North coast

Ecuador boutique travel tours - North coast & Choco

Beaches, Archaeology and Coastal Rainforests

The northern coast of Ecuador encompasses the beautiful  provinces of Manabi and Esmeraldas. There are thousands of miles of pristine beaches, tropical dry forests, coastal rainforests, and the amazing choco region. Interesting archaeological sites and the lively afro-ecuadorian cultures in Esmeraldas with their tropical dances and heritage make this part of Ecuador a true haven for sun seekers, surfers and eco-tourists.

Manabi has sandy beaches - Take your pick

San Vicente, San Jacinto, San Clemente, Puerto Cayo, Puerto Rico, Puerto Lopez, Crucita, Canoa, Cojimíes, Pedernales, and Jaramijó are all lovely beaches backed by fishing villages. These beaches stretch over 300km along the coast of Manabí. Frequented year-round, Manabí’s resorts offer peace and quiet as well as delicious, uniquely coastal cuisine. The surrounding vegetation is made up of mangroves, thickets, and woods. Villages such as Puerto López and Pedernales have become resorts with good hotel infrastructure and act as departure points for trips to places like Machalilla National Park. More isolated hotels and ecolodges made of cane and other locally produced materials are also popular tourist destinations.

The fishing village Crucita is reached by going north from Portoviejo. There you'll find several good seafood restaurants, a very long narrow beach and excellent clifs for hang gliders, Crucita is considered one of the best locations worldwide for hanggliding. Additionally, you can find a great deal of sea birds.

Manta - Cruise-liner shore excursions

Manta is the country's second largest port, with its extensive hotel facilities, is Manabí's major city. Its main beach, Murciélago, has a modern boardwalk with a variety of restaurants offering local culinary specialties and the region's most delicious drinks. In recent years, it has become a popular stop for international cruise liners sailing from the Caribbean to Latin America. The city has several bars and discotheques, which are often frequented by tourists, especially on the weekends. In October, Manta welcomes dozens of performers who come to the Chusig Theater for the International Theater Festival.

Bahia de Caraquez - Ecuador´s Eco City

Bahía de Caraquez has many first-class hotels and places to relax and enjoy yourself. Many people chose to take a short boat ride across the Chone River to enjoy a day in neighboring San Vicente beach. Alternatively, you can enjoy the beaches in Bahía. Stroll along the boardwalk, or perhaps head off to a secluded beach such as Boca Briceño or El Matal.  Nearby is the beach of Canoa, one of the best places to surf in South America.

Other places of interest include the Río Chone estuary known also as the Pantanal where we find thousands of migratory birds, with its islands Corazón del Sol and Fragatas where thousands of frigate birds nest and it is possible to walk through the mangrove forest on a boardwalk in search of estuary species, the Central Bank's Museums, and the House of Culture.

For people interested in agrotourism and community experiences Rio Muchacho located in the dry tropical forest is a great place for an adventure staying in this eco-complex with the optional possibilities of sleeping in tree houses, learn to grow cocoa and help the community in "montubio" activities.

Portoviejo - the hottest city in Ecuador

Among the many attractions of Portoviejo, the province's capital, also known as the city of the "Royal Tamarind Trees", are the Metropolitan Cathedral and the San Pedro Seminary. Around the town there are several natural thermal baths and spas such as El Zapallo, La Peña, La Papayita, San Antonio, and Cerro de Hojas.

Montecristi - History Among Hats

This village is internationally renowned for the high quality of the “Panama Hats” they produce (yes, you read correctly, Panama Hats are and always have been from Ecuador and not from Panama). Lying at the foot of a large hill called Montecristi, the small town of the same name has many attractions such as Eloy Alfaro’s (an ex-Ecuadorian President) house, the Hermanas Largacha Museum, and the Monserrate Sanctuary, where thousands of Ecuadorian and foreign pilgrims traditionally flock, especially on the weekends. Another place of interest is La Pila, whose artisans make a variety of sculptures and replicas of Pre-Colombian ceramics. In addition to hats, these artisan centers display other handmade crafts made of different types of straw and iron.

