My 2015 Ecuador bucket list: Must dos no one knows about

I’m embarrassed.

Embarrassed that I’ve lived in Ecuador for three years now and still haven’t done or seen much of what Ecuador has to offer.

So naturally, one of my New Years resolutions is going to be to actively start doing the things I want to do in Ecuador.

This is actually an open invitation so if you’d like to join me on one of these just let me know.  Some of whats on the list was on my list last year, but I didn’t get around to it.  This year I will!

1. Stay at the hotel in Papallacta that pumps volcanically heated water right into each room making for a great bath.  Afterward have a trout lunch.

2. Hike, or attempt to hike Cotopaxi, a 19,300 ft volcano just 50 miles from Quito.

3. Explore the largely undiscovered beaches of the Esmeraldas province and in the meantime surf the pristine waters of Mompiche.

4. Have a drink, dance and hang out for a night with the artists/hippies and see if they will show me how to make some of their jewelry along the infamous cocktail alley of Montanita.

5. Hitch-hike up the coast from Montanita.  I’ve heard its easy in Ecuador.

6. See the most remote area of Ecuador, the Yasuni, in the Amazon region before they start their planned drilling, besdies its my best chance to see big Amazonian game like jaguars, anacondas and pumas.  Another less intense option would be to fly to the city of Coca and go in canoe alng the Rio Napo to an  Eco-lodge.

7. Take the train through the high Andes from Ibarra to Salinas (a different Salinas than the one on the coast).

8. Hike arguably the most beautiful area of Ecuador from the Lagunas de Atillo to the largest waterfall in Ecuador, the San Rafael Falls and the Volcano Reventador area.

9. Visit the Saquisili (near Latacunga) thursday market for an interesting more authentic (less touristy) look into indigeous highland life.

10. Go silver bargaining along the main plaza in Chordeleg (near Cuenca) where silversmiths flex their creative muscles.

11. Try hand-gliding for the first time off the cliffs of Crucita or Canoa on the coast.

12. Bike down the entire Ecuador coast from Esmeraldas to Salinas.  Hope I get to do this one.

13. Watch the Tungurahua Volcano erupt at night from the look out over Banos.  Tours can be arranged in one of the many agencies in Baños. Cost $20 per person.

14. Observe the amazing Pink river dolphins as they frollic in the unique flooded rainforest of Cuyabeño in northern Ecuador.  Tours can be arranged once on the ground out of Quito or Lago Agrio.  Anacondas, monkeys and sloths are also possible to be seen.  Canoe Tours start from $40 per person.  

15.  Scuba dive in the crystalline waters of Galapagos off Wolfe Island where its common to see schools of hundreds of Hammerheads and dozens of whale sharks.  2 Dives start from around $130.  Best arranged once on the ground in Santa Cruz Island near the port in Puerto Ayora with local dive shops.

16.  Snorkel with the worlds smallest penguin, gigantic manta rays, big marine iguanas and (friendly) reef sharks off las Tintoreras on the picturesque snow-white sands and turqoise waters off Floreana Island in the Galapagos.  Day tours to Isabela arranged in Santa Cruz start around $65/person.

17.  Eat two buckets of the locally-famous garlic crab at one of the best crabhouses (Manny’s Crangrejal) in Guayaquil, a city known for its numerous crabhouses.  Near San Marino Mall any taxi will know where it is.  $12.

18. Hunt for fossils along the banks of the Nangaritza River, the only river that connects the Amazon to the Pacific Ocean, high in the Condor Mountain Ridge (Cordillera del Condor).  For more try lindoecuadortours.com  $25-50 /person.

19. Deep-sea fish for Marlin and Whale-watch in August off the calm shores of Salinas.  Trips can be arranged in one of the several agencies along the boardwalk.  Cost: Whalewatching from $20 per person, deep sea fishing price varies depending on amount of people.

20. Visit a coffee farm near Ibarra and learn the whole process from harvest to belly.

21.  Hummingbird watch and observe thousands of butterflies at a butterfly farm in the cloud rainforests of Mindo.  Tours can be arranged once in Mindo. Start from $20/person.

22. Trout fish in one of the surreal apline lakes in the barren Cajas National Park near Cuenca.  Tours can be arranged with Terra Diversa in Cuenca.

23. Go way off the beaten path and discover the Lost City (Ciudad Perdida) of Ecuador’s Amazon.  Extreme adventure available through local guides only out of Nangaritza.  Cost: Highly negotiable.

24. Pamper myself with a the natural mud bath in the mud pools in the dry rainforest of Machalilla National Park and spend the night playing volleyball with the local indigenous and later sleeping in one of their tiki huts.  From Puerto Lopez hire a motorcycle taxi and pay a few bucks from them to take you to the indigenous community of Aguas Blancas in the park.  Cost: $10 for the day tour to the mud baths and $10/person for the night.

25. View thousands of Orchid species and hummingbirds along the well-kept trails of the Podocarpus National Park easily reached in a $4 taxi ride from the town of Zamora.  Free entrance to park.

26Get a taste of ancient Incan life by hiking the 10km trek from El Tambo to Ingapirca, ancient Incan ruins and effectively Ecuador’s own “Machu Picchu”.  You can also take a train, taxi or bus which can be arranged out of Canar.  Ruins Entrance fee $6.

27. Get certified as a glider plane pilot in Santo Domingo through a one month course with a local flight instructor.  They say if you can fly a plane without an engine you can fly a plane with one.  Course starts around $1300. 2015 prices yet to be released.

28.Learn to kite surf with an instructor against the strangly barren cliff landscapes of Santa Marianita near Manta.  Classes can be arranged on site.  Prices vary.

29. Zip-line through a Banana plantation in Machala and learn all the ins and outs of the interesting business with CristyViajes.  Tours start around $20 per person.

30. Fish for Pirana in Laguna Pañacocha, a beautiful black wáter lake backed by cloud forests.  To get there, hire a local canoe where the Rio Panacayu meets the Rio Napo, to get there you’ll need to take a Nuevo Rocafuerte Canoe hired in the town of Coca.  Price varies depending on season.

31. Visit a Chocolate factory in Mindo.

32. Hike the Quillotoa Volcano and witness the majestic, stunning turquoise-colored lake in the volcano’s crater.  Can be done solo by taking a bus from Latacunga and getting off near the base.  Cost: $4 bus fare from Latacunga.

33. Mingle with sexy locals dressed to the tilt during the 2 hour river-boat cruise on the all-you-can-drink boat ‘Morgans’ which leaves every night from the boardwalk (Malecon) of Guayaquil. $15 per person includes all you can drink.

34. White-water raft and try kayaking for the first time in the lazy to fierce rivers around the city of Tena where the activities have made the town famous.

35. Explore the rarely-visited beaches north of Esmeraldas while at night dancing salsa to afro-latino beats after eating the local delicacy of Shrimp cooked in spiced coconut milk (encocado de camaron).  I’m sure I’ll feel like I’m in the Caribbean.  Cost: $5-6.

36. Just for fun one day try panning for gold in Yantzaza with the locals in the southern Ecuador Amazon.
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