There are many beaches all along the coast of Ecuador, bathing into the Pacific Ocean. When we first arrived in Ecuador, we asked around for some advice about beaches in Ecuador, but we received so many different opinions… because everyone is looking for something different, and also because there are very few « big spots », most are small, local beaches, alongside small towns or villages.
It is different if you live in Guayaquil, as there are famous destinations close to the city, such as (the well-named) Playas and Salinas, respectively at 1H30 and 2h30 drive from Guayaquil. But when coming from Quito, there are no close beaches, when going by car it is at least a 6-hour drive to the coast ! So you’re obviously not driving over just for the weekend… The other option being the plane, as there are small airports in all regional head cities, and there are regular flights from- and to Quito.
The first beach we visited in Ecuador is Canoa, a famous beach amongst bodyboarders and surfers. Located in the coastal province of Manabi, it took us about 6 and a half hours (not including the lunch break) to drive over there. As we first arrived, we saw this beautiful beach, very long, there was beach on each side of us, as far as we could see. It was also deep, the tide there is pretty big but it doesn’t go all the way up. As for the water, it’s not hot, but it’s not cold either, it is a pretty enjoyable temperature. Canoa is appreciated by surfers, and we know why : it has nice waves at any time of day, the kids have really enjoyed their bodyboard a lot !
We stayed at a nice hotel located along the beach, with direct access to it. It was a little outside town, and since we prefer travelling off-season, it was very calm, we even ended being the only customers in the hotel during the last 2 days !
The hotel offered to order directly from the local restaurants and have them deliver at the hotel, so we enjoyed eating our dinner at the terrace, after a fun day at the beach, instead of going out with already exhausted kids… The province of Manabi is famous for its cuisine, in particular the seafood specialties, so we weren’t disappointed with the food.
During all of our stay, the rain came along, usually by the end of the day or at night, sometimes it was light rain, sometimes it became heavier. The logical consequence being the abundance of mosquitos : don’t forget to bring an efficient repellent !
On the next day, we decided to walk to Canoa for a visit. It is a small city with a grid plan, the main streets are paved, but as soon as you leave the center you can see dirt roads. The beach is located right in front of the town center. It is a very animated beach. Many people agglomerate here, even though the beach is long and there is a lot of space if you walk a little further from the center. But the reason people stay on that part of the beach is the animation : there are several restaurants and bars on the beach itself, and everywhere latin music can be heard. This is not just a beach, this is where you can party !
Some people dislike walking so much they actually park their motorcycles or even their cars right on the beach, as close as possible from their spot. The trash cans are obviouly not used enough, because their is trash everywhere in the sand. Don’t forget to put on flips flops or sandals, if you don’t want a piece of broken bottle to end up in your foot ! We had to help the kids zigzag between the waste to avoid any injuries, despite them wearing their beach shoes… It is shame, because it is a very beautiful beach, in addition to polluting nature, it kind of spoils the experience of the place.
We walked back to the hotel through the beach, and the further from the city we were, the less people there were, the more peaceful, quiet, and clean the beach became. Once by the hotel, we enjoyed a totally empty beach. Of course we were off-season, but apart from one ice-cream seller and a couple of people walking their dog, we literally saw no one. We were completely alone, in a beautiful scenery. Some plants growing along the edge of the sand, sea birds looking for their next meal, and a marvellous sunset, with extraordinary colors : all of it was enchanting !
There is, however, a downside we really need to mention : when the tide is at its lowest, you can see the type of sewerage used in Canoa : it is « straight-to-the-ocean » style ! Once you’ve seen it, you can’t unsee it. No matter how far away from the sewerage you step, you know you’re never bathing very far away from wastewater…
As a conclusion, Canoa is a place that offers a long and beautiful sand beach, nice waves for bodyboarders and surfers, and its town has a nice atmosphere for those who want to party. It is sad that the paradise is damaged by pollution, waste and sewerage. Hopefully, tourism money will help take care of the place.
It is still a place I would recommend, if you are careful where you stay, it is one of the closest beaches to Quito by car, and it is absolutely beautiful!