By far the easiest way to see the coast is renting a car, but if you are like me when I first got here and intimidated by driving in a foreign country, I don’t blame you!
The good thing about Ecuador is you can bus it and be just fine.
IF YOU ONLY HAVE ABOUT A WEEK…
Most fly into Guayaquil. From there I suggest taking the shared taxi company for $10 a person, 2 hrs, to Salinas. They leave from the Ramada in Guayaquil.
Skip Playas if you don’t have a car. Too off the beaten path.
Head straight for Salinas, the taxi company drops you off right at the malecon (boardwalk) whereas the buses only take you to Ballenita which is a nearby town and you have to catch a $5 cab there to Salinas.
Stay as long as you like then catch a cab to the bus terminal in Ballenita ($5) and catch a chicken bus north to Montanita-Olon (1 HR, about $3). There are also direct buses Guayaquil-Montanita if you wish to skip Salinas.
From there on up to Puerto Lopez you can hop on hop off buses as you like at beautiful beaches like Nunez, San Jose, Ayampe and Las Tunas. The buses only run until around 7pm though and pass every half hour or so!
From Puerto Lopez you can catch a motorbike-taxi to Los Frailes Beach or in the other direction also minutes away Salango. very nice!
And there you can hop on a bus going north to Puerto Cayo (45 min) which has some great places to eat seafood on the beach and enjoy the view of the islands offshore.
From there the easiest, best route for non-car people is to catch the bus inland to Jipijapa and onto PortoViejo (1 hr).
I suggest sleeping in either Puerto Lopez or PortoViejo as the options in the other places in between are suspect. From there you can go to Manta to catch a plane back to Quito.
IF YOU HAVE LONGER THAN A WEEK…
Or from PortoViejo you can venture north. I’d skip Crucita
as it is a bit hard to get in and out of there by public transport if your plan is to beach hop north, and instead check out San Jacinto-San Clemente
(1 hr) Beach which is right on the busline from PortoViejo to Bahia.
From there I’d catch a bus north to Canoa (20-30 min). Another beautiful surfing beach. That’s where I’d stop my journey as buses heading north from here are few and far between (unless you have a lot of time.)
IF YOU HAVE MORE THAN A MONTH…
Head north from Canoa to Pedernales where i would not stay, just connect north, then skip Cojimes (too hard by bus), and go straight to(3 hrs) Mompiche-Portete.
From there skip Muisne, the Galera area, and even Same (too hard by public transport) and head straight for the Sua-Atacames-Tonsupa (1-2 hrs) area just south of Esmeraldas where when finished soaking up the sun and eating seafood you can then catch a 6 hr overnight bus to Quito.
That’s how I’d do it without a car (and I have many times!)
Other beaches not mentioned here (like Manta!) I’d skip cause they are just too dang hard to access via public transport if you are going north-south or south-north up the coast.
Hasta pronto, if you liked this you’d love my Insider’s newsletter on living and investing in Ecuador,
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