Category Archives for "Travel"

Horseback Riding in Ecuador

Horseback riding in Ecuador has a long history. The Spanish conquistadores brought horses with them in 1534, gradually leading to cattle and horses taking over the pastoral lands traditionally occupied by llamas and alpacas. 

Ecuadorian horse riding has since revolved around haciendas. These large properties are scattered all over Ecuador and some still rely on horses as transport. Other haciendas have adapted to also offer horseback riding tours or specialize in competitive jumping. 

Indeed, some of the best horse riding we’ve experienced in Ecuador has been through smaller operators that are either operated by, or arranged through, the haciendas. Even without the horses, visiting and staying at haciendas is one of our favorite weekend getaways.

Once you’ve read this article, you’ll know the different options for:

  • Taking a horse riding tour
  • Enrolling in a horse riding school 

Right, let’s get to it! 

Cotopaxi Horse riding Ecuador

Horseback riding tours vs schools

Most visitors to Ecuador only have time to sneak in a horseback riding tour. But, those that are able to spend at least a few months here can look into enrolling at a horse riding school. 

You should be able to find a riding school if you’re close to the bigger cities of Quito, Cuenca or Guayaquil, but may need to search a little harder if you live in a smaller town. We’ve included a list of schools you can try at the bottom of the article. 

Horse riding tours 

Whether you’re new to the saddle or fancy yourself as a regular chagra (cowboy), there’s a variety of tours to suit your needs. 

We’ve created the following map to show popular horse riding tours (green) and schools (red) in Ecuador:

Quito one day horse riding tours

Day horse riding tours are popular in many of Ecuador’s tourist hot spots, particularly in the mountains accessible from Quito. Some popular options include: 


Riding in Cotopaxi National Park is an amazing experience. Just you, the volcano, and some new friends. It feels like a different world, and I guess it is.

You can get a tour leaving from Quito that takes around 2 hours to get to the stables or hacienda. Or, if you want to explore Cotopaxi some more (recommended), you can hook up with horse riding tours once you’re there. 

If you’re looking for a place to stay, Hacienda los Mortiños is 5 minutes from the Cotopaxi park entrance with great views of the volcano and offers reasonably priced horse riding tours. 

Hacienda El Porvenir also offers a good variety of rooms and is situated on the foothills of Rumiñahui Volcano. They offer a variety of day and multi-day horse riding trips and can arrange transport from Quito if required. 

Cotopaxi Horse Riding Costs

There’s something for all budgets at Cotopaxi. From Quito, expect to pay at least $100 for a 2 hour ride including return transport and lunch. Private tours cost around twice this. If you find your own way to Cotopaxi, expect to pay from $40 for a 2-hour ride with a local Spanish speaking guide. 

Cotopaxi Horse riding Ecuador
Michelle riding at Cotopaxi

Hacienda La Alegria

Smack bang in the Avenue of the Volcanoes, 40 minutes south of Quito is Hacienda La Alegria. Situated within the Machachi valley and lined with volcanoes on either side, this hacienda specializes in horseback vacations. 

They provide good priced all-inclusive tours ranging from overnight to multiple days. 

Hacienda Tilipulo

1.5 hrs from Quito, between Lake Quilotoa and Vulcan Cotopaxi is Hacienda Tilipulo. This working vegetable farm (broccoli, artichoke and potatoes) also raises horses and offers day trips, multi-day trips, and weekly lessons. All are very reasonably priced. 

Pululahua Crater

The lush green cloud forest inside a crater makes for a very unique horse riding experience. This popular destination is only a few minutes away from the Mitad Del Mundo on the outskirts of Quito.

Pululahua Ecolodge offers a good variety of horse riding tours and accommodation options. 

Hacienda La Merced Baja 

A little less than 2 hours from Quito, near Otavalo is Hacienda La Merced. It’s a working dairy farm that also breeds horses and has numerous day riding tours on offer for their guests.


2 hours from Quito is Hacienda Zuleta. And it’s gorgeous. This is a 17th-century working hacienda that offers many different activities such as bird watching, cooking classes and cycling. But, we’re most impressed with their horse riding tours on their very own breed of horse, aptly called Zuleteño.

Their most popular ride takes you to the neighboring Condor Huasi Project where riders learn about condors and spectacles bears. 

You’ll need to stay at the Hacienda to go on their horse riding tours. It’s not for the budget-conscious, but it’s high on our list of places to stay when we want an indulgent, adventure-filled weekend. 

Horseback riding Zuleta Ecuador
Image: Hacienda Zuleta

Cuenca one day horse tours

Horse riding isn’t necessarily high on the list of must-do activities that tourists (or even expats) explore when visiting or moving to Cuenca. But, Cuenca actually has a long and proud horse heritage with several good options for day trips and riding schools. 

Centro Ecuestre Bellavista

About 20 mins from Cuenca is Centro Ecuestre Bellavista. It’s a full-blown riding center that offers lessons, day trips, competitive jumping and breeding. Spoiler alert, this is where our family goes for our twice-weekly lessons and we all love it, especially the kids.

All prices are very reasonable, including their day trips to neighboring indigenous (Quechua) villages.  

Horseback riding Cuenca Ecuador
Lessons at Centro Ecuestre Bellavista, Cuenca

Hostería Caballo Campana

This aptly named large hostería around 15 mins from Cuenca offers horse riding tours for a reasonable hourly rate as well as riding lessons. The hostería also has beautiful gardens and rooms in you’re looking for a mini weekend getaway from Cuenca. 

