Napo Wildlife Center in Ecuador
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Best 4 Day Adventure In The Amazon With Teens (2024)

Last Updated on March 13, 2024 by Nicole

Silence…except for the dip of a paddle into the water and the occasional knock against the canoe. On either side, a lush green rainforest towers over us creating a canopy so thick that in certain places, the sky is only spots of blue. Suddenly, a splash of a caiman, and a howl of a monkey pierce the air. Welcome to the Amazon jungle! Our family with 3 teens spent 4 days exploring the Amazon rainforest in Ecuador, cruising along narrow rivers, and discovering the amazing wildlife that calls it home. It was an incredible adventure. Here is our amazing 4 day Amazon itinerary with teens.

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At A Glance

I know you are busy. If you only have a couple minutes to spare, here are the key takeaways from this article.

  • The Amazon rainforest in Ecuador is the perfect destination for a family with teens who are looking for adventure on an Amazon holiday.
  • Napo Wildlife Center is a beautiful luxury ecolodge in the Amazon jungle which offers a comprehensive 4 day program exploring Amazon rivers and creeks, discovering wildlife, and learning about the indigenous people.

If you can find more time, try to read my full article. It explains my suggestions, gives you details about experiences that we had, and provides travel tips.

A bug on a leaf in Napo Wildlife Center
Napo Wildlife Center in Ecuador


I took my 15, 12 and 11 year old children to Peru and Ecuador for 2.5 weeks during summer break. We spent:

Our whole South American trip was truly amazing. If you are wondering whether these destinations are the right spot for you and your family, then give these articles a quick review.

Getting to Yasuni National Park And Napo Wildlife Center

For our 4 day Amazon jungle adventure, we stayed at Napo Wildlife Center in Yasuni National Park.

Yasuni National Park in the Amazon rainforest in Ecuador is considered the most biodiverse place on the planet. The Park is at the centre of a small zone where amphibian, bird, mammal, and plant diversity reach maximum levels.

Napo Wildlife Center is a luxury lodge nestled deep within Yasuni National Park. Reaching it is an experience in and of itself, and an incredible journey on Amazon creeks and rivers.

First, you take a 30 minute flight from Quito to Coca. Then, you transfer by car around 10 minutes to the Napo River, a major tributary of the Amazon rainforest in Ecuador. Afterwards, you board a very long speed boat for a two hour ride on the Napo River.

After two hours, you come to the mouth of another river, much smaller than the Napo River. The width of the river is around 20 feet or 6 meters (a fraction of the size of the Napo River). The Napo Wildlife Centre has an outstation here where you stretch your legs and use the bathroom. This is the entrance to the Napo territory and all motorized boats are now prohibited.

Next you climb into a long canoe. My family of 5 and another four guests shared this canoe with one naturalist guide, and two oars men. The oarsmen paddled all of us upstream for another two hours to Napo Wildlife Centre.

Halfway through the journey, we met the mouth of Anangu Creek and continued down there. This creek was tiny –  around 10 feet or 3 meters wide.

The Waters Around the Napo Wildlife Center

As you can imagine, being as close as we were to the shores of the river and the rainforest meant that we were mere feet or meters from most of the animals that we spotted. In most places, we could easily touch branches and leaves as they draped into the river or engulfed our surroundings. The silence of the canoes meant that we easily glided through the rainforest with the animals seemingly unaware of our presence.

We spent at least a few hours a day on the rivers and creeks around Napo Wildlife Centre during our four day tour with the same naturalist guide and oarsmen.

Each time, we spotted dozens of different birds, monkeys, lizards, snakes, sloths, insects, turtles, caimans, just to name a few. We never saw a person or evidence of any human life anywhere. We barely saw another canoe from our Lodge and never saw a canoe from another lodge.

An enormous caiman in Anangu Lake at Napo Wildlife Centre
An enormous black caiman in Lake Anangu.
Napo Wildlife Center

One of our oarsmen was a “spotter” and what a gift he had. He found creatures hidden in the palms of leaves or sheltered in the shallow depths of the river that I would never have seen.

Our naturalist guide was also truly extraordinary. His level of knowledge of the animals, birds, vegetation was seemingly unlimited. He was incredibly gracious and so happy to share his knowledge with all of us.

Napo Wildlife Center
Can you see the frog nestled in the leaf?

Other Resources

We have had many wonderful adventures in Central And South America. For more information about other destinations and our experiences, please see:

Accommodation at Napo Wildlife Center

You find Napo Wildlife Center at the end of this incredible journey. One moment you are deep in the Amazon jungle and the next, you find yourself in the middle of beautiful Anangu Lake. On the far shore, Napo Wildlife Center sits surrounded only by nature.

Napo Wildlife Center is truly luxurious. We had two beautiful bungalows with large comfortable beds and gorgeous bathrooms, all with a view to the lake. I do not know how they created such spectacular accommodation, especially when motorized boats are not allowed in these waters.

Meals were served in the main Ecological tower in the centre of the resort. This tower was 130 feet or 40 meters tall. The main level had the lounge, bar and dining room where delicious meals were served.

