2 weeks of Pura Vida in Costa Rica with kids

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As I drink a cup of Costa Rican coffee on a cold morning in San Francisco, I remember the elation of running and laughing with my kids and nieces under a warm tropical rain, through luscious green rain forest, towards an almost empty Caribbean beach. Once we got to the beach, we jumped into the ocean and played for hours with the waves. I could still feel the wetness on my skin as my kids, returning back to our little hotel right next to Cahuita National Park.


My sister and her family, and my two kids and I were staying for 5 days at Kelly Creek Inn, an amazing little find in the town of Cahuita, at the foot of Cahuita National Park. Cahuita Park is an 11km rainforest park in the Caribbean La Amistad Conservation Area of Costa Rica in the southern Caribbean coast of the Limon province. The province of Limon is English/Spanish bilingual thanks to the large Jamaican descendant population in the area.


We had gone to Costa Rica, from San Francisco, on our way to visit my family in Ecuador. My sister is currently living in Costa Rica, and we had the fortune of being able to stop by to see her and her kids.
We arrived to Cahuita and Kelly creek after a 4 hour drive from San Jose. Costa Rica is an expensive country if you compare it to other Latin American countries, so the first week of our stay there, except for a one night stay at gorgeous but more expensive Manuel Antonio, we did just did day trips from my sister’s house in San Jose. Though the kids were originally disappointed with the “lack of a pool”, we were soon at home and at ease and enjoying the basics of good living: time with family at an affordable prize, gorgeous nature around us, a beach to go swimming to at walking distance from our rooms, a park a step away to go running or hiking, delicious and affordable food in town, and a place relaxed enough that we were able to bring out the board games in the restaurant after breakfast or at.
I enjoyed waking up before anyone for a morning run or walk in the forest and then some delicious Costa Rican coffee. Our awesome host, Spanish expat Domingo, would make some delicious breakfast, while our kids played with his 9-year-old. My kids are in a mandarin immersion program in San Francisco (for the benefit to the mind of language exposure), yet his kid is at an immersion program too, as he goes to school at a reservation nearby where he learns the indigenous language: Bribri.


Most mornings we bought picnic food and spend the day hiking and swimming in the beaches along the gorgeous rainforest reserve. Cahuita Park is full of animals like: birds, monkeys, and raccoons (who were always trying to snatch things from us). We wold also go on lovely road trips like driving through the town of Puerto Viejo, to get a delicious Caribbean lunch in Maxim’s restaurant in Manzanillo or to just enjoy a swim at the calm waters of the beach in Manzanillo. In the afternoon, when we came back, Domingo would show us crocodile Roberto in the creek by the hotel and we would have fun looking at monkeys acting crazy in the trees above us. One night, our little town had a Caribbean music festival and the kids and us enjoyed a piece of the Caribbean culture.
On our last night stay, Domingo made us delicious Paella for which he had being preparing the broth for a couple of days in advance. On our last morning, as I say by myself having some coffee, I really felt an urge to drop city life and set up my life in a small hotel somewhere with my family (many places in Ecuador give me that craving too), where we can live simply and do language immersion for my kids in say Bribri instead of Mandarin.


Other places we enjoyed on our Costa Rica stay (and this beautiful country has many more to offer):
– Manuel Antonio national park. A small but gorgeous National park in the Pacific coast with beautiful beaches and hiking trails. We stayed at environmentally-friendly (the hotel was built in an area full of trees, yet they tried to preserve most of them), kid friendly (has two pools one with a slide for the kids and one for the adults) hotel called Sicomono

– Though the city of San Jose doesn’t offer the old colonial architecture as some cities in Ecuador, we enjoyed taking the kids to a stroll in downtown San Jose, going for coffee and delicious food at the Mercado Central market , visiting the beautiful old National Theater, and going for an afternoon to the discovery museum.
– Enjoying the weather, swimming in the pool, and strolling by the cafes and restaurants near my sister’s house in Escazu.
– ZooAve. A lovely rescue animal zoo that has a canopy line that the kids really enjoyed.


11 road trips and 21 stories on tape and no one asking: Are we there yet?


11 road trips and 21 stories on tape and no one asking: Are we there yet?