Visitors can see how the master weavers start with a small straw circle and end with a "super fino" (extra fine) hat, the nicest cost anywhere in the $500 USD range scalling down to the basic sombreros costing $5.

Machalilla National Park - Archaeology and Virgin Beaches

With its unspoiled, white beaches; its leafy, endemic vegetation; and La Isla de la Plata, where some of the Galapagos species thrive in abundance, Machalilla National Park is visited all year round by both local and foreign tourists. The main season is from June to October, which is when the whales come from the Antarctic to breed in the region. Situated 80 km south of the town of Portoviejo, the Park is also home to sites of archaeological interest such as Agua Blanca, with its remains of the Machalilla culture. Salango Island, where endangered species such as the anteater have found shelter, is also worth mentioning.

The Isle of Silver or Isla de la Plata is worth mentioning, it is also dubbed "poor mans Galapagos". It is possible to dive, snorkel and see hundreds of sea birds, including: blue footed and nazca boobies, waved albatross and frigatebirds among others.

Mache - Chindul reserve & Cojimies

The Ecological reserve named Mache - Chindul protects one of the worlds most important mangrove forests and swamps in the Cojimies estuary, here you can find several species of crustaceans and molluscs as well as thousands of sea birds. The hill called "Pata de Pajaro" offers great views of the reserve. Within the area you can also find the beautiful beaches of Pedernales and Jama which are surrounded by native flora and fauna.

The estuary formed by the Cojimies river offers one of the most beautiful beach areas of the Ecuador coast, here it is possible to practice several watersports: Windsurfing, waterskiing, sea kayaking among others. There is also a secluded beach surrounded by a coconut palm forest called Coco-Solo.

This reserve can be reached from the cities of Esmeraldas, Atacames, Muisne, or Pedernales (in Manabí). It has several attractions including: tropical rainforests, waterfalls, and various swimming holes. The total surface area of the Reserve is 70,000 hectares and it is home to the Cachis ethnic group.

Esmeraldas beaches - The best in the country

The Green Province, as it is called, is located on the country’s northwestern coast. Here, the temperature ranges from 21 to 25 degrees Celcius. Esmeraldas’ beaches are undoubtedly one of its main attractions.


Mompiche ranks among the most idyllic, unspoiled beaches on the coast, little more than a sprinkling of huts and fishing boats.

Its 7 kilometres of beach allow to enjoy and to relax in the shade of the palms. The water here is clear and warm (77-81F). Mompiche has been kept secluded for the better, good with species of fauna and flora. It possesses one of the most extensive waves of the Ecuador of almost a kilometre of length. Mompiche is the ideal place for the lovers of the surf. Mompiche has an excellent shortboarding and longboarding wave and has a playful inside section with a sand bottom good for novices. Mompiche is Ecuador's most beautiful beach and this can also be a very romantic getaway for surfing couples.

Tourists contribute to its tropical beauty, its vegetation and a tourist attraction basically for its extension of beach and the hospitality of its people in which the afro-Ecuadorian community finds itself.

Legend tells that a ship full of slaves, heading in the direction of Colombia was shipwrecked in the Esmeraldas-Monpiche coast. The people aboard the ship found their freedom and began a new life there. The MARIMBA is the favorite music that they sing and dance to. It features chonta, a musical instrument made of hard bamboo


Muisne is a small Island that boasts one of the wildest beaches of Ecuador. It attracts people both from the highlands and from the coastal regions of Ecuador. There are mangrove forests and swamps in the area, and this is one of the few places where mangroves are, to some extent at least, protected.

The island of Muisne, known for its unspoiled beaches and tranquil waters is bucolic and solitary, is ideal to find the interior peace and to reconcile with the world.

