Once we experienced the mountains of Ecuador it was time to hit the coast for some sun and surf. The coast of Ecuador is lined mostly with small towns and a few large metropolitan cities. In November, we traveled down the coast from Esmeralda visiting Atacames, Mompiche, Canoa, Puerto Lopez, Ayampe and Montanita over three weeks. Our favorite by far was Canoa. We made great new friends, ate good seafood, saw lots of Boobies, snorkeled, surfed and hitch hiked. What we didn’t know, but quickly learned is that it’s overcast from May to December. From December to April the sun comes out, but rains most days too. Over our time on the coast we only saw the sun maybe a handful of times. But we made the most of it!
We took a bus from the southern station in Quito, Terminal Quitumbe to Esmeralda on the northwest coast. The drive was beautiful once we left behind the big city, dry dessert and found ourselves in the lush amazon of northern Ecuador. It was supposed to be a 7 hour bus ride, but after a flat tire and a stop for chicken, rice and beer, we arrived in the dirty and sketchy town of Esmeralda a lot later than expected. Since the sun was setting we quickly hailed down a cab to take us to Atacames. This was a quick 25 minute drive, but even though Atacames is a small town it took our driver another 30 minutes to finally find our pre-booked hotel. At first sight walking the two blocks to the beach from our hotel was a scary experience. We had our hands on our pocket knives just in case. But once we got to the main strip of bamboo cabanas that lined the sand we realized it was actually fairly safe. The town of Atacames is known for its late night parties and blaring reggaetone music. Fortunately and unfortunately we arrived mid-week and the streets were empty with only one open bar. We stumbled upon an upstairs pizza place called Pizzeria de Chris. This is by far the best proper Italian pizza we have had in all of South America. I can still taste it’s goodness! Having full belly’s we made our way down to the reggaetone beach bar for a beer. After watching the locals salsa dance as if they’ve been doing it since they were 3, we decided to join in and show off our novice skills. I’m still grinning ear to ear from the fun and laughter we shared.
We decided to stay an extra day, so we could get a better grasp on this not-so-party town. Lucky for us it was a sunny day. We explored the town, Abe got to surf and I caught a few rays. The beach of Atacames is a long sandy stretch. On a scale of one to ten of beautiful beaches, I would give it a five. The buildings that line it are run down or partially finished and the ocean isn’t anything special. It’s a good stopping point on the way down or up the coast, but I wouldn’t recommend planning a vacation there. The tourist center directed us to where and what time to catch the bus headed for Mompiche. We saw at least 15 buses go by as we stood on a busy corner with all our luggage and surfboards waiting for the one headed to Mompiche. We watched as locals put in bags of potatoes, produce, and merchandise in the lower storage compartments. One lady even considered putting her box of chicks in there but decided best to carry it onto the bus instead. Eventually our bus arrived and off we went.