I had one job on this my second trip to Ecuador: to find the perfect beach town for Shannon.
What a great job, right?
That’s the beauty of being a freelancer – you can pick and choose your jobs. But I bit off more than I could chew – it takes a whole lot longer than one trip to Ecuador to get it all done. … I’ll just have to finish it up next year.
Last year, my job was to get a cross-sectional look at Ecuador to see if it really was all that the pundits were saying: If you want to make your money last for the rest of your life, try Ecuador. Celeste and I came down last winter for two weeks, and by the time we got on our plane to return home, we both agreed that it’s just as good as they say, only better. If you want to catch up on our trip to Ecuador last year, you can find my three blog posts here.
Here’s a map of Ecuador that highlights the places we went to last year and this. As you can see, I’ve have not been slacking off on the job.
Bridget and I landed in Quito on January 12, and the next day we were on the bus and off to the coast. Destination: Atacames on the northern coast. Actually, two buses: Six and half hours from Quito to Esmeraldas, and there we caught a bus south to Atacames. Atacames is a fairly big town, as far as Ecuadorian coastal towns go – it’s a working town with all the amenities of a big town, and it’s got a river running parallel to the ocean that divides the town into the larger east side and the smaller west side, aptly called Playa de Sol, for all us beach lovers. We’d booked ahead to stay at Chill Inn, a couple of blocks from the beach – the perfect place. A big recommend – ceiling fans in all the bedrooms, a communal kitchen, a wonderful courtyard to hang with the other guests (one of the best parts of staying at hostels is the people you meet, fellow travelers who all have great adventure stories to tell) and use the WiFi. Our hostess, Yolanda, made us feel right at home.
We took a day trip to Mompiche, a small town a short distance south of Atacames, situated in a little bay and known for its black sand beaches and quiet waters for swimming; it’s also known as a surfer destination – the waves must be breaking somewhere nearby, but as a swimmer, not a surfer, I headed for the black sand. The water along the coast is warm everywhere, but the natural inlet makes for bathwater temperatures in Mompiche. Cute touristy town, not big yet; but my guess is that changes are sure to come in the years ahead.
Unfortunately, my camera was on the fritz during the first month of our trip, so there’s no visual evidence of our first month … but any evening, anywhere along the coast, it’s going to look something like this …
From there it was south to Canoa for three nights, staying at Hostal Restaurante Amalur, just a few blocks from the ocean but far enough away from the bars that run the stretch of the beach and their attendant night life. Although we saw a number of families with young children at the beach, Canoa is better known as a young party town geared to tourists. It’s often referred to as Montañita of the north. Which is where we’re headed, but first, two nights in Puerto Lopez.
Situated in a small inlet, there are waves, but not the surfer waves that are so prevalent along the Ecuadorian coast. Puerto Lopez is a lovely place for swimmers, with small waves to play around in, but no riptides that will drag your feet from under you. The waves didn’t sweep me off my feet, but neither did the town – it’s a little too crowded with not much character, at least to this tourist. The search for the perfect beach town continues.
Next stop: Montañita on the south coast, famous, apparently, to surfers the world over for its waves. Sleeping then surfing by day, drinking and partying all night. This is a town that never sleeps. It’s got its own cocktail alley; streets lined with vendors selling their kitsch; and hostels, restaurants and bars filling up all available real estate. A friend advised us that if we wanted any quiet, we should book ourselves into a hostel on the north side of town, over the bridge. We took it one step further and stayed a ten-minute walk up the beach, at La Punta (The Point), with its own little community and surf lovers, and a whole lot less busy. We stayed at Hostal Rosa Mistica, which was a little over our budget, but worth every penny of it. From its open-air restaurant that faced out on the beach, it was a perfect view of La Punta, with its bird sanctuary on top.
And right next door to our hostel is the Montañita Brewing Co., run by an ex-pat from Northern California, who serves up a rotating selection of beers and ciders to go along with excellent fare of sushi and much other good eats.
We had only three days at La Punta before heading inland to the mountains to meet up with our friends, but good fortune had us coming back here again and again on our return trip to the coast a few weeks later.
One last town on the coast to visit: Manglaralto, a 35-minute walk along the beach south of Montañita. We booked ourselves to stay at Tagua Lodge in town when we got back from the interior, then packed our bags for the mountains. I’d be gone for two weeks and already I was itching to get back to the coast for my final month in Ecuador. I’ll tell you all about Manglaralto when I get back from the interior.