It’s quite the mission to explore the Northern coast of Ecuador. Buses don’t exist for advance purchase and planning purposes. You stand on the side of the road and flag a bus down heading the direction you’re going. Sometimes you get on and there aren’t any seats and you stand in the aisle with 20 or so of your fellow passengers. Mostly there are no direct buses. At least to the stops I visited. On the plus side, my most expensive bus was $3.50. And the cheapest, $1.
The spots I visited were sleepy, friendly little beach towns that if visited in the right season, are home to some size-able waves. Despite the fly by the seat of your pants to get there nature, the Northern coast is a real treat!
The first stop on my tour of the North coast was Canoa. Getting to Canoa from Montanita required three buses and about six hours: Montanita – Puerto Lopez – Portoviejo – Canoa. Canoa is sometimes described as ‘Montanita 10 years ago.’ It has tourists, but it doesn’t feel overrun and still has a very small town beach vibe. The beach is lined with vendors selling all kinds of souvenirs and bar huts that offer dancing in the sand and a plethora of happy hour drink specials!
(Streets of Canoa; beach vendor; Canoa sunset; kid on a horse; local Canoa butcher)
Mompiche was stop #2. Getting to Mompiche required another three buses and about four hours journeying along from: Canoa – Pedernales – Chamanga (I think…but it was close to here) –
For my night in Mompiche, I stayed at Hosteria Gabeal (there weren’t many options available to choose from) but for $15, I got my own private room with a lovely balcony. The curious thing was the only artwork in the room…the Chimborazo photo. Half way across the country and a less popular mountain, I’m not entirely sure what this was saying…
Same (Sah-mey) was stop #3. This one was easy. I took the bus bus directly from the center of Mompiche (very lucky timing where I walked up and the bus took off straight after) to Same. The trickier part was once I arrived in Same. I attempted to stay at a hostel recommended in my copy of the Lonely Planet, but when I arrived, it was closed with a lock on the gate. The same thing happened with option two. And option three. Finally, we went to Cabanas Isla del Sol and they were actually open with availability.
After getting settled in my cabana (and it came with AC!!), I set out for a walk down the beach to find some lunch and the only ATM in town. There weren’t a whole lot of restaurants, but after finding the local market and getting some snacks, I finally found a lunch spot deep within the Casablanca complex. Casablanca takes up a large chunk of the North side of the Same beach. I hadn’t expected much when I sat down, but it was really delicious. After lunch, I walked back to my hotel and swam in the ocean and laid out with a book, on what seemed like my own private beach. I caught up on some computer work as I watched the really pretty Same sunset.
On my fourth day up the coast, I ventured back to Quito to meet up with friends Mark & Matt. The bus journey to Quito wasn’t that bad; bus to Esmeraldas (one hour) then another (scheduled) bus to Quito (six hours; my most expensive bus at $7.50). The only issue was my guest house front gate wasn’t unlocked as planned, so I had to climb over the gate with my backpack on. Which, if you’ve seen my backpack, is no easy task…about 24kg/52lbs. Uff…
If you’re traveling to Ecuador, make sure to add the beaches of the Northern coast to your itinerary. They are definitely worth the stop.