Exploring the Pacific Coast of Ecuador

We spent a couple of weeks traveling from San Lorenzo in the north to Montañita in the south hugging Ecuador’s Pacific Coast along what’s called the Ruta del Spondylus (named after a very rare type of mollusk that used to thrive in the area but is now endangered). Here are some highlights and observations along the way.

Machalilla Ecuador fishing boats

Fishing boats bob off Machalilia Beach on Ecuador’s Pacific Coast.

From the inland town of San Lorenzo, we drove west until we reached the Pacific where we paused to admire the ocean and have a lovely seafood lunch in one of the 10+ beach shack restaurants in the town of Las Peñas. Our calamari with rice (US$7) and mixed seafood with rice (US$9) were both worth the money and the wait (nothing moves too quickly on the coast).

Playa Escondido Ecuador coast

Playa Escondido on Ecuador’s Pacific Coast.

We arrived at Playa Escondido, near Punta Galera, near dark. Playa Escondido is our favorite beach on the entire Pacific coast of Ecuador: petite, secluded, only lightly visited, swimmable, walkable, and clean. We saw many pelicans, frigates and kingfishers. Green sea turtles nest here and hatch in December. The beach is part of the Playa Escondido Ecological Refuge which was created by Canadian expat and life-long traveler Judith Barett.

Playa Escondido Ecological Refuge Ecuador

Playa Escondido Ecological Refuge offers a beachside restaurant, rooms, and excellent camping.

For US$25 per person, you can stay in the Eco-Lodge that she runs. It’s a massive, traditionally built building of bamboo and thatch that has breezy, mostly open-air rooms with good nets over the beds, private showers and sinks, sea views, and hammocks. Rooms on the top floor have the best design and best views. All rooms share a pristine composting toilet.

Playa Escondido Ecological Refuge camping

Our plush campsite at Playa Escondido Ecological Refuge.

You can also camp near the lodge in a large, flat, sandy area just off the beach with a covered picnic table with electricity, Wi-Fi, and shared showers and composting toilets (US$10 per person). Or rent one of the houses that are part of the operation. This is a great option for large groups since the houses offer multiple bedrooms, a kitchen, and private gardens. There’s also a restaurant here that serves guests and day trippers.

From Playa Escondido, we took a day trip to the surf town of Mopiche, about 40 minutes away, where the nearly 7 mile (11 km) long arced beach is very inviting and very popular. Surfers, swimmers, and fishermen were all in the water and economical hotels and beach restaurants abound here.

We also took a day trip to the towns of Same and Sua. Sadly, the town of Same is now dominated by a large condo development called Club Casa Blanca. The towers of that development rise over the northern half of town and the development has also made a large section of beach inaccessible to everyone but residents of Casa Blanca.

Simon Pizza Ecuador

Don’t miss Simon Pizza when you’re exploring the Pacific Coast of Ecuador.

We fled Same and headed for Sua. Along the way, we stopped at Simon Pizza on the coastal highway for excellent pizza and Ecuadorean craft beer. About a dozen pizza options are offered in a range of sizes (US$7-US$25). Thanks for the tip, Peter Flick!

beach Canoa Ecuador

Canoa Beach.

After a few more relaxing days on Playa Escondido, we continued south to dusty, laid back Canoa, about four hours away. Canoa is one of the most popular Pacific Coast destinations and, at nearly 11 miles (17 km) long it’s the longest beach in Ecuador. It has a pleasant backpacker beach hang feel with beach bars, yoga joints, and hotels and restaurants in all price points. We stayed at Bambú Restaurant & Hotel. At US$50 to US$100 per room, it’s not the cheapest place in Canoa, but it’s right on the beach and is an icon in the town. On a budget? You can pitch your tent at Bambú for US$10.