Ecuador is a Spanish-speaking country about the size of Colorado.  It has a developing economy and a democratically elected government.  Ecuador is geographically and ethnically diverse.  In general, tourist facilities are adequate but vary in quality.  Ecuador adopted the U.S. dollar as its official currency in 2000.  Both U.S. coins and Ecuadorian coins, which are equivalent to the value of the U.S. coins, are used.

ISLANDS

Hood (Española) Island — Punta Suarez

Punta Suarez is one of the most outstanding wildlife areas of the archipelago, with a long list of species found along its cliffs and sand or pebble beaches. In addition to five species of nesting seabirds there are the curious and bold Hood Island mockingbirds, Galapagos doves and Galapagos hawks. Several types of reptiles, including the brilliantly colored marine iguana and the oversized lava lizard, are unique to this island. When heavy swells are running, Punta Suarez is also the site of a spectacular blowhole, with thundering spray shooting 30 yards into the air

Hood (Española) Island — Gardner Bay

One of the oldest of the islands, Hood is small and flat with no visible volcanic crater or vent. Gardner Bay is on the eastern shore and has a magnificent beach. This beach is frequented by a transient colony of sea lions, and is a major nesting site for marine turtles. Around the small islets nearby, snorkelers will find lots of fish and sometimes turtles and sharks. On a trail leading to the western tip of the island you'll pass the only nesting sites in the Galapagos of the waved albatross, huge birds with a 6-foot wingspan. These huge birds nest here from April to December and represent the majority of the world’s population of this species.

Santa Fé (Barrington) Island

Early morning (pre-breakfast) visit to Santa Fé ( Barrington ) Island . This island, according to the latest geological studies, shows the islands’ oldest rocks. The small bay on Santa Fe 's northern coast provides one of the most picturesque harbors within the archipelago. A large sea lion colony inhabits most of the surrounding landing site. Follow the trail among a very tall forest of opuntia cacti, where large and somewhat pale land iguanas, that are island endemics, can be seen. A variety of finches and the Galápagos mockingbird abound.

Santa Cruz (Indefatigable) Island— Puerto Ayora Town

Charles Darwin Research Station

Santa Cruz is the only inhabited island to be visited during this Galapagos cruises. Puerto Ayora, with a population of about 10,000 people is the location of the Charles Darwin Research Station, world famous for its tortoise breeding programs.

Gemelos

After touring the Station, journey by bus into the highlands to Los Gemelos, the two deep pit craters situated in the Scalesia forest with lots of interesting bird life. Go for a walk through the giant lava tubes, visit the Tortoise Reserve to search for giant tortoises in their natural surroundings. There will be some free time to explore the town of Puerto Ayora on your own.

Bartolome (Bartholomew) Island

Bartolome is a small island that has beautiful white sandy beaches, luxuriant green mangroves and a colony of penguins. Activities will include swimming and snorkeling and a climb to the summit of the island for one of the most breathtaking views in all the Galapagos. From the summit you will have the best view of the often-photographed Pinnacle Rock.

Tower (Genovesa) Island — Prince Philip’s Steps

A second trail called Prince Philip´s Steps, leads to an open area for masked boobies, frigates, and red-footed boobies. At the end of this trail are thousands of band-rumped storm petrels at the cliff's edge, where they nest in crevices. Short-eared owls can sometimes be seen here, hunting the storm petrels during daylight hours.

Tower (Genovesa) Island — Darwin Bay Beach

Tower is a collapsed volcano and ships sail directly into its large breached caldera to anchor at the foot of the steep crater walls. Tower attracts vast numbers of pelagic seabirds that come here to nest and breed: great frigate birds, red-footed boobies, swallow-tailed gulls and storm petrels. A trail leads from a coral beach past tidal

Santa Cruz (Indefatigable) Island — Las Bachas Beach

Las Bachas is a white sandy beach that is a major egg-laying site for sea turtles, Las Bachas refers to the indentations left in the sand by egg laying turtles and departing hatchlings. On shore are marine iguanas, and, in the lagoon, flamingos are common. A newer visitor site

North Seymour Island

Afternoon disembarkation (dry landing) for a walk along the coast and the interior of the island, observing bird colonies of blue footed boobies, frigate birds, swallow tailed gulls and also sea lions and marine iguanas. A shorter walk is also available.

