Ecuador Beach Trip

by | Mar 27, 2008 | Archives

Ecuador beach trips are great, but some days it feels like Ecuador may be the most misunderstood country in the world, and the Ecuador beach especially misconstrued.

See some great Ecuador beach trip pictures like this below.

Ecuador Beach Visit

For example, this morning a reader sent me this note about the Ecuador beach:

“Thanks Gary, I think I will pass on the June Ecuador beach trip as I am not one for humidity and just come and stay for a few days at your hotel to check out your city. How far is the market at Otavalo?”

Another wrote:

“Gary…Mindo is the spot…not 8000 feet…not the hot Ecuador beach….let’s go…”

Here is the reality. The mid Ecuador beach is not very hot. Air conditioning is not required on the Ecuador beach especially in June and during the summer. Evening sweaters are required. Wool blankets are slept under at night.

Also, for reasons I do not totally understand, perhaps due to all the sun at the equator, the 7,800 foot altitude here in the Andes does not affect people as it does up north. The timber line at Mt. Hood in Oregon where I grew up, for example, is about 7,000 feet. Here it is over 12,000. Guests here do not huff and puff, do not get altitude headaches and seem to be oblivious of the altitude.

Merri will share a message at this site in the next few days about recent medical research that suggests vitamin D absorption is best on the Equator and this may be a reason for this.

Mindo on the other is a humid cloud forest and is actually hotter than the coast.

This is why advice to our readers is set aside any pre-formed concepts. Come and see. Expect to be surprised!

This is also why I spotlight my sister Sandra’s story of her recent first visit to Ecuador so you can share a first timer’s view.

In case you missed it, the story of her Andean arrival is at

Today Sandra continues the tale of reaching the beach.


Ecuador–the Time Machine – On the Ecuador Beach
by Sandra Strait

March 12
Ecuador has many mountains, and many of them are inconveniently placed if you wish to travel from one place to another. So it was that we left Cotacachi and went down to Quito, in order to fly across to Manta on the coast. Or to glide down, rather. The flight takes approximately 28 minutes, and the plane barely ascends since the trip is all downhill.

We had arrived in Ecuador at night and on the drive to Cotacachi, I had only received the impression of sleepy villages and red & white cliff sides. Now driving back to Quito, I was impressed with the variety of the scenery. In Cotacachi, the countryside was a patchwork of green, darker green, and deep black soil, dominated by the hulking forms of Mt. Cotacachi and Mt. Imbabura. As we ascended, we passed through cloud forests peopled by wonderful knobby fat and gnarled trees–each one a character. I found myself laughing and assigning personalities to them.

After a while, the trees became sparse and the ground rocky and brown. It was still beautiful; a sort of mountain desert.

While waiting in the airport, security called a name. We thought they were asking for one of the people in our group. It turned out that someone had put fish or shrimp in their luggage (eewww!), and security wanted to take a look in case the smell was hiding drugs from their dogs. My sister-in-law sorted things out, but I was haunted–my suitcase might end up next to that one, and my clothes would end up smelling like tuna!

Despite the brevity of the flight, food was served. We were given a croissant-like biscuit with a mystery meat hidden inside. It was the most American food I had while in Ecuador. Still, I was impressed that we were given anything at all.

Flying down, I watched the scenery as we were much closer than I’ve ever been on a flight. The land rose and dipped and exploded with lush greenery. The towns and villages sparkled in the sun like scattered jewels.

If la Niña has caused the coolest, rainiest season in Cotacachi for over 20 years it has also caused the hottest, most humid season on the coast. When we finally arrived at Palmazul, after another long (but beautiful drive), we were greeted by the staff, which offered ice-cold wash cloths. Who knew cold water could feel so nice! I believe it was only about 80 degrees, but the sun is intense in Ecuador.

Ecuador Beach Trip

The hotel has a very ‘open’ architecture, and you can see the ocean throughout. We felt at home immediately. I took a shower, and enjoyed the ‘rainfall’ showerhead–almost like showering in the rain.

Dinner: Portobello mushrooms with Provencal cheese, hearts of palm salad, sea bass in coconut sauce and peach amarreti for dessert.

March 13
Breakfast: medallions of watermelon, and extremely tart apples. The main course was an omelet so thin it was wrapped like a crepe, with wafer thin ham and a slice of papaya inside.

The beach at Palmazul isn’t private, but is surrounded on both sides with high cliffs. When the tide is in, there is a natural cove. We took a walk down the road behind the hotel, and then back up the beach. There are several cabanas, some very nice homes, and a lot of the ‘shabby chic’ buildings that I’ve come to love. My brother pointed out a pizza restaurant that served oyster pizza. Unfortunately (or fortunately, perhaps), it was only open on the weekends, so I never got the chance to try it out.

Being from Oregon, I’m used to an ocean with a ferocious surf that is never quiet. The ocean here is calm, but has a nice surf–breakers that are higher than they look. There were two other guests from Hawaii who informed us that the water was warmer here than in Hawaii.

