Ecuador is known for a few things, the Amazon jungle, the Galapagos Islands, and of course, it’s beaches. We set out to discover the best beaches in Ecuador. Our journey took us north up Ecuador’s stunning coastline. Following the Ruta del Spondylus, from Salinas in the south all the way to Esmeraldas in the north. Along the way, we visited sleepy fishing villages and bustling surf towns, hiked gorgeous national parks, and camped on stunning headlands.
From the best beaches in Ecuador for relaxing to the best beaches for hiking and camping to the best surfing beaches in Ecuador we’ve have done the hard yards. We have laid out under the palms and swam in the turquoise waters. We’ve watched the sun set over the sea from countless headlands and basked on endless white sandy beaches. We’ve eaten fresh fish from the local fishing boats washed down with liters of local pilsner. We’ve camped on desolate beaches and partied with locals, and we’ve done it all to bring you the complete list of the best beaches Ecuador, South America
So then. What are the best beaches in Ecuador in our opinion? In no particular order these were our favorites….
The small town of Ayangue was our first taste of the Ecuadorian coast. On the weekends, this tiny town comes to life with local holidaymakers and temporary parking attendants herding cars onto their patch of the street or onto makeshift parking lots to get their cut ($2 a car) from the weekend tourist action.
If you have your own two wheels, Ayangue is one of the best beaches in Ecuador to visit. Past the fishing village of Ayangue, on the headland between Playa Ayangue and Playa Rosada, we found one of the best campsites of our van life South America adventure.
Undeveloped and apparently rarely visited, we found a campsite atop the cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean and Ecuador’s dramatic coastline.
Running low on gas for the stove (a consequence of the difficulties of filling up a Chilean gas cylinder outside of Chile), we took the opportunity to build a fire using theabundence of fallen timber around the camp.
The weather was grey during our time above Ayangue and we spent our time tending the fire, reading, writing and watching the pelicans and gulls, and fishing boats patrol the coastline day and night.
Our time in our Ayangue campsite is one of our favorite memories from South America, and it definitely makes our list of the best beaches in Ecuador!
Montañita, arguably the most popular tourist destination on Ecuador’s coastline, rightfully deserves a spot on the list of best beaches in Ecuador. Known as one of the best surfing beaches in Ecuador, international and local tourists flock here for the surf and the laid back surf town if Montañita.
The city itself is quite touristic and clearly geared to take advantage of its reputation as the best surfing beach in Ecuador. Overpriced bars and restaurants occupy a couple of blocks in front of the beach and bodegas, tour agencies, surf schools, bakeries and cafes dot the peripheries. The tourists, mostly comprised of foreigners, wander the beach and rent beat up boards to brave the surf.
Despite the touristic nature of the town, its hard not to get swept up in the fun coastal vibe of the town and we enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere and exaggerated surf culture. Make sure to grab the pescado encocado, a flaky white fish in a rich aromatic coconut sauce wrapped in a banana leaf served by the beach from a street vendors.
Definitely one of the highlights from our time in Montañita.Check out Hidden House Hostel, And do not miss the empanada man who delivers his homemade empanadas around town on the back of his motorbike.
In between touristic Montanita and bustling Puerto Lopez, a number of expats have bought up hostels, hotels, yoga camps, cafés and surf shops to turn this small, out of way spot with a great beach break into a stylish, albeit gentrified, surf village.
You won’t see cheap menu del dias, street food or the authentic Ecuadorian fishing village. But you also won’t find any paved roads, five star resorts, or bars blaring reggaeton.
What you will find is yoga classes, espresso coffee, chocolate croissants, a vegan restaurant and prices to match. Also you will find a consistent break along the 8km beach making it one of the best surf beaches in Ecuador.
Head to Ayampe to surf, relax and enjoy some of the western comforts you may have been missing. Checkout Hostal Los Orishas for great value private accommodation.
Ok, it’s time to get back to basics. Pueblo Nuevo translates to “New Town”, but this isn’t really a town yet but still deserves a place ona list of the best beaches of Ecuador. An inconspicuous dirt road off the highway leads you past a handful of houses, fenced off yards and a cemetery. Keep following this dirt road all the way down to the wild and isolated beach.
To get here you will need your own vehicle or will need to get resourceful. To stay you will need to camp. A handful of fishing boats sit up out of the water above this rocky and exposed stretch of coast. Occasionally fishermen saunter past with a friendly shout and a wave.
In the afternoon, children come down to the beach to kick a soccer ball or fish from the shore. Aside from this we were alone. We cooked over fire, wrote, played cards, star gazed in the evening and relaxed savoring this isolated beach for two days before moving on.
