Best of Ecuadors Andes & Beaches: 9 Day Itinerary

Day 1: Quito
Where to stay: Community Hostel

The Community Hostel was one of the best hostels I’ve stayed in. My partner and I got a private room with a shared bathroom. The room was very nice, comfortable, and clean. The hostel itself was friendly and had all the right amenities needed to make a trip excellent. They offered a wide range of tours, specialty discounts, free breakfasts and $5 dinners. The food there was exceptional and the dinners were well worth the $5! I don’t normally write huge reviews for hostels on these itinerary posts but I really feel like staying at this hostel would significantly improve your time in Quito (and Ecuador) because of it’s location, service and access to amazing adventures and tours.

What to do:

We arrived late the night before so our first day we spent adjusting to the altitude and exploring Quito. Our bodies had adjusted fairly well overnight so we decided we would go take the TeleferiQo in Quito which is a gondala up the Pinchincha volcano. At the top there’s an incredible view of the city, and lots of hiking trails you can take to climb the volcano further.

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We were still adjusting to the altitude in Quito, and the TeleferiQo is even higher up at 3945 m or 12,942 ft above sea level so we were in no shape to be hiking very far. We just wandered around for about an hour or so taking in the views and making friends with the locals.

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Day 2: Quito – Banos
Where to stay: Community Hostel Banos

What to do:

We wanted to see and do as much as possible in the short period of time we had in Ecuador, which meant that we needed to splurge in certain areas and not just rely on public transit. We ended up booking a Wanderbus tour from Quito-Banos that would stop in both Cotopaxi & Quilotoa. Overall, this tour was great in that we were able to see a lot in a days worth. I think everyone on the tour was surprised by how long it ended up taking us, and many of the random stops we made along the way. The tour company I’m sure has some adjustments to make to these tours but overall I would recommend, especially if you want to be able to visit these places! We never actually hiked up Cotopaxi but just spend some time hiking at the bottom of the volcano.

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In Quilotoa, our group hiked to the bottom of the crater and we were given some time to explore the area.

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We had started the tour around 6 am, and by the time we were done exploring Quilotoa at about 5 pm everyone was ready to get to Banos. There were some issues with the tour and we ended up sitting and waiting on the bus for an hour before starting the 3ish hour journey to Banos from Quilotoa. I’m sure if I wasn’t with my boyfriend it would have been a more frustrating experience than it was funny. Luckily we just made the most of our time, eating milk, jam and avocado ice cream for dinner and laughing off all the awkward situations that happened.

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Day 3: Banos
Where to stay: Community Hostel Banos

The community hostel in Banos was also amazing. This hostel is a bit more party-ish and there were often people drinking and going out at night causing some late night music and loud noise throughout the hostel. It had a great vibe though, again delicious food and really friendly staff.

What to do:

There are about a million and 1 things to do in Banos, especially for those adventure seekers. We chose to start our day by walking around Banos and getting acquainted to this cool rainforest town. After grabbing some coffee and food we caught a taxi to Pailon Del Diablo. Here we did the short hike down to the waterfalls. The area was absolutely breathtaking, but it was a little overwhelming by how many people there were, especially on the swinging bridge!

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After surviving the bridge and waterfall, we hitchhiked back with a “party bus” – not sure why but this bus had strobe lights and club music while everyone sat in silence. We managed through our very limited Spanish speaking skills to get a ride back with them, and still don’t know what the purpose of this very eccentric bus was.

It was a beautiful clear day so we decided that we would try to catch the public bus to go to the “swing at the end of the world.” I had read almost everywhere that you should go here in the morning before fog gets too thick, but we were gifted with this beautiful clear day so we decided to change our plans and head there right away. The public bus runs every hour…. I think… maybe ever two hours… I should write this stuff down (SORRY). So we waited for the bus, paid the dollar or so to get on and made our way up the mountain. It took about 40 minutes to get up there but totally worth it.

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Don’t be fooled by the first swing you see when you arrive. Although it does look cool, just keep walking and follow the trail to the other side of the trees. There you’ll see the real swings – and a much more magical view. It costs $1 to enter and then you can swing as much as you’d like. There are people to push you and organize the line/how long you get on the swing. There’s also a little restaurant if you need a cerveca or two afterwards!

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Day 4: Banos
Where to stay: Community Hostel Banos

What to do:

Neither of us had been white water rafting before, but were super keen on trying. Banos is known for it’s white water rafter so we signed up for a mere $30 USD.

