A Divine Hotel Stay at Oro Verde in Guayaquil, Ecuador

A guest room at the hotel Oro Verde

A guest room at the hotel Oro Verde

Setting out on a once-in-a-lifetime trip with my family to the Galapagos Islands from our home in Los Angeles meant we had a super long trip ahead of us, so a relaxing stop-over was key. We flew from LA to Miami and then on to Ecuador, which is the nearest country to this stunning archipelago in the Pacific. Many choose to break up their journey in the country's capital Quito before heading to San Cristobel in the Galapagos, but I opted for Guayaquil because it was at lower altitude—and because it boasted a magnificent five-star hotel, the Oro Verde. I made a great choice for my family as it proved to the perfect luxury kick-start to a fabulous vacation.

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Sailing the Galapagos: The Best of the Best

Spotting a whale during our boat tour with Ecoventura

Spotting a whale during our boat tour with Ecoventura

There's no better way to see the Galapagos Islands and its magnificent wildlife than sailing around this spectacular archipelago on an intimate and luxurious yacht. Beyoncé and Jay-Z couldn't do any better.

Looking for a truly memorable adventure that would engage not just my husband and me but also our 7-year-old son, we set off on a week-long tour with Ecoventura, which offers stunning, environmentally-friendly tours around the islands.

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Enchanted by Cuenca, Ecuador

Handmade alpaca blankets, gloves, and socks and other souvenirs can be found in several markets around town

Located in the Andes Mountains, the city of Cuenca, Ecuador, holds an old-world charm where the confluence of the Spanish Inquisition and native traditions transformed this high-altitude pueblo into the pulse of the country. Its narrow cobblestone streets are lined with panaderias, lavaderias, and heladerias (bakeries, laundromats, and ice cream parlors), where everyone from indigenous women to well-dressed businessmen gather. Spiritual cleanses are performed in the marketplaces and guinea pigs are considered a delicacy. This is a city where wild dogs rule, drivers are ruthless, and good beer is cheap.

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Galapagos: Nature Gives a Cuddle

Galapagos fur seal poses by the sea

Galapagos fur seal poses by the sea

Panicked. I screamed and felt my heart begin to race. Frantically I flipped my fins and looked up out of the water. "Hey! Help! Hey, Hey…" I saw my partner, Dan, and eight of our new friends far away with their heads in the water, snorkels straight up. No one was coming to my rescue, and a 300- pound sea lion had her face in mine.

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The Most Beautiful City in South America

I started my journey in the capital city, Quito; it has been described as the most beautiful city in South America

I’ve been reading so many good things about Ecuador lately, I decided to fly down and check it out for myself. From snow-capped volcanoes to dense Amazon jungle, from sun-drenched Pacific beaches to the famous Galapagos Islands, this is a place of astounding natural beauty. Ecuador is perhaps the most biodiverse country in the world. Despite covering a mere 0.02 percent of the world’s landmass, it is home to 10 percent of the world’s plant and animal species. Ecuador has more than 100 different types of hummingbirds!

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