Welcome to Ecuador & the Galapagos! Radiating natural beauty, unique wildlife and a fascinating history, this country will show you the action-packed adventure of a lifetime. Come experience it all – zip lining through the cloud forest in Mindo, walking the equatorial line in Quito, a visit with giant tortoises, and snorkeling in the Galapagos Islands. Get set to dive head-first into the summer of your dreams!
For participants on this program, we help you coordinate your flight times and greet you upon arrival in Quito, Ecuador.
For your return from Quito, we offer a chaperoned flight to New York (via Miami or Atlanta as determined). For travelers from other areas, you may choose to join that flight and arrange transfers at suitable times after the group has cleared customs and immigration in the USA; or you may fly from Quito to your home city and our leaders help you to check-in and remain in the airport until flights in designated times have departed.
Welcome to Ecuador’s capital! There is no better city to begin our adventure. From your hotel in the lively Mariscal district, visit the beautiful colonial area, zero latitude at La Mitad del Mundo (Center of the World) and ascend to 12,150′ aboard the Funicular offering unrivaled views of the city and Pichincha Volcano.
Get set for the extreme adrenaline rush of zip lining 11,975′ over 12 cables above the cloud forest canopy. Hold on to your tube while riding the rapids of the Mindo River.
Visit the San Cristobal Interpretive Center and snorkel among amazing marine life by Frigate Bird Hill and Darwin Bay. View the island landscape from Junco Lake formed in an extinct volcanic crater. Snorkel among playful sea lions at La Loberia Reserve and by sea turtles at Lobos Island. The huge volcanic formation of Kicker Rock is one of the best snorkeling spots of the Galapagos featuring king angel fish, starfish, rays, turtles, and colorful corals.
Hike to Tortuga Bay known for its beautiful white sand beach and multitudes of marine iguanas. Kayak in the mangrove protected salt water cove. Climb, crawl and hike through natural lava tunnels and walk around the edge of Twin Craters.
From our final farewell banquet, we reflect on our incredible adventure and cherished new friendships before returning home.
Our hotel is strategically located in the lively Mariscal distract, an exclusive area of the city near the airport, museums, galleries, theaters, historic city center and other tourist attractions. Each room features wi-fi, phone and a safe.
This hotel though basic is clean, has internet, and all rooms have comfortable beds, private baths and air conditioning. The hotel offers a nice patio with gardens and hammocks to enjoy where we can laugh about the excitement of learning to surf or the fish we saw on our amazing snorkeling expedition.
This clean & comfortable hotel has rooms with Wi-Fi and air-conditioning. This hotel is located a short walk to the famous Charles Darwin Research Station and close to the sea. There is plenty of space to lounge poolside in the Galapagos breeze.
At Westcoast Connection nothing else comes first. From our extensive trip planning department through our management team and our leaders, it is our single biggest priority! Safety procedures, equipment – we’ve got it covered. All Trip Leaders and Directors are certified in First Aid and CPR. We are extremely proud of our safety record and welcome all questions you may have in this area. Please see more under Safety First.
Once you are on your trip, you will have sensitive leaders that are caring, approachable and always there for you. Your Trip Director and Trip Leaders are people with incredible backgrounds including teachers, guitar players, IRONMAN triathletes, SCUBA divers, volunteers, and so much more.
Every staff member takes part in and must complete our extensive training weekends that review our philosophy and procedures to provide a well-supervised and fun-filled program.
Our Trip Directors, the individuals responsible for overseeing each itinerary, take on the roles of teachers, coaches, camp counselors, mentors, concierges and hosts. They’ve been trained to provide individual attention and create an all-inclusive family atmosphere (our EACH & EVERY philosophy). There’s a definite art to building dynamic groups, and we’ve worked hard to master it! We want you smiling on day one right through to a teary goodbye at your farewell banquet.
Our leaders are non-smokers. To learn more about our staff, please visit our Summer Leaders section.
We can’t say it too many times, this is a really incredible group experience. A great dynamic starts with our secrets for group bonding. Our bag of tricks goes way beyond traditional ice breakers. Imagine people hunts, Rock, Paper, Scissors championships, Ninja tournaments, flash mobs and so much more. We work hard to get everyone moving beyond first impressions and creating an atmosphere of total acceptance. Our staff hiring and training emphasizes social safety and establishing an inclusive culture. Many of our travelers come as individuals and we have a geographically diverse enrollment with students joining us from across the U.S., Canada and internationally. This mix helps eliminate cliques at the outset and establish an open environment that benefits you. We take great care in assembling groups to create an unforgettable social experience.
Planning teen trips is of course a science. But it is also an art. We know when to pick up the pace to get the adrenaline flowing. We also know when it’s time to chill on the beach or have a sleep in. As you review our program, know that we have worked to make every minute of every day just right.
There is so much more to a teen travel experience than just traveling. Summer after summer we love nothing more than the feedback from parents sharing with us that their son or daughter has matured, has become more confident and outgoing, is more poised, more responsible and more worldly having had not just the summer of a lifetime, but a life changing experience as well. It’s amazing how much growth can occur when you are traveling and sharing the experience with incredible people in a warm and welcoming environment.
