From brash and brazen party towns to quaintly ramshackle, mellow surfing hangouts, from internationally important ecological reserves to palm-fringed deserted sandy beaches, there is much to captivate the intrepid traveller on Ecuador’s long Pacific coast, with the result that many a person has found themselves staying around a good while longer than planned.
As is true of the rest of the country, Ecuador’s coastal region offers a wonderfully diverse range of cultures, landscapes, flora and fauna to explore. In the north, the lush, jungle province of Esmeraldas is the stronghold of Afro-Ecuadorian culture, which is reflected in the marimba music, lively festivals and excellent seafood dishes of the area. In the south, immaculate stretches of sand, tangled mangroves, tropical dry forest and the ‘Ruta del Sol’ eventually bring you to Ecuador’s biggest — and some would say, most important — city, Guayaquil. With its picturesque neighborhoods, splendidly revitalised malecón and growing theatre, film and arts scene, Guayaquil is a worthy destination in itself as well as being the gateway to the Galapagos.
In between, there is a wealth of things to see and do: join the bronzed surfing set and ride some of the best waves on the South American Pacific coast at laid-back Montañita. Or visit the highly skilled weavers of the finest straw hat in the world — the timelessly elegant, Montecristi (wrongly labelled pretty much everywhere as the ‘Panama’ hat).
And along the way, be tempted by the deliciously varied seafood: from the sharp, lemony flavours of a classic shrimp ceviche to the rich, coconut creaminess of a fish stew encocado.
Those in search of sophistication will not find it widely on Ecuador’s coast, and indeed at times, some may find the region’s rawness and mixed levels of upkeep a little off -putting. But there is an opportunity to get well off the beaten track here and those that do, and who travel with a spirit of adventure, will be richly rewarded by their efforts — reflecting on their good fortune on balmy evenings as they sit, feet dug in the sand and cold beer in hand, watching a perfect sunset.
Ishpingo Tours and the Coast
The Ecuadorian coast is something of a mixed bag (though that may well be what makes it all the more fascinating) and so good sense and a taste for adventure are essential tools for travellers to the area.
Parts of the coast are well developed and are readily able to meet the exacting demands of international visitors. Other parts are very poor indeed, and here visitors will find tourism barely developed at all. As you might expect, therefore, accommodation ranges between modern hotels of international standards to somewhat spartan backpacker hostels. While most coastal towns and villages are warm and welcoming, many with a particularly special laid-back, mellow vibe, some places are distinctly dodgy and we recommend caution if wandering in less salubrious areas of town. Also, worthy of note from a safety perspective is the strong undertow and the riptides that occur on much of the coast.
There are plenty of gay friendly hotels and guesthouses on the Ecuadorian coast. However, it is not yet an area geared up for the gay traveller. For this reason we are not currently including a visit to the coast in our fixed-date departure tours. We will, however, be very pleased to build in a visit to this intriguing part of the country in our tailor-made itineraries.
When to Come
Both the north and south coasts have two seasons: dry and rainy. In the north, the dry season runs from June to November and can often be a little overcast and cool. The wet season runs from December to May when days are hot and bright with sporadic heavy downpours. Although usually warm all year round, the sea is at its warmest from January to April.
The south coast is generally drier with a rainy season that lasts only from January to April. The dry season runs from May to December. It can be very hot and humid in the rainy season while the dry season is often overcast and pleasantly cool. The Humbolt current can make for some surprisingly bracing swimming from mid-June to early September. Whale watching is at its best between the months of June to September with July and August being the peak months.
You can count on all coastal resorts being packed during the months of July and August, public holidays, Carnaval, Easter, Christmas and New Year. At other times of the year, the coast can be quite deserted.
Temperatures range generally between 25° C to 30° C (75° F to 85° F).