There were several more levels to this tower, which housed a store, a library, a conference center, and ultimately, an observation deck at the top. The structure was extraordinary.

Napo Wildlife Center in Ecuador
Napo Wildlife Center in Ecuador (photo courtesy of Napo Wildlife Center)
Napo Wildlife Center
Our luxurious room at Napo Wildlife Center (photo courtesy of Napo Wildlife Center).

One of my favourite parts of our stay was learning that every employee at Napo Wildlife Centre was from the Kichwa Añangu Community, the native tribe who owns the land on which the lodge sits.

There is a rotating program whereby each interested person from the community gets an opportunity to work at the lodge every month or two. Tourism and hospitality skills are taught to the employees. I can tell you that service at Napo Wildlife Centre was excellent.

Activities And Experiences In The Amazon Rainforest

We booked the Premium tour offered by Napo Wildlife Center. This program lasted over 4 days\3 nights and it was fantastic. We spent our days in canoes along Amazon creeks and rivers searching for wildlife; walking on paths and climbing on top of structures watching animals and birds soar; and learning about the indigenous way of life. Our teens loved our days here.

Here are the details of our Amazon adventure.

Day One In The Amazon Jungle With Teens

This was our travel day from Quito to Napo Wildlife Center.

Day Two On The Amazon Rivers With Teenagers


Our day began around 5:00 am. We watched wildlife as our oarsmen slowly paddled out by canoe to the Napo River. There, we swapped our canoe for a speedboat. Around 10 minutes from there, we stopped at the clay licks on the banks of the river.

This was an incredible opportunity to observe several species of parrots, including macaws and parakeets, in an important part of their daily routine.

Many of the fruits, seeds and flowers that these birds eat in the rainforest contain natural toxins for the plants’ self protection. In order to digest this toxic food, the birds rely on the high sodium and other natural chemicals found in the clay.

Afterwards, we went to the Kichwa Añangu Community where we visited a traditional home and school. We tried local food and drinks, and met members of the community. A traditional song was performed and we purchased beautiful handicrafts.

A lot of the financial success of the Napo Wildlife Center is directed to improving housing, education and entrepreneurship for this native tribe.

Napo Wildlife Center in Ecuador
A member of the Kichwu Anangu tribe teaching us about traditional cooking and housewares.
Napo Wildlife Center in Ecuador
A traditional ceremonial drum from the Kichwu Anangu tribe (photo courtesy of Napo Wildlife Center).


After lunch, we headed back out to the Napo River and later hiked around 30 minutes to another clay lick deep within the rainforest.

This was a very cool experience. At the end of the hike was a little hut with benches. In front of the hut, was a large clay lick with hundreds of birds flying in and out.

My senses were overwhelmed here. The birds were deafening – it was impossible to hear each other without raised voices (which was not allowed). The frenzied movement of dozens and dozens of birds flying down then up, left then right, left you mesmerized. We sat and watched this spectacle for 30 minutes. I think we could have watched for hours.

Napo Wild Center in Ecuador
Hundreds of parrots, some camouflaged and others not, at the clay licks.
Napo Wildlife Center in Ecuador
A flurry of hundreds of parrots flying at the clay licks.

We returned along the Amazon rivers and creeks back to Napo Wildlife Centre, all the while observing and spotting more wildlife. We arrived back around 5:30 pm. Cocktails and dinner followed.

You would think the day would be over. Well, you would be wrong! A night walk in the jungle was offered. Exhausted but determined to experience everything that we could, we went.

We saw a tarantula and a couple of other large scary bugs. It was pitched dark, a little spooky and a fun way to end our day.

Day 3 In The Amazon Rainforest With Teens


Our day began at 5:30 am. We headed by canoe around 20 minutes from Napo Wildlife Centre in the opposite direction than we normally went. After a 15 minute walk in the jungle, we came across the canopy tower.

This structure is 118 feet or 36 meters high. There are only stairs to the top. There are handrails and appropriate fencing on the stairwell and at the top for adults and older children.

At the very top was a large platform, about 200 sq. feet or 18.5 sq. meters, with some bench seating. From here, you had a 360 degree panoramic view overtop all the trees and a clear view of the sky. Our spotter and naturalist guide had binoculars and a telescope.

For the next three hours, we watched dozens and dozens of species of birds fly, land, play, and fight right before our eyes. They would have been impossible to see from the ground.

Napo Wildlife Center in Napo
Beautiful birds soaring over 130 feet/40 meters in the air above the trees.
The canopy tower at Napo Wildlife Center
Trying to spot birds on top of the canopy.
The canopy tower at Napo Wildlife Center
For an even more spectacular view, my son uses the telescope.
Napo Wildlife Center in Ecuador
A bird captured in mid meal, enjoying fruit and seeds.
The canopy tower at Napo Wildlife Center

Late morning, we did a small hike in the jungle around the canopy tower and then, returned to the Lodge for a late lunch.


More canoeing and hiking in the jungle were offered along the nearby Amazon rivers and creeks.

In the evening, we enjoyed delicious cocktails and a sumptuous dinner, and quickly fell into bed and asleep.

