Guayaquil and the Pacific coast

Broad lowlands west of the Andes meet the Pacific ocean in a varied coastline.

The Andes fall away rapidly to the west, leaving a broad swathe of lowlands between cloud forested hills and the Pacific coast. The western lowlands are home to half the country's population, with a different racial mix that includes an African heritage from the slave trade that brings an easy-going style in contrast to the more conservative life of the highlands. Banana growing and shrimp farming are prime activities here.


Life in the country's largest city is one of everyday commercial bustle. As the local saying goes, 'Guayaquil earns the money, Quito spends it'.

A cruise along the river frontage overlooking the muddy waters of the wide Guayas river, presents a diorama of the city's history. The wealth brought by the cacao trade, when Ecuador was the world's largest exporter, is exemplified by the Mercado Sur, a palace of iron and glass designed and prefabricated in France by Eiffel himself; it is now an exhibition space. Dockside wharfs and warehouses convey the importance of the maritime trade, while the new Yacht Club expresses the city's international cool -- a theme extended by the new 'Malecon 2000', an attractive broad promenade of gardens, fountains, shops and restaurants that has helped the city to redefine itself with new confidence. Many of the fine buildings behind the Malecon have been impeccably restored.

At the end of the walkway, steps lead up to the lighthouse and church on Santa Ana Hill. This area was formerly a slum but with great vision and the support of local residents its large wooden houses have been renovated and colourfully painted, and the area turned into a pleasant mix of housing, gift shops, art galleries and cafés.

Other sights around the city include a modern cathedral fronted by a plaza whose trees are home to a profusion of iguanas, who come to the ground to be fed like ducks in the park. There are good Botanical Gardens too.

Ruta del Sol

From Chile to Peru, the Pacific coast of South America is chilled by the cold waters of the Humboldt current. Fortunately, its influence stops well south of Guayaquil so Ecuador's Pacific coast enjoys the warm waters of the tropics and many days of clear skies.

Resorts close to the city can be crowded, but the 'Ruta del Sol', the coast road north of Salinas to Manta, is a delight. Broadly speaking, the further north you go the quieter and nicer the beaches and coastal villages become, with a scattering of small hotels. Salinas itself has high rise blocks that attract the local well-to-do in la temporada -- Ecuadorians' holiday season from December to April.

Machalilla National Park

Towards the northern end of the Ruta del Sol, Machalilla national park is a real jewel. The main section of the park protects a full transect of vegetation from arid scrub and tropical dry forest near the sea, through moist forest, up to true cloud forest: great for hiking, birdwatching and just being out and about.

Within the park, the indigenous Manteño community of Agua Blanca welcomes visitors. Volunteers show you their village and the smallholdings where they grow grenadines, papaya, mango, oranges, limes, maize, chilli and much more. At the river the village laundry is washed by hand using the fruit of the barbasco tree as a soap. You may be invited to bathe in a sacred sulphur lake, where the whole community gathers for ceremonial bathing at solstices and equinoxes. A viewpoint looks from this dry lightly forested area towards the lush hills of San Sebastián.

An archaeological site near the village has been excavated to reveal the remains of three solar centres for measuring the sun's motion and a large ceremonial hall where stone jaguar thrones were positioned every 5 paces. A small museum contains relics and artefacts including thrones, funerary urns, tattoo stamps and spondylus shells which were used as currency. It is a fascinating glimpse of pre-Incan society, made possible by its direct descendants.

Also within the park is the beautiful bay of Los Frailes: a paradisiacal long sweep of fine sand, with little shade.

Isla de la Plata

9km offshore, Isla de la Plata is a small uninhabited island skirted by cliffs. It is home to colonies of Nazca, blue-footed and red-footed boobies, magnificent frigatebirds and, seasonally, waved albatross. Sea lion and fur seals are occasional visitors.

Isla de la Plata is well worth a visit at any time of year. Between June and October, Humpback Whales are regularly seen in the surrounding waters, along with large schools of dolphin and pods of Sperm, Pilot, False Killer and Killer Whales.

It is quite a stretch to compare Isla de la Plata with the Galapagos Islands, but the very pleasant day trip to the island goes some way to indicate what is on offer 600km further into the Pacific.

Start planning your trip to Ecuador

Let us know what kind of trip to Ecuador you are most interested in, and when you are thinking of travelling. Our travel experts know Ecuador extremely well, and will be delighted to offer some initial ideas and advice, and to develop a more detailed design for your holiday as your ideas evolve. Our Ecuador brochure, which you can order here, includes a section on the Galapagos Islands too.

Call us on 020 7281 7788 ( Mon-Fri 9:15-5:45). Or we'd be happy to call you back.

Ecuador & the Galapagos Islands
Our brochure for Ecuador & the Galapagos Islands is packed with ideas and information to help you plan your trip.

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Holiday designs that visit this region

'Ecuador Odyssey'

Ecuador & Galapagos - Touring and wildlife

Ecuador's classic highlights. Andean scenery, impressive colonial architecture, dramatic volcanoes, spectacular wildlife and birds, plus insights into the rich cultures and crafts of Ecuador's indigenous peoples.

15 nights from £4575

'Andes, Amazon and Galapagos'

Ecuador & Galapagos - Touring and wildlife

A wonderful combination of Ecuador's worlds. Tour below the peaks and volcanoes of the Andes, discover historic Quito, explore the Amazon rainforest at a wildlife lodge, and take a cruise in the Galapagos.

13 to 24 nights from £2850

'Lost Civilisations'

Ecuador & Galapagos - Touring and wildlife

Exciting discoveries are unveiling a ‘new’ Andean past, with the Quito valley at its centre, connected with the Amazon and the coast, and seemingly holding a special position as a gateway to creation.

10 nights from £2650

'Pacific Coast'

Ecuador & Galapagos - Touring and wildlife

Another of Ecuador's worlds. Take the Ruta del Sol from Guayaquil to sleepy fishing villages, wild Pacific beaches, whales and wildlife of the Isla de la Plata , and traditional communities with links deep in the past.

4 nights from £1220

'Birds of Southern Ecuador'

Ecuador & Galapagos - Birdwatching

An extraordinarily productive circuit of southern Ecuador's prime sites, including the world's most birdy cloudforest, with gorgeous birding experiences and a thrilling selection of endemics, rarities and new species.

15 nights from £5195

'Birds of the Pacific Coast'

Ecuador & Galapagos - Birdwatching

A great way to round off a birdwatching trip to the Andes or Amazon.

5 nights

Here’s what our clients say about their experiences of Ecuador with Geodyssey.

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