Here you go, my picks for where to go as you plan your next big trip to the Ecuador coast in 2014.
THE SWIMMERS CIRCUIT: Beaches with flat ocean great for swimming, snorkeling, floating.
Fly into Guayaquil, then take the bus to Salinas. Spend 2 days , 2 nights in Salinas and enjoy the long beach with water perfect for swimming, the expat bars and local seafood cuisine. Then head up the coast 40 minutes to the lazy cove of Ayangue for 2 nights, also known as lobster bay, also great for snorkeling, scuba, swimming and eating from one of the many fresh seafood stands on the beach. Then head up the coast to Puerto Lopez, another cove with an ocean good for swimming and a more touristy town to boot. Then take the 2 hour bus to Manta where you can fly out to Quito to catch your flight home.
SURF PARADISE: The best surf in Ecuador.
Budget permitting, start your surf trek by taking a flight to San Cristobal in the Galapagos and enjoy empty rides on sapphire blue ocean all day long. Then once back on the mainland from Guayaquil go to Playas and then the town just west of Playas, Engabao. Then head up the coast 2 hours to Montanita. Afer experiencing the hustle and bustle of Montanita head up the coast 40 minutes to completely secluded breaks off Ayampe and the more radical Tunas beaches. From there, head north to Puerto Cayo, and time permitting further north to Canoa and then Mompiche.
PARTY / SINGLE SCENE: This is where I’d go if I’m single and ready to jingle.
Start by flying into Quito, then after a short stay in Quito Airport Suites (come on, you know I had to plug it somewhere), fly to Esmeraldas. Once in Esmeraldas go 20 minutes south to the party town of Atacames. Try to hit the weekends. Then head south to Canoa for a hippy, low-key, small town party scene, then head to the city of Manta to wine and dine with folks dressed to impress. Then head south to the energetic Montanita, then on to the more refined Salinas where you can drink with expats and locals from Guayaquil. Lastly, don’t forget a stop at Ecuadors largest city, and best for singles, musty Guayaquil.
FOLLOW THE SUN: Many beaches in Ecuador are overcast most the year, only a few aren’t.
Fly into Guayaquil and head immediately to one of the sunniest beaches in Ecuador year round, Playas. Then head to nearby Salinas which also has a lot of sun. After, head north to Ayangue, a desert cove which I’ve never seen overcast. From there, you’ll want to buy more sunscreen and head north to San Clemente, another spot legendary for being consistently sunny, then skip oft overcast Canoa and fly home from Manta.
EXTREME SPORTS/ ACTION PACKED:
For thrill seekers, start the trip by trying your luck marlin fishing in Salinas. You could also rent 4-wheelers and cruise around the point and the famous “whirlpool”. Then head to nearby Ayangue where there is one of the few places on the coast to charter an organized scuba dive. Then head north to Puerto Rico where you can try your luck spear-fishing. From there head north to surreal Santa Marianita a kite-surfing paradise. From there head a an hour north to Crucita where you can soar with the birds off the cliffs of Crucita while hang-gliding.
AWAY FROM IT ALL / OFF THE BEATEN PATH: For those of us that prefer ocean, not people.
Fly from Quito to Esmeraldas and head north to Las Penas, you’ll proably be the only foreigner around. From there head south and skip the hustle of Atacames and insteaod opt for the secluded yet more refined Same, or the raw, gorgeous secluded beaches of Muisne, then hop a motorboat to Cojimes. From there head south to the secluded, unnamed coves north of Jama and finish off your trip in Santa Marianita just south of Manta. Then fly back to Quito from Manta.
EXPAT ROW: The hottest expat destinations on the coast to date.
Fly into Guayaquil and b-line for Salinas. Then head north to Olon, the beach just north of Montanita. From lush, green Olon, continue to Manta where if you time it right you can hit an expat night-out. From there head to the fastly-growing expat populations of Crucita and San Clemente. From there head to Bahia and the Canoa area. From Canoa catch one of the new highways back to Quito for your flight back to reality.
LUXURY/SHOPPING: When ‘roughing it’ is not an option.
Start your trip flying in to Esmeraldas and heading straight for the all-inclusive resort near Mompiche. Afterward head south to the city of Manta, where you can rent a luxury, oceanview, vacation rental or stay in one of the more luxury hotels on the coast like the Howard Johnson or Oro Verde. From there head to the Barcelo of Salinas to dine away the rest of your trip.
Of course any wildlife lover should start their trip to Ecuador with a week in Galapagos. Once on the mainland beaches go dolphin watching in Playas, or season permitting whale watching in Salinas. From there head north to the town of Dos Mangas where you can take a nature hike to waterfalls and get chased down by several different types of Monkeys. From there head to Puerto Lopez where you can take a tour to Isla de la Plata and bird watch. There you can observe many of the species found on the Galapagos like the blue-footed boobies.
VACANT LAND HUNTERS: A lot of places on the Ecuador coast are already built up or are pricey, others are not.
To start fly into Manta and head south to the areas of Santa Marianita, San Lorenzo and then Puerto Cayo. This stretch of coast still has some larger vacant lots available at reasonable prices as well as smaller lots as well whereas on the southern coast from Puerto Lopez on south where you’ll find little to no reasonably priced inventory. Then head north to the area between San Vicente and Canoa to find deals on both larger and smaller beachfront lots. From there, if you prefer an even bigger, remote lot try north of Canoa on that stretch of coastline all the way to Cojimes and Muisne.
OCEANVIEW CONDO HUNTERS
There’s only a few places to find oceanview condos on the rural coast of Ecuador. Start in Salinas, then try Manta, Bahia and lastly Tonsupa in the north. That’s it.
21 DAY BEST OF THE BEST: Simply the best beaches, but more of them. This is where I’d go.
Start by flying into Quito and then on to Esmeraldas where you can work from the top down. Once in the Esmeraldas area be sure to bunk up in nearby Atacames where you’ll find the best and cheapest hotel options in the area. While sleeping in Atacames be sure to explore nearby Tonsupa, Sua and Same on Tuk Tuk. After 3 nights in the area, head south to secluded, way off the beaten path Muisne for the largest beach in Ecuador. From there check out nearby Mompiche, a true hidden palm-laden paradise. Then eat a seafood lunch on the malecon of Pedernales as you head south to Canoa. Base yourself in Canoa for 3 nights as you explore and settle into the area. From Canoa continue south to Bahia to have lunch and look around before continuing to San Clemente. Rent a condo or house in San Clemente to experience true small town beach life in Ecuador, from there head to Manta where you can buy any modern conveniences you’ve been without the last 2 weeks before heading out to Santa Marianita a true diamond in the rough. From Santa Marianita continue south through Puerto Cayo for some of the best oceanviews of the coast. From Cayo, skip Puerto Lopez and istead opt to sleep in more relaxed and picturesque Ayampe or Puerto Rico to the south. The waves here will impress you. From Ayampe go south to Olon and eat shrimp on the beach in between horseback rides on the enormous golden beach popular with expats. From Olon catch a $1.50 cab south to Montanita, a true surf and party mecca on the Ecuadorian coast. If anything go just to dine and people watch for a day or two. If youd like to be near Montanita but not sleep in it, try a rental in the small town next door of Manglaralto. From Manglaralto, head south to Ayangue if scuba is your thing, if not skip it and continue right on to Salinas, a great low-effort place to finish your journey of the coast.
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