Playa Escondida

Tucked away and hidden and secluded, some fourteen kilometers from the nearest village, lie ecolodges Cumilinche and Playa Escondida (Hidden beach). A departure from the often wild party life of other beaches, this ecological reserve of 100 hectares that boasts a safe, private, pristine beach offers a relaxing alternative for families and travelers. Playa Escondida is located in a beautiful bay. In Playa Escondida you'll see pelicans, frigate birds, hummingbirds, sandpipers, giant and tiny kingfishers, horneros, parrots and parakeets, azulejos, caciques, flycatchers, masked tyrants, mot mots, herons and even ospreys escaping from the cold northern climate.


The small village of Same is a quiet beach resort about 6km southwest of Sua. Same lacks the crowds of other beaches and is slightly more expensive. The attractive gray-sand beach is palm fringed and clean. Nestled among palm trees and set along a strip of coast known for its crystal-clear water.


This small fishing village is more bustling than Atacames from a fishing point of view, but it's a much quieter place to stay if you'd rather watch the boats at work than just hang out on the beach. The fishing industry attracts its attendant frigatebirds, pelicans and other seabirds, and the general setting is attractive.


An all-year-round tourist resort, is just 30 km from the city Esmeraldas. Atacames’ well-developed tourist infrastructure and plethora of seaside restaurants, bars make it a great beach destination for enjoying local food and the great night life. It’s markets selling locally made handicrafts, jewelry, and coral products make Atacames a great place for an affordable shopping spree, as well. A great place if you are looking for contact with local culture and are a big party fan. Atacames always offers the potential of an all day & night party. The small beach resort town of Atacames is immensely popular for visitors from Quito, as well as from Colombia, and gets very crowded on weekends and holidays. Along the beachfront are the main restaurants, boasting the region's best traditional dishes. Next to the beach, bars offer typical beverages made from water and coconut. If you are searching for peace and relaxation there are other beaches that are much more quiet.

Tonsupa and Playa Ancha

Other popular beaches include Playa Ancha and Tonsupa, located 20 km from the city of Esmeraldas. At only 45 minutes by bus from Esmeraldas, Tonsupa and Playa Ancha have big and comfortable hotels and tourist complexes, apartments, cabins, hotels, inn, pensions and discotheques of great category to take pleasure to the most demanding tourists who seek to enjoy its calm beaches and the sunny days. Tonsupa and Playa Ancha a destiny for the family, you can come to the nice beach with your children and your parents. It has beautiful waves and clean sand. You can eat many dishes of the sea, fish, lobster and "ceviche".

The sport can you practice in Tonsupa is the snorkelling, since it possesses a beautiful submarine landscape.

Camarones - Colope and Rio Verde

There are more beaches to the north, towards the Cotacachi Cayapas reserve and the Choco rainforest, all of which are small fishing villages namely Camarones where you can arrange to go out with the fishermen, Colope, and Río Verde - this last is located at the outflow of the river with the same name and offers great opportunities for bike riding, water sports and sea kayaking up river, their are rainforsts nearby and the beach gets little use, it is clean, calm and the waters are warm. A large Frigate bird colony nests nearby and there are possibilities for volunteering with local schools.

Las Peñas

This beach is not as well known as the Southern beaches, the waters are warm and there are miles and miles of sandy beach. It is a calm beach and it mainly catters to people from Ibarra.

El Cauchal

The village of El Cauchal is located on an Island within the Cayapas Mataje Mangrove ecological reserve. The beach at Cauchal is beautiful and solitary. To reach Cauchal it is a one and a half hour boat ride from San Lorenzo. At Cauchal it is possible to spend the night with one of the families in the community and enjoy the local seafood, crab ceviche, tapado de pescado (smothered fish) or encocado de pescado (cocunut fish). The beah is surrounded by cocunut palms and other fruit trees. Visitors are welcome to join the communities activities fishing and collecting clams in the mangrove swamps.