By this time, I was missing ice. Cold drinks are available, but they are slightly chilled rather than the ice-cold I’m used to. The Ecuadorians don’t believe icy drinks or food are good for you.

On the coast, the water is not available, and water is brought in from mountain springs. It is interesting to see the water trucks–old buses with the top hacked off, and a tank welded on. In Ecuador, very little is thrown away.

We watched a house being woven. At least, in essence that is what was being done. The house in question, will be light and naturally air-conditioned. Back in Cotacachi, we visited a housing development, and watched a crew at work for a while. The only power equipment was a drill. Everything else was being done by hand. When they pour concrete, they form a bucket line–some throwing the concrete into the mixer and others catching it and pouring it. Later, they attach steel wool to their shoes and walk and walk across until the surface is even. All the corners are hand-chiseled.

Ecuador Beach Trip

Dinner: Beef tenderloin in coffee sauce.

March 14
Oh. My. Mosquitoes! How they do love me.

Evidently, I managed to trap a few mosquitoes inside my netting, and I was the main course for the evening. Despite the fact I was using repellent, the little peskies bit through my clothes, and they weren’t fastidious. I now have bites on my toes, and hands, and arms, and legs, my stomach, my back, behind my ears, under my chin. I even have bites on my butt.

Suffice it to say, last night was not one of the best I have spent. One of the bites under my arm and the one on my knee swelled up to about the size of a golf ball. Nothing helped, until Alberto, one of the staff from El Meson, who came down to help with the coastal tour came up with the answer. Lime. You just squeeze the lime slices and smear the juice everywhere. It acts as both a deterrent, and soothes the bites you have. Within minutes the swelling reduced to almost nothing, though I still have bright red spots everywhere.

The hotel management intends to set up Mosquito Magnets, devices that emit C02 to lure mosquitoes and then traps them. Evidently, mosquitoes only travel a few hundred feet from where they are born, so once they are wiped out in an area, they don’t come back easily. (I understand from my brother that this has even worked in the Everglades.)

Just as in Cotacachi, there are trucks and carts playing music that pass by frequently. They sell ice cream, water, fruit–just about anything you might want.

We went on the first day of the coastal tour, looking at some properties here in San Clemente and some in the neighboring town of San Jacinto.

John Papski (an Englishman who has lived for 15 years in Ecuador), who was our guide for the day, took us to the shrine in San Clemente, a statue of the Madonna, set inside a glass tube. The Ecuadorians are very religious, and every town has a similar shrine. John told us that it is a custom for visitors to seek out the shrine, and visit it for a few moments, as a sign of respect. He said after you do that, you will be accepted in the town.

In San Jacinto we saw some of the cutest little houses. They are 400 sq ft, yet still have 3 bedrooms, 1 bath, and living room! They are going for somewhere around $17,000-$18,000 apiece.

Ecuador Beach Trip

That is one of the things my brother continually stresses about the properties. The value of any given piece of land is whatever the owner believes he can get, or how much someone wants to offer. Cash goes a long way.

There is no sense of hurry or urgency here. Several houses were supposed to be opened to us, but the owners didn’t bother to show up or send anyone.

We went to the city of Bahia (baa-eee-ah) after lunch. It is Mediterranean in style and is absolutely gorgeous. A few years back there was an earthquake of 8.0 on the Richter scale, and most of the high-rises here survived. The city is upscale–the place where the rich from Quito spend the winter. It is summer there now, so not many people were there. We stopped at a wonderful hotel called La Piedra for tea and had banana splits.

One house we visited was quite unassuming from the outside. We went in and surprise! The place was huge with a swimming pool, and old marble floors, lovely old woodwork, and a terraced roof–unbelievable!

(See this Ecuador beach house at

On the ride home we watched the sunset from the bus–a beautiful glow that lighted the mountains and fields into gold. Truly magnificent. As we pulled into San Clemente, we passed one of the poorer homes, wooden slats, no glass in the windows. From inside came the glow of a television set.

March 15
Another day of property exploration. We started in Manta. If you like city life or yearn for modern conveniences, Manta is the Ecuadorian city for you. It has an international airport, high-rises, traffic, (and of course, like all port cities, crime).

The first site we visited was Las Olas, a condo high-rise. It is still in the bare bones stage, but we could see the views it will have. I’m not a city girl, but I was tempted. These condos will have all the conveniences an American could desire, instant beach access and views of the ocean that go on forever.

Lunch was a lesson in patience. The restaurant was darling, little more than tables, a woven-hut roof and a bar, and, of course, a spectacular ocean-view. Our guide had planned on an hour. An hour and a half later, food still hadn’t been served. At one point, we saw the waiter slipping out to get more fish. When someone protested that we had been there for two hours, the owner protested that “No! You’ve only been here an hour and 40 minutes.” Evidently, he realized the crazy Americans were getting restless, and started serving.

Despite being late, the food was excellent. There was crumbed fish and shrimp, ceviches, all manner of fish, and the ever present side dish on the coast, fried plantain chips.

The day was a long one. We traveled through miles of cloud forest and coast road. We visited Las Pinas, a popular surfing village and walked through a little house that could easily be converted into a surfer shop or motel. There was a donkey in the yard next door, two pigs wandering in the streets, and, of course, dogs.

