Does Ecuador have good beaches? You bet it does! Many of the best Ecuador beaches are found along the gold coast Spondylus Route (Ruta del Spondylus). This is the perfect road trip destination for guaranteed fun and sun! Pass through sleepy beach towns with gorgeous sunsets. Sip tropical cocktails in a hammock. Or try your arm at something new – surfing, paragliding, kayaking, or kite surfing. Ecuador beaches are popular with locals and tourists alike, yet rarely become crowded. So pack your sunnies and swim suit and let’s get down to business. Where are the best Ecuador beaches that you need to visit?
Keep reading for our recommendations for all the best Ecuador beaches. Plus all of the information that you need to visit them.
The Spondylus Route is a long stretch of coastline covering the sun-drenched Pacific beaches of three Ecuadorian provinces: Santa Elena, Manabi & Esmeraldas. From north to south the entire route covers over 500Km of paved highway, with golden sands, fun, and sun all the way.
It’s easy to hop from town to town using public buses, or rent a car for more flexible stops along the way.
In case you’re wondering, the name comes from the sacred Spondylus shell. This attractive, red/orange shell was of great importance to ancient Ecuadorian cultures. They used to fashion them into attractive jewelry, and make shell offerings to the gods. Spondylus was even used as a form of currency for trade. If you see jewellery with red stone for sale along the coast then ask – it may well be the sacred spondylus.
So, without further ado, where are the best beaches in Ecuador? We’re going to cover the entire Spondyluse route, from South to North. Starting on the south coast in Santa Elena province. Then heading north through Manabi to Esmeraladas. Every Ecuador beach worth stopping at makes the list. Almost all of our choices are beach towns, either sleepy villages or developed sites. So it’s easy to stop off and spend a night wherever takes your fancy.
Santa Elena Province is an easy starting point to explore the Spondylus Route. Fly into Guayaquil International Airport, rent a car, strap yourselves in, and off we go.
Our road trip begins with a visit to Salinas Beach, where modern condo buildings line the long stretch of smooth sand. This town is popular with expats and locals. Salinas has wonderful seafood restaurants and lively bars that become busy at weekends. Salinas is perfect if you’re looking to mix a vibrant city feel with great sunbathing and people watching.
Further north is Montanita, probably the most famous Ecuador beach. This is the surfing capital of the country, and a renowned backpacker hangout. The town’s vibe is a mix of classic California surf and Ecuadorian party cultures. When not on the beach, locals and visitors crowd into the bars, clubs, and restaurants along the sandy streets of the town. It can be noisy, and is not for everyone, but if partying with new found friends is your thing then give Montanita a try.
Olon is Montanita’s quiet neighbor, where sun-seekers find peace along the miles of empty sand. This small fishing community is welcoming and take pride in the town’s cozy family atmosphere. It is not uncommon for visitors to book in for one night and end up staying the whole week. Olon Beach also has good surf breaks, with gentle rolling waves suitable for beginners.
A little further north we roll into chilled-out Ayampe town. This is a more exclusive beach town for the more discerning traveler. Although Ayampe is noticeably less budget-friendly, here you will find stylish hostels, quality brewed coffee, a fancy yoga studio, and above all priceless tranquility.
Crossing into Manabi Province brings us to the jewel of Ecuador’s coastline. Manabi is considered by most to have the very best Ecuador beaches, and tastiest seafood! If you only have time to visit one Ecuador beach province then Manabi wins. Direct flights operate between Quito city and Manta airport for easy access.
Our first recommended Manabi beach is Puerto Lopez, a slow-paced fishing village situated in a picturesque bay.
While it is worthwhile spending time at Puerto Lopez beach itself, many of the highlights of the region are found in nearby Machalilla National Park. Here seasonal humpback whale watching (July to Sept) pleases the crowds, as they spectactularly breach the ocean surface. We also recommmend a visit to Isla de la Plata to see blue footed boobies. And let’s not forget the long horseshoe of golden sand at Los Frailes, which is arguably the very finest of Ecuador’s beaches.