Pro-tip: There isn’t a tienda to be found here so you can’t buy anything except of course fresh seafood. We bought a kilo of prawns off a local fisherman for $3 USD. Everything else you’ll need to bring with you.
Our favorite beach of all the best beaches of Ecuador is the sleepy fishing village of Mompiche. Located on the northern coast of Ecuador, this authentic Ecuadorian town is the perfect place to relax and enjoy the laid-back Ecuadorian lifestyle.
If the relaxed lifestyle doesn’t convince you enough, Mompiche is also known for an easy lefthand surf break ideal for beginners and those a little rusty on the board.
There is nothing much more to do in Mompiche except fish, explore the beach and the nearby beach of Playa del Negro, and to catch a wave. But trust us, even after a week, we were sad we had to go.
Make sure to plan a visit to Mompiche before the laid-back authentic vibe for which it is known is gone.
As a commercial fishing hub, enterprising locals have also activated tourism in Puerto Lopez bringing a second economic boom. While not the prettiest of the beaches in Ecuador that we’ve seen, somehow locals have secured it as the center for tours and activities which is why it has made it on our list of best beaches in Ecuador.
Tours to Isla de la Plata and Los Frailes, fishing charters, whale watching, and diving can all be arranged here. There are also plenty of comfortable backpacker hostels to accommodate your needs. An impressive promenade skirts the beach upon which a daily market takes place, selling all manner of seafood to locals, tourists and large refrigerated trucks backed up right onto the beach. Beyond this sandy market, hundreds of tiny fishing boats bob in the calm blue waters. This is the place to buy seafood and maybe stay a night or two on either side of an organized tour.
Pro-tip – Traveling South America by van? Camp right on the shore at the southern end of the beach. An established car park provides shaded spots and a bit of distance between you and the main area where fishermen will be the most active launching and returning boats all night. Backpacking? Check out the fabulous Hostería Mandála for fantastic budget accommodation.
Los Frailes and the Machililla National Park
Grab a cheap seafood lunch in the pretty town of Machililla before embarking on the one and a half hour walk to Los Frailes beach, part of the Machililla National Park, and one of the best beaches in Ecuador. While you can drive directly into Los Frailes itself, for us the hike along the dramatic coastline was the highlight and the swim at Los Frailes a bonus.
The best way to access the trail is to wait for low tide and pick your way from Machililla beach south past the cliffs to the tiny Playa Prieta. If the tide is in the official park entrance is a 20 minute walk from the center of town. From Prieta you can join the trail taking you up and over the cliffs to the gorgeous Playa Tortuga, onward to the Mirador Los Frigatas and finally Playa Los Frailes. You can reach Machililla by private vehicle or bus easily from Puerto Lopez to the south or Puerto Cayo to the north.
Isla de la Plata
Ok, so maybe Isla de Plata isn’t really one of the best beaches in Ecuador, but you certainly would not want to visit the Ecuadorian coast and not take a trip out to Isla de Plata.
There is some debate as to whether the Island of Silver was so named because pirates buried treasure here or because the covering of white bird shit makes it glint silver from afar. What isn’t up for debate is the importance of this habitat as a natural sanctuary and breeding ground for green sea turtles and the 12,000 migratory seabirds that nest here annually. This incredible island is home to 32 species of sea bird including strange and wonderful species rarely seen on the mainland such as the blue footed booby and rare red footed booby.
While camping on the island is no longer permitted day trips are available from Puerto Lopez. For $35 – $40 USD per person, group charters ferry you one hour to the island and take you on a two to three hour (your choice) guided tour of the island. The tour ends with a snorkel where you can see thousands of fish amongst the colorful coral which surrounds the island.
Pro-tip: Isla de la Plata often draws comparison with the Galapagos Islands, to the point where some marketing genius has tag-lined the island, ‘The poor man’s Galapagos’. In our opinion this is probably not accurate and might be a set-up for disappointment. Temper your expectations and Isla de la Plata is a fantastic natural experience not to be missed.
So what do you think? Can you find your favorite beach on the list of best beaches in Ecuador? Did we miss one of the best beaches in Ecuador? Are you packing your bags now to visit one of the best beaches in Ecuador? Let us know in the comments below!
For more information on Ecuador, check our one of our other articles!
- What Do They Eat in Ecuador? A Guide to Ecuador’s Under-Loved Food Scene
- What to Know Before You Go to Mompiche, Ecuador’s Most Beautiful Beach
- What to Do in Banos, a Travel Guide
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