Hacienda Totorillas

Also about 30 minutes from Cuenca is Hacienda Totorillas. There are multiple options for horse riding here and several Cuenca based agencies even offer moonlight rides at this Hacienda.

Beach horseback tours

If you somehow get sick of cantering through the high sierra, you can always take it down to sea level for a more relaxing ride along the beach. 

Cabalgatas Canoa

In addition to beach tours, Cabalgatas Canoa also offer tours to the nearby Jungle and several lifestyle based options such as their craft beer or BBQ sunset tour. Both of which are ideal for those lazy beach holidays.  

Villamil Playas

For those visiting or living in Guayaquil, one of your closer options is horse riding on Villamil Playas approx 1.5 hours away. There isn’t as much variety here, but you’ll still be able to find comfortable rides between 1-3 hours. These are either booked locally or through a travel agent.  

Horse riding cotopaxi ecuador

Multi-day horseback tours  

For me, this is where the magic happens. Riding through the Ecuadorian Sierra for multiple days without a worry in sight is such a rare treat. 

Many of the multi-day tours will use several of the hacienda’s mentioned above to form itineraries spanning days, often up to a week. Some may also include smaller guesthouses or hosterías in the more isolated areas. Some tours also combine horse riding with other activities such as hummingbird or spectacled bear watching. There’s almost too much choice!  

Sample multi-day horseriding tour itinerary 

We’ve included a map of a sample itinerary below to give you an idea of what a 8 day, 7 night tour looks like, including how much riding you can expect each day:

Booking your tour

There are several international based tour companies that offer equestrian focused tours. These are great options for those that like everything organized for them once they arrive in Ecuador or perhaps have trouble with Spanish as these tours normally feature a bi-lingual guide. 

Additional costs

Be on the lookout for any additional costs that may be buried in the finer print. 

Single and small group supplements

Supplements for smaller group sizes and singles are quite common. Also, most meals will be included, but some at the start and the end may not. 

Weight supplement 

Weight supplements are commonly applied too. If you weigh more than 200 lbs, you may need to pay extra. The rationale for this is that horses need to work harder in the altitude due to less oxygen being present. Imposing weight limits helps ensure the horses are treated well and not overworked. This also applies to day tours. 


Tips for the guides and other staff are not included either. Although not mandatory, many tour companies do suggest a tip of 10%. 


Flights to Ecuador are not included for most tours. When booking flights, remember to allow a day to acclimatize before your tour starts. 


Horse riding is a high-risk activity that may not be covered under all travel insurance policies. Make sure your policy does include horseback riding or you may find yourself under financial stress if something does not go to plan. 

What to bring

We suggest the bare minimum for any horse riding tour is below. But, if you’re going for a multi-day ride, you may need to pack multiple… 

  • Riding pants (or at least long pants)
  • Longsleeve shirt
  • Waterproof jacket
  • Riding boots (or at least closed shoes)
  • Sunblock
  • Sunglasses
  • Mosquito repellent
  • Water

Helmets are mandatory for tours and are provided, but feel free to bring yours if you prefer. 

High mountains = cold weather

It can get very cold in the Sierra. Make sure you’ve packed enough layers to keep you warm. You may also be able to rent a heavy poncho, but make sure to ask your tour provider first.

Don’t forget to acclimatize!

If you’re going to be riding or hiking in the Ecuadorian Sierra, we strongly suggest leaving yourself at least one day in Quito (or similar elevation of 9,350 ft) to acclimatize. Some tours even go up to 13,000 ft, where dealing with altitude is a very real issue. 

Everyone reacts to altitude differently, and chances are you will be fine. But, you’ll increase your chances if you give yourself at least one day first. 

Horse riding school Hacienda Tilipulo Ecuador
Image: Hacienda Tilipulo Horse Riding School

Horse riding schools 

Before setting off into the high Sierra, you’ll need to learn how to ride a horse… It’s also a great after school or weekend activity for the kids. 

We’ve listed some recommended schools to start your search below. It’s important to note that not all of these schools will be able to teach in English, so at least a basic understanding of Spanish will be required. 

The costs vary by school, but you should expect to budget around $100 per month for classes twice per week. Transportation (if required) can often be arranged but will cost extra. 


  • Escuela De Equitacion La Herradura
  • Quito Ecuestre
  • Gerber Club Ecuestre
  • El Establo Club Ecuestre


  • Centro Ecuestre Bellavista
  • Kawallu (Hippotherapy)
  • Escuela hípica 4Rios (next to Kawallu)
  • Caballo Campana


  • Rancho Botas y Espuelas

How old does my child need to be? 

Most Ecuadorian horse riding schools accept kids from 4 years old. We started our girl at 4 years old and she has not looked back. 

Most of the schools mentioned cater to all adult levels too. I’ve no idea if there is an upper age limit, but if you’ve got health issues we suggest getting clearance from a doctor first. 

How long is each lesson?

Schedules vary by school, but expect classes to run for around an hour. 

Equine Therapy

Some horse riding schools also combine equine therapy to help the rehabilitation of children and young people with special abilities. 

Wrapping up

There really are so many options for horse riding in Ecuador! Feel free to leave a comment or contact us if you want some personalized recommendations. 

And please let us know if we’ve left out your favorite hacienda or horse riding school – we’re trying to create a thorough resource to help others.

Do I need a return ticket to enter Ecuador?

Ecuadorian immigration officers are unlikely to need a return or onward ticket, but your airline might!

Don’t get caught out. Especially with all of COVID related airline rule changes, I wouldn’t risk turning up to the check-in counter without some type of proof of onward travel. 