As much as I used to dread going on road trips as a child, I now love it as an adult. I was one of those children that kept on asking: are we there yet? When my oldest child was a toddler, she used to hate long trips and I fear her in them. Road trips where painful for all, until she got a bit older, and we all discovered stories on tape. Now, thanks to the CDs we get from the public library, my husband, my 11-year-old, my 8-year-old and I look forward to our car trips and and could drive for hours. Many of the road trips that we’ve had and love are associated with the book or book series we read then.

These are, more or less chronologically, some of my most memorable US road trips and the stories we’ve listened to:

Williamsburg to Miami (when my older daughter was 5):

The Mysterious Benedict Society series (loved this series: they were the start of our driving while listening to stories saga. My younger son would fuzz and fall sleep during the first couple of years, until I suddenly discovered him listening to the stories and asking questions)

About 4 trips from San Francisco to LA when my niece was there (when my daughter was about 7, 8, 9, and my son 4,5,7)

Almost all of the Tinkerbell stories about fairies

Almost all of the Magic Tree house series

The Tale of Despereaux: Being the Story of a Mouse, a Princess, Some Soup, and a Spool of Thread by Kate DiCamillo (Candlewick Press)

Charlotte’s Web by EB White

Ella Enchanted

Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls

Harriet the Spy

Old Yeller by Fred Gipson

Harry Potter (books 1 and 2)

The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis

2 trips from San Francisco to Lake Tahoe

Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell (Houghton)

Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls

Mathilda by Roal Dahl

Round trip Phoenix to Tubac

Dragonwings by Laurence Yep

San Francisco to Phoenix roundtrip

Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor (Loved this one)

San Francisco to Santa Barbara

39 Steps

Washington DC to Williamsburg, Williamsburg To Hannover, NH and back to DC

Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander (we did all of them)

2014’s springbreak San francsico to Lake Tahoe

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

Trip to camp Mather in San francsico June 2014

The Youngest Templar. by Michael P. Spadrilin

The above are the books that come to my mind for some of the more significant road trips we’ve taken, but we’ve listened to many more stories on tape. Whenever I need some peace and quiet and to think about my life, I love to go off for a long drive with the kids and while they listen to stories on tape, I meditate.


From San Francisco California to San Francisco de Quito


As my kids and I get ready to leave San Francisco CA, the city where we reside in, to go for a couple of months to visit San Francisco de Quito in Ecuador, the city where I grew up (including a 2 week stop in Costa Rica to visit my sister and her family), I already feel nostalgic of the fog city I leave behind.


Both San Franciscos share a good number of curious similitudes.  Though San Francisco de Quito (the full name given by its founders) is in the Equator and San Francisco, California, in the Northern Hemisphere, both cities are full of hills, they both have almost exactly the same weather and vegetation year round, and both have a gorgeous fog that rolls in in the evening and rolls out in the mornings. I’ve checked the weather for both at the same time and, except for some picks of cold wind and unusual heat in San Francisco, CA, or some picks of strong sun at noon in Quito (short name it’s known for), they share the almost the same degrees. Their similar environments are due the fact that their location creates pocket weather zones for both.  Their spring weather pocket is due to, in the case of Quito, its altitude of 9000 feet, and San Francisco due to its location in the bay, fog and currents.  Another similitude was the arrival of the Franciscan orders to both areas, giving their name to both cities.  San Francisco’s first mission was built by the Franciscan order, as well as one of Quito’s most beautiful colonial churches and convents. Because of its mild weather, many orders of priests, established ground in Quito creating dozens of colonial churches and convents within a small square mileage. Both cities have very courteous and friendly people, perhaps due to their physical beauty and mild weather conditions.

ImageBoth cities are very different many other ways.  San Francisco’s natural beauty comes from the gorgeous bay and ocean that surrounds it; while Quito’s natural beauty comes from the magnificent Andes Mountains it’s nestled in.  San Francisco’s old neighborhoods are made of beautiful Victorian or Edwardian houses from the late 1800 to early 1900s, while Quito’s colonial town is full of Spanish style houses dating as far back as the 1530s. Quito’s population is composed mainly of mestizos (racially mixed Spanish and indigenous), a small purely indigenous or purely Spanish descendants and a small afro-Ecuadorian population, while San Francisco Bay Area’s population is one of the most diverse in the planet.

