The Best Beaches on the Ecuador Coast

The beaches along the Pacific Coast of mainland Ecuador are something truly special to behold
The beaches along the Pacific Coast of mainland Ecuador are something truly special to behold | © Peter van Evert / Alamy Stock Photo

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The Pacific coast of Ecuador is lined with some of the most beautiful beaches in South America. Each beach holds a unique charm, promising an unforgettable experience for every traveler. From the small fishing village of Mompiche in the north to the lively town of Salinas in the south, here’s our selection of the best beach destinations in Ecuador.

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Tonsupa

Tonsupa beach, Ecuador

The beaches of the Esmeraldas Province in northern Ecuador are among the most visited along the entire coast, partly for their beauty and partly because they’re relatively easily accessible by road from the capital city, Quito. Tonsupa beach is a little quieter than others in nearby Atacames, but still provides sunshades and deck chairs, and has plenty of space where you can sprawl out on the golden sand and soak up sun rays. If you prefer lots of music and a buzzing nightlife scene but don’t mind a busier beach, consider staying in Atacames and visit Tonsupa during the day.

Mompiche

Mompiche is a small fishing village around 65 miles south of the city of Esmeraldas, fringed by tropical rainforest. It’s a perfect spot for beachgoers looking for a wilder, lesser-visited setting; you can choose between the wide, golden-sand beach in the village itself, or head a few minutes south to Playa del Negra (a black sand beach) for a sharp but no less beautiful contrast in scenery. The rocky headland at the southern end of the bay makes for some superb surfing opportunities, with long, tubular rides aplenty.

Canoa

Canoa has become a haven for travelers looking for great surfing and yoga retreats on Ecuador’s Pacific coast, offering a long stretch of sandy beach, a cluster of laid-back bars and restaurants, and good choice of reasonably priced accommodation. It suffered devastating damage from a 7.8 magnitude earthquake in April 2016, however, destroying many homes, shops and hotels. While it’s still very much on the road to a full recovery, tourism – which is of paramount importance to the local economy – has shown promising signs of revival in Canoa in recent years.

Bahía de Caráquez

At the mouth of the Río Chone, Bahía de Caráquez offers a great choice of beaches both within its protected bay and on the Pacific coast itself. For maximum convenience, those in the bay are ideal due to their proximity to cafes, restaurants and hotels in the town centre, while those on the Pacific coast which stretch 20 miles south to the town of San Jacinto tend to be quieter (and the water noticeably rougher, due to the stronger sea current). Whether you want to sunbathe, swim, surf, stroll or kayak, you won’t be short of options in Bahía de Caráquez.

Crucita

Crucita beach, Ecuador

Crucita is well linked by road to the nearby cities of Manta and Portoviejo in Manabi province, and has developed a strong reputation as a hub for adventure sports like paragliding and surfing due to the favourable winds and high launch points. With miles of creamy white sandy beaches, it’s a beloved spot for Ecuadorians and international travelers alike.

Santa Marianita

Santa Marianita lies just a few miles down the coast from the port city of Manta. Because of reliably high winds, it is one of the best places to practice kite surfing along the entire Ecuadorian coast. With more than five miles (8km) of coastline, it’s easy to escape the crowds and hike out to more private sunbathing and swimming spots.

Los Frailes

With its deep blue water, golden sandstone cliffs, nearby forests and fine-grained sand, Los Frailes (part of the Machalilla National Park) is one of Ecuador’s best known beaches – and with good reason. You won’t find any restaurants, bars or hotels here. It’s all about pristine, unspoilt nature, and as well as visiting the crescent-shaped beach itself, it’s well worth hiking through the surrounding area. Two other beaches (Playa Prieta and Playa la Tortuguita) are also nearby. You can get to Los Frailes by bus from Puerto Lopez, which takes only 15 minutes.

Montañita

Montañita is renowned for its superb surfing opportunities and vibrant nightlife. The beach itself is one of the prettiest along the Ecuadorian coast but, as a result, often gets fairly packed. Early mornings are the most peaceful time to go, but by afternoon the beat of music from the oceanfront bars is unavoidable. There are plenty of restaurants in town, while ceviche wagons and empanada vendors offer a cheaper option as you relax on the beach. If partying is your thing, look no further than Montañita.

San Lorenzo

On the western tip of Santa Elena province, Salinas is perhaps Ecuador’s most popular beach resort. The main beach, San Lorenzo, is near the yacht club, and is almost always occupied by plenty of sunbathers. The water is typically calm, protected by the pier, making this the perfect beach for swimming. San Lorenzo lies in the middle of town, close to many excellent restaurants, bars and cafés. The other beach, Playa de Chipipe, also has plenty of amenities within easy walking distance, but tends to be slightly quieter and has more of a low key feel.

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