It seems to us that Canoa is the sort of place you love or hate - or at least thoroughly enjoy or shrug your shoulders at. Prior to venturing to the coast, we had heard fantastic things; we were convinced that this was the place we going to spend weeks. Instead, we left after three days.
Whilst the beach is undoubtedly beautiful, the cheap seafood plentiful and there is more quality accommodation than you can shake a stick at, Canoa just fell flat. It felt like a town constructed for 100's of tourists that weren't actually there.
That is, until the weekend, when Ecuadorian families descend to the beach en masse.
As with all places on the coast, there is a wide variety of accommodation options on offer in Canoa. For those looking for something a little nicer than your average backpacker venue, check out Hotel Bambu or head to the south end of the beach where you'll find a number of fancier hotels
However, for backpackers on a tighter budget there is no shortage of cheap and cheerful venues. Perennially popular with backpackers is Coco Loco which has dorms from as little as $6 per person although we have heard very mixed reviews from other travellers. Certainly what is clear is that it is not the cleanest of places!
Also consider Hotel El Jardin, located next to Addicto Surf. The rooms are very small and basic but it has a kitchen plus wifi and a double costs only $10! We wouldn't recommend staying for more than a couple of days though.
WHAT TO DO
Apart from sunbathing, most backpackers take the opportunity to surf the beach break here. There are a number of places renting out boards at reasonable prices but the cheapest place is opposite the main bus stop in town where a days rental costs just $8 (most other places charge $10). Hourly rates are also available, starting at $3.
Canoa has deliciously soft yellow sand along its long stretch of beach. The waves are big, strong and populated with surfers and body-boarders. We were really struck by the poor etiquette of a number of local surfers, so just watch out if you're in the sea and surfers are close by.
Dotted along the beach are the colourful shelters for rent ($5/day) which have become pretty much symbolic of Canoa. Quiet during the week, they are almost guaranteed to be filled with local weekenders come Saturday morning.
WHERE TO EAT
In addition to the usual plates of seafood, Canoa has a number of great gringo options, including a fantastic veggie restaurant called Addicto Surf. It is only open on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays but is well worth stopping by! It is difficult to find good veggie food in Latin America, but this was excellent.
Another place you should be sure check out is Surf Shak. Unabashedly catering to the western tourist, they do some great burgers and have a really good cocktail happy hour.
The biggest supermarket is located on the main street on the right hand side heading away from the beach. It is not the cheapest place to shop but has the best selection in town. If you're staying long-term, then your best option is to visit San Vicente's supermarkets to stock up.
Unfortunately, Canoa is one of the few places whose nightlife does tend to suffer in the low-season. There are a number of small bars near Addicto Surf that pump out obnoxiously loud music until the wee small hours but there were rarely any clientele.
The Surf Shak hosts weekly pub quizzes on Tuesdays and occasionally has live music. Other than that, you'll struggle. Your best bet to find out if anything's going on and meet some others is to head to Hotel Bambu for the happy hour cocktail and sunset between 5-6 p.m.
The nearest ATM is in San Vincente - approximately a 20 minute bus ride away (costs $0.75c each). It is on the main street (malecon), a few doors after TIA supermarket.
Please remember to be cautious here - the only reason for a gringo to be in San Vicente is for the ATM, therefore make sure you don't become an easy target for theft.
All buses to/from Canoa pass by the same street corner which is three blocks from the main beach (ask any local to point the way). For onward travel to Puerto Lopez or Montañita, please see this guide.