I’ve been caught out a couple of times trying to enter Ecuador without a return or onward ticket and the airlines were less than supportive. JetBlue, in particular, was very strict and slow (over 1 hour) to check me in even when I had an onward ticket. Without it, they showed no empathy. 

Note, this is for visitors to Ecuador. Residents of Ecuador (temporary or permanent) don’t need proof of an onward ticket, but they’ll likely need to show their Ecuadorian Cedula or Passport as proof of residency. 

Do Ecuadorian customs officers require proof of onward travel? 

Like many Ecuadorian laws, there is a difference between what is technically required and what is enforced. 

By the letter of the law, customs officers may request to see both proof of onward journey & financial means to support yourself during your stay. You’ll also need a passport with 6 months expiry. 

In reality, immigration officers rarely request an onward/return ticket or financial means. This is true not just for me, but for all ex-pats in Ecuador I’ve encountered. This is handy to know when crossing the border via land at the Colombian or Peruvian borders. 

Why do airlines care if I don’t have a return ticket? 

If you’re a masochist, I suggest having a conversation with your airline check-in agent about Ecuadorian immigration officers not caring about their legal duty of enforcing their country’s immigration rules…  

Your check-in agent may have very little wriggle room to go against their company’s onward ticketing policy. The reasoning is that if they fly you into Ecuador, and then immigration doesn’t let you in, then they’ll be stuck with trying to find a way to get you back to your origin. 

It also won’t help to offer a guarantee or provide proof of finances to book your own onward ticket should the unthinkable happen and Ecuador doesn’t let you in. I’ve tried many similar lines of argument, and all to no avail. The general response is firm; policy is policy. 

What are my options for providing proof of onward / return travel? 

So, we’ve established that you’re a visitor to Ecuador without a return or onward ticket. What are your options for acquiring proof of onward travel? 

1. Buy a return ticket

Even if you aren’t planning on returning, we suggest checking out prices for a return ticket. You see, the price of one-way tickets can be pretty expensive to many South American destinations. So you might be able to pay a little more for a return fare. 

The return fare also acts as a sort of insurance policy should you need to leave for whatever reason. 

2. Buy a refundable onward ticket

If you’ve already got a one-way ticket to Ecuador, then this may be your best option. You can purchase a one-way ticket from Quito or Guayaquil to a close destination such as Peru, Colombia, Panama or anywhere really so long as you’re leaving Ecuador. 

 The easiest platform I’ve used to purchase refundable tickets is Expedia. Here’s how: 

  1. Wait until there are less than 24 hours until your flight departs for Ecuador. This is to comply with Expedia’s refund policy
  2. Go to the flight section of Expedia
  3. Enter flight details, ensuring you’ve selected ‘one way’ and ‘refundable flights only’. 
  4. Purchase ticket
  5. Print out ticket, ensuring you have the booking reference number as the airline may use this to check you’re actually on the flight. They did this to me. 
  6. Request a refund through Expedia after you’ve arrived in Ecuador. Ensuring this is less than 24 hours since you purchased the ticket. 
Expedia Refundable Flights Ecuador

Expedia is generally pretty good with quick refund turnaround times, but during busy periods you may need to wait a couple of more days. 

This is my preferred method because I’m able to control the timings without having to rely on a third party to buy/cancel the ticket for me. 

3. Use an onward ticket buying & canceling service

Niche businesses have popped up that effectively do the exact same thing as the above method. The key differences are that you don’t need to purchase the ticket yourself. You pay the company a service fee and they then buy a random onward ticket for you and cancel it afterward. 

I’ve used several of these services in the past and whilst I’ve never had any problems, I always feel a little uneasy trusting a 3rd party company to do this on my behalf. 

The service that has provided the most efficient and punctual response has been Onward Ticket. You can read more about how they operate on their site. 

The biggest pro of using a 3rd party service is that you don’t have to worry about refunding the ticket. I have to admit I’ve come within minutes of missing my Expedia refund window because I flat out forgot and almost wasted a few hundred dollars.  

Final Words

If you’re a visitor to Ecuador that does not have a return ticket, we recommend buying yourself via Expedia or via service like Onward Ticket.

Oh, and don’t forget to check what electronics we recommend to bring to Ecuador as it’s definitely worthwhile maximizing your baggage allowance.

Have you had a nightmare experience missing a flight to Ecuador because of the onward travel requirements? We’d love to hear about it in the comments below. 

Happy flying!

Ecuador Blogs Worth Reading in 2020

Finding updated, quality information on traveling and living in Ecuador can be like bobbing for apples - after many searches you might get lucky & find a winner. 

So, I've compiled the following shortlist of Ecuador blogs and resources that you can use as a starting off point. Each of these resources has been helpful to me throughout my journey of living in Ecuador. 

Our blog ( covers practical information on living and traveling in Ecuador. It's based on topics we feel are missing (ie expat family life), under-reported or we are simply passionate about and want to share.

You may find some information cross-over between the different resources (including our blog), which is completely okay. Hopefully you'll leave with multiple points of view to digest. 

Ecuador travel blogs

Traveling through Ecuador and need a few tips? Great. Here's some travel blogs you should consider:

Not Your Average American

This travel blog is focused on Ecuador, but also includes content on neighboring countries like Peru and Colombia.

We like Not Your Average American because the content is detailed, making it very helpful.

In fact, there's been instances where I've spent time researching topics, only to find Angie's already written about it. For any other blog this wouldn't matter as there's normally a lot of improvements that can be made to provide additional value.