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There are a ton of tour companies throughout the city, and I’m sure many are linked to one another somehow. The start of our tour was a bit confusing and there was no clear direction as to what was going on. We just went with the flow though (pun intended), and by the time we arrived, the staff started setting us up and getting us ready to go.

Because we were newbies we went on the boat with the most experienced guide (hallelujah) and a Korean family with 2 little kiddies (again hallelujah). We all had a great time fighting the rapids together… well all of us except our youngest friend on the boat who was pretty unhappy by the cold water splashing him over and over again. He just sat at the back of the boat and cried for a solid hour, but that didn’t stop him from joining in the pics when we took them!

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After rafting we were properly exhausted and looking forward to some food and hot springs. We first divulged this low calorie drink…

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and then got our suits on to try out some Ecuadorian hot springs. I wish I had some pictures of these hot springs because they were not at all what I had expected, and it was a very cool experience. The pools are set up in stages so you start in the least hot one and then work your way to the most hot – which was unbelievable that some people were even able to dip a toe in there it was that hot. We would play games seeing how many seconds we could have a foot in it before taking it out while the locals laughed at us and just told us to get in. We managed to get about max 10 seconds. They had these two little pools with freezing cold water on either side of the scorching hot pool and if you went in the cold water first and acclimatized to it, then went in the hot water apparently it was easier. I think it really just numbed you enough that it would be bearable. Anyways, we had fun trying out best to get into the water with our mandatory shower caps on – clearly looking like outsiders.

I tried to find some more pics on the internet of these hot springs but this is all I could find. Looks busy here but when we were there the second pool in the distance was closed… so everyone was crammed like sardines into that first one.

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Day 5: Banos – Montanita
Where to stay: Hostel Casa Del Sol 

What to do:

Today wasn’t as exciting as the rest of the days. We had to take several public buses, over the course of almost 10 hours to get from Banos to Montanita, stopping in many cities along the way. It was New Years Eve, and we were excited to get to Montanita, have some drinks and finally be on a beach in sunny weather. But because it was New Years Eve, a lot of the buses were full, and we couldn’t pre-book them as there is no way to book them online. We had our first bus booked but it was a bit of a gamble along the way.

In summary our day went like this: buses on buses on buses…..

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until we gave up and took an $80 USD taxi from Guyaquil to Montanita….

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got to our hostel, ate dinner, drank a pitcher of sangria….

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bought some more wine…

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drank that on the beach watching the sunset….

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aaaaand then fell asleep by 10:30 pm after watching an episode of Parks and Rec. Yet another New Years Eve where we did not make it to midnight, wooooops.

Day 6: Montanita
Where to stay: Hostel Casa Del Sol 

What to do:

As soon as we got to the beach our motivation to go out and do new stuff just completely died. Instead we grabbed our books and spent the next two days just laying on the beach reading. Well, I read on the beach while Tony played in the waves. We ate at some really great restaurants, and just laid back and enjoyed life.

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Day 7: Montanita
Where to stay: Hostel Casa Del Sol 

What to do: eat, sleep, tan, repeat!

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Day 8: Montanita-Quito
Where to stay: Community Hostel

What to do:

Despite our short visit we were ready to be leaving the beach. After spending the last 6 or so days in Banos and Montanita we were sick of being wet all the time and were looking forward to Quito again. We took the public bus from Montanita to Quiyaquil and then walked from the bus station in Guyaquil to the airport, and flew back to Quito. We went to the same hostel and ended up spending the night chatting and drinking with some other travellers at the hostel.

Day 9: Quito

What to do:

On our last day in Quito, we wanted to go do the most touristy thing possible and see the Mitad Del Mundo – or the Equator that’s not even on the right spot. There’s this nice museum and statue, and big yellow Equator sign  yet a few years after it was built someone figured out that it was actually build on the wrong spot! Knowing this, we still went. The area itself had lots to explore, so you could easily spend a few hours here.

Afterwards, we got our taxi to drop us off in the modern side of Quito to go to the market. This area was totally different than the old town we had been staying in. While we didn’t explore it extensively, we did notice there was a lot more modern coffee shops, restaurants and shopping in general. I even saw my favourite store, Pull & Bear! We sticked to just buying some chocolate and llama key chains and then walked back to our hostel.

Then it was already time for our flight home that night 😦

There’s so much more to explore in Ecuador that we didn’t get to do. Next time definitely to the Galapagos!

xx, S

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