by Linda McFarlin
The Ecuador beaches of Manabi from Pedernales south to Manta are favorites among tourists and locals alike. Many of them are stunning. The water is warm and the weather usually balmy. Whatever your preference, be it quiet and secluded, family-oriented, loud and crowded with night life or simply to sample life among the locals, there is a beach waiting just for you.
Don’t let anyone sell you on one specific Ecuador beach. There are some great ones, depending upon your personal tastes, so explore to your heart's content until you find the perfect one for you.
There are quiet, lonely beaches with great expanses of sand and very little infrastructure. There are noisy beaches crammed with vacationers on holidays and weekends, complete with loud music, drinking, carousing and partying.
The 46 km stretch of beach from Pedernales to Jama is undeveloped. Pedernales is a typical dusty Ecuadorian beach town with a growing tourism industry.
The beach area's popularity is due to calm waters and shady palms. The many water activities available include swimming, diving, snorkeling, kayaking and fishing.
Many bars line the beach, offering alcoholic drinks and fresh fruit juices. You'll usually find dancing in the evenings.
The 7.8 quake that struck Ecuador's central coast in April, 2016, hit Pedernales hard, destroying 80% of the houses and many of the large hotels. Rebuilding is underway as of 2018 and many mid-priced hotels are open for business.
Jama was well-developed and fairly clean before the quake, with a hospital, hotels and hostels. An archeological museum houses finds from the Jama-Couque culture.
About 4 kilometers from Jama is the much smaller fishing village of El Matal with a little beach known as both Jama beach or El Matal beach. The water is clear but the town and beach area is not so clean, often littered with trash.
It's a popular tourist area but lacks infrastructure and thus is primed for more business opportunities in the future.
Nineteen kilometers north of San Vicente is Canoa, a growing beach community popular with adventure tourists and surfers. The laid-back surf atmosphere is supported by several local businesses operated by foreigners who are working with the local government to make sure Canoa’s growth is sustainable.
Soft sandy beaches draw surfers to the strong waves and sun lovers to lounge along the shore.
There are numerous hotels to fit most any budget. 20 minutes away from Canoa is Rio Muchacho, an organic farm and eco-lodge that also offers courses in agrocology and permaculture.
If you pass through Canoa make sure to have breakfast at the Coco Loco or try the great burgers at the Surf Shak. Vegetarians should head for Addicto Surf. This is an easy way to start making friends at the beach!
Bahia de Caraquez is a charming beach city located on a peninsula alongside the river Chone. Despite its high density of homes, condos, apartment buildings and hotels, Bahia is a clean, quiet city.
Another reason for the peacefulness of the city is that many of the houses are vacation homes that are vacant much of the year until the high season from January to April rolls around. Then the city is filled to capacity.
Beaches have suffered greatly from erosion and pollution. One is quite small, sometimes underwater at high tide.
The usual activities are available. Although the surfing is not that good, sailing is.
Growth in Bahia was stalled for several years due to its location far from Quito and Guayaquil. However, infrastructure development has greatly increased growth in this area.
A long bridge completed across the river in 2011 has replaced the old ferry, and new highways all up and down the coast have made the city even better and more alive. A few years ago, many of the condos were vacant. Now it is difficult to find a condo for sale.
Bahia suffered a strong earthquake in 1998 and some of the city was destroyed. But in 1999, Bahia declared itself an “Eco-City” initiating plans to recycle most of the city’s waste and to turn itself into a green city.
Out of the rubble of the earthquake, a new and vibrant city is emerging. What started as a small port city is transforming itself into one of the most pleasant cities on Ecuador’s coast.
Here's a blog post with more personal photos of Bahia de Caraquez and the local scene.
We recommend hotel La Piedra located along the waterfront. For food we highly recommend the restaurant at Puerto Amistad. This is a yacht club, so if you get hungry in Bahia, just look for the sailboats.
Twenty-four kilometers south of Bahia is San Clemente and San Jacinto, two communities with a 12km stretch of sandy beach. This area is much more populated than the beaches north of Bahia and offers limited creature comforts.
The town is not well developed but the beach and views are outstanding. If you are planning to buy real estate in San Clemente make sure to visit first.
San Clemente is home to Palm Azul, a beach development with a hotel, pool and condos.
Manta is an important shipping and industrial center with a deep-water port, a large airport being transformed into an international air cargo center, hotels, restaurants, and shopping centers with everything you could need. Manta’s cultural and tourism offerings are limited and the beach is average.
Many Ecuador residents, including expats, are finding that two homes in Ecuador serve as a nice variation, migrating to the highlands as the seasonal weather on the coast get hot.
The views are spectacular and if views are your thing you may be happy with Manta. The coast south of Manta is rugged with cliffs and several homes are available with beautiful views. Your Ecuador beach selection highly depends on individual requirements.
This bustling port city of about 250,000 people has good shopping, great restaurants, shopping malls and lots of real estate to choose from, including many condos for expats.
Rio Manta flows through the city. A malecon or sea wall with many tourist shops and restaurants edges the upscale northern beach area of Playa Murcielago. Here you can swim, surf, wind surf and fish.
Playa Urbana Los Esteros is a much less crowded beach. Playa Tarqui in the south has a bustling restaurant trade and fishermen sell their catches to the delight of tourists.
There have been some reports that beaches are not always safe and robberies of tourists have taken place, but you'll need to check this out for yourself.