But, Angie's articles can be so comprehensive that I don't feel the need to cover the topic as there's few improvements to be made. Case in point is Angie's article on handmade makanas near Cuenca. I visited the same lovely shop, took all the same photographs, but haven't written about it because Angie's attention to detail is superb. 

Along Dusty Roads

Ecuador is just one of the numerous countries included in this extensive travel blog. We like that the content is authentic, detailed and includes lush photography. 

The most helpful articles to us have been the hiking guides, like this one on hiking the Quilotoa Loop. They cover the basics with enough detail to give you the confidence to plan the trek, but you'll still need to be ready to improvise a little as the content is a few years old - such is the curse of any travel blog.

Nomadic Matt

The layout and readability of Nomadic Matt makes it an easy read for first time visitors to most countries. His section on Ecuador is no exception. 

We like that it allows visitors to digest the basics of Ecuador quickly. But, as his name suggests, his nomadic lifestyle prohibits him devoting a lot of time to each location. This can limit the depth of information available.

Ecuador Expat Blogs

More interested in what life looks like for expats in Ecuador? The following resources have provided us with useful, practical, first hand information:

Amelia & JP

Amelia & JP's vlog on YouTube (free) and Patreon (paid) covers many topics relevant for current or aspiring expats in Ecuador. The video format works great for capturing the visual nuances that can be difficult for text based blogs.

A lot of their content is Cuenca related, but they moved to Olon in 2020. This is great as it gives you the opportunity to experience two very different expat living environments - mountains and beach.

Cuenca High Life

Cuenca High Life is an expat-friendly Ecuador news site with a focus on issues related to Cuenca. 

Editorial content is provided by contributors, so non-news topics will be skewed towards the most active contributors. In 2020, the most prolific contributor has been Susan Burke March, who uses her background in nutrition to focus on topics related to food, nutrition and health.

We like that this blog does the heavy lifting of aggregating stories relevant to expats and publishes them in English. However, I don't see them as a replacement for national news sites like El Comercio

Gringos Abroad

Gringos Abroad is a large travel and expat site focusing on Ecuador.

We've gotten the most value from their earlier articles like this 2013 one that covers expat issues. This 'boots on the ground' content helped me when I was researching Cuenca as a possible city to live in. 

The owners, Bryan and Dena, left Ecuador in 2015. This has made it difficult for them to provide updated travel and expat information. They've since focused on more general topics related to animal facts etc.

So, we still think their content is useful, but it won't be the most recent and you may need to find a more updated source for specifics.

International Living

Honestly, I'm a little apprehensive to include International Living because they have a reputation for over-selling their destinations. 

But, I've included it as some of their information on Ecuador was helpful for me as a starting point.

Just know that they have a vested interest in showing their destinations in the best light possible. So be weary of any claims that you cannot otherwise substantiate or polls only designed to grab headines like 'Cuenca is the best city in world to retire' etc. 

Ecuador Forums

Ecuador Expats Facebook Group

The most useful forum for Ecuador's daily events is the Ecuador Expats Facebook group (not related to this site). It's a private group so you'll need to request membership. 

I like this group because it has many engaged members and the main admin, David Sasaki, provides random snippets about Ecuador and translates relevant news articles. 

There are other FB groups that are more relevant for each city that you should also join, but this is certainly the most useful at the national level. 


Gringopost is more of a traditional public forum where you can post messages and classifieds. I've used it in the past for checking out some Cuenca-based real estate or items for sale. 

I will admit I am using Facebook Marketplace more and more for these types of activities, but Gringopost still provides value if I'm looking for something that might be more expat-friendly.

Wrapping up

I've enjoyed pulling together this post. It's taken me longer than expected because I've been sidetracked by discovering new posts from the above resources.

Have I missed your favorite Ecuador blog or resource? Please tell me why it should be included in the comments below or contact us

Where to Find Ecuador’s Brilliant Hummingbirds

Ecuador is the Mecca for hummingbird watchers and photographers. With more than 130 of the world's 340 species, it's no surprise Ecuador is known as the "Land of Hummingbirds" and the hummingbird capital of the world. 

Sword Billed Hummingbird Ecuador

Hummingbirds (colibríes in Spanish) have long fascinated us with their speed, agility, compact size and perfectly adapted beaks and tongues. Many cultures have placed spiritual significance on these pint-sized marvels. The Aztec god of war, Huitzilopochtli, is depicted as a hummingbird because of his belief that hummingbirds contained the spirit of fallen warriors. 

Huitzilopochtli Hummingbird of the South

Christians associate hummingbirds with the resurrection because they appear lifeless when sleeping, but will rapidly fly away and 'resurrect' when then sun rises. 

What hummingbirds mean to us

The symbolism that resonates strongest with me is from the Native Americans who view hummingbirds as healers or a spirit-being helping those in need. 

You see, we went through a very difficult time with the loss of a loved one and over the next week two events happened:

  1. A sentimental tree was constantly visited by a new hummingbird, and
  2. A female built her nest in a tree located in a prime viewing spot from our living room. Later on her baby joined us too. 

These may seem like trivial events. But, at the time they were beautiful moments of reprieve from the persistent despair we were all feeling. For this I was incredibly grateful.

From then on hummingbirds have taken on a very special meaning within our house, elevated to the position of our family symbol. 

I've heard similar stories from various friends and read numerous other stories online about similar experiences. This leads me to think there are many people out there that share the same appreciation for hummingbirds on numerous levels, including physical beauty and spiritual. 

Hummingbird Infographic

Ecuador Hummingbird Infographic

Feel free to share the above hummingbird infographic. You can also download the high-res version here

Where in Ecuador can I find hummingbirds?

