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Planning Your Trip to Ecuador

Due to delays, the new international airport being built on the outskirts of downtown Quito is now slated to open sometime in 2010.

All international passengers leaving Ecuador by air must pay a departure tax, which is $26 (£17.33) from Guayaquil, and $41.80 (£27.87) from Quito.

Quito

The new and modern Museo Mindalae (tel. 02/2230-609) features five floors of displays dedicated to the traditional arts and crafts of Ecuador's indigenous peoples.

Set right on the Plaza Foch, nü house (tel. 02/2557-845; www.nuhousehotels.com) is a stylish and chic new boutique hotel with an excellent location.

On the outskirts of the city, sitting on the flanks of the Pichincha Volcano, Hacienda Rumiloma (tel. 02/2548-206 or 09/9703-130; www.haciendarumiloma.com) is a new boutique hotel, with an excellent fusion restaurant and a great view of the city and valley below.

For Quito dining, I recommend the excellent nuevo latino cuisine served up at Azuca Latin Bistro (tel. 02/2907-164), located on the Plaza Foch. And while I'm less enthusiastic about the food at the new El Café de San Francisco (tel. 09/9034-164), you can't beat the view and location.

Up in the cloud forests of Mindo, Casa Divina (tel. 02/3900-457; www.mindocasadivina.com) is a pretty, new option, with its own zip-line canopy tour.

The Northern Sierra

The Quitsato Mitad del Mundo Monument (tel. 02/2363-042; www.quitsato.org) has recently opened a Solar Culture Museum, which features an audio-visual exhibition on the history, geography, and astronomy of the Equator.

Otavalo's Hotel Alishungu (tel. 06/2920-750; www.alishungu.com) has added central heating to all its rooms.

The Central Sierra

Hostal Tiana (tel. 03/2810-147; www.hostaltiana.com) is a new downtown budget option in Latacunga, geared to backpackers and adventure travelers. It serves as a good jumping-off point for trips around the Quilotoa Loop.

Baños has a new luxury spa by the name of Samari Spa Resort (tel. 03/2741-855; www.samarispa.com). Built on the grounds of a 300-year-old Jesuit monastery, this place offers the most elegant and upscale accommodations in the area.

Cuenca & the Southern Sierra

If you're looking for a comfortable, contemporary hotel near the bus station in Loja, try the new Quo Vadis Hotel (tel. 07/2581-805; www.quovadishotel.com.ec), which is just a block away from the city's main terminal.

Guayaquil & the Southern Coast

Housed in a beautiful home dating to 1942, the Museo Presley Norton (Presley Norton Museum; tel. 04/2293-423) is a new incarnation of the Banco del Pacífico Archeological Museum, with a small but impressive collection of archeological relics, particularly from Ecuador's coastal regions.

The new Manso Boutique Hostal (tel./fax 09/6034-054; www.manso.com.ec) has attractive and arty accommodations right on Guayaquil's riverfront Malecón.

Guayaquil's restaurant scene is hopping, and one of the top new spots is the restaurant Sucre (tel. 04/2838-068), in Urdessa, which serves up top-notch fusion fare in a stylish space.

Those looking to combine surfing and beach time with Spanish lessons should check out the new Montañita Spanish School (www.montanitaspanishschool.com), which will let you combine your language-learning with personalized instruction on riding the waves.

For semiplush beachfront digs in Puerto López, check out the new Hostería Oceanic (tel. 09/6211-065; www.oceanic-pl.com), whose cabins are some of my favorite along the Ecuadorean Pacific coast.

The Northern Pacific Coast & Lowlands

Bahía de Caráquez has a new main bus terminal, which is located about 6km (3 3/4 miles) outside of town.

Also in Bahía, Casa Grande Boutique Guesthouse (tel. 09/9754-773) has added televisions to all guest rooms.

Over in Canoa, the Surf Shak (tel. 09/7942-293) has been rebuilt from scratch, although it remains a down-home and funky beachfront bar, restaurant, and hangout. While the Hotel Linda Onda (tel. 05/2616-339; www.lindaonda.com) and Hotel Canoa's Wonderland (tel. 05/2616-363; www.hotelcanoaswonderland.com.ec) are two new hotel options.

Volando Ecuador (tel. 09/8571-144; www.volandoecuador.ec) is a new tour operator specializing in parasailing and hang-gliding tours in Ecuador, particularly around Canoa.

El Oriente

The newest addition at Sacha Lodge (tel. 800/706-2215 in the U.S. and Canada, or 02/2566-090; www.sachalodge.com) is a 275m-long (902-ft.) canopy walkway located some 30m (98 ft.) above the forest floor.

Meanwhile, Sani Lodge (tel. 02/2558-881; www.sanilodge.com) has added four new rooms and spruced up their camping area with the addition of clean and comfortable bathrooms and showers.

The Galápagos Islands

In July 2008, eggs were discovered in the nest of a female tortoise that shares a pen with, and is closely related to, Lonesome George, the sole surviving Isla Pinta tortoise. Hopes ran high that the offspring would prevent the extinction of the Isla Pinta. However, none of 13 incubated eggs successfully hatched.

There is a new $10 (£6.65) "transit tax" that you must pay at a special booth in the airport before checking in and checking your bags for your flight to the Galápagos.

On Santa Cruz, the Red Mangrove Adventure Inn tel. 888/254-3190 in the U.S. and Canada, or 05/2526-524; www.redmangrove.com) is under new management and has received a good amount of upkeep and remodeling. They have also opened new sister lodges on both Isabela and Floreana islands.

Also on Santa Cruz, the formerly budget-oriented Hotel Sol y Mar (tel. 05/2526-139; www.hotelsolymar.com.ec) has been totally rebuilt, and is a new, upscale, bayfront option.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.