There are many pros and cons about living in either city. One of the biggest pros of Quito is the fact that, since most families and friends stay in the same city for most of their lives, people have deep and long lasting relationships.  I’m still friends with people who were my classmates in kindergarten, and most of my high school classmates, even if they went to study elsewhere, reside in Quito now.  A big pro of San Francisco, is the fact that there is a huge diversity of races, religions, sexual orientation, and more, together with a strong respect and appreciation to diversity.


I want to take advantage of my having a large set of family and friends in San Francisco of Quito and establish good long lasting relationships between my kids and them. I also want my kids to grow up honoring diversity the way most of  San Francisco California does. I’m lucky that way, as I want to, as much as possible, offer to my kids the best of both San Franciscos.

Quito Museums

Quito’s Museums


When you visit Quito, particularly with kids, places such as Yaku, for its amazing view of the city and its fun water games, MIC for the great interactive science experiments and historically interesting building, beautiful Museo de la Ciudad in El Centro for housing multiple exhibits about the beginings of the city, Museo del Alabado for its beautifully restored colonial house and great collection of pre-colonial artifacts with interactive periods screens, and some more, are a must.  Not wanting to replace a guide of Quito’s Museums like Quito Tourism’s, here are my recommendations.
YAKU Water Museum or Museo del Agua  Created in what used to be the old water processing plant for the city (there is an exhibit about the old water plant), it is a must visit, with or without kids, just because it has some of the most amazing views of the city. I went there last year with my husband, my 2 young kids and my 2 nieces. We all managed to fit in a taxi that took us up there (you’ll see what I mean by up there when you go). I’ve gone there a couple of times and have found it really hard to get there. Make sure you take a taxi that really knows where it is and make SURE it goes back to get you, unless you have enough time to hike down a big hill in search of public transportation.


The kids had a blast playing in the water exhibits, getting themselves wet running around by and inside the water fountains outside and doing all sort of experiments in a bungalow bellow that has a sample of building an environmentally water-efficient house. It also has a small hiking path. My husband and I loved the visit too as the views from there are outstanding and we had a moment to take them all in as they run around.

Interactive Museum of Science (the MIC) The MIC is a large science museum for kids of all ages (and adults) housed in an old textile factory with ample gardens, coffee shop and play areas. My sister told me about this museum, created a couple of years ago, but thought of it as something smaller and of less significance, but when we finally got there spent the whole day there. We loved the exhibits about the brain and the elements of physics, the temporary dinosaur exhibit, the parks and having lunch at their pleasant coffee shop. As a parent of kids going to a public school in San Francisco, I was delighted on my first visit to this great place, to see public schools on field trips there. In the Quito I grew up in there were not nearly as many facilities as there are now, nor the public to attend them. Another positive sign to me of the growing middle class in Quito and its need of better services to the public and of the impact that some good mayors like Paco Moncayo had on the betterment of the city.


Casa del Alabado, built in 1671 the house where gorgeous little museum is housed, was known many years ago as the house of the Alabado (the praised one). It has an inscription about it. Has been beautifully restored preserving the old structure and patio of the building, yet creating a modern and chick atmosphere inside. It has a great collection of pre-Columbian artifacts with screens that explain the different cultures to which the artifacts belong to. Great for older children and adults.

Museo de la Ciudad The city Museum is housed in one of the city’s older buildings: the San Juan de Dios hospital, built in 1565. This is a beautiful museum with permanent exhibits, showing interesting displays on the history, building of and way of life of Quito during Colonial times. It also has some temporary exhibits, such as last year’s exhibit about the geological expedition who came in the 1800s to measure the center of the world, and another one about Swiss architect Durini who created several beautiful monuments and public service buildings in Quito. I recommend visiting this museum before you head off on your old town visits
The Museum of Guayasamin Can’t wait to take my 11-year-old daughter there and expose her to Guayasamin’s magnificent art. Since his art is a mixture of tender and harsh, I had previously felt that my kids where too young to understand it. I also can’t wait to take her there because his magnificent house/museum/Chapel to Mankind is located in a low income neighborhood where I taught to read and write to adults. My last year of highschool participated in a literacy program in which high-school students  taught elementary to low income neighborhoods a couple of hours a day for a year. It was an experience that taught us more than them and which deserves a post in itself. Cant wait to share that experience more in detail with my kids as they grow. Guayasamin was an accomplished artist with paintings located at the Barajas airport in Spain and many other prominent places. Totally worth the visit.