Happy Gringo Travel offers the perfect 3day escape to Puerto Lopez and Machalilla National Park. Fly into Manta Airport, with transfer to Puerto Lopez town, and activities included to the best Machalilla National Park highlights.
Just 15 minutes from the city of Manta is Marianita Beach, a long-time local’s secret with a handful of hostels and a few bamboo fish and ceviche shacks. Marianita’s big claim to fame is beach sports, attracting kite-surfers from all over the world, as well as stand up paddle boarders. The airport at nearby Manta City provides quick and easy access to this stretch of coastline.
San Clemente boasts more hours of sun per day than any other Ecuador beach, as well as a long stretch of sand to enjoy all of those rays. This quiet town is home to a small expat community, with modern condos, and a boutique hotel/spa. A great spot to relax for a few days and pamper yourself.
Canoa’s charm lies in its sleepy beachside community, where the people – like the weather – are warm, and locals love to hang out alongside travelers. It’s also a spot for adventure. Parasailing from the cliffs gives you an eagle-eye view of miles of beach. Sea kayak trips take you exploring the waters and coves along the coast. The surfing community is also strong. Canoa is a favorite spot for backpackers.
Further north we arrive to Esmeraldas Province, the last leg of our Spondylus Route road trip. This is an easy start or end point for your road trip. There is easy access to Quito City via road or flight from Esmeraldas Airport.
Mompiche is another backpackers favorite. This sleepy town is popular for fresh and cheap seafood, colorful fishing boats, and a long swathe of soft sand. While Ecuadorians flock to the all-inclusive Decameron resort, most tourists prefer the sleepy vibe of the town itself. There is also a long left point break for experienced surfers.
Further up the North coast lies Same beach town. Here you’ll find the Mediterranean style white-washed Casablanca resort to one end, and rental apartments stretching along the rest of the beach. Same is a popular public holiday getaway for Quito residents, but during the week you’ll often have the beach to yourself.
Another Ecuador beach that locals flock to is Tonsupa. This is a quieter version of nearby party town Atacames. The long sands stretch out for 4Km, with beachside bars, wooden hut restaurants, and a vibrant social scene.
If you’re looking for sunny skies and warm temperatures then the best time to visit Ecuador beaches is from December through to April/May. At this time you’ll also find the best waves for all levels of surfers. The rest of the year is fine too, but skies tend to be more cloudy.
Check your diary in advance for local public holiday dates – these are best avoided. Beaches right along the Spondylus Route get overcrowded with locals, and prices get hiked for hotel rooms and food.
Saving the best for last, probably the very best Ecuador beaches are found 1000Km away from the Ecuador coast, at the Galapagos Islands.
Galapagos is world-famous for its pristine, protected beaches. Here you’ll find spectacular white coral sand at Tortuga Bay, Isabela Beach, and award-winning Gardner Bay (Española Island). You can also visit unbelievable red, green and black sand beaches found on the outer islands. Without doubt Galapagos is a beach lovers dream. If your budget stretches this far then we highly recommend it! Galapagos cruises take you further afield to a great variety of visitor sites. While Galapagos land tours are more flexible and give you more precious beach time.
Check out our Galapagos Islands Beaches blog post for a complete list of the best Galapagos beaches to visit.
You can also check an interesting article on boat slides which is an excellent accessory in water sports.
In conclusion, Ecuador has many great beaches, and a long stretch of coast to enjoy. We hope you enjoyed our list of best Ecuador beaches, and have the opportunity to visit some or all of them. It’s time to escape the hustle and bustle of city life and hit the beach!
To start planning a trip along the Spondylus Route beaches, or a Galapagos beach vacation, just contact a member of our team by email, Whatsapp, or toll-free phone numbers. We’re happy to give you a FREE TOUR QUOTE, and help with trip planning.