Recycling bins along the Malecon, a 1.5 mile boardwalk in Guayaquil.

It’s not easy being green. Especially when you’re a small country on a vast continent, and overshadowed by  popular eco-destinations to the North, like Costa Rica. But Ecuador’s location along the Pacific Coast, with its dramatic backdrop of the Andes Mountains, fertile valleys and rainforest and its plethora of outdoor options, makes it a natural contender. And best of all, its cheaper than a lot of its surrounding neighbors.  If you’re an adventure enthusiast, take advantage of whitewater rafting, surfing lessons in Montanita, hiking in caves,  or even zip lining. Non-adrenaline junkies may want to visit the Butterfly Garden in Mindo, and spy more than 25 different butterfly species in this protected garden, or take a leisurely ride in a canoe along the Amazon River. Also worth visiting is the Peguche Waterfall, outside of Quito.

For a little pampering, why not take a dip in the natural mud pools in San Vicente, or try the popular aloe vera massage, perfect after a hot day in the sun.

Boating along the Amazon River in Tena, Ecuador

Guayaquil, the largest city in Ecuador, does its part in keeping the country clean with its numerous trash cans and recycling bins lining the Malecon, a 1.5 mile stretch of boardwalk along the Guayas River, lined with restaurants, shops and a large Botannic Garden.  Along the coast (La Costa), they recycle glass bottles. Tena, in El Oriente, has begun to improve its many unpaved roads  that crisscross through the Amazon city, by converting rocks into gravel/cement for paving.

The author in a cave in Tena, Ecuador

Everywhere you go in Ecuador—no matter city or town or farmland or jungle, the message is as clear as the billboards on which they are printed: respect our land, respect our country.

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