Everywhere! Well, except the Galapagos - Darwin certainly would have mentioned these remarkably adapted creatures if so...

This doesn't mean you're going to come across Hummingbird nests on every street in Quito or Guayaquil. But, get a few minutes outside of the city and you can potentially have an encounter. 

The cloud forests have the highest concentration of hummingbirds, so that's a great place to start your journey.

The most popular areas for tourists to visit are divided into the eastern & western slopes of the Andes mountain range that runs through Ecuador.

Some of the most popular spots for the eastern and western slopes have been included in the map below (blue = east slope, red = west slope). These are mostly accessible from Quito, but don't think for a second that these are the only places to find hummingbirds in Ecuador - they just happen to be the most popular. 

Western Slope of the Ecuadorian Andes

If you're like many visitors to Ecuador, this is likely where you're going to start your hummingbird exploration.

Mindo Valley

Mindo has quickly become one of the premier bird-watching locations in the world. The lush cloud forest provides a rich biodiversity, allowing visitors to see many of Ecuador's birds, plants, insects, vegetation and pack in some other sightseeting activities like chocolate and coffee tours, rafting, ziplining and hiking. All within a 2 hour drive of Quito.

Reserva Ecologica Yanacocha

With over 15 hummingbird species (several endemic), the Reserva Ecologica Yanacocha is well-known for watchers looking for a quick weekend trip from Quito. 

It takes around 1 hour to get to Reserva Ecologica Yanacocha from Quito, making it the closest of the western slope locations to do some serious hummer watching. 

Tandayapa Valley

At least 17 species of hummingbird have been spotted around the Tandayapa Valley, including the Purple-throated Woodstar (Calliphlox mitchellii) .

Two of the popular spots to bird watch and stay are:

  • Bellavista Cloud Forest Reserve & Lodge
  • Refugio Paz de Las Aves
Purple-throated Woodstar (Calliphlox mitchellii)

Reserva Mashpi Shungo

A little further out, about 3 hours from Quito, is the privately held Reserva Mashpi Shungo. In addition to howler monkeys, you can find 13 types of hummingbird, including the Violet-tailed Sylph (Aglaiocercus coelestis).

Whilst here, you can also treat yourself at the luxurious Mashpi Lodge. 

Silanche Bird Sanctuary

Still around 3 hours from Quito is the Silanche Bird Sanctuary. In addition to several toucans, you can also spy around 7 hummingbird species, including the Booted Racket-tail (Ocreatus underwoodii).

Booted Racket-tail (Ocreatus underwoodii)

Eastern Slope of the Andes Hummingbirds

The eastern slopes of the Ecuadorian Andes starts about an hours drive east of Quito, heading past Papallacta. Hint - be sure to give yourself some time to soak up the hot springs in Papallacta.

Puembo Birding Garden

I've included this spot on the list because it is a convenient starting/stopping off point given its close proximity to Quito's international airport. If your sole aim of visiting Ecuador is bird watching, then staying here will mean you don't need to go into Quito and you can start enjoying some 35+ different species of birds, including several hummingbirds. 

Guango Lodge

Situated about 10 minutes past Papallacta is Guango Lodge. Here you can see around 17 types of hummingbirds in well maintained gardens. These include the Mountain Velvetbreast (Lafresnaya lafresnayi).

Mountain Velvetbreast (Lafresnaya lafresnayi)

Hosteria Hda. Cumandá

Continuing along the E20, about 2 hours from Quito is Baeza. This lesser known little town has several options to stay and view the many animal and bird species in the area. Approx 6 types of hummingbirds have been known to live here, including the Speckled Hummingbird (Adelomyia melanogenys). 

Speckled Hummingbird (Adelomyia melanogenys)


Turning right onto the E45 will have you at Cosanga, around 2.5 hours from Quito. This town includes bird watching options like Cabañas San Isidro. Here, around 10 species of hummingbird have been spotted, including the Sparkling Violet-ear (Colibri coruscans).

Sparkling Violet-ear Colibri coruscans

WildSumaco Lodge

Continuing down the Ecuador's Eastern Slope, turning left at Narupo onto the E20 for around 40 minutes and then left at Wawa Sumaco towards the Sumaco Volcano, you'll find the most remote lodge on the list - WildSumaco Lodge. This birding lodge has been know to contain 21 species of hummingbird.

Southern Ecuador 

Moving further south down the eastern slope you'll pass through other areas such as Baños, Cuenca (where we live) and Loja. Whilst you won't find many bird tour companies offering tours here, that doesn't mean there aren't quality hummingbird spotting opportunities. 

Giant Hummingbird (Patagona gigas)

One of the 5 different species that regularly visit our home in Cuenca is the Giant Hummingbird. We love having him visit us because his large size seems to calm down some of the smaller, but more aggressive, hummingbirds. They seem to know that this larger hummer deserves respect and they agree to give him some space.

This brings a more harmonious vibe to the 3-4 hours in the morning when the hummingbirds are at their busiest and creating the most noise (and we might still be sleeping!). Check out the Giant Hummingbird in this video:

Where does the Giant Hummingbird live?

The giant hummingbird's habitat extends from Ecuador down to Argentina and Chile and can be found on both slopes of the Andes mountains. This covers a sizeable range of 1,200,000 km2.

How long is the Giant Hummingbird?

They are around 23 cm (9.1 in) long, with a wingspan of approx 21.5 cm (8.5 in) and weigh 18–24 g (0.63–0.85 oz). This is about double the weight of the next heaviest hummingbird. 