Day 4 Return To Quito

We had a 4:30 am start. We headed back to Coca and then, on to a flight to Quito.

It was bittersweet to canoe along the Anangu Creek from Napo Wildlife Center knowing that our Amazon getaway was almost at the end. However, it was amazing being able to spend a couple more hours in the Amazon rainforest with my children spotting birds, monkeys and bugs.

Napo Wildlife Centre in Ecuador
Ants on a dying flower in Napo Wildlife Center
Jungle life.

Is This Amazon Itinerary Right For Your Family?

If you are considering an Amazon trip and plan to stay at Napo Wildlife Center, you need to appreciate the following.

  1. The days are long. You have very early starts and often do not end your day until just before dinner.
  2. The days are packed with activities. You need to determine whether you have the stamina to enjoy your time there. This is especially true if you have young children or are elderly with low energy.
  3. You need to remain quiet and still for most activities and sometimes, for a couple of hours. Apart from our time with the Kichwa Añangu community, we had to be quiet. Wildlife will run, fly, or slither away at the sound of human voices. In the canoe, we needed to sit still to keep the boat balanced and quiet so not to scare the animals. We spent 3 hours on top of the canopy tower and hardly a word was spoken except to point at a bird or tell us its name. If you have children, you need to be honest and determine whether they are capable of this.
  4. The canopy tower feels safe for adults and older children. However, it would be a little unnerving to take small children. There is some space between slats on the guardrails and fencing for little ones to slide through. I would also be cautious of the tower if your children like to climb.
  5. Napo Wildlife Center offers private tours. You may wish to consider one if you want to deviate from the pre-assigned schedule. This might also be a solution if you are concerned that your children will need to move and talk more frequently. This way, you are only effecting your own experience, and not the other guests that may also be on your daily excursions.
  6. You are tired once you leave your Amazon adventure. We loved our time there. We would gladly return in a heartbeat and relive our itinerary. However, it is an action-packed full experience. I would recommend that you have a late start and a relaxing day planned following your stay at Napo Wildlife Center.

Last Word

Our Amazon vacation at Napo Wildlife Centre in Yasuni National Park was a privilege, and one of the best Amazon rainforest tours in Ecuador.

We were given the opportunity to spend time in one of the most untouched and biodiverse regions in the world. We saw incredible wildlife and learned a lot about them. The clay licks and the birds enjoying them were mesmerizing and our time on top of the canopy tower was magical.

At the beginning and end of each day, we were treated to luxurious accommodation, delicious food and excellent service.

I loved spending time with the Kichwa Añangu community and being immersed in their culture.

If you are looking for an authentic, responsible and ecotourism experience for adults or families who don’t want to compromise on luxury accommodation and service, then look no further than Napo Wildlife Center in the Amazon in Ecuador.

If you would like to save this article for future use, please click on “save” on one of the photos below.  If you think someone else might enjoy the article, please feel free to share it on your social media channels. Have a great day!

Our four day adventure at Napo Wildlife Center in the deep Amazon in Ecaudor. Our adventure included hours of canoeing on creeks, rivers and lakes below the canopy of the rainforest. We easily found dozens of species of wildlife such as monkeys, caimans, sloths, birds, lizards, turtles, snakes and insects. We stayed in luxurious accommodation and had one of the best naturalist guides that we have ever experienced. It was an adventure of a lifetime.
We spent hours by boat travelling into the deep Amazon in Ecuador with our three kids. We explored the jungle, climbed to the top of the tree canopy to watch birds soar, and saw extraordinary wildlife. #travel #familytravel #SouthAmerica #travelwithkids | birds, caimans, canoe, canopy tower, clay licks, ecotourism, adventure, hiking, Kichwu Anangu, luxury, macaw, monkeys, Napo, naturalist guide, parakeet, parrots sloths

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  1. This is beyond amazing. It almost sound fake! I can see how it was exhausting, but in a good way. Those pictures are incredible. I would spend some time during the day relaxing in that hotel room! #weekendwanderlust

    1. I agree. The rooms were amazing. I understand they have added a spa since we left. I’m not sure when we would have fit some time for a massage, but it is something to think about!

  2. Wow! This looks like an amazing and intense trip. We recently went to El Yunque rainforest in Puerto Rico and it was more spectacular than I ever imagined it would be so I can’t imagine how the most biodiverse place on the planet would be. Beautiful photos!

    1. Thanks Jill. I’ve been wanting to go to El Yunque as well, so I’m glad it was spectacular! Hopefully after the devastating hurricane there, El Yunque eco-system has survived relatively intact.

    1. I think that it is necessary to have a guided tour in the area of Yasuni National Park that is owned by the Kichwa Anangu tribe where Napo Wildlife Center is. But, I’m not sure about other parts. I know that there was another less expensive accommodation on Napo River, so I’m not sure what they offer. However, this area is so untouched that it would be difficult to simply hike or paddle around and know where you are going. There is no signage, no markers, nothing in the rivers, creeks and lakes to tell you where you were. We were guided by members of the tribe that grew up there.I think it would be very difficult to simply wander around alone and find your way out!

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