Centro de Arte Contemporaneo, This place, open only in 2010 as a museum, is worth the visit just to see the architecture of the beautiful old hospital that was created in. The hospital, one of the architectural pieces created by Lorenzo Durini and his son Francisco, was shaped as two open hands together with 10 halls so that it would create natural ventilation for the hospital. The building have been nicely restored and is close by the Basilica so worth visiting both in one pass.

Casa de Maria Augusta Urrutia I went to this museum with my grandma about 15 years ago when they just opened it. Maria Augusta was apparently an old aunt of my grandma. A tour guide took us around the house. My grandma was in her 90s and very opinionated and kept interrupting and correcting the poor guide to facts I better not mention here. Cant wait to visit this place again this summer with my kids and relive the moments I spent there with my grandma (you is if you made the math correctly not around unless she was to be 104). It has a collection of paintings by Victor Mideros and fine displays of French porcelain, silver dinnerware and colonial art and is a good example of how the houses used to look like before getting subdivided into several apartments.
Lonely Planet review of it:
“On Calle García Moreno, just southwest of Calle Sucre, you’ll find the Casa Museo María Augusta Urrutía . Of Quito’s house museums, this is the one not to miss: it’s a splendidly preserved, 19th-century house, once the home of the city’s best-loved philanthropist, María Augusta Urrutía, and sprinkled with period furnishings, stained-glass windows, European artwork and a lush courtyard. Free guided tours are in Spanish and English.”

Memorial Day visit to the Presidio cemetery with my family.


On the morning of Sunday May 26th, my husband took us to visit the national cemetery at the Presidio in San Francisco, where we live, to honor the US citizens (not saying “Americans”, as this term applies to North, Central and South Americans) who participated in the wars of the U.S.  My husband comes from a Quaker background. Quakers are known for opposing wars, and being incarcerated as conscientious objectors, but he wanted to go there to teach the kids respect for others who’ve had hard lives and had participated in the creation of a country that he loves and believes in. He wanted to teach the kids that holidays are not just for shopping, but have a little time to think of events that have happened and meditate about certain moments in history.

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I, as an Ecuadorian, was torn with the idea. Though I recognize the value of the US participation in World Wars I and II and of certain well-conceived diplomatic policies that helped the world, I feel the US has in recent (Iraq, Afghanistan) and not so recently (Vietnam, El Salvador, Chile) history, interfered on other countries affairs in an unjustified way and often without the consent of the United Nations. I decided to accompany them anyway.


The military cemetery at the Presidio is located on a hill overlooking the Bay Bridge and has probably one of the best views in the world. There were some celebrations happening at the bottom of the hill. We wanted a private observance, so we hiked with the kids all the way up to the highest corner, where there was no one else. We brought two flowers, and each child chose the grave of a soldier, preferably one who had died a very long time ago and had no one visiting him, on which to place the flowers.  It was a very meditative morning, in which I learned that Memorial Day is not meant to honor the politicians who send young kids often to the wrong wars, but the duty and sacrifice of the ordinary men and women who participate in them.


We talked with the kids about the importance of diplomacy. I used as an example Diego Cordovez, a diplomat from Ecuador who coincidentally died Saturday may 25 and was nominated to the Nobel Peace Prize for negotiating peace with Afghanistan years before the wars.


I never thought I would be in an U.S. military cemetery on Memorial Day, but thanks to my husband I went and had a contemplative morning in which we honored life, sacrifice and Peace.

Kayla Wu’s latest: Saying Goodbye to MI


Saying goodbye to MI

Next week is LiLi’s last week at her Mandarin Immersion public elementary school in San Francisco.

To continue Mandarin Immersion into middle school there are very few choices in San Francisco. The public middle school that both Mandarin Immersion elementary schools feed into carries the Mandarin forward but at a huge cost: electives. SFUSD has decided that the kids will not have access to the traditional middle school electives since it is during that period the Mandarin will take place. The school is also huge, over 1100 kids in three grades. There’s one established private that has MI too, and at least one other smaller private newish on the scene.

Since the established MI private wasn’t for us, like many parents I had to decide between sending LiLi to the this large middle that carries forward the Mandarin but offers no electives or putting her in a smaller all-day-in-English school. I chose the latter.

