The Ecuadorian Pacific Coast – Part 2: Manta, Bahía de Caráquez and Canoa

The second part of my journey took me farther to the northern part of Manabí Province. My first destination was Manta, a port city on the Pacific coast. With about 217,500 inhabitants, Manta is the fifth largest city in Ecuador and it has an international airport. The city is also known for its tuna industry; there’s even a monument featuring a tuna.

 

The area around the bus station isn’t particularly inviting, and at night you shouldn’t walk around there. However the malecon (the waterfront) isn’t far away and it’s nice place to go for a walk. The city’s most famous beach is called “El Murciélago.”  Here you can find lots of beach bars and restaurants.

The Malecón of Manta

 

Anyone who prefers a place with more peace and quiet is better off in one of the resort towns nearby. Small towns such as Crucita, San Jacinto and San Clemente are easily reached by bus and are much quieter.

 

Not too far away from Manta is the town of Montecristi. Although it’s not located by the ocean, it’s worth a trip because of the famous “Panama hats” that are manufactured there.

 

I took a bus from Manta to Bahía de Caráquez, though unfortunately there was no direct connection. So, somewhere halfway between I had to get dropped off and wait for another bus to Bahía.

 

If you speak some Spanish, you won’t have any problems finding your way around in Ecuador. People are usually quite helpful here; and if you feel like you’re lost, just ask the locals for help and they’ll try to find the right bus for you. If you don´t speak any Spanish, try communicating with your hands because nearly no one speaks English here, particularly people in the countryside.

 

The bus to Bahía stops quite often, so the total drive time is about three to three and a half hours. If this seems too complicated or too long for you, you can also take a taxi. This costs about $30 USD and the journey shouldn’t take more than an hour and a half.

 

Once I arrived in Bahía at the bus station, I had to take a city bus to get to the downtown area. I inquired in advance about a good hostel, and the recommendation I went with was called Coco Bongo. It’s not far from the beach and the “Tía Supermarket,” which are all basically in the center of town. The breakfast at Coco Bongo was really good! One of the employees is Swiss and the breakfast that was served included some of her delicious homemade Swiss bread.

The center of Bahía

 

In Bahía there are many fish restaurants and the fish is freshly caught. No one should miss out on trying the delicious seafood there. I took a walk through the town and discovered a small roadside restaurant where fresh fish was grilled. Since it smelled so appetizing, I took a seat and ordered a plate that also included a large grilled potato, patacones (mashed, fried plantain) and salad. It was a dream…

 

The next day I took off for Canoa. This village is particularly popular among surfers but also attracts weekend Ecuadorian tourists. The place has a wide beach, numerous small beach bars and restaurants, and an overall relaxed, alternative atmosphere. Canoa has countless hostels and some hotels.

 

Activities such as horseback riding are offered on the beach, but I just wanted to enjoy some sun – since it finally came out –  and relax on the beach.

The beach of Canoa

 

I got a recommendation from an acquaintance about a restaurant right on the beach promenade called “Saboreame.” Here you will find the best fresh seafood. I ate Ceviche for lunch and I was so excited that I returned for dinner and ordered Encocado de Camarón. For those who aren’t familiar with it, Ceviche is a kind of cold fish soup with lots of tomatoes, red onions, cilantro and lemon juice. I like to eat my Ceviche with rice, but usually it is served with patacones. Encocado de Camarón is a dish with shrimp in a coconut sauce. It’s a typical dish in the coastal region of Ecuador.

My Ceviche de Pescado with rice

 

Still, the nightlife in Canoa shouldn’t be underestimated. It’s not as vibrant as Montañita, but its numerous small bars will invite you to come in to have a drink and dance. My journey came to an end there. From Canoa I took a bus back to Manta, where I caught the next flight back to the capital, Quito.

 

My conclusions:

 

  • For those who just want to party, they should go to Montañita. If you prefer a place that’s a little quieter, though, Canoa will be the right place for you.

 

  • For those who like it really quiet and prefer seeing very few or no other tourists, I recommend Crucita.

 

  • In Portoviejo  there’s not much to see, but Manta and Montecristi are worth a stop if  you’re passing through. Manta is a good destination for anyone who wishes to visit a city on the coast and may want to go shopping.

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