.guayaquilesmidestino.com/en/history-art-and-culture/santa-ana-hill

    Otavalo
    1. Famous Indigenous Market – spanning 24 square blocks on Saturday, it is a whole day excursion! But don’t forget the livestock market! And do make time to visit the food market and try some authentic Ecuadorian food!
    http://www.ecuadorexplorer.com/html/otavalo.html

    Puerto Lopez
    1. Whale Watching – from June to September, take a boat tour and see the humpback whales up close and personal. Expect to have your boat rocked!
    http://ecuadorbeaches.org/activities/whale-watching/
    2. Isla de la Plata Tour – labelled the poor man’s Galapagos, it features a lot of the same wildlife: blue footed boobies, giant turtles, frigate birds, etc.
    https://www.theguardian.com/travel/2010/nov/27/ecuador-wildlife-poor-mans-galapagos

    Salinas
    1. The Malecon – stroll the Malecon and visit the shops and restaurants!
    https://www.inspirock.com/ecuador/salinas/malecon-salinas-a745892905
    2. La Chocolatera – the old military base has been turned into a tourist attraction, with beautiful views of the rough ocean and the city of Salinas below.
    http://www.infosalinas.com/en/tourism/chocolatera/
    3. San Vicente Mud Bath and Hot Springs – enjoy the mud bath and hot spring for $2. Add a ½ hour massage for $5 more. Then relax afterwards with a refreshing coconut full of milk for $1.
    http://ecuadorbeaches.org/2012/07/sling-mud-at-banos-de-san-vicente/

    Montanita
    There is nothing quite like Montanita. It is an all day party zone with the streets full of vendors. You may need to park on the outskirts of the town and walk. There is not a lot of room in the streets for cars!
    https://www.lonelyplanet.com/ecuador/pacific-coast-and-lowlands/montanita

    All along the coast
    Take time to walk the beaches and swim in the 80F clear ocean water. We have been to the beaches in Salinas, Punta Carnero, La Libertad, Ballenita, Ayangue, Montanita, Olon, Puerto Lopez, San Jacinto, San Clemente, Bahia and Canoa. Our favorites are Punta Carnero, Olon and San Clemente, but we have not been disappointed anywhere! And there are still so many more to do!

    Everywhere in Ecuador
    Enjoy a leisurely stroll and pick up just about anything at the open air farmers’ markets: fresh fruits and vegetables, bread, pastries, beef, chicken, pork, all kinds of seafood, cheese, eggs … hardware, dishes, soaps, clothes, trinkets, cell phones, tablets … seriously, anything! La Libertad’s market is exceptional. Charapoto’s Sunday market is awesome too!

    We have not explored the mountains, or the Amazon jungle yet, and still want to get to Cuenca. Banos’ hot springs and waterfalls and the Devil’s Nose Train ride are also on the bucket list! Definitely need to go deep sea fishing! Still so much to see and do!

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