New Year’s Eve in Salinas, Ecuador
My friend George and I were sitting over dinner on January 2nd of this year. It takes that extra day to recover from the festivities of New Years in Ecuador. George spent New Year’s Eve in Montañita. We were supposed to join him, but ended up in my usual New Year’s destination of choice: Salinas. George commented, “Hector, I have done New Year’s on the Las Vegas Strip, I have done New Year’s on Time Square and I have done New Year’s in South Beach…but I have never experienced anything like New Year’s in Ecuador.” I smiled that knowing smile…I am used to hearing that every time from the newcomers. I remember when I first had the same thought myself, during my inaugural New Year’s Eve festivities in Salinas, Ecuador. To say that Ecuador does New Year’s “big” is simply put, a monumental understatement, until you have participated fully in one here. Only then can you understand. I have experienced New Year’s Eve from the balcony of a former condo overlooking the Salinas Yacht Club, from a boat on the Salinas Harbor, from a 360º view Salinas penthouse terrace, owned by a dear friend, all the way down to street level, with the maddening throngs lost in the sounds of revelry. Oddly enough, I discovered the latter was my favorite. You haven’t ”done” New Year’s in Salinas, without pushing forth with the masses, as you careen down the vaunted Salinas Malecón (Boardwalk), drifting from location to location, as a continuous 12-hour display of fireworks blazes all around you. Everywhere you look, the beach is lit afire with the burning effigies, known here as Manigotes, which are symbolic of burning out the old year, in the renewal of the New Year. The Manigotes, alone, could make a separate article for our readership. Suffice it to say that the Ecuadorean population takes their Manigotes very seriously, some special order the creations – which can range from Captain America, to a Smurf, to a historical or political figure – months in advance. Competitions are often fierce to see who can create the best, biggest and most obnoxious Manigote. It is quite the scene, earlier on New Year’s Eve, to see car after car riding down the roadway, with a gigantic Manigote strapped to the roof of their car, in say, the shape of the creature from the movie “Alien”. I couldn’t make this up if I tried. Well, this New Year’s Eve that is exactly where I spent half the night. Pressed flesh to flesh with my fellow party goers, enjoying the enchanting, but very loud, festivities, along the Salinas Malecón. I say “half the night”, because I spent the other half as an invited guest to the grand opening of the Salinas Beach Club, this resort community’s latest restaurant/bar/nightclub setting. Set out in a very “South Beach”-like motif and feel, the newly minted Salinas Beach Club offers an oasis of simple pleasures, along the Salinas Malecón. Featuring a wide-open veranda-style setting, with ample views of the Pacific Ocean, Salinas Yacht Club and the most popular beach section in all of Salinas, the location does not get any more primo. While this fine establishment was delayed due to a family illness, the promise can be seen in everything from the attention to detail, to the fabulous decor and the friendly camaraderie of the ownership and staff. It is like a meal at home, if your “home” was the confines of a very elegantly appointed, modern, oceanfront residence. Tiered as two levels, you find a bar, refreshing reflecting pool and ample seating on the lower level, with the prime space for a dance floor. On the second level, you have an even better view of the ocean, with a second bar setting, and relaxed table-side seating, with clear ocean vistas by which to sip your favorite cocktail. On this special New Year’s Eve Grand Opening, the Salinas Beach Club served a special catered affair of everything from the finest in seafood, to prime cuts of meat and seasoned, savoury chicken. It was served up buffet style, all you can eat, with each delectable morsel better than the last. The Salinas Beach Club is still finalizing its regular menu, as it rolls forth at this exciting location. However, drinks, music and dancing, are all available right now! It was quite the contrast – the quiet sophistication of the Salinas Beach Club, contrasted with the pure, raw energy of the crowd at street level. It is not so much that one is one better than the other…just different. Each a slice…a taste, of what makes Salinas, Ecuador, the resort jewel in the Ecuadorean crown. There is something for everyone, at varying locations, at each season throughout the year – the perfect balance…a zen-like perfection. However, for me, give me the crowded masses any day. It helps to make New Year’s Eve a little more “real”, while keeping it all in perspective. This said perspective being that I am blessed to enjoy the diversity of life, here, in Salinas, Ecuador, whether on New Year’s Eve or any other time of year. Why don’t some of you consider contacting me and joining us for the next Salinas New Year’s Eve festivities? There is no time like the present.