Ecuador/Trip to Zamora
We're taking your advice, and are making reservations at El Arenal for the first 4 days of our 4 week vacation! After that we're spending a few days in Loja, then going to Vilcabamba, then flying back to Guayaquil, and taking a bus to Puerto Lopez for 10 days before flying back out from Guayaquil.
We're still planning to arrive in Guayaquil on June 22nd (Sat#. Our flight doesn't get in until 10:15PM #so Tame will be closed), and I was wondering if the Tame ticket counter is open on Sunday. I know we can't get a flight to Cumbaratza Airport until Monday, but would purchase the tickets on Sunday if Tame is open. Also, have you heard anything about when the airport in Catamayo is opening? I'm hoping that the Tame flights are still going to Cumbaratza on June 24th, but I know the Catamayo airport was scheduled to be finished a while back. Any info is welcome.
I honestly think that you guys are probably better doing it in that order. And El Arenal for a starting point only because of its' location, the fact that it includes everything i.e. accomodations, restaurant & most importantly the tours to the places that you want to go like Nangaritza. If not for those I would be more likely to suggest El Castillo Real which is my personal favorite - the staff (awesome), the food (fantastic), the view (awe inspiring), the infinity pool (to die for) but they don't do the tours. I think you'll really like Zamora so, if you could manage it you might even consider doing only a couple of days at Arenal (to get in the tours) & then move to El Castillo Real (which isn't far away). Everything about it is wonderful except it doesn't have the tours.
As to Cumbaratza they've already stopped the flights there. And Catamayo airport is already functioning as far as I know. Tame has them on the flight schedule so I assume they really are up & running. It isn't 100% finished but that is cosmetic things that they're still doing. Either way that stuff should be finished by the time that you & the family arrive.
It's too bad that it just so happens you're arriving on a Sat. & late at that. I checked & first of all there are no flights Sun. Now I could say for SURE right off the top of my head that no Tame office OUTSIDE of the airport would be open on a Sunday. In fact, I did go online to their site to try to see if I could get more information about the office in the airport but there was no info. Only thing I could see were their regular office hours which are only 9am - 1pm on Saturdays which is typical for Ecuador. That being said it is VAGUELY possible that the office in the airport MIGHT be open on Sunday but honestly, I wouldn't count on it. It is Ecuador & they're not as commercial minded as here. Sunday is typical family day & most workers have the day off - to spend with their family. Naturally there are exceptions - medical people, police, fire, taxi & bus drivers, restaurants and so forth. But generally speaking BUSINESSES are closed on Sundays. Sometimes things in airports that cater to travelers & tourists might be an exception but not one I'd bank on if I were you.
I also checked the flight schedule for Guayaquil to Loja on Monday June 24, 2013. There are 2 flights to Catamayo that day. Flight EQ 141 leaves Guayaquil at 6:00 a.m. & arrives in La Toma at 6:50 a.m. The other leaves Guayaquil at 4:00 p.m. and arrives in La Toma at 4:50 p.m. That's a big time difference. In order to get to the airport in time to buy a ticket before a 6:00 a.m. flight you'll have to get up super early & be at the airport by at least 5:00 a.m. If that's what you're going to do I suggest you talk to the people on the desk in the hotel & tell them you need a cab at such & such a time (whatever time you decide to leave say 4:45 a.m.) the night before. During normal day time hours you'd have no problem stepping out of the hotel & flagging a passing taxi but at that hour it's better to ask the hotel to pre-arrange one for you. On the other hand if you go with the 4:00 flight you won't get to Zamora until like 7pm or later & therefore will have wasted another whole day of your trip.
If you chose the later flight that would leave you with well over a full day to kill in Guayaquil. Some people like Guayaquil but I am not a fan. If you go outside of the city there are things to do but since you don't have THAT much time you'd probably want to stick close. The only things that I can think of right off of the top of my head which are close to the city center to do is El Parque de los Iguanas (The Iguana Park) which is RIGHT in the hotel district & the Malecon (which is a park along the Rio Guayas or Guayas River which has shops, restaurants, sculptures, water features, playgrounds, artisans & a lot more that I can't think of at the moment). I'd probably stick with that if I were you. You will all be kind of tired & jet lagged and Guayaquil isn't the safest place. The security is excellent at the Malecon and it's close to the hotel district, as I said. And the Parque de los Iguanas is walking distance from the hotels & not dangerous in my estimation. I'm sure you and your family will get a kick out of it. It's no cost. You just walk in & there are huge live iguanas you can walk right up to (or visa versa). They're scary looking but to my knowledge & in my experience harmless.
Now I am not sure if we've gone over this before but, you can get a taxi from the airport in Catamayo to Zamora. You COULD take a cab to the airport, then a bus to Loja, then another bus to Zamora then a taxi to El Arenal but, in my opinion (although I am not one to splurge in general) I'd say it'd be more cost & time effective to go with the taxi.
And I can't remember if we had talked about hotels in Guayaquil. If we haven't I can give you a couple of suggestions. There are 2 middle of the road hotels - clean, comfortable, reasonably priced & centrally located. One is the Hotel Plaza a.k.a. The Hotel San Raphael. The address is 414 Chile y Clemente Ballen. Their phone number is: 011-59-374-2-327-140 and their email for reservations is email@example.com The other (diagnally across the street) is The Hotel Rizzo. Their address is: Clemente Ballen 319 y Chile. And their phone number reads: 011-59-374-601-7500 but, if that doesn't work I'd try substituting a 2 for that first 6. Phone numbers in Guayaquil SHOULD begin w/ 42 but the web site lists this as 46.
Now if you prefer something on the higher end in a hotel there is Unipark. It is also right around the corner from the other one but more expensive w/ more amentities.
If I'm not mistaken the Arenal was some kind of package deal wasn't it? Something like 4 days & nights w/ meals & the tours? In a way that's too bad. Maybe you could just reserve it then, when you get there see how much it would be if it weren't a package but you could still get the tours through them. That way it'd free you up to move over to El Castillo Real for a couple of days. I know you'd love it. It is, without question my favorite place in the province of Zamora. The staff are so friendly, helpful & accomodating. The food is some of the best I've had in the province and the view is the best bar none. The infinity pool could compete with anything in the states! The place is really something! Wish they had the tours! I think I'm going to mention it to them this summer when I'm there. They are on Facebook under Hosteria El Castillo Real if you'd like to see some photos of the place. I don't think that they have a web page per se yet.
Well, I think I've covered everything but I might have left something out. Please feel free to get back to me about anything I missed or any other questions that you might have. Look forward to talking to you again soon Patty