Choco rainforest - Biodiversity hotspot

Located in the northern coast throughout the Cotacachi-Cayapas Ecological Reserve and its zone of influence, this region possesses great biological and cultural diversity. The Choco region of Ecuador has long been recognized as probably the richest region of biodiversity on the planet.

Several Botanists have recorded in great detail the unique nature of the biodiversity of the region. Possessing one of the highest rates of rainfall on the planet this region of coastal mountains and drainage basins of the Pacific slopes of the Andes has acted as an incubator for biodiversity development.

Along the banks of the Rio Cayapas, the Afro-Esmeraldan and Chachi centers of Zapallo Grande, Corriente Grande, San Miguel, Santa Maria and Telembi form our area of tourist exploration. These communities sustain themselves primarily through agriculture, hunting and gathering. For centuries, the Chachi remained isolated from Western culture, maintaining their native language and ancestral traditions. They are experts weavers using natural forest fibers. The Afro-Ecuadorian communities live in family groups primarily dedicated to agriculture, hunting, fishing and obtaining other products from the forest. With a history dating back more than 400 years, their relationship to the forest is expressed through music, legends and folklore.

In this natural paradise, you will find an incomparable experience, enjoying in one-of-a-kind tourist attractions in different villages, each with its own community ecotourism project. These initiatives provide economic alternatives for the communities which allow them to protect their tropical rainforest. Proceeds from the projects go towards development and social programs. Ecuador Boutique Travel works with Kumanii foundation to offer unique travel experiences using Kumanii lodge as our base of operations.

San Miguel

San Miguel is a small afro-Ecuadorean community in Esmeraldas Province in northern Ecuador. The village is one of the bases for visiting the Cotacachi-Cayapas Ecological Reserve, designated as one of the top 10 biodiversity hotspots in the world. The local community runs an ecotourism project to help preserve the local environment. There are also opportunities to teach English in the school.

San Lorenzo - Life Among the Mangroves

This settlement is popular amongst adventure-seeking tourists. San Lorenzo is a timber-exporting port that lies 18 km to the south of the Colombian border. From here, there is easy access to virgin beaches such as El Cauchal and San Pedro as well as to tropical forests such as La Chiquita where you can discover unique species of flora and fauna thriving along hiking trails.

La Tolita Island - Treasure Just Lying Around

This is an archaeologically interesting area where one of Ecuador’s oldest Pre-Colombian cultures existed. It is believed that the indigenous population here worked with platinum centuries before it was used in Europe. The site includes a museum run by locals and it isn’t hard to find archaeological remnants lying around outside. To reach the island, take a motorized boat from San Lorenzo. The lovely crossing over the turquoise water beneath a scorching sun provides a great opportunity to admire the backdrop of mangroves and the seabirds flying overhead.

Cayapas-Mataje Ecological Reserve - The World's Tallest Mangrove

This ecological reserve, located in the northern Esmeraldas, is extensive and exuberant. The main feature of Cayapas-Mataje is El Majagual Forest, where the world’s tallest mangroves grow. It is impressive to see their huge roots intertwined in marshland and creeks. Very close to here lies the small town of San Lorenzo.

Playa de Oro - Some of the worlds best birdwatching

The name of this community comes from the Gold that was easilty obtained by pan-washing in the river. You can reach this community by a one and a half hour dugout canoe ride on the beautiful Santiago river from Maldonado which is half hour by road from San Lorenzo.

Playa de Oro is an afro-ecuadorian community and they have built some rustic yet comfortable cabins for visitors. This community is located within the Cotacachi - Cayapas ecological reserve and offers several excursions into the tropical Choco rainforest in company of community guides. This area of Ecuador offers easy access to finding some of the worlds most amazing and rarest birds, there are harpy eagles, Kingfishers, woodpeckers, hummingbirds, umbrella birds, cock of the rock and many other species including tanagers and flycatchers.