How many Giant Hummingbirds are left in the world?

There is an estimated 10,000+ adult Giant Hummingbirds in the wild. 

All Ecuadorian hummingbird species

For all you hardcore hummer fans, here's the list of all the different species you can find in Ecuador along with their scientific names:

Common name

Scientific name

Common name

Scientific name

Amazilia hummingbird

Amazilis amazilia

Amethyst woodstar

Calliphlox amethystina

Amethyst-throated sunangel

Heliangelus amethysticollis

Andean emerald

Uranomitra franciae

Band-tailed barbthroat

Threnetes ruckeri

Black-bellied thorntail

 Discosura langsdorffi

Black-breasted puffleg

 Eriocnemis nigrivestis (EM)

Black-eared fairy

Heliothryx auritus

Black-tailed trainbearer

Lesbia victoriae

Black-thighed puffleg

Eriocnemis derbyi

Black-throated brilliant

Heliodoxa schreibersii

Black-throated hermit

Phaethornis atrimentalis

Black-throated mango

Anthracothorax nigricollis

Blue-chested hummingbird

Polyerata amabilis

Blue-chinned sapphire

Chlorestes notata

Blue-fronted lancebill

Doryfera johannae

Blue-headed sapphire

Chrysuronia grayi

Blue-mantled thornbill

Chalcostigma stanleyi

Blue-tailed emerald

Chlorostilbon mellisugus

Blue-throated hillstar

Oreotrochilus cyanolaemus (E-M)

Blue-tufted starthroat

Heliomaster furcifer (H)

Booted racket-tail

Ocreatus underwoodii

Bronze-tailed plumeleteer

Chalybura urochrysia

Bronzy hermit

Glaucis aeneus

Bronzy Inca

Coeligena coeligena

Brown Inca

Coeligena wilsoni

Brown violetear

Colibri delphinae

Buff-tailed coronet

Boissonneaua flavescens

Buff-tailed sicklebill

Eutoxeres condamini

Buff-winged starfrontlet

Coeligena lutetiae

Chestnut-breasted coronet

Boissonneaua matthewsii

Choco daggerbill

Schistes albogularis

Collared Inca

Coeligena torquata

Crowned woodnymph

Thalurania colombica

Ecuadorian hillstar

Oreotrochilus chimborazo

Ecuadorian piedtail

Phlogophilus hemileucurus

Emerald-bellied puffleg

Eriocnemis aline

Empress brilliant

 Heliodoxa imperatrix

Esmeraldas woodstar

Chaetocercus berlepschi (EM)

Fawn-breasted brilliant

Heliodoxa rubinoides

Festive coquett

Lophornis chalybeus

Fiery topaz

Topaza pyra

Fiery-tailed awlbill

Avocettula recurvirostris

Fork-tailed woodnymph

Thalurania furcata

Geoffroy's daggerbill

Schistes geoffroyi

Giant hummingbird

Patagona gigas

Glittering-throated emerald

Chionomesa fimbriata

Glowing puffleg

Eriocnemis vestita

Golden-breasted puffleg

Eriocnemis mosquera

Golden-tailed sapphire

Chrysuronia oenone

Gorgeted sunangel

Heliangelus strophianus

Gorgeted woodstar

Chaetocercus heliodor

Gould's jewelfront

Heliodoxa aurescens

Gray-breasted sabrewing

 Campylopterus largipennis

Gray-chinned hermit

Phaethornis griseogularis

Great sapphirewing

Pterophanes cyanopterus

Great-billed hermit

Phaethornis malaris

Green hermit

Phaethornis guy

Green thorntail

Discosura conversii

Green-backed hillstar

Urochroa leucura

Green-crowned brilliant

Heliodoxa jacula

Green-fronted lancebill

Doryfera ludovicae

Green-headed hillstar

Oreotrochilus stolzmanni

Greenish puffleg

Haplophaedia aureliae

Green-tailed goldenthroat

Polytmus theresiae (H)

Green-tailed trainbearer

 Lesbia nuna

Hoary puffleg

Haplophaedia lugens

Humboldt's sapphire

Chrysuronia humboldtii

Lazuline sabrewing

Campylopterus falcatus

Lesser violetear

Colibri cyanotus

Little sunangel

Heliangelus micraster

Little woodstar

Chaetocercus bombus

Long-billed hermit

Phaethornis longirostris

Long-billed starthroat

Heliomaster longirostris

Long-tailed sylph

Aglaiocercus kingii

Many-spotted hummingbird

Taphrospilus hypostictus

Mountain avocetbill

Opisthoprora euryptera

Mountain velvetbreast

Lafresnaya lafresnayi

Napo sabrewing

Campylopterus villaviscensio

Neblina metaltail

Metallura odomae

Olive-spotted hummingbird

Talaphorus chlorocercus

Pale-tailed barbthroat

Threnetes leucurus

Peruvian sheartail

Thaumastura cora (H)

Pink-throated brilliant

Heliodoxa gularis

Purple-backed thornbill

Ramphomicron microrhynchum

Purple-bibbed whitetip

Urosticte benjamini

Purple-chested hummingbird

Polyerata rosenbergi

Purple-collared woodstar

Myrtis fanny

Purple-crowned fairy

 Heliothryx barroti

Purple-throated sunangel

Heliangelus viola

Purple-throated woodstar

Calliphlox mitchellii

Rainbow starfrontlet

Coeligena iris

Rainbow-bearded thornbill

Chalcostigma herrani

Reddish hermit

Phaethornis ruber

Royal sunangel

Heliangelus regalis

Rufous-breasted hermit

Glaucis hirsutus

Rufous-capped thornbill

Chalcostigma ruficeps

Rufous-crested coquette

Lophornis delattrei (H)