As you travel overseas and experience other cultures and customs first hand, your perception will change as your understanding of and empathy for citizens of other countries naturally grows. Whereas prior to your travels media headlines about a foreign government may have led to generalized conclusions, your new interactions with locals and firsthand experience will enable you to see we often share more in common with others than we may have known.
Imagine seeing first hand all you’ve learned about in your global or environmental studies class when you are standing on Machu Picchu, straddling the Equator at Mitad del Mundo, snorkeling through Kicker’s Rock or seeing firsthand the giant tortoises at the Charles Darwin Center.
Our experience lends itself to trying new things and stepping just outside of one’s comfort zone. With a taste of age-appropriate independence and a well-deserved break from overly scheduled lives during the school year, you will enjoy a very healthy reprieve from the usual pressures associated with your lives. We want you to be empowered and will provide you with an opportunity to become a leader and grow your self-confidence!
Living, experiencing, and learning together, you will be afforded the chance to interact with other teens who share both similar and different backgrounds and interests. Everybody grows in their social acceptance of others. By the end of the program we hope to have lit a spark – to travel, to learn, to meet new people, to try new things and to explore. With new friendships, new memories and new life skills on which to build, our teen travel experiences are truly unforgettable.
There really is a difference in how different summer programs operate! Motivated teens going away with qualified leaders is a given. But what sets us apart is the depth of our qualified personnel that allow us to perform with the greatest consistency at the highest level.
Your Trip Director and Trips Leaders are with you throughout your program. They have daily contact with one of our two 24-hour Communication Centers and are in regular contact with our Company Directors. Our Company Directors are the most seasoned veterans who each oversee specific programs providing support to trip staff and to assist with any situations that may arise. Our Company Directors alternate between traveling to visit programs and being reached in the office.
Program visits enable us to provide ongoing support and development to our Trip Directors, allows trip staff to have a sounding board for their own progress in reaching trip goals, helps us to identify any challenging areas for improvement while it still has relevance to your summer rather than as a mention on your end-of-summer survey, and helps us to identify the future Directors from the current crop of all-star summer staff. These visits are by Company Directors along with our Regional Supervisors, who are former Trip Directors with further experience out in the field. Collectively our planning, supervisory and management team is an incredible resource with over 420 summers of combined teen travel experience. This way, we can lend a hand wherever and whenever a little extra effort is called for. Last year, we had 205 scheduled supervisory trip visits to make sure all was running well, provide ongoing support to our staff in the field and have fun! This investment in depth of personnel is unrivaled in teen travel and is a critical element to achieving consistent, excellent program quality and surpassing client expectations!
Included in the trip tuition are all activities and entertainment described, breakfast and dinner daily, lunches as indicated on your specific program, gratuities, taxes, land transportation, accommodations, and fanatical customer service from our full-time team and summer Communication Centers. This can add up to tremendous value!
We provide clean and comfortable accommodations. Please don’t expect luxury resorts and at the same time we know you need a good night’s rest. For quality and consistency of the group experience, we do not have any homestays. Each student has their own bed. For more detailed information on any specific program, visit the section marked Where We Stay.
A big part of a program’s success depends on how well you eat. We are proud of the fact that year after year we are complimented for our quality and quantity of food and variety of options. Meals vary by destination. Part of your travel experience will be immersing yourself in the local cuisine and culture so please bring with you an open mind and a willingness to try new things. For example the food will be a mix of “typical food” including chicken, beef and of course ceviche, and pachamanca are great local options. They also have North American style options on the menu. In Ecuador and Peru, we recommend against drinking the local tap water and we provide clean water for our travelers.
We have satisfied the choosiest of eaters and gladly accommodate most special dietary requests including vegetarian, anaphylactic food allergies, lactose intolerance, celiac disease and kosher style. We welcome discussing your individual requirements with you and have extensive personal experience in this area. International travel may present more challenges than domestic locations and we are happy to review your personal needs and help you select an appropriate itinerary.
On our Ecuador & Galapagos programs, you’ll ride in air-conditioned professional driven vehicles (from motor coaches to smaller passenger vans). Travel to the Galapagos Islands is on regularly scheduled jet planes. On the islands, you will travel on land by buses and on water excursions on professionally captained boats that can seat 10 to 16 people.
You will only need to bring one week’s worth of clothing as outlined in our packing list as we visit local laundromats weekly. We will supply the detergent and dryer sheets. Don’t worry if you’ve never done laundry before, most of our travelers have not either! We’ll walk you through the Westcoast Connection laundry lesson, and in no time at all you’ll have the hang of it. Parents, we know the thought of your children doing laundry is making you smile!
While you’re out having the summer of your life, your parents should feel like they are in on the action as well. We post updates to our blog and Facebook page and e-mail photos approximately once a week so those at home can be in on the fun. Parents also have access to our dedicated office Trip Monitors 24/7 for any questions and/or concerns. We’re as in touch as any trip operator could possibly be via smartphones with e-mail and text. The goal is uncompromising safety and peace of mind, day after day, hour by hour, minute by minute. Participants may bring their personal cell phones.
In last summer’s surveys, 98% of responding teens and parents said they would recommend us to others. We must be doing something right!