We stayed in Guayaquil 3 separate times, usually while on our way to another place in Ecuador, so it is worth mentioning briefly… Guayaquil is Ecuador’s largest city and its main port. It’s a bit of a transportation hub for the country given its location, so it was a natural place to stay while on our way to other places.

We weren’t terribly adventurous in Guayaquil, with the main purpose of our visits to recharge our batteries before heading onward. Most of our time was spent exploring the area surrounding Malecon 2000 which runs along the Rio Guayas and checking out the colorful Las Penas neighborhood. Outside of that, we laid pretty low.

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Banos de Agua Santa – Hiking, Biking, Swinging, and Amazon’ing

We followed up our adventure-filled trip to the Galapagos Islands with 4 days in the small city of Banos de Agua Santa. Banos is the adventure capital of Ecuador, situated roughly 180 kilometers south of Quito and nestled in the Andes Mountains. The area is quite scenic.

Banos We are a long way from home
On our first full day in town, we went for a hike up the mountains to reach ‘Casa del Arbol’, which is affectionately known as the ‘Swing at the End of the World’. It’s a pretty barebones swing which swings out over the edge of cliff. It was a bit unnerving, but definitely worth it. Although, it was probably the second scariest thing we did that day, with being chased by rabid dogs (salivating at the prospect of taking a bite out of a couple of gringos) while hiking up the mountain coming in at the number one spot.

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Aside from the punk dogs, it was a great hike which yielded some great views of Banos and the general region.

Our next day was spent riding bikes on a highway that wraps through the Andes. The route we took was known as ‘Ruta de las Cascadas’ (Route of the Wateralls). We took this route for about 25 km, and thankfully much of it was going downhill. It took us by numerous waterfalls which were little side trips off of the main highway.

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Our last full day was spent in the Amazon. Banos is pretty close to the outskirts of the Amazon, so we were able to pretty easily setup a day trip that would take us into the jungle. The day featured a visit to an area where monkeys were being rehabilitated, a visit to a small indigenous village, canoeing down the Rio Puyo, and hiking through the jungle to a waterfall.

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Galapagos – Isabela

We popped over to Isabela Island for a 3 days in between our time in Santa Cruz.  I actually like Isabela more than Santa Cruz – although the actual land size of the island is the largest in the Galapagos, the population is the smallest of the inhabited islands.  The town we stayed in was really laid back and everything was within a few blocks from the beach.  Our hostel was right on the beach though and the views were great!  The name was Caleta Iguana and there were iguanas everywhere!


View from Caleta Iguana

Iguanas at hotel

The first day we took it easy and just rented bikes to ride along the ocean out to the Wall of Tears, a wall built by prisoners (super sad story, but beautiful views).  We saw some animals along the way.


Brandon meets Turtle

Sea Lions

TurtleWall of Tears

The next day we went snorkeling!  Jen, Brandon and I all agreed it was the coolest part of the trip.  The boat ride out was really bumpy!


We saw tons of animals while we were snorkeling including fish, sea horses, a giant turtle, penguins, several different kinds of rays and SHARKS!  The sharks liked to hide in caves so our guides had us hold our breath and then they would shove us underwater and into the cave with the sharks.  At first it was really freaky but after the 3rd or 4th time, we got used to it 🙂  The underwater shots are all a bit blurry, but you can still see the animals.

Giant Sea Turtle

Snorkeling with turtle


Golden Rays

School of Golden Rays

Shark cave

Erin with penguin

Sea horse


We also went to an area formed by lava tunnels that was home to a lot of blue footed boobies.  It was mating season so the males kept puffing up and dancing around the females.

Blue footed boobies

Mating dance


For our last day on the island, we went hiking to 2 volcanoes.  The first one has one of the largest craters in the world, but unfortunately was pretty foggy.  The second was really interesting as we hiked across lava flows and checked out the different rock from the different eruptions.  We hiked for almost 6 hours and the first and last 30 minutes were through mud several inches thick – good thing we rented giant boots!

Erin at volcano

Iguana at Volcano



View from the top



Galapagos – Santa Cruz

We are back on mainland Ecuador after an awesome week in the Galapagos with Jennifer!  With so many experiences and cool animals, I’m breaking our trip into 2 different posts – one for each island we stayed on.

We flew from Guayaquil to Baltra – a tiny island in the Galapagos with just the airport.


To get to Santa Cruz, the most populated island, we had to take a bus and a ferry and then another bus and a taxi to get to our hostel in the largest town, Puerto Ayora.  After checking in, we explored town and went to the Darwin Research Center and saw a ton of huge tortoises!  Besides the giant tortoises, the center was a bit of a let down – we didn’t see too many other cool animals except a land iguana.

Erin with turtles

Darwin Center Turtles

Land iguana

The cool part about the Santa Cruz (and Isabela, the other island we stayed on) was just walking down the street and seeing a bunch of iguanas on the dock, pelicans trying to steal fish or sea lions taking a nap.



Seal on Santa Cruz

Most of the meals we ate on Santa Cruz were consumed on what we called “cheap street”.  There was a street a few blocks off the main drag that had typical cheap almuerzos (lunch specials) and at night, the little restaurants pulled tables out into the street and the atmosphere was really fun!

Cheap Street

After we got back from spending a few days on Isabela (more on that in a day or two), we explored Santa Cruz a little more.  We visited Las Grietas, a really cool swimming hole in the middle of tall cliffs.  Both Jen and I climbed about half way up and jumped in – the second picture is Jen’s blurry cannonball!

Las Gritas

Jen's Cannonball

We also visited the most gorgeous beach I have ever seen – Tortuga Bay.  It was a bit of a hike to get to, but breathtaking.  There were tons of cool cactus trees around it and of course, more iguanas.  Brandon and I took a kayak out on the water to try to spot more wild life but only saw fish and a sea lion darting around.

Brandon and Iguanas

Tortuga Bay

B&E on beach

Brandon Kayaking

More Tortuga Bay

Home sweet home Cuenca

Curious where we stayed in Cuenca?  We rented in a studio in the city center that we found on AirBnB for a month and it was awesome!  The location was great – only 4 blocks to our school – and walking distance to just about everything else we needed.  We were really surprised by all the nice finishes and the kitchen had everything we needed, even a really nice blender for making fresh juices.  Below are a few pictures of the place.

PS – We just got back to mainland Ecuador after an amazing week in the Galapagos.  We’ll be posting pictures in the next day or two of our trip!

One wall of the apartment was all windows - this was the view!

One wall of the apartment was all windows – this was the view!

A little dark because of all the light outside - but here's the kitchen table.

A little dark because of all the light outside – but here’s the kitchen table.

The kitchen was great!  You had to use a lighter to light the oven though so you can guess how many times we used it (0-I was too scared!)

The kitchen was great! You had to use a lighter to light the oven though, so you can guess how many times we used it (0 – I was too scared!)

We had a huge couch to lounge on.

We had a huge couch to lounge on.

The apartment actually had two beds so was perfect for when Jen visited.

The apartment actually had two beds so was perfect for when Jen visited.

And we had a huge cabinet to store our stuff.

And we had a huge cabinet to store our stuff.

Pretty standard - but nice - bathroom.

Pretty standard – but nice – bathroom.