Our 24-day teen summer community service and Spanish language immersion program explores Ecuador and the Galápagos Islands.
Travel abroad with us as we work on important community service projects with a small Andean community, practice and improve our Spanish, explore Quito and the Otavalo Market, whitewater raft, and hike to hidden waterfalls in the Amazon rainforest.
Our program wraps up with an unforgettable six days spent exploring, hiking, snorkeling, and surfing the unmatched Galápagos Islands.
Learn more about our teen summer community service and Spanish immersion program in Ecuador. Click on the Description tab below.
Ecuador & the Galapagos // You Don't Want To Miss...
#1 Otavalo Market
Fabulous handicrafts and weavings at one of the largest and most colorful artisanal markets in the country are hard to resist.
#2 Napo River - Whitewater Rafting
Known locally as the Jatunyacu River, Quechua for “Big Water," the Napo River promises “BIG” waves and “BIG” fun!
#3 Colonial Quito
Quito, Ecuador’s capital, was founded in the 16th century on the ruins of an Inca city. A mixture of church spires, tiled roofs, and skyscrapers against the backdrop of Volcán Pichincha, it is a spectacular blend of modern urban and indigenous cultures.
#4 Galápagos Islands - Surfing and Snorkeling
Located at the confluence of three ocean currents, the Galápagos are a melting pot of marine species. The 19 islands and surrounding marine reserve are a living museum and showcase of evolution.
#5 Culture - The Cochas Community
Ecuador’s rich history, people, and diverse geography stretch from the Pacific coastlands, high upon the cool Andean mountainscape and down through the lushly vegetated ecosystems of the Amazon rainforest.
#6 La Mitad del Mundo
Who wouldn’t want the opportunity to visit La Mitad del Mundo (the Middle of the World) and have their picture taken straddling the equator!
#7 Upper Amazon Rainforest in the Jungle
A rainforest of unique beauty and incredible diversity, its more than 25,000 species of plants contribute 20% of Earth’s oxygen and 66% of the world’s fresh water.
#8 Darwin Research Station
The center of research and conservation efforts of scientists and volunteers includes the most well-known captive breeding program for giant tortoises. These fearless giants inspired Darwin and today live in one of the world’s most treasured wildlife destinations.
#9 The Andes Mountains
The longest and one of the highest mountain ranges in the world stretches along the west coast of South America from Cape Horn to Panama, some 4,500 miles – plenty of trail to make new friends!
50-60 Community Service Hours
Indigenous community of Cochas, rebuild their dairy storage facility, teach English to local students and participate in communal activities that make up life in rural Ecuador.
A Certificate of Community Service indicating total hours worked and a Presidential Volunteer Service Award will be issued upon successful completion of the program.
Spanish Language Immersion
Immersion within Community and Country
Two years previous Spanish speaking experience necessary
Whitewater Raft: Napo River
Surf: Isla Isabela
Explore: Colonial Quito, La Mitad del Mundo, Amazon Jungle, Otavalo Market, Darwin Research Station, Wall of Tears, Lake Cuicocha, Quichua Village, Galapagos Islands National Park
Snorkel: Isolate Las Tintoreras
Hike and Swim: Upper Amazon Rainforest Waterfalls and Lagoons, Andes Mountains
View: Pichincha Volcano
9 - 12
While in Quito, we stay in a hotel. In Otavalo, we stay in tents, and in the Galapagos, we are in hotels. Showers are available in Quito and the Galapagos; however, we shower every three to four days to conserve resources and support sustainability. Bathrooms are a mix of flush toilets and latrines.
Tuition (Airfare and baggage fees not included)
A leader-escorted round-trip flight will be available (but not required) for those travelers who wish to fly with a leader out of Miami, FL (MIA). Please contact our office for details.
Additional in-country group flight is required and is not included in tuition.
Join in on the fun! Check out #SnmRLT for a behind-the-scenes look at photos from past participants and leaders.
Ecuador is a dream replete with volcanoes, tropical cloud forests, balmy coastlines, and an indigenous heritage full of traditional costumes and highland markets enchanting to all who visit.
We arrive in Quito, La Mitad del Mundo (The Middle of the World), to a view of the Pichincha Volcano and the majestic Andes. For the next 24 days we have a community service, adventure, and Spanish immersion experience like no other.
We travel to Cochas, an indigenous community north of the city of Otavalo in the Imbabura province. With a current population of only 225 inhabitants belonging to 40 families, Cochas is a peaceful place where people make their living through agriculture and dairy. Most of these inhabitants are indigenous and descendents of the Caranquie and Cayambis who lived in the area before the Incas!