I’ll supplement the Chinese, hire a caregiver who speaks only Chinese, and continue to spend summers in China.

We travel in three weeks.

Moms, daughters, changes and hormones


I was running this morning with another mother from my daughter’s school, and while we run, we talked about our 11-year-old daughters and their moods. After talking about them, we would talk about ourselves and our moods. We then talked about our interaction with our daughters, and how their stress about growing and our stress about them growing influence our relationship with them. Then we’ll go back to talking about ourselves, and our stress about them confronting change. Then back to talk about ourselves and so on.

Our daughters, these lovely and still very loving people, who were little kids just yesterday, are going to middle school next year. I wish that in the US, elementary school would go up until 6th grade, as it does in Ecuador. It is so intense for our daughters, who are just 11, and for ourselves to assume them moving into the quasi-teenage hood of middle school when probably neither them, nor us are ready to take that step.

Most public middle schools, at least in San Francisco, are huge; therefore kids are pushed into growing faster than what may be good for them, and to learn to be tough to survive the masses. If you add to this stress, the over exposure to media that many of the kids get, then you get kids stressing for what is coming to them and needing to grow up fast in a society that is pushing them to do so too soon.

Besides all the stress about the changes coming to them from moving to a new schools, their bodies are slowly starting to change and they are starting to feel their hormonal changes, coincidentally when us, their mom’s (at least in places where us moms had had our kids later), are starting to feel those changes too.

Here are a couple of things I’m trying to do, while we go through transitions. Would love any input in more things that could be done:

  • Give myself a timeout and a place to meditate in peace when things are getting out of control for me with the kids.
  • Give my daughter a space in the house that is only hers, I cannot interfere in and is where she can regroup.
  • Give myself a mom and daughter time, without my younger, so that she and I have some time to talk and catch up.
  • Respect the duality of girl/and preteen in her and not force neither. We went together for a mom and daughter time for the first time to the American Girl doll store. She had a certificate she got last Christmas from her grandma. While she looked at the last things she’ll probably ever buy for her doll, I looked at the American girl doll books about girls. American girl doll books are surprisingly great (The care and keeping of You 1, The care and keeping of You 2, Middle School, the Feelings Book and some more.).
  • Acknowledge all my crazy feelings as they come: sadness, happiness, elation, depression and feel them along without judging them.
  • Acknowledge my daughter’s crazy feelings as they come: sadness, happiness, elation, depression and let her feel them, without freaking out and judging them.
  • Help her maintain her solid group of friends with whom she could talk to about her feelings.
  • Maintain and interact with people with whom I could process my issues.

I must confess, that after dropping my daughter at school for her 5th grade camping trip,  though I want to have some time for myself and sometime for a boy and mama time with my younger son, I still felt the urge to go and spy what she is doing. I know I shall resist that urge and give her a space to go and have her own time, test her freedom and comeback recharged.

While there are beautiful things ahead of us: like more grown up trips, museum visits and more to look forward to as they get older, I know there will be more challenges too when our daughters face teenage hood. Throughout these times and the ones to come, I’ll just have to keep on running.


Kayla Wu and daughter LiLi went to China for a year

Kayla Wu is a Chinese American mom in San Francisco who sent her daughter LiLi to one of the public Mandarin Immersion elementary schools there. When LiLi was in third grade, Kayla decided to move the family to Beijing where LiLi could be immersed in the language and culture.  The initial plan was to stay six months but they liked it so much they decided to stay a year.  If it were not for Beijing’s bad air they would likely still be there.  Now that they have returned to San Francisco, Kayla and the family will continue to spend summers in China.

I met Kayla at my daughter’s Mandarin Immersion school. I admired immensely her courage and determination when she decided to pack their bags, rent her apartment in San Francisco and go to live in China for a while. Here is the first page of the blog she started a couple of years ago, enjoy it:

