Ecuador is known for the Galápagos Islands, the Andes Mountains and the Amazon Jungle. Did you know that it is also home to the westernmost point in continental South America – the “Chocolatera,” at the tip of the Santa Elena Peninsula in Salinas?
This carries strategic significance. During the World War II era it was home to an American military base. Now it is occupied by the Ecuadorian armed forces. However, that doesn’t mean that it is closed to the public. Visitors simply need to check in at the main gate, where they are asked to leave their driver’s license with the guard. It will be returned when you check out. Don’t be alarmed that the guards wear fatigues and carry guns. Keep in mind that this is normal dress for a military base.
There are no signs or billboards announcing that you have arrived as far west as you can go. Instead follow signs for the Chocolatera. You will know you have arrived when you see a black and white lighthouse. In Spanish chocolatera refers to the container used to make hot chocolate, which is whisked until foamy. It is said that the waves crashing against the rocky shoreline look like the foam on top of hot chocolate.
Be sure to wear sturdy shoes. The terrain is rough and rocky. Pay attention when you venture towards the edge. Large waves can suddenly top the cliffs and could even knock you off your feet. The Ecuadorians say, only half in jest, that if the fall onto the rocks below doesn’t kill you, the sharks lurking in the area will.
Before leaving the base, travel a short distance east from the Chocolatera to the Mar Bravo beach. It is marked with a sign and lined by a row of tiki huts on the sand. Surfers say this is the place to find the best waves in Salinas. This secluded beach is also the perfect spot for a stroll or just to relax and enjoy the sound of the surf.
During the Ecuadorian winter (North American summer) the rocky outcropping at the eastern end of Mar Bravo beach becomes home to a group of sea lions.
You will get the best view from the elevated observation area. And be sure to take your binoculars or use the zoom on your camera to get a closer look.
No matter what time of year you visit Salinas, make sure to include the Clocolatera in your itinerary.
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In Cotacachi the weather is always Spring like. Here is the village plaza near our hotel Meson de las Flores.
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This shorts weather photo was taken from our beach penthouse in February.
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