Currently there is only one small storage room where the people from the community collect milk every day. However, this space is too small and lacks a bathroom. Cochas is in need of a larger facility that will accommodate a new milk storage machine, additional milking utensils needed for the dairy products process and a bathroom. Additionally, we will have the chance to impart English lessons to the children at the community. We live, work, and learn with the families and support their culture, animals, and crops; we spend quality time baking bread, helping with harvest, and milking cows. Living and working in this remote community, we get a hands-on sense of what life was like for the Quichua settlers.
We visit the popular market of Otavalo where we are immersed in the colors, scents, and sounds of the Andean people. We wind our way into the jungle through spectacular areas of the upper Amazon basin. Here we raft the rapids of the Napo River, set up camp in an Quichua village, explore the rainforest, and swim in crystal clear pools filled by hidden waterfalls.
We head for the Galápagos Islands where the exotic wildlife is famous for its window into evolution. We discover a realm where penguins swim in equatorial seas, elegant green turtles glide through cold streams, and hammerhead sharks patrol deeper waters.
Ecuador's most beloved national park, the Galápagos Islands lie in splendid isolation, no less enthralling now than they were a hundred years ago. We journey to the remote islands to experience the wondrous scene that inspired Darwin’s On the Origin of Species.
Arrival (Day 1):
Arrive in Miami, FL. In the evening, board a group flight for Quito, Ecuador.
La Mitad del Mundo (Day 2):
Tour colonial Quito. Visit the oldest building in South America and La Mitad del Mundo (Middle of the World), located at 00o00’00” latitude. Enjoy a picnic lunch atop El Panecillo, a mountain with 360-degree views of Quito. Visit the Ecuadorian heritage museum. Ride a gondola to the summit of the Pichincha Volcano.
Otavalo Service Project (Days 3-12):
Depart Quito for the high-mountain community near Otavalo and embark on nine days of service and cultural immersion. In Cochas, we'll build a new milk storage and collection building, and help teach English to the local students. Live, work, and learn with the families and support their culture, animals, and crops.
Amazon Jungle Adventure (Days 13-17):
Visit Otavalo market, one of the oldest in the Americas. Haggle over the price of alpaca wool, Panamanian hats, or copper jewelry. Hike around Lake Cuicocha and then head to the Amazon rainforest. Raft and hike in the Amazon jungle. Descend into Ecuador’s “Grand Canyon” for an afternoon swim in a lagoon.
Galapagos Islands (Days 18-23):
Return to Quito. Then take a group flight to Baltra Island. Visit the Charles Darwin Research Center, home to giant tortoises, marine iguanas, and blue-footed boobies. Ferry to the island of Isabella, home base for the next several days. Hike Volcán Chico, the world’s second-largest crater. Learn to surf. Snorkel with sea lions in the Tintoreras Preserve. Celebrate on the final night with a banquet on the beach.
Closing (Day 24):
Board our morning flight back to Miami and say our final goodbyes before heading home.
The Road Less Traveled does not require any vaccinations or immunizations to travel with us, other than an up-to-date tetanus shot or booster (within the last nine years).
Please visit the CDC’s website to read more about recommended vaccinations for travel to Ecuador and the Galapagos. The decision to get some, none, or all of the recommended vaccinations is a personal one, and should be discussed with your family doctor.
Please click below to view your program’s equipment and packing list!
Ecuador & The Galapagos: Sigue No Mas Packing List
To receive an emailed copy of this program’s day-to-day calendar, please call office between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. CST at 773-342-5200, and we’ll happily send you one!
General Travel Info
It is imperative that no one make any travel arrangements until RLT provides instructions for specific arrival and departure time windows. Those details are typically released in mid-spring.
Families are individually responsible for booking their own airfare to get their student from home to the starting destination on the first day of the trip, and from the ending destination back home on the last day of the trip.
In-country flight will be booked and invoiced by RLT, in addition to the tuition.
This program offers an optional leader-escorted flight for those families who are interested.
If you wish to have your participant fly directly into the starting location, please call the office for details.
The Sigue No Mas program offers an Escorted Flight for all of its participants. Any student who wishes to fly with an RLT leader will meet that leader at the Miami International Airport (MIA) on the first day of the program. All students who wish to fly directly to Quito (UIO) will have the option to meet the rest of the group upon arrival in Quito. In addition, all participants will fly with all leaders on an in-land Group Flight from Quito to The Galapagos Islands and back about half-way through the program. On the last day of the program students are welcome to either fly directly home from Quito or fly back to Miami with the leaders (and fly home from there).