The Big Decision

Last week I made the ultimate decision to quit my job and move me and my kid to Beijing.  I have wanted to do it at least since spending the better part of last summer traveling around China.  My daughter, LiLi, is in a public Mandarin Immersion school in San Francisco, CA.  Her Mandarin is excellent and her accent sounds like a native, or so I’m told.  But, I’m also told that learning Mandarin in the US, even at a good school, means that at the beginning of third grade she knows a few hundred characters; if we were in China by now she’d know around 2000.  We have some friends who moved to Central and South America so their kids could learn Spanish and I’ve long thought that that was a great idea.  I’ve recently reconnected with them, read their blog, and been inspired by their courage and sense of adventure.  I also met a family this past summer in Beijing who decided then that they’d move with their family of three young kids.  The dad, from Ghana, said that Mandarin is going to be so important to our kids’ generation and that the place to learn it was right there, in Beijing.  A couple of weeks later they went home, packed up their house, and moved.  Since then I’ve hooked up with a whole cohort of expat families who have done the same thing for the same reason.   Since I have been telling friends and other school families about our plans, I’ve been asked how it feels.  It feels:  exciting; overwhelming; exhilarating.  Mostly, it feels “right.”  The last few days I’ve been reflecting on that, and the various considerations and pieces of the life-altering-changes puzzle.  A big piece is  Mandarin Immersion.  What better place to immerse my daughter in the language?  But there are other pieces too.  There are professional considerations, mid-life crisis ones (move to Beijing or buy myself a black Jaguar E-type?), getting unstuck.  Heritage is another big piece.  My father was born in China and left during a Japanese invasion in the 1930s when many Mainlanders fled.  He recalled running through a field as bombs were dropping.  He was the youngest of four kids and remembered my grandmother pulling on his arm to run faster.  He was about my daughter’s age when they left China for Malaysia, later coming to the US for college and medical school. So there’s a huge piece that feels a bit like I’m going home.  It’s odd because though I’ve traveled in China a handful of times, I’ve never lived in China.  Perhaps there is something to the fact that some hotels and the visa ap refer to US born Chinese (even half-Chinese/half-Caucasians like me) as “Overseas Chinese.”   We will move to Beijing in late January 2012.  I intend to write here some of our experiences and welcome you to join us on this adventure.  : ) -Kayla

Follow her blog to follow Kayla’s on her trip

Quito Parks

Quito’s Parks (los parques de Quito)  


As happens with many rapidly-growing South American cities, due to large internal migration to urban areas, and high population growth, Quito’s growth has outpaced its urban planning. One consequence is that Quito needs more parks and green spaces. While few, if you know how to find them, Quito has amazing parks to explore.  Readers, please chime in if there are other Quito parks you recommend or had any experiences there that you would like to share. The Parks and Sports section of Quito Turismo ( a great guide by the city) is a good reference for many of the parks.

Bellow is the summary of some of the main parks in Quito (To learn more about how Quito is divided read Hola Quito) . Further down, I describe them a bit and my past and present experiences with them:

Area:North, El Norte

  • Guanguitagua or also  Metropolitano or simply El Metro
  • La Carolina
  • Parque Bicentenario or simply El Viejo Aeropuerto (until 2013 it was still Quito’s airport)
  • Parque de Guapulo

Area: Between North  and El Centro (colonial Quito)

  • Itchimbia
  • El Ejido
  • Alameda

Area: South of Quito: El Sur

  • Parque Las Cuadras
  • Metropolitano del Sur

Area: Valleys of Cumbaya and Tumbaco

  • Ciclovia El Chaquiñan



  • Parque Guanguitagua or Metropolitano Norte or simply called El Metro – I love this gorgeous park located in the northern part of Quito, on the ridgeline between two valleys. Metropolitan Park is an ecological reserve comprising some 580 hectares and located at an altitude of 2890 meters.  I’ve gone there since before it was a park, back when it was a large quasi-abandoned farm.  When I was a teenager, I used to go there with my friends in the evening to picnic or party.  We used to call it “La Luna” because one can clearly see the moon and stars from there.  Thank God it was never developed, and the City had the foresight of expropriating it, and converting it into a park.  Parque Metropolitano has great views of the Pichincha and Quito to the west, and when you hike up and east, you’ll find great views of the eastern valleys of Cumbaya, Tumbaco and the hills beyond.  On a clear day, there are spectacular views of various snow-covered volcanoes, such as the Cayambe and Cotopaxi.  I make it a point to take my children, my mom or sisters, or whoever wants to come with us, for morning hikes a couple of times a week.  This large park has several areas with playgrounds, some of which include zip lines.  I usually get my kids to walk the park from west to east (and only a portion of the park) challenging them to visit all the zip lines.  It helps too that I offer them either a Popsicle or a fresh squeeze natural fruit juice from one of the stands near the entrance, which sell juices, snacks and ice cream.  One of them is run by and benefits the Ecuadorian Alcoholic Association, and I try to buy from them whenever possible.  One benefit of the park being on a hilltop  is that it is not very crowded, but it is not easy to find public transportation there.