Baltra Island

Baltra Island is also known as South Seymour, this is where the main Galapagos airport is located and is serviced by TAME airlines exclusively.

The U.S. military originally constructed the Baltra airport during World War II as a base to protect the Panama Canal from enemy attack. During this period most of the indigenous fauna of the island was exterminated. Land iguanas have only recently been successfully re-introduced and can be seen near the airport. Baltra is currently an Ecuadorian naval base and is not within the boundaries of Galapagos National Park.

San Cristobal Island

San Cristobal, also known as Chatham, is the easternmost island in the Galápagos. It is the site of the only permanent stream in the archipelago and is also where Darwin first went ashore in 1835. San Cristobal is also the site of the oldest surviving settlement in the Galapagos, El Progresso, established in 1869. It has since been overshadowed by a second town, Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, located on the southeast coast. This is one of two points of departure for tour boats operating in the islands and nearly half the islands' 50,000 annual tourists pass through its airport, which has operatied since the mid-1980s.

San Cristobal Island is made up of two coalesced volcanoes. The southwestern half is a symmetric shield volcano made up of gently dipping lavas and capped by a thick, deeply weathered pyroclastic blanket and numerous satellite cinder cones. The southwestern shield became emergent around 2.4 million years ago; activity continued up to about 650,000 years ago. The northeastern half of the island is a more recently active volcano, dominated by eruptions from NE-trending fissures. The most recent flows are no more than a few centuries old. Like its neighbors, Santa Cruz and Santa Fe, it lavas show very considerable chemical variation, with some being similar to basalts erupted at mid-ocean ridges (this kind of basalt is often called MORB for Mid-Ocean Ridge Basalt). In stark contrast to Hawaiian volcanoes, there is no clear petrologic evolutionary trend displayed by San Cristobal lavas.

Of interest to tourists is Kicker Rock, a spectacular rock formation off the northwest coast. Kicker Rock is a remnant of a pyroclastic, or palagonite, cone, i.e., the site of a volcanic eruption that became explosive when lava and seawater mixed. Tens of thousands of years of wind and waves have carved this once conical island into the structure we see today.

Isla Lobos

Lobos Islet is a seasonal nesting location for the blue-footed boobie, although the basalt island outcropping is named for the sea lions sometimes present there.

Isla Lobos is located heading up the coast from Wreck Bay and Puerto Baquerizo north of San Cristobal Island also known as Chatham, 1 hour across a small channel.

Isla Lobos means ”Sea-Lion Island”, and the name is certainly appropriate because they frolic, leap and make a racket here. It is also a nesting place for Blue-footed Boobies and a good place for snorkeling.

A U.S. passport with remaining validity of at least six months is required to enter Ecuador. A valid U.S. passport is required to depart Ecuador.  Tourists must also provide evidence of return or onward travel, such as an airline ticket .  U.S. citizens traveling on regular passports for tourism or business do not need a visa for a stay of 90 days or less.  Those planning a longer visit must obtain a visa in advance of arrival.  Travelers who stay in Ecuador beyond the allowed entry time are charged a substantial fine and are barred from re-entering Ecuador for nine consecutive months from the date of departure.   American citizens (non-dual nationals) who enter Ecuador without a visa and as a tourist may only remain in Ecuador for a maximum of 90 days per 12-month period.  Payment of an airport exit tax, in U.S. dollars only, is also required when departing Ecuador.

U.S. citizens whose passports are lost or stolen in Ecuador must obtain a police report of the loss or theft to obtain a new passport at the U.S. Embassy in Quito or the U.S. Consulate General in Guayaquil.  To depart Ecuador, they must present both the replacement passport and the police report of the loss or theft to the main immigration offices in Quito or Guayaquil prior to arriving at the airport in order to obtain permission to depart. 

Ecuador’s exit procedures mandate that minors (under the age of 18) who are citizens or residents of Ecuador and who are traveling alone, with one parent, or with a third party, must present a copy of their birth certificate and written authorization from the absent parent(s) or legal guardian.  When a parent is deceased, a notarized copy of the death certificate is required in lieu of the written authorization.  If documents are prepared in the United States, the authorization and the birth certificate must be translated into Spanish, notarized and authenticated by the Ecuadorian Embassy or an Ecuadorian Consulate in the United States.  It is not uncommon for local authorities to insist that these documents be apostilled (authenticated).  Documents must be apostilled by the same U.S. state that issued the document.  If the documents are prepared in Ecuador, only notarization by an Ecuadorian notary is required.  This paragraph does not apply to children who enter Ecuador with U.S. passports as tourists, unless they hold dual U.S./Ecuadorian citizenship.