The land is very rough and steep along this portion of the coast, many of the house hanging perilously (so it looked) on cliffs. Even the poorest of homes had million dollar views.
We visited several other houses, but the big surprise was a 38 acre home owned by a ‘Tuna King.’ This could have easily been a movie-star’s home. The road leading to the house was too narrow, and surrounded by a lush throng of trees, so the bus couldn’t get through. We had to walk for several minutes to get to the estate, richly manicured in contrast to the wilderness we had just come through. Peacocks, toucans, monkeys begging for treats were lined up in cages as we approached the house.

The property included 600 coconut trees, two guest houses, housing for the staff, a fire pit, several walkways, and 110 meters of ocean-front property.

Ecuador Beach Trip

The asking price was under $550,000 dollars! I wish I had that much, because the place was incredible.

We were late and the driver chose the quickest route home–the route with all the pot-holes! A storm broke out, and we were forced to close the bus windows, and the mugginess increased. We were rocked, and bumped, and tossed. By the time we got home I had a raging case of motion sickness.

I noticed a tent set up behind the hotel, but was too ill to be interested and just went to bed. My sister-in-law came in and talked me into getting up (in the nicest way possible-she is the most gracious of people!). I’m so glad she did.

The hotel had set up tables by the pool, covered by a tent, and prepared a BBQ of langostinos, chicken, steaks, huge mushrooms, grilled eggplant and corn on the cob. Despite the fact we were more than an hour later than planned, the staff was smiling, and so pleased at the surprise they had planned for us.

Let me describe what I think heaven might be like: The rain was drizzling onto the tent, and driving the smoky scent of the fire into the air. One of the guests brought out his guitar and serenaded us, his pleasant voice backed by the syncopation of the surf. The sweet breeze cooled our skin and carried the scent of the cooking food. My stomach was still roiling, and I didn’t eat anything, but the moment was so peaceful and so relaxing…I was full on contentment.

March 16
Our last day in Ecuador, and it was gorgeous. The Ecuadorian ocean may not be as ferocious as Oregon’s but the color likes to tease you. One moment it is a leaden blue, frothed with breakers. The next moment it transforms to a glorious turquoise that rivals any Caribbean sea. This morning, the sun was bright, the ocean was a jewel, and despite the fact I knew I would be leaving soon, I couldn’t be sad.

We visited Crucita, and I fell in love…

…with this view.

Ecuador Beach Trip

There were a few lots for sale in this development of Mediterranean-style homes sitting above the city. We were invited into the builder’s home; it was so open that you felt like the view was simply a part of it.

Things turned bad for a moment when my husband almost managed to kill himself. We were upstairs investigating a house that had been partially built when the owner decided to sell. We’d been told there was a pool, but hadn’t managed to find it. Patrick thought he saw where it was, and stepped forward to see it better–right into thin air! Fortunately, he wasn’t far from the ledge, and managed to throw himself back onto solid footing. My heart twists when I think about it though, even now.

Ecuador Beach Trip

Above the development is a small restaurant, and a business that sells parasail rides. $20 dollars to fly over the ocean, and down to the beach.

I fell in love with this site, but my husband preferred a condo down in the city itself. He liked the fact that it was just across the road from the ocean, and he could pop out and go swimming at any time.

The group was feeling lazy, all of us enjoying the weather and the beautiful scenery (and the beer at the restaurant, in some cases). Eventually, we had to move on. It was time to head back to Manta, where we would fly back to Quito.

We looked at a few more condos on the way. Here is the view from one of them. It was only $77,000 with three floors!

Ecuador Beach Trip It

When we arrived at the airport we discovered our flight had been canceled. In fact, the airline was in trouble for tax avoidance. No problem though. We were moved to another flight that was leaving an hour and a half later.

The difference between Ecuadorian and American flights was brought home sharply. I had my passport in a small purse that I wore around my neck, and I managed to get the strap tangled up with my camera strap. I’m a bit of a klutz, and wasn’t having much luck getting things straightened out. The people on duty thought it was terribly funny, and we were all laughing. One of them helped me out, smiling and wishing me a good day.

Once inside, there was complimentary coffee, juice, and milk. A television was mounted on a pole, and a soccer game was playing. And, of course, once we were on the plane, food was served–the hidden mystery meat again.

I loved every moment of my Ecuador trip, and intend to go back as soon as I can. I really felt as though I was traveling in time as well as in space–to a place that is clean and friendly, and rooted in solid values.

Sandra Strait

Gary’s Note about upcoming Ecuador beach trips.

We invite you to join us in Ecuador Here is our upcoming schedule.

April 16-17 Ecuador Imbabura Real Estate Tour

May 13-17 Ecuador Import Export tour

May 23-25 International Investing & Business Made EZ North Carolina

June 7-8 Coastal Real Estate tour

June 11-15, Super Thinking + Spanish

June 16-17 Imbabura Real Estate Tour

June 19- 21 Ecuador Shaman Tour