Quito, Ecuador Travel: Best Things to Do with Kids

All travel to Ecuador begins and ends in Quito, Ecuador. This capital city sits at an elevation of 9,350’, nestled in the towering Andean Mountains. On one side, Volcano Guagua Pichincha rises high above the city and on the other, Panecillo and Ichimbia. Enveloped in the long narrow crease between these mountains is a city with origins dating back to the Incan empire.

Quito Travel with Kids
Photo by LiLing Pang

Many visitors to Quito barely spend a full day scratching the surface of this remarkable city. However, it’s a huge mistake to gloss over Quito and the rest of the Ecuadorian Andes in your eagerness to fly on to the Galapagos or the Amazonian rainforest. I was fortunate enough to meet our friend, Jorge Perez, whose family owns an Ecuadorian guest ranch called Tierra Del Volcan at the foothills of Cotopaxi, a few months before our trip. He encouraged us to spend more time in the Andes as their guest. We were also fortunate to have been able to experience Ecuador working with Metropolitan Touring, a Ecuadorian-owned full service travel operator. They provided us with significant discounts to experience their properties and tours.

What Makes Quito, Ecuador Such a Special City?

Quito Ecuador - A UNESCO World Heritage Site
Photo by Brennan Pang

When Spanish conquistadors discovered Quito, they too, were wowed by it’s beauty. This mountainous area is a place of stunning beauty with steep streets, staircases, and homes stacked one on top of the other, sprawling up the hillsides from the central artery of the city, Mariscal Sucre Street. Building a colonial city in this terrain offered many challenges. Nonetheless, the Spanish brought their European city planning sensibilities and erected a network of narrow streets and spacious colonial squares. The architectural style of the historic district is unique to Quito and is described as the “Baroque School of Quito”. Old town Quito was designated a UNESCO world heritage site in 1978.

Quito Ecuador Travel: Things to Do with Kids
Photo by Brennan Pang

Walking through Old Town District, you might think you were in a European town. But the next moment, you realize you are mingling with locals clothed in traditional Ecuadorian dress and surrounded by shop fronts packed with local wares. This is the charm of Ecuador. It is a delightful juxtaposition of old and new, tribal and colonial, highlands and oceans. The list of dynamic contrasts are endless. A large part of a visiting Quito is just about being in a very unique place – people watching in her squares, exploring down her narrow streets, and looking for opportunities to dig a little deeper.

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Where to stay in Quito
Day Trips from Quito

Most visitors visiting Quito will want to stay in the Old Town historic district for easy walking access to the main attractions. But Quito does have pretty good public transportation if you choose to stay .

Hotel Gangotena – Family-friendly luxury hotel

Hotel Casa Gangotena Patio in Quito Ecuador
Photo by: Brennan Pang

Located in the heart of Old Town Quito is the elegant Hotel Casa Gangotena, a luxury boutique hotel on Plaza San Francisco. This building carries the weight of Ecuadorian history. Its last residents were a pair of sisters of the wealthy Gangotena family. Walking through the doors of Casa Gangotena into her sun-soaked lobby and being greeted by her accommodating staff makes you feel like royalty. Each of the 31 rooms has a slightly different floor plan, some with king-size beds, others with two queen beds, and a couple of junior and full suites. Families with little ones will love that there are adjoining rooms as well. Each room is spacious with high ceilings. Large windows bring in natural Andean sunlight, while the plush carpet, upholstery, and linens complete the picture. The spacious bathrooms, featuring white and gray marble, shimmers under light pouring through the tall windows.

Sometimes families can feel uncomfortable with their children in such an elegant hotel, but not at Casa Gangotena. Ecuadorians love children and the staff was warm and friendly with our kids. Whether you end up staying at Hotel Gangotena or not, you might want to come for their famous high tea or have dinner at the restaurant. The gastronomic director, Byron Rivera, is the mastermind behind a menu that pushes Ecuadorian cooking and local ingredients beyond traditional boundaries. This marriage of Spanish and Ecuadorian cuisine, elevated by modern cooking techniques, is what he calls “cocina mestiza”

Check availability at Hotel Casa Gangotena

Hotel Casa Gardenia – Mid-range boutique hotel

Our friends, the Perez’s, recommend Hotel Casa Gardenia as a great mid-range hotel. This is another old home near the historic district that has been full renovated with modern furnishing and amenities, but still retains a flavor of the old. It’s a small boutique property with personalized service.

Hotel Boutique Portal de Cantuña – Historic and Affordable Hotel

Located conveniently steps away from San Francisco square, this small hotel exudes character. It is a traditional baroque-style home transformed into a guest house. The family that owns this hotel is warm and hospitable. The rooms open into a central courtyard. There is not much privacy, and the rooms at little rustic, but it’s a delightful place to stay if you’re looking for affordable and charming accommodation. It’s not a great option if your kids are really rowdy or noise sensitive.

Book Now at Hotel Boutique Portal de Cantuña

El Porvenir Guest Ranch in South of Quito Ecuador
Photo by Brennan Pang

Be an Andean Cowboy for a day – South

One of our favorite experiences in Ecuador was the weekend we spent at Hacienda El Porvenir guest ranch at the foothills of Cotopaxi Volcano. This old family ranch belongs to the Perez family who were responsible for enticed us to visit Ecuador. We are so grateful that they did because the weekend we spent discovering our inner “Chagra” (Ecuadorian cowboy) was completely surreal.

Visit Cotopaxi National Park – South

To the South of Quito and rising 19,347’ above sea level is Cotopaxi Volcano. This national park preserves a landscape of extremes, and is the furthest thing you’d imagined of a place sitting on the equator. As climb in elevation, the trees get thinner and thinner, and so does the air. When you enter the park, wild horses greet you as they scrounge for food between the rocks and small shrubs. What a contrast this highland volcano is to the volcanic islands of the Galapagos!

Otavalo Artisan Market North of Quito
Photo by: Brennan Pang


Visit the colorful artisan market at Otavalo – North

To the north of Quito in the Imbabura province, one of the largest and most spectacular artisan markets in South America. Saturday is the largest market day, but even on the weekdays, there is plenty to see and buy. Stalls are lined with colorful fabrics, blankets, and shawls weaved from the finest alpaca wool. Our kids could not stop touching the adorable stuffed animals made out of alpaca. From jewelry to leather goods, the Imbabura district is dotted with other little towns that specialize in particular crafts.

Spend a couple of Days in Ecuadorian Cloud Forest

Many visitors to Ecuador have the Amazonian rainforest on their bucket list, but for families, especially those with young children, will find a visit to Mashpi Reserve a delightful alternative. It’s just a 2.5 drive north of Quito, but you feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere. It’s a bird lover’s paradise, and Mashpi Lodge, one of National Geographic’s Unique Lodges of the world, makes this little pocket of Ecuador a sanctuary for animals, and families.


Feature Image by bigstock/alessandro pinto

About the author

LiLing Pang is Co-founder and CEO of Trekaroo . She is a mom to two boys and a girl (13, 11, and 3) currently traveling through Central America. Together with her husband, Brennan Pang, they hatched the idea of Trekaroo one summer day along the California coast while searching for the best kid-friendly tide pool near La Jolla with their curious 2.5 year old.

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