  • La Carolina Located in the middle of the north area of Quito, by a wide street called los Shyris, is the most crowded and sometimes smoggiest park of all. I usually visit the park at about 6:00 or 7:00 am to do a couple of laps around the park before it gets too busy. But, it has an abosolutely lovely little gem hidden in the middle of it, which I always love visiting with my kids: the Jardin Botanico de Quito a wonderful botanical garden that is well worth a visit.  Shyris street has a little cement amphitheater which is often used as a base to go marching on protests, for talks during, after and before elections or for city festivities. The park has several activities for families including horseback rides for little kids and a great bike path that is fun to do on the weekends (you can rent bikes a couple of locations near by: one is in avenida republica)


  • Parque Bicentenario or Bicentennial Park. Last summer 2013 when I went to visit Ecuador with my kids, I was amazed to see such a vibrant park in the location where the previous year 2012, I had taken the plane to fly out of Quito. This park, and the very large number of people suddenly using it, is a true testament of the great need for more green areas and parks by the large and growing Quito middle class. It made me proud that the city management resisted lobbing from developers who I’m sure where eyeing this newly freed and centrally located hectares. Here is the description of it by Quito Turismo “Inaugurated on April 27, 2013, in the place where Quito’s old airport used to be, the Bicentennial Park is one of the most ambitious green spaces in the city, with 125 hectares. It is a place which hundreds of quiteños visit every day to bike, go on walks, practice sports, and just enjoy this new lung in the urban area. This is one of the most important strategic projects to change Quito’s structure, and make it physically and socially diverse and environmentally sustainable. It is also a place for special events, like outdoors music festivals and sports competitions.”


  • Parque de Guapulo This is a brand new park opened to the public on the 26 of December 2013 in the valley of Guapulo, by the gorgeous Guapulo town and church, in the northeast area of Quito. It used to be the Guapulo hacienda (farm) that belonged to the wealthy banker Nicolas Landes, who ended up in jail, convicted of misusing bank funds. I was very happy by the government’s decision to make a park out of property taken out of mishandled money. The park still maintains the beautiful facilities the farm used to have, which included horse stables (now used for horse therapies for kids) and the farm house, plus it has a couple of new playgrounds and fountains. I was delighted to discover it 6 months ago as it is a place well worth visiting, but with a good repellent as due to its proximity to water, plus the fact that it is in a warmer valley, there are abundant mosquitos.


Area: between north of Quito and El Centro


  • Itchimbia As Quito Turismo says of this park “Located at the top of the hill, at the eastern side of Old Town, the park provides a 360° view of the city. The Itchimbía Cultural Center is located inside the park. It was built using the metallic structure of the old Santa Clara market. In here, expositions, fairs, music festivals, and social gatherings take place”. Itchimbia park is a must see both because of the amazing views of old downtown you get from it and for the beautiful Casa de Cristal (what the ex-Santa Clara market is called). You can go for a good hike around the park and it is not very crowded, unless there is a concert or some sort of festival. If you are lucky to find it open, there is a restaurant/coffee shop mini chain (there is also one of this ones at El Panecillo) called Pims where you can get very decent Ecuadorian food, drinks and international food and a great view of the city.
  • El Ejido This park occupies a dear place in my heart.  We lived at my grandma’s for some of years, exactly where the larger building of the Hilton Colon hotel is currently located across the street from this park. My first 8 or 9 years of life, were spent going playing there. I learned to bike there; crashing into a surprised ice-cream vendor. There used to be a place with books and comics, though it wasn’t officially a library.  Coincidentally, after we moved further north within Quito, this park (and not because I moved out ha, ha) started to become run down. I couple of years ago, in one of my visits to Quito when my kids were very little and I was in the lookout for parks, I rediscovered it. I was very happy to find it all fixed up. It is not the safest park if you are distracted as it is quite busy particularly during the week, but it is a fun park to visit. There is even a brand new kids library near the place where the old little “library” was when I was a child.  They have this funny looking car/bikes , which were a crack-up, that my kids, nieces and nephews rented to ride around the park.  El Ejido converts itself into a large artisan market worth visiting on the weekends.
  • La Alameda This is the park has an observatory called El Churo (the swirl). My sisters and I used to make a contest to see who got first to the top of it and the five of us went up in an stampede. It used to have little horses for photos. The first Astronomic Observatory in South America is located within its compounds and still functioning (you can still visit it).


