The Ecuador’s Pacific Coast is offering a combination of archaeology, great virgin and beautiful beaches, mangroves picturesque fishing towns and villages, tropical forest, modern costal cities and the Islands known as the poor man’s Galapagos.
It has everything, and all within easy reach of Guayaquil, the country’s largest city and newest tourist destination, with its comfortable hotels, and impressive boardwalk flanking the broad, slow flowing River Guayas.
Ecuador’s Pacific coast offers you sun and sand, tropical rainforests with their colorful animals and birds, beach front hotels and hostels, and of course, the enticingly warm waves of the Pacific Ocean. And after the beach we will show you the famous Isla de la Plata, the Galapagos in miniature where Sir Francis Drake is supposed to have hidden a large treasure. There are coral reefs with their shoals of magnificently coloured fish; the chance to kayak; tours through the magical mangrove forests and, best of all, whale watching expeditions between June and October, when these magnificent creatures come to Ecuador’s coast to calve.
And if that’s not enough, there’ s the opportunity to explore historic pre-Inca archaeological sites, some belonging to cultures more than 2,000 years old.
The Ecuadorian coast offers unique opportunites and unforgettable panorama of beaches, ports, fishing towns, modern cities and protected reserves. The small picturesque towns of Ayangue and Ayampe, between Salinas and Montañita are also worth a look. If you live in northern Ecuador, your closest beach resort area is found in the province of Esmeraldas. The small beach towns of Suá and Samé are nice. The larger (and unsightly) town of Atacames is where all the action happens, so if you like thumping disco bars into the wee hours, go here. If not, you may prefer the more residential beach community of Tonsupa, the most popular destination for vacationers from Ecuador’s capital city of Quito.
Salinas/La Libertad/Ballenita: This may be the flattest, driest area along the coast, so if you’re looking for a lower-humidity destination, this could be it. These three beach towns seem to be the most popular with expats in this, the Santa Elena province. Salinas is characterized by high-rise condos that front the malecon and the beach. (It’s party central during holidays.) La Libertad is a bustling commercial town, with plans to spruce up the malecon that fronts its attractive beach. Ballenita is where you’ll find more single-family homes. Tip: look a block or two back to find outstanding real estate bargains in these towns.
Olón/Montañita: Most expats here live in quiet little Olón but go to nearby Montañita for nightlife and its variety of restaurant choices. About an hour north along the coast from the Salinas area and still in the Santa Elena province, the landscape and climate here changes. Lush hills border the coast, which in this area gets more rain than the Santa Elena province but, for most, makes for a prettier setting. You can live right in town, or up on the ridge, with never-ending views of Olón and its long wide beach and the ocean beyond.
Puerto Lopez/Puerto Cayo: Always one of our favorite beach towns in Ecuador, Puerto Lopez (and neighboring Puerto Cayo) is in the Manabí province. Puerto Lopez sits on the beach at the heart of a crescent bay rimmed by lush jungle-covered hills. This is a popular spot for whale watching from June to September and for daylong boat trips to nearby Isla de la Plata, sometimes referred to as the “Poor Man’s Galapagos,” for the Blue-Footed boobies, iguanas, and sea lions found here. Also nearby is the Machalilla National Park and its popular Los Frailes Beach.
Manta/Crucita: Also in the Manabí province, Manta is Ecuador’s third-largest and fastest-growing city (and the busiest and largest commercial fishing port in the world), and you’ll find all the services and facilities you’d expect. Because of the port and the many fish-processing plants located here, Manta has a bit of an industrial feel. There is a well-organized expat community, but bargain properties are harder to find, snapped up by Ecuadorians who rent to the growing number of workers flocking into the city to build a new oil processing facility near here. For a more relaxed lifestyle, look 35 minutes north to the small town of Crucita, with a rapidly growing expat community. Not much goes on in this little fishing town, and for major shopping you’ll need to go to Manta or Portoviejo, but that’s exactly what many expats here appreciate about Crucita.
Canoa/Bahía de Caráquez: The small town of Canoa, about 25 minutes from the larger Bahía de Caráquez, is a surfer and backpacker town with a pretty beach and a youthful energy. It’s just now reaching its stride, and there are plans to further develop this area into an even bigger tourist destination. The tidy town of Bahía de Caráquez sits at the point on a peninsula where the Rio Chone meets the Pacific Ocean. Yachtsmen from around the world take refuge in the Rio Chone inlet and use time on shore in Bahía for R&R and to restock supplies. The city is popular with expat retirees, most choosing to live in one of the water-views high-rise condos that rim the point. Both Canoa and Bahía de Caráquez are in the province of Manabí.
Other beach towns in Ecuador worth a look include Playas in the province of Guayas. At less than an hour’s drive, this is the closest beach town to Ecuador’s largest city of Guayaquil. A new shopping mall was opened not too long ago at Playas, and the beach itself—especially to the west—is very pretty. The drawback is that hordes of day trippers from Guayaquil descend on Playas on weekends…and picking up after themselves is apparently not a virtue.
Wildlife-watchers will want to venture to the small town of Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island to tour the Charles Darwin Research Station before continuing southwest to catch a glimpse of critters basking in the sun along Santa Cruz’s Turtle Bay. Intrepid hikers will take pleasure in exploring Sierra Negra, Isabela Island’s active volcano, while aquatic enthusiasts will enjoy sharing the waters with exuberant tropical fish. Whatever pursuits pique your interest, just be sure to make time for exploring the Galápagos’ unspoiled landscapes and interacting with its magnificent creatures.
Female tourist lays on beach with sea lions and seals in Galapagos Island in Ecuador
Unique wildlife: The Galapagos Islands are famous for a variety if animals that are found nowhere else. These include the Marine and Land Iguanas, several types of endangered Galapagos Giant Tortoise, several species of Darwin’s Finches, and four mockingbird species that are restricted to different islands. There are also a flightless cormorant, an endemic penguin, the Galapagos Hawk, various seabirds, and Galapagos Sea Lions. In addition to mostly being unique, these animals are also quite tame and thus make for excellent photography subjects.
Fantastic snorkelling The surrounding seas are rich with life and offer many spots that are ideal for snorkeling. Sharks, rays, colourful reef fish, sea lions, and dolphins are all commonly seen in the warm, clear tropical waters.
Hikes: The interesting craggy scenery of the Galapagos Islands is best experienced on hikes through this volcanic landscape. A hike up to the Sierra Negra volcanic crater is one of the more popular hikes as it offers spectacular views from the top of a crater rim and gives insight into the processes that formed the islands. The guide also points some of the islands unique wildlife out as he or she talks about the history of the Galapagos. Other hikes provide looks at wild flamingoes and other water birds in wetland areas and mangroves.
Beautiful beaches: The Galapagos Islands boast a number of beautiful tropical beaches including the gorgeous white sand beaches at Villamil.
The Isabela Giant Tortoise Breeding Center: Isabela Island alone has five different subspecies of Galapagos Giant Tortoise. Each is adapted to living in specific environments and differs by the length of their legs and neck, and shape of their shells. Visitors to the breeding center get the chance to watch these endangered, massive reptiles from a very close range. The tortoises at the breeding center are released back into the wild when they have grown old enough to survive on their own.
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