For further information regarding entry, exit, and customs requirements, travelers should contact the Ecuadorian Embassy at 2535 15th Street NW, Washington, DC 20009, telephone (202) 234-7200, or the nearest Ecuadorian consulate. Consulates are located in Chicago (312) 338-1002/03, fax (312) 338-1004; Houston (713) 572-8731; Jersey City(973) 344-8837; Los Angeles (323) 658-5146, (323) 658-6020, fax (323) 658-1198; Miami (305) 539-8215; Minneapolis (612) 721-6468; New Haven (203) 752-1847; New York (212) 808-0331; Queens (718) 651-8797, or San Francisco (415) 982-1812. 

Visit the Embassy of Ecuador’s website for the most current visa information.

The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of Ecuador.

he economy of Ecuador is based mostly on exports of bananas, oil, shrimp, gold, other primary agricultural products and money transfers from nearly a million Ecuadorian immigrants employed abroad. In 2002, oil accounted for about one-third of public sector revenue and 40% of export earnings. Ecuador is the world's largest exporter of bananas ($936.5 million in 2002) and a major exporter of shrimp ($251 million in 2002). Exports of nontraditional products such as flowers ($291 million in 2002) and canned fish ($333 million in 2002) have grown in recent years. Industry is largely oriented to servicing the domestic market.

Deteriorating economic performance in 1997-98 culminated in a severe financial crisis in 1999. The crisis was precipitated by a number of external shocks, including the El Niño weather phenomenon in 1997, a sharp drop in global oil prices in 1997-98, and international emerging market instability in 1997-98. These factors highlighted the Government of Ecuador's unsustainable economic policy mix of large fiscal deficits and expansionary money policy and resulted in an 7.3% contraction of GDP, annual year-on-year inflation of 52.2%, and a 65% devaluation of the national currency in 1999.

On January 9, 2000, the administration of President Jamil Mahuad announced its intention to adopt the U.S. dollar as the official currency of Ecuador to address the ongoing economic crisis. Subsequent protest led to Mahuad's removal from office and the elevation of Vice President Gustavo Noboa to the presidency.

The Noboa government confirmed its commitment to convert to the dollar as the centerpiece of its economic recovery strategy, successfully completing the transition from sucres to dollars in 2001. Following the completion of a one-year stand-by program with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in December 2001, Ecuador successfully negotiated a new $205 million stand-by agreement with the IMF in March 2003.

Buoyed by higher oil prices, the Ecuadorian economy experienced a modest recovery in 2000-01, with GDP rising 2.3% in 2000 and 5.4% in 2001. GDP growth leveled off to 3.3% in 2002. Although final figures are not yet available, it is expected to fall further, to about 1.7%, for 2003. GDP growth is estimated to recover to over 4% in 2004, due largely to expanded oil exports. Inflation fell from an annual rate of 96.1% in 2000 to an annual rate of 22.4% in 2001; although final figures are not yet available, it is expected to drop below 7% for 2003. Despite recent gains, 40% of the population lives below the poverty line, more than double the rate five years ago.

The completion of the second Transandean Oil Pipeline (OCP in Spanish) in 2003 will enable Ecuador to expand oil exports. The OCP will double Ecuador's oil transport capacity, but Ecuador will need to attract additional foreign investment to realize the full economic potential of the added capacity.

The climate of Ecuador varies by region, due to differences in altitude and proximity to the equator.

The coastal lowlands to the west of Ecuador are typically warm with temperatures in the region of 25 °C (77 °F). Coastal areas are affected by ocean currents and between January and April are hot and rainy.

The weather in Quito is consistent to that of a subtropical highland climate. The city has a fairly constant cool climate due to its elevation and proximity to the equator. The average temperature during the day is 66 °F (18.9 °C), which generally falls to an average of 50 °F (10 °C) at night. The average temperature annually is 64 °F (17.8 °C) There are only really two obvious seasons in the city: dry and wet. The dry season (summer) runs from June to September and the wet season (winter) is from October to May.