The Daily Brief – Playtime in Ecuador
So, you’ve perused the global travel magazines, watched the endless parade of international travel TV shows and have jumped on the blogsphere to see what is hot in the world of travel. Likely, you have discovered one locale that is sizzling right now – Ecuador ! Grab the opportunity, live the moment and come discover what all the buzz is about, as you explore…playtime in Ecuador !
As you plan your Ecuador adventure, make sure to leave some time open to frolic on the gorgeous beaches in Ecuador , chocked full of excitement, adventure or just plain, old-fashioned relaxation. Whatever your leisure pleasure commands.
Ecuador reveals a magnificent Pacific Ocean coastline, spanning 1,390 miles (2,237 kms), a considerable portion filled with beautiful beaches, each uniquely defined. “Between the mainland and the Galapagos there are over 100 beaches, many of them undocumented virgin beaches except for a few fishermen”, notes Mark Cowtan, a leisure expert focused on sports recreation, beach vacationing and the extensive flora/fauna Ecuador offers.
For example, want to go surfing? “Ecuador is an undiscovered surf paradise. It has about 50 surf spots and the warm water, which means you can surf without a wetsuit year round. If you’ve never surfed before, Ecuador is the ideal place to learn”, notes Cowtan. Predominant surfing beaches include Montañita, quite likely the surf capitol of Ecuador, as well as neighboring Olón and the peninsular beach town of Punta Carnero. The latter earning the distinction of hosting the internationally selective 2009 Quiksilver ISA World Junior Surfing Championships. Montañita, playing second-fiddle to none in this category, is the site of yearly surfing championships, most recently the 2013 ISA World Masters Surfing Championship, a competition reserved for the world’s best surfers over the age of 35.
Your idea of a wild time on the surf lean more towards spotting a humpback whale, than “hanging-ten”? Ecuador beach life has the answer for you. Whale watching in Ecuador is such an up close and personal experience that often you can spot cavorting and jumping humpback whales (Ballenas Jorobadas in Spanish) from the comfort of the beach, a dockside cafe, or your beachfront balcony overlooking the Pacific. For those that prefer the ultimate up close and personal “whale experience”, dozens of beach towns specialize in providing whale watching excursions, with professional tour operators guiding a boat so close that you swear you can reach out and touch the behemoths.
Beaches in Ecuador that are particularly known to be excellent places for whale watching include Ballenita (literally translates to “Little Whale”), the fishing hamlet of Puerto Lopez and Mompiche, a tropical beach paradise that jumps out at you like an idyllic movie setting. Unlike surfing, whale watching is not a year round activity and for optimal viewing, your Ecuador beach vacation should be scheduled between June and September – optimal months as it encompasses the low-season for most of Ecuador’s beach resorts.
If landing the big one is less whale and more marlin or wahoo for you, then Ecuador’s beaches definitely beckon the erstwhile fisherman. Not likely that you will have to spin the yarn, about “the one that got away”, as bountiful mother ocean rewards the Ecuadorian fisherman with amazing regularity. You almost have to be trying not to catch fish to end the day empty-handed.
Fishing tours abound throughout Ecuador’s beach towns, taking advantage of the particularly optimal and calmest conditions, from December to May. The beaches of Manta are a great place to launch a fishing expedition, especially if you favor tuna. There is a reason Manta is known as the “Tuna Capitol of the World”. Likewise, if your personal tastes run more towards marlin or sailfish, the waters around the beaches of Isla de la Plata offer excellent prospects. Of course, the grand-daddy of them all may be a fishing excursion off the exotic beaches of the Galapagos Islands, where listing the catch opportunities not available, might be easier than listing those that are available. The latter, while enjoying the strict guidelines of “protected status”, still offers ample opportunity to catch striped marlin, blue marlin and black marlin. Keep in mind, the Galapagos are an exciting, but strictly sports fishing locale. That means strictly enforced catch and release.
Finally, if after all the surfing, whale watching excursions and fishing expeditions, you find yourself plain tuckered out, maybe it is time to just spend some time soaking up rays on the magnificent beaches of Ecuador. There is a sandy spot with an umbrella just right for you, whatever your particular beach-style preference. If your idea of the perfect beach is secluded and serene, perhaps you will consider the beach of Ayangue, named both as the “most swimmable” beach in Ecuador, as well as a prime scuba-diving site. Nestled between two cascading hillsides and, hence, creating a tranquil crescent moon bay, Ayangue Beach is perfect for a weekend of swimming with the whole family. The only drawback is that it is a relatively small beach expanse. So, if you want tranquil, but with room to roam, Punta Blanca offers another exceptional swimming beach, with a wide, smooth sandy expanse, which whispers, “idly whittle away your time”. Grab a frothy beverage, set up a make-shift hammock and enjoy the sun, while listening to the gently crashing waves.
However, if your beach tastes run to the more “fun and exciting” variant, because maybe all the surfing, whales and marlin left you only hungering for more adventure, then perhaps you should head over to Atacames Beach, in the northernmost province of Esmeraldas. The beach is very similar in appearance and expanse to the aforementioned Punta Blanca, except the atmosphere is decisively different. From the minute you roll up to this enticing beach, you will be met by the rhythmic drumbeats of every considerable music, from salsa, to reggae to meringue, all pulsating from the dozens of beachside cabanas that dot the landscape of Atacames. Fresh catch-of-the day seafood and a cacophony of drinks await beach-goers in Atacames, who seldom have to saunter more than a few feet, to find themselves perched on a beachside stool, being served by bartenders with many a tale to tell.
If the Atacames scene sounds enticing, but you want a more “grown-up flair”, you can’t escape Ecuador, without heeding the siren’s call that beckons you to the premiere beach resort community of Salinas. Nestled on sliver of a peninsula, thus surrounded by ocean, Salinas is the playground for Ecuador’s elite, as well as most international travelers. Often branded as a “South Beach-like” scene, Salinas is much less artificial and much more demure, rustic and sedate, but every bit as enjoyable. With oceanfront cafes, a diverse set of ever-changing restaurants, most specializing in seafood cuisine, and an amazing array of oceanside activities, Salinas is family friendly, but also a diverse enough locale for the adventure seeker. At night, the outdoor cafes often offer strolling musicians, while hot nightspots like Sin, La Case de Roy and the Barcelo Colon Miramar Hotel offer rollicking good music and an exciting dance floor scene.
When planning your Ecuador beach vacation excursion, one “can’t miss” Ecuador travel resource is “Ecuador Beaches” (http://ecuadorbeaches.org), operated by Mark Cowtan. It documents dozens and dozens of exciting beach locales, with exceptional detail and excellent photography. With the information in this report, plus the extensive updates on the Ecuador Beaches website, all you will need is some beach wear, sun tan lotion and your creative imagination. Playtime in Ecuador awaits and it is limited only by your particular desires!