17 Top-Rated Beaches in Ecuador

Written by Alison Abbott
Sep 3, 2019

The coast of Ecuador is dotted with beaches that make even the most well-traveled visitor swoon. For such a small country, the offerings are many. From sleepy, working class beach towns like Muisine to the bustling coastal resort area of Salinas, visitors will enjoy the beautiful climate, surf, sand, and a host of amenities.

The influence of multiple cultures in this region results in a unique experience for tourists. Surfing shores are favorites among those who like to hang 10, and, of course, the Galapagos Islands combine nature and seashore in the very best of ways.

Finding a beach in Ecuador along its almost 2,253 kilometers of coastline is an easy drive from most of the major cities and airports. The Galapagos require a bit more effort, and reward with bucket list accomplishments. Choosing which beach destination to visit is the toughest part of the journey—visitors will be hard-pressed to stop at just one. Find your favorite with our list of the best beaches in Ecuador.

1. Salinas

La Loberia point in Salinas

Located in Santa Elena Ecuador, Salinas is the largest beach resort area in Ecuador and the westernmost city on the mainland. It is host to the ISA World Junior Surfing games and a few yacht clubs, which draw visitors from all over the world.

With restaurants, shops, a marina, and endless sand beaches, it's easy to see why beach goers flock here. If you want to surf or just relax in the sand, family-friendly Chippe Beach is the spot to go. Salinas is about 144 kilometers from the José Joaquín de Olmeda International Airport and the city of Guayaquil, Ecuador, so getting here is easy.

2. Ayangue

Ayangue Beach in Ecuador

The picturesque town of Ayangue is about an hour from Salinas, but it seems like a world away from the hustle and bustle of the busy resort town. The beaches are perfect for the sunbather who just wants to relax, and the views from the cliffs are spectacular.

Because of the location, it is prime for seafood, so be sure to bring your appetite. The restaurants in this area are known for their amazing seafood dishes. Ayangue is off the beaten path, and its remote location makes it easy to escape the crowds.

3. Puerto Cayo

Puerto Cayo, Ecuador

This low-key beach town is the perfect place if you want to escape and connect with nature and wildlife. There is so much more to do here than lying on the beach. Sightseeing opportunities for visitors include whale watching, fishing, surfing, or even a short trip inland to enjoy a farm and jungle tour.

This beach paradise is backed by mountains, which gives it a secluded feel. The town is small and friendly but still accessible, as it's about 48 kilometers from two airports and the city of Guayaquil.

4. Playas/General Villamil Beach

Playas is filled with history, on the south coast of Ecuador about 72 kilometers from the city of Guayaquil. Once a small fishing village, Playas is becoming a destination beach in Ecuador while still keeping some of its original charm. Playas is filled with all the same amenities as Salinas, without the crowds. Calm waters are great for families and novice swimmers. The locals are warm and inviting, and the beaches are pristine.

While here, don't miss the Iglesia San Jacinto del Morro Church, one of the oldest churches on the south coast. With lots of restaurants and street food to choose from, this beach is a seafood lover's dream. Another popular stop in town is the San Francisco Bakery where they use the 125-year-old stone oven to bake fresh sweet bread daily, a traditional Ecuadorian treat.

5. Mompiche

Small fishing village of Mompiche is located in the northern Ecuadorian Pacific coastline

When you step foot onto the golden sand beaches of Mompiche, in the province Esmeraldas, you will want to bask in the sun for hours. A popular surf spot, the beach here is lined with a palm-tree backdrop.

This town has a fun, laid-back vibe but boasts some really awesome experiences outside the town limits. In addition to water sports like kite and windsurfing at the beach, you can head just outside of town, where you can take a trek through the jungle, visit nearby nature reserves, or go bird-watching. You can also head to the nearest city of Esmeralda for even more things to enjoy.

6. Muisine

Muisne Beach | Diego Tirira / photo modified

A popular destination in Ecuador, Muisine is known for its soft-sand beaches. Muisine is located on the northern tip of the Isla de Muisine in the Mompiche Bay and was one of the areas hard hit by the 2016 earthquake. This quiet stretch of unspoiled beach is a great place for fishing, sunbathing, and enjoying the spectacular sunsets.

This island is remote and sees less visitors than the mainland, so it's perfect for those wanting to escape and avoid some of the more popular beaches. Spending tourist dollars with the locals is a great way to help them in their recovery, all while enjoying a restful vacation of recharging. Visit the palm-lined beach in the back of the island and see some of the protected mangroves, so important to the surrounding environment.

Muisine is about 193 kilometers from Quito and 136 kilometers to Santa Domingo, making this vacation spot a doable day trip from either.

7. Tortuga Bay Santa Cruz, Galapagos

Beautiful Sandy Beach of Tortuga Bay in Santa Cruz, Galapagos Islands

Tortuga Bay provides a sandy spot for exploring the many marine iguanas that call Santa Cruz home. Turtle nesting season is a spectacular time to visit, although beach access can be limited then. Turquoise waters and the variety of wildlife viewing make this bay one of the most popular in the Galapagos

8. Atacames

Atacames Beach in Esmeraldas

If you are looking for nightlife, excitement, and tons of activities, a visit to Atacames Beach on Ecuador's Northern Pacific Coast should be on your list of places to see. About 48 kilometers from Esmeraldas and about a four- or five-hour drive from Quito, this busy beach town hosts many tourists from abroad and throughout South America.

