We know there's nothing more disappointing than turning up somewhere on the coast expecting your own little slice of paradise, only to find something entirely different. So whether you want secluded eco-lodges, surfer party towns or laid back fishing villages in Ecuador, we've got you covered on where to find them and our view on what they're really like.
We spent seven weeks travelling the coast of Ecuador and have compiled this honest guide to help you know what to expect, where to avoid and what to do in each beachtown.
| ESMERALDAS |
If travelling from Quito, Esmeraldas will be the first major stop on the coast. And the majority of you will keep on going straight out of town!
For those residing on the north coast, this is the main town for supplies and services. For the average traveller, there really isn't anything to keep you or attract you here, especially with nicer and safer beaches and towns only 30 minutes away by bus.
We recommend you give it a miss.
| ATACAMES, SAME & SUA |
This moderately-sized town is a Mecca for vacationing Ecuadorian families in all their neon splendour. Bars line the beach front, all battling for the loudest sound system and you needn't have to look further than a shop or two to find your own 'Yo ♥ Atacames' tassled t-shirt. The town certainly has a run-down gritty charm to it but is unlikely to hold your attention for long; it will however be the most sensible starting or finishing point for your coastal adventures!
Same and Sua, whilst not hot beds of activity either, make a pleasant day trip from Atacames. The beaches are clean and quiet and, judging by the level of accommodations available, they appear to cater for a wealthier clientele.
| PLAYA ESCONDIDA |
Playa Escondida (Hidden Beach) is likely to be the most tranquil beach experience you'll have in Ecuador.
Nestled in 100-acres of protect rainforest, this eco-lodge enjoys a secluded stretch of protected beach all to itself. It's not picture postcard white sand, but it does have some gorgeous spots for sunbathing as well as caves and rocks which are ripe for exploration. For nature lovers and those who love off-the-grid peace and quiet, you'll definitely want to spend a night or two.
| MOMPICHE |
Oh Mompiche - what can we say? You are the place we came back to, and still the place we wished we had never left. For those looking for that picture postcard fishing village that seem to have all but disappeared with the growing tourist trade in Ecuador - this is it.
Mompiche is the place you go to to relax, watch the fishermen catch your dinner, enjoy a quiet beer under the setting sun and then while the evening away playing cards or reading a well-thumbed paperback. It also has the best seafood available in the country!
| CANOA |
Although Canoa didn't really deliver on our high expectations, it still ranks as some people's favourite place on the coast.
The sand is fluffy and white, the waves large and perfect for good surfers and the beach is lined by colourful fishing boats and sunbathing shelters. The town however had something missing in the charm stakes, especially on the crowded weekends.
| PUERTO LOPEZ |
If you've just arrived in Latin America, you may find Puerto Lopez's run-down streets charming. On the other hand, if you've been travelling in the region for a while, you'll recognise that this is a town without too much love for itself or anyone else.
Nevertheless, the town is a necessary transport hub for day-trips to the most gorgeous beach in Ecuador and the closest thing to the Galapagos that a backpacker on a strict budget can afford. Due to this, you're probably going to end up here for a few days.
| LOS FRAILES |
Playa Los Frailes (the Friars Beach) was, without question, the most beautiful beach we visited in Ecuador.
Set in the Machililia National Park, it is an excellent cheap and easy day-trip from the town of Puerto Lopez. There are a number of companies offering tours here, but you don't need to spend the cash - it's perfectly simple to do it yourself.
| AYAMPE |
Dusty streets lined with colourful flowers, the smell of palo alto permeating the air and a dial set to peace, quiet and tranquility.
This charming setting does however come at a price.
Ayampe is the least budget friendly town we visited on the coast in terms of, well, everything. We definitely still recommend checking it out - particularly if you're a couple wanting somewhere that's a little more romantic or a proper surfer - but your time here may have to be limited to a couple of nights if on a strict budget.
| MONTAÑITA |
There is no denying that Montañita has quite the reputation. Ask any backpacker in the country their thoughts and you will either be met with a look of disdain or excitement. Undoubtedly THE party town, not just on the coast but in the country, initially we weren't even sure if we were going to visit.
As it turns out, there is much more to Montañita than just super strong cocktails and late-night parties - we weren't expecting to enjoy it so much.