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Those traveling to Ecuador often pass up the coast in favor of the Galapagos Islands and the Andes, but those who do so miss the real Ecuador. Here are 11 things to keep in mind before coming to this seriously underrated region.
You’re already tan, so your skin is used to the sun, right? Not even close. Because Ecuador is on the equator (get it?), sun exposure is strong all year round, so applying standard SPF 30 once a day is not enough, especially when chilling at the beach. To be safe, apply at least SPF 50 every 90 minutes—Ecuadorians need it, too.
There’s a visible difference between people of the mountains and of the coast. Coastal locals tend to be warmer, welcoming, and willing to talk. That also means that they can be more direct and stand quite close when speaking with them.
Tourists love Montañita, and it is a perfect beach-destination for surfing in Ecuador or partying on the beach, but it overshadows Ecuador’s many seaside attractions, the best ones of which are on the mainland (sych as Playa Los Frailes beach in Puerto Lopez, Machala National Park, and Isla de la Plata) or farther north in beautiful beach towns (like Mompiche, Canoa, and Esmeraldas).
People on the coast speak much faster than in the rest of the country and have their own unique slang words and terms, so even if you’ve got the hang of Quito, Guayaquil might be a bit more difficult.
Because of its location, many believe that Ecuador is super hot all the time, but the weather can vary greatly depending on the region. In fact, summer months (June–August) are often colder on the coast, whereas the mountains are warmer then.
Ecuador is on both the Ring of Fire and the Nazca tectonic plate, and countries along this seismic belt experience some of the strongest recorded earthquakes, most recently in 2016. Because tremors are common in Ecuador, especially on the coast, it’s important to know not only what type of buildings you will stay at when visiting—specifically if they can handle strong earthquakes—but also what to do in case of an earthquake or tremor.
Between June and October, up to 3,000 humpback whales migrate from Antarctica to the coast of Colombia and Ecuador. Whale watching tours range $20–$30, and some companies offer money-back guarantees if no whales are spotted.
The Galapagos Islands are a group of islands covered in volcanic stones off the coast and can only be reached by plane. The coast doesn’t get as many tourists as the Galapagos, which means that many places are not as safe for tourists and not everyone speaks English.
Isla de la Plata, or Poor Man’s Galapagos Islands, is a two-hour boat ride from Puerto Lopez and is much easier and cheaper to reach than the Galapagos Islands (hence the name). Plus, Isla de la Plata still has the same amazing animals, like Blue Footed Boobies, sea turtles, hammerheads, pelicans, and whales. A tour to Isla de la Plata won’t cost more than $50 and can be easily booked in Puerto Lopez.
People of the coast of Ecuador like to move, to dance whenever there’s music, and a love of tropical Latin music is inescapable here. You don’t have to be a salsa master, but be prepared to dance a little. Don’t know how? Plenty of classes can be taken along the coast, and locals will just be happy see you join the fun.