Rufous-gaped hillstar

Urochroa bougueri

Rufous-tailed hummingbird

Amazilia tzacatl

Rufous-throated sapphire

Hylocharis sapphirina

Rufous-vented whitetip

Urosticte ruficrissa

Sapphire-spangled emerald

Chionomesa lactea (H)

Sapphire-vented puffleg

Eriocnemis luciani

Shining sunbeam

Aglaeactis cupripennis

Short-tailed woodstar

Myrmia micrura

Spangled coquette

Lophornis stictolophus

Sparkling violetear

Colibri coruscans

Speckled hummingbird

Adelomyia melanogenys

Spot-throated hummingbird

Thaumasius taczanowskii (H)

Straight-billed hermit

Phaethornis bourcieri

Stripe-throated hermit

Phaethornis striigularis

Sword-billed hummingbird

Ensifera ensifera

Tawny-bellied hermit

Phaethornis syrmatophorus

Tooth-billed hummingbird

Androdon aequatorialis

Tourmaline sunangel

Heliangelus exortis

Tumbes hummingbird

Thaumasius baeri

Turquoise-throated puffleg

Eriocnemis godini

Tyrian metaltail

Metallura tyrianthina

Velvet-purple coronet

Boissonneaua jardini

Violet-bellied hummingbird

Chlorestes julie

Violet-fronted brilliant

Heliodoxa leadbeateri

Violet-headed hummingbird

Klais guimeti

Violet-tailed sylph

Aglaiocercus coelestis

Violet-throated metaltail

Metallura baroni (EM)

Viridian metaltail

Metallura williami

Western emerald

Chlorostilbon melanorhynchus

White-bearded hermit

Phaethornis hispidus

White-bellied woodstar

Chaetocercus mulsant

White-chinned sapphire

Chlorestes cyanus

White-necked jacobin

Florisuga mellivora

White-tipped sicklebill

Eutoxeres aquila

White-vented plumeleteer

Chalybura buffonii

White-whiskered hermit

Phaethornis yaruqui

Wire-crested thorntail

Discosura popelairii


Are you planning a visit to Ecuador to check out hummingbirds? Please feel free to let us know in the comments where you're going and whether you're doing it by yourself or through a tour group. 

Image credits: I have not taken the incredibly superb photos of hummingbirds used in this article. I wish I was that talented with a camera. They are from a UK photographer, Andy Morffew. If you like the photos, let him know on his website & peruse his other fantastic wildlife images. 

The Ultimate Guide to Cojimies Beach

Cojimies beach is a popular weekend destination for Quiteños seeking a no-frills beach escape. We arrived at this beach just a few days after visiting one of Ecuador’s finest beaches; Los Frailes. So, our expectations were super high.

Cojimies Fast Facts


  • Swimming
  • Lounging on a super wide beach
  • Tour of la isla del amor (Island of Love)
  • Surfing? No. Perdernales has some waves though. 

Cojimies Beach Ecuador Panorama

Getting There


  • From Quito: the 300km trip will take 6 hours and cost around $8. Some bus services will take you all the way from Quito’s Quitumbe Terrestrial Terminal to Cojimies such as the Alóag Cooperative, but there are more services that go to Pedernales where you’ll change to a van for Cojimies ($1).
  • From Manta: Your best bet is to take the 3.5 hr trip from Manta’s new bus terminal to Pedernales ($7) and then take a van the final 30 mins to Cojimies ($1). 


  • From Quito: The most direct route is the 4.5 hr trip to Pedernales, then along the cost to Cojimies for another 30 mins. 
  • From Manta: The 3 hour coastal drive from Manta to Pedernales weaves through dry forest, fishing and agricultural land. Making for a pleasant drive.

Where to Stay in Cojimies

I recommend staying away from the small town of Cojimies as the main beach is busy and I’d argue the town itself is gritty without much charm. There’s numerous accommodation options along the main road coming into town which are better as they all have private entrances to cleaner, less crowded sections of the same beach.


  • Consolo Lodge: Approx $45/night. Beach access with pool. Located approx 7 km from Cojimies town. 
  • La Finquita: Approx $25/night. Private beach access, good sized pool and pet-friendly. 4 km from town. 


  • La Playa Lodge: Approx $75/night. Private beach access, air-conditioning, cable tv, wifi and breakfast. 4 km from town. 
  • Hostería Playa Nuestra: Approx $70/night. Private beach access, wifi, breakfast and pet friend. 5 km from town. 

La Playa Lodge Cojimies
Hotels in Cojimies often have private beach access. This is La Playa Lodge where we stayed.

Cojimies Beach

The beach is undoubtedly the main attraction for visiting Cojimies. The super wide and long beach is perfect for endless strolls, taking a dip and lounging on the sand. 

There are very few waves on the beach as they break way off into the distance. You can see them on the horizon. As they never reach the shore, the beach is very flat and has an almost lagoon type feel. 

The main part of the beach does get pretty crowded. It’s so wide that there’s multiple layers of vendors renting lounges, umbrellas and beverages (yay coconuts!). 

I found the main beach to be interesting and good for people watching, but ultimately I enjoyed the beach in front of our hotel more as it was peaceful and more isolated. 

Cojimies Beach Manabi

Cojimies Beach Ecuador

Tour of la Isla Del Amor

Love Island is a large sandbank that stretches from the mouth of the Cojimies River. You can easily organize a tour from operators in Cojimies town or find one on the beach.

