Ecuador sits on South America’s west coast and although small, it sure has a lot to offer. Its diverse landscape encompasses the Amazon jungle, Andean highlands and the wildlife-rich Galapagos Islands. The coastline is breathtakingly stunning and offers everything from sandy beaches to forests and unique wildlife. We’ve put together a list of top places to visit on the emerald coast of Ecuador so you can add them to your bucket list.
Santa Elena and Salinas
Santa Elena is home to the resort of Salinas, which has been dubbed as a “wannabe Miami”. It has two sheltered beaches for you to enjoy and during high season (between December and April) the resort has a fantastic nightlife. Head just outside and visit Museo Los Amantes de Sumpa. It’s where around 200 skeletons were unearthed in the 1970s, including the famous “Lovers of Sumpa”, which are a man and woman sharing an 8,000-year-old embrace.
If you visited Ecuador’s biggest city twenty years ago, you wouldn’t have seen very much at all. Over the course of the years however, the city has gone through a major regeneration so significant in fact that it’s even won top spot in the UN Development Awards along the way. Along the waterfront you can find historical monuments, artisan markets, a botanical garden, several museums and even a ferris wheel! Make sure you check out the Iguana Park which sits below the neo-gothic cathedral. Reptiles can roam completely free around here; you will also find caimans, monkeys and parakeets that can be observed in the Parque Histórico.
Playas and Puerto El Morro
Even though Guayaquil sits on the water, it doesn’t actually have an accessible beach. Travel instead to the nearby coast of Playas – which translated literally means beaches. In Ecuador’s high season the beach tends to fill up on weekends with people who are looking to escape the nearby city and the heat. Most people tend to come here for the long beach and rows of cafes offering delectable dishes such as fried sea bass in garlic. If you fancy something a bit different, then head to Puerto El Morro and hop on a boat trip that will wind through the mangroves and you may even spot some dolphins!
Machalilla National Park
Machalilla National Park is one of the Ecuador’s few protected coastlines and is home to a tropical dry forest that leads directly onto pristine beaches. Los Frailes is arguably the most beautiful beach in Ecuador: it’s famous for its deep blue water, golden sandstone cliffs and fine sand. Rangers are extremely strict on what you can take on to the beach in an attempt to preserve its natural beauty, so make sure you don’t try and take your surfboard down there or even a packet of crisps! In the park, you can expect to see frigatebirds and blue-footed boobies, as well as a small colony of sea lions. If you visit from June to September then you’ll have a fantastic opportunity to see humpback whales in the ocean.
Canoa was sadly hit badly by an earthquake in April 2016, but since then this fishing village has been on the road to recovery and is still a fantastic place to visit and even has a small, friendly expat community. If you love surfing, then this Ecuador beach is perfect for you: it has ten miles of beach with no rocks, riptide of reef, which makes it perfect for beginners and for advanced surfers.
Puyango Petrified Forest
Puyango is the largest Petrified Forest in South America and it covers around 6,000 acres in total. It sits in the south of Ecuador, just five miles from the Peruvian border. It’s been said that a volcanic eruption followed by a flood caused the petrification of the trees. There are trails that you can follow where you’ll discover fossilised plants, fish and ammonites dating from the Cretaceous period embedded in the tree trunks.
There’s so much to see on the Ecuador coast that you’ll be planning your next trip before you’ve finished your first. Where’s your favourite place to visit in Ecuador? Let us know in the comments or get in touch on Facebook or Twitter.