Daily Brief – La Chocolatera Point in Salinas
Whether you are a surfing enthusiast or just someone that loves to view uniquely beautiful ocean scenery, then you have probably heard of the vaunted “La Chocolatera Point” in Salinas, Ecuador. The Chocolatera has the distinction of being the farthest westward continental point in all of South America. It is located at the very tip of the Salinas Peninsula. When one stands at its edge (La Puntilla), you are at the precise intersection point of the ocean cross-currents. Look to one direction and you will see perfect calm waters and look the opposite way and you will see raging, crashing waves. It is almost surreal.
It is hard to say the name, “Chocolatera” and not dredge up images of, well…chocolate. It is not a mere coincidence. The point obtains its name, from the fact that the aforementioned cross-currents serve to lift up sand deposits from the ocean floor and somewhat color the ocean with a chalky “chocolate” hue.
Apart from being a very desirable and, also, very dangerous surfing site, the Chocolatera is probably best know for its crashing waves along the prominent rock formations and also as an ideal locale for spotting sea lions. To facilitate the latter, the local government has erected various lookout point stations, which allow one to go “sea lion” spotting with greater comfort and ease. It is also a great vantage point for sea bird watching, with albatross, sea gulls, pelicans, frigates and even blue-footed boobies all readily observed at the Chocolatera.
To enter onto the Chocolatera, you have to pass through the Salinas Naval Military Base (FAE). The checkpoint offers a mere formality, as Ecuador has very relaxed laws for public access to military bases. A simple mention that you are there to view the Chocolatera is enough to generally get you through the gate. In the past, special passes were required, but now even that rule has been largely relaxed in practice.
Existing data shows that 53,000 unique visitors entered the Chocolatera in 2012, but as a local resident, I can attest that the true numbers are likely significantly higher, as good head counts are seldom kept. The ongoing Chocolatera improvement project foresees 5 look out stations, a cafeteria and an administrative office to offer a more enjoyable and informed visitor experience. The goal is to turn the Chocolatera into South America’s balcony onto the Pacific.