A popular tour option is to include the mangroves and then dropped off on a beach for a few hours to chill, check out the various crabs and other marine life (depending on the season you may be lucky to see some turtle’s nesting). 

The below video gives a good overview of the Isla Del Amor – but it’s in Spanish so turn on English subtitles if needed. 


The food options are limited to seafood and local food such as plantains, meat and corn. The main beach has lots of cabana seafood restaurants and it can be difficult to know which are best. 

My rule is to never visit an empty cabana and I normally try to eat in the busiest one. Is this foolproof? No, but given there’s little else to differentiate one cabana from another, it’s the best I’ve got. 

My favorite fish from the area is camotillo, but it’s also one of the most expensive. 

Cojimies Food Camotillo and Ceviche

Note – Cojimies is not a resort like town with a lot of western friendly options. 


It’s difficult to near impossible to find quality coffee in Cojimies. Like a lot of smaller towns in Ecuador, you’ll be given a cup of hot water or milk and provide with the container of instant coffee to make your own cup. For addicts like me it’s better than nothing. 

Drive from Pedernales to Cojimies

The 30 min coastal drive from Pedernales to Cojimies was really enjoyable. You’ll come across several view points with beach access, lush coconut palms, shrimp farms, dry and tropical forests.

Pedernales to Cojimies Drive Coconuts

Cojimies to Pedernales Drive Beach

Cojimies Shrimp Farm

Final Thoughts

Cojimies popularity largely comes from it’s relative closeness to Quito and the super wide, safe, lagoon like beaches. I’d recommend it for expats based in Quito that are short on time. 

But, if you have more time and willing to travel a little further, then you might find the beaches in the Esmeraldas or south of Manta with more tourist facilities more appealing. 

Have you been to Cojimies or thinking about visiting? Feel free to let us know in the comments below.

Is Los Frailes Ecuador’s best beach?

Playa Los Frailes sits inside the Machalilla National Park in Ecuador’s coastal province of Manabi. 

Los Frailes Beach Panorama

Los Frailes Fast Facts

Getting There


  • From Puerto Lopez: the 10km ride will take 15 mins to arrive at the entrance to Machalilla National Park. Cost approx $0.5. 
  • From Montanita: 53km journey will take about 1.5 hrs and cost $1-2.


  • The roads, including inside the national park, are suitable for all cars. The coastal roads are ok quality, but I’m always careful when driving at night because the lighting is poor and there’s no markings or reflectors to help guide. 


There is a limited number of car parking available (60 spaces) right next to the beach. You will need to pay $2 for parking. Try to get there early (ie before 10am) for the best chance of getting a car park – else you’ll need to leave your car near the highway and either walk the 3km or get a tuk tuk mototaxi ($2-$5). 


Free to enter. Showers are $1 and bathrooms $0.25.

Open times

8am to 4pm




No. It’s a bay with only small, family friendly waves. 

What to bring

  • Shade. There is very little protection from the hot sun. Most families rent an umbrella ($4) from just outside the beach entrance. 
  • Sunscreen, hat, glasses, towels, books (ie normal beach goodies)
  • Food & water (but there is a kiosk if you forget)

So, is Los Frailes the best beach in Ecuador?

I’m putting Los Frailes down as one of the best beaches in Ecuador because:

1. Protected within a national park

This prevents unrestrained commercialization and ultimately the destruction of the sand vegetation and habitat. 

2. Accessible to all

The main entrance is right on the main highway that runs through Ecuador’s costa del sol – the main coast road. This means most buses will drop you off at the entrance and you can either walk the 3km to the main beach or grab a tuk tuck motorcycle for $2-$4. 

3. Free entrance

You no longer need a permit or pay an entrance fee. Car parking costs $2. 

4. Clear, blue waters

We visited on Christmas day and the water was just lovely. The turquoise color and goldilocks water temperature (ie just right) made swimming for hours a pleasure. Some families were in the water for the entire 6 hours we were there!

5. Crisp, white sand 

The white sand of Los Frailes is some of the nicest along the coast. The sand along Ecuador’s coast often consists of heavy, black minerals. But not here! Enjoy the white sands between your toes.

6. Rocks & caves

The cliffs and caves make for some wonderful views, photos and provide some much needed shelter from the sun. 

Los Frailes Beach Ecuador
Los Frailes Beach Waves
Playa Los Frailes Manabi
Playa Los Frailes Ecuador
Los Frailes Beach Hut

Did you go to Los Frailes? We’ve love to hear your opinion in the comments below.

Where to next?

Puerto Lopez

The closest town with tourist amenities is Puerto Lopez. This town has some decent restaurants and a very relaxing beach. Featuring both a local vibe (incl functioning fishing fleet) and tourist offerings such as good hotels, beach side restaurants and some souvenir sellers. 


The next village south from Puerto Lopez is a small fishing town of Salango. Even quieter than Puerto Lopez, Salango has a quaint beach, a few local restaurants and an island (Salango Island) which is a popular boat ride amongst day-trippers that don’t want to spend the hour each to visit Isla de la Plata. 

Puerto Cayo

Bordering Machalilla National Park is the town of Puerto Cayo. This growing expat retirement location has a long, wide beach and plenty of seafood restaurants. 


Perhaps my favorite spot in all of Manabi is the small village of Ayampe. Good surfing, yoga and an expat population focusing on wellness is what Ayampe is known for. 

Montañita / Olon

Montañita is the party and surfing scene of Ecuador. Here you can dance and drink until all hours of the morning or surf and chill. It’s your choice.