The area is lively during its peak season. Many residents are Afro-Ecuadorian, so it gives the town a Caribbean flair. In addition to the typical water sports you will find here like snorkeling, jet skiing, and boating, there is also an impressive aquarium, as well as a unique town to explore.

9. Playa Los Frailes

Los Frailes Beach, Machalilla National Park, Ecuador

Arguably one of the most beautiful beaches in Ecuador, Playa Los Frailes is off the beaten path, but well worth the journey to get here. This crescent-shaped shore surrounded by cliffs is an easy day trip from Puerto Lopez.

You can reach the beach after a short hike, or you can take the scenic route where you will most likely see wildlife along the way. When you arrive at the top of the cliff, tourists are rewarded with the most breathtaking views of the crystal-clear water, expansive white-sand beaches, and schools of colorful fish swimming below.

Because of its semi-remote location, Los Frailes is rarely crowded and is the perfect spot for those who just want the sun and sand.

10. Montañita Beach

Aerial view of Montañita Beach

If you are looking for a bustling beach town then Moñtanita Beach is for you. This otherwise small town is inundated with tourists looking to ride massive waves and swim in the crystal blue waters. Known as the surfing capital of the country, Montañita Beach is filled with restaurants and hotels catering to the throngs of tourists who flock here each year.

While you are here, you can take Spanish lessons at Montanita Spanish School and get immersed in the local culture or hang 10 with some of the local surfers.

11. Canoa Beach

Canoa Beach

This long stretch of white, sandy beaches is perfect for a relaxing vacation. Lining the beach, you will find small guesthouses. The holidays are a busy time, so be sure to book in advance.

There is a lot more to this area than the beach. Head to the Rio Muchacho sustainable farm to learn about agriculture in the region or take a horse ride. Because the waves aren't as challenging as Montanita Beach, visitors can brave the waters and take surfing lessons at the Canoa Surf Academy.

Getting to Canoa Beach can take some time. Plan on a day of travel from Quito, as a bus trip will take about seven to nine hours to get here. Since the bus makes stops, hiring a car or taking private transport will expedite your journey.

12. San Lorenzo Beach

Jungle behind the beach at San Lorenzo, Ecuador

If you want a beach that boasts amenities as well as seclusion, San Lorenzo beach is the choice for you. With quiet coves mixed with long stretches of sand and calm waters, it's a great beach for families, couples, and the solo traveler. Active beachgoers will love the challenging hike up to the cliffs. It's not for the faint of heart, but when you reach the summit, the views are spectacular, and you will be glad you made the trek.

13. Puerto Lopez Beach

Puerto Lopez Beach

Puerto Lopez is the epitome of a coastal town and perfect for a long weekend at the beach. With small shacks and a plethora of water sports to choose from, you can sunbathe, snorkel, or dive at the beach. If you want to go on an adventure, rent a bike and explore the nearby countryside or Machalilla National Park.

If you visit Puerto Lopez Beach in June to September, be sure to book a whale watching tour for a once in a lifetime opportunity to see these amazing creatures up close and personal. It's also a great place to see wildlife that typically is found in exotic locales. Known as the "Poor Man's Galapagos," this destination allows for close encounters with the infamous blue-footed boobies, as well as other creatures.

14. Salango Beach

View of the village Salango, located in the coast of Ecuador

A 30-minute drive from Puerto Lopez is Salango Beach. This beach is a draw to snorkelers, as it hosts an impressive coral reef. The calm waters and small waves are perfect for families and water sports. Visitors will love the laid-back vibe and quiet beaches, which light up and become magical at sunset. This beach is also a favorite of fisherman, as it's rumored to have the best fishing in the province. It also offers unparalleled views of National Park Machalilla.

15. Bartolome Island, Galapagos Islands

Bartolome Island in the Galapagos Islands

The iconic Pinnacle Rock marks the spot of not one but two crescent-shaped beaches on Bartolome Island. Wildlife is abundant here, with sea turtles, playful penguins, and the fast-swimming sea lions who are known to dart past snorkeling aficionados with their ballet-like moves. The calm water makes it a great place for exploring life under the sea.

16. Rabida Island, Galapagos National Park

Red sand beach on Rabida Island in Galapagos National Park

It's not often travelers find a red-sand beach on their explorations. Rabida and the unique sand color is home to blue-footed boobies, sea lions, brown pelicans, and many other birds. Sunbathing is not the main objective here, but if you're looking for hiking and discovering new species of wildlife, this is a great spot. When the light it right, the red sand makes for a pretty awesome selfie backdrop as well.

17. Isabel Island, Galapagos Islands

Isabel Island, Galapagos Islands

Pink flamingos and prehistoric-looking marine iguanas are the main residents of Isabel Island, along with a human population that hovers around 2,000. One of the longest stretches of beach in the Galapagos Islands can be found here, coming in at just under two miles along Puerto Villamil. The harbor is a popular stopover with sailors making their way to the Marquesas Islands in French Polynesia. In the southeast part of the island is a lava channel where whitetip sharks can often be seen.

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