Area: South

  • Parque Las Cuadras This park was built in what it used to be the farm of an acquaintance of my parents called Augusto Saa. I visited the park a couple of years ago with my mom, who remembered the farm, and said the park kept a bunch of the old trees the farm used to have. The park, though in the middle of the busy southern part of the city, still feels like a well-kept farm once you are in it and makes you feel far away from the city.
  • Metropolitano del Sur Located in the south part of the city, this is a park for which I have seen signs, felt happy they’ve created it within the past couple of years, but have not yet visited.

Area: Valleys of Cumbaya and Tumbaco


  • Ciclovia El Chaquiñan  The train track from Quito to San Lorenzo and Bucay became unfortunately unoperable due to earthquakes late 1970s. Fortunately, the track covering Cumbaya to Puembo (about 20K) has been restored into a trail available for the public and people who like going hiking, running or cycling love it.  The path passes through at least five old tunnels.

I’ve done this hike a couple of times: Once I went with my husband from an entrance (there are several entrances to the path) in the town of Tumbaco We loved hiking down toward the Chiche river and enjoying the beautiful scenes. Other times, I’ve entered the path to go either running or hiking, from Cumbaya (the entrance is right next to the plaza of Cumbaya). It is awesome to just enter the path and suddenly be transported into nature. You can be ambitious and go hking there as long as you get tired, as if you can’t handle the return you can get into a bus, in one of the areas it goes by, and take it to come back. This is a path loved by bikers in particular. You can start with a latte  or breakfast at the various places in Plaza Cumbaya and head of for your workout.

This youtube video of El Chaquiñan ,gives a good look at the start of the path (though the narrator’s voice has been messed up with music) 

The trail is open every day from 6am – 6pm.





Located 2800 meters (9350 feet) above sea level, in the skirts of the Pichincha volcano, Quito has one of the largest, least-altered and best-preserved historic centers in the Americas. It was one of the first World Cultural Heritage Sites declared by UNESCO.

Quito is the city I grew up in and where lots of my family resides.  Quito is still a city I love, though it has changed both in good and bad ways. Bad: It has at least doubled in size from when I was a child without a proper city planning, creating a chaos of traffic and cement constructions. Good: there are many more parks and museums than when I was a child, old colonial downtown is better care for, facilities are in great shape and roads are in a much better condition. More importantly, there is a much larger, educated and vibrant middle class than in its very classist and divisive colonial origins (not that I was there then…) that requires better public services, parks, museums, restaurants and more.

What is called now “El Centro”, the middle, is basically the old colonial town where the city started. For a good understanding of how the city started, visit the awesome Museo de la Ciudad (City Museum) located in El Centro. As Quito is in a valley between 2 mountain ranges, it has grown to the north “El Norte”, and to the south “El Sur”, creating a long but thin city where one can easily get oriented. El Norte is where the financial and modern city lives. El Sur is where the industrial city started. Quito has also overflowed into a couple of valleys including Cumbaya (A valley full of high-end residential areas and where the San Francisco University is located), San Rafael, Pomasqui, and others.

Every summer when I go to Quito,Ecuador with the kids, I love becoming a tourist within my own city and discover and rediscover all the amazing areas of interest this lively city holds.

In no way do I want to make a travel guide out of my Ecuador’s posts, but give my personal experiences of the places that I’ve gone to or are planning to go to. For guides about Quito, I recommend the great looking but apparently still in work in progress online guide by the city: Quito Turismo or Viva Travel Quito

Making a post about Quito for my friends to have as a reference from me, will end up becoming a larger than life post, so I’ve grouped around areas of interest as follows. I will be creating posts for those areas in the next couple of weeks, as well as continually updating them as I experience more and new things in my city.



EL CENTRO (Colonial Quito)



SUGGESTED AREAS TO VISIT IN QUITO (aside from the mentioned above)