Updated February 28th, 2021.
Known for being one of the most bio-diverse countries on Earth, Ecuador is home to the unique Galapagos archipelago, the Andes mountain range and the Amazon Rainforest. However, what you may not know is this country also boasts 2,237km of spectacular coastline. In fact, many of Ecuador’s beaches rival the best anywhere in South America!
Whether you’re looking for awesome surf, the opportunity to swim with wild sea turtles or a party that keeps pumping all night, Ecuador’s coastline is waiting for you. And the best thing? The compact size of the country means that you don’t just have to pick one or two beaches!
Many of the Ecuadorian beach towns listed are located very close to one another, so if you have the time, you could visit them all! Assuming you can drag yourself away from the first one that is…
So without further ado, here is our pick of the best beaches in Ecuador!
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The Best Ecuador Beaches: Quick Answers!
- Best beach in Ecuador for swimming: Puerto López
- Best beach in Ecuador for surfing: Mompiche
- Best beach in Ecuador for partying: Montañita
- Best beach in Ecuador for wildlife spotting: Tortuga Bay
- Best beach in Ecuador for families: Ayangue
13 Stunning Beaches in Ecuador
1. Puerto López Beach
Located in the Manabi province, Puerto López is home to a sleepy fishing town turned beach resort. The golden sand beach of Playa Puerto López is great for catching a few rays and relaxing. There are hills on the south side which protect the beach from the wind, meaning that the water is generally pretty calm. Playa Puerto López is the ideal place to enjoy a swim. Close to the beach, there are plenty of hotels and restaurants.
Puerto López is the gateway to one of South America’s best national parks, Machalilla, where you can explore volcanic beaches and spot exotic wildlife.
There are two main excursions for visitors to Puerto López. The first is the day trip to Isla de la Plata, also known as the ‘Poor Man’s Galapagos’. This trip allows you to get up close and personal with Blue Footed Boobies, Nazca Boobies and even the mighty seabird, the Albatross. The trip also includes some of Ecuador’s best snorkelling – keep an eye out for sea turtles while you swim!
The second most popular excursion from Puerto López is only available during the months of June to September. During this time, Humpback Whales migrate to the area and sightings via boat are practically guaranteed.
Where to stay near Puerto López:
2. San Lorenzo Beach (Salinas Beach)
Salinas is arguably the most popular beach resort in the whole of Ecuador and once you see this beach, you’ll understand why. Picture the high rise buildings of Miami and you’ll be close to imaging the Salinas resort. This area aims to attract wealthy business people who live and work in Guayaquil. Towering palm trees line the white sands and the San Lorenzo beach is very well serviced by nearby amenities.
Although lazing is the favourite activity of many who come here, there is also something for adrenaline seekers. Hang gliding, water skiing and paragliding are all alternative attractions for those who want their beach holidays to have a quicker pace.
Situated in the Santa Elena province, Salinas resort is located around two hours west of Guayaquil. December through to April is high season and San Lorenzo beach gets very busy during these months. For a quieter visit, you’ll need to visit out of season.
Where to stay near Salinas:
3. Atacames Beach
The beach town of Atacames is located around five hours from Quito, in the Esmeraldas province. This golden sand beach is just over two and a half miles long and hosts plenty of tourists, both local and international.
There is plenty to do in the area around the beach and it has become known for its nightlife. The bars are famous for their take on the Brazilian cocktail caipirinha, a favourite South American drink for many.
Swimming and surfing are popular activities, however, caution should be exercised as sharks do frequent these waters. As a result, we’d probably recommend sticking to the sunbathing and cocktails!
Where to stay near Atacames:
4. Montañita Beach
‘Lo que pasa en Montañita queda en Montañita!’ (What happens in Montañita, stays in Montañita!) Ain’t that the truth?
The hedonistic haven of Montañita has become somewhat of a rite of passage for both backpackers and locals alike. Essentially, if you’re looking to get f*cked up in Ecuador, Montañita is the place you go.
However, despite the lure of the 24/7 party scene, there are other things to do in this hippie beach town. Montañita is a great place to surf and holds competitions annually. The golden sand beach is also great for chilling – grab a fresh coconut from one of the local vendors to really kick back.
If you like to work as hard as you party, why not sharpen up your language skills with a course at Montañita Spanish school? These are good value for money and are sure to make your future South America travels a lot easier!
Where to stay near Montañita:
5. Canoa Beach
Sitting just three and a half hours up the Spondylus road (one of South America’s most popular road trips) from Puerto López, lies the small fishing town of Canoa. If you are looking for a local choice of beach in Ecuador, Canoa is the place.
Compared to Ecuador’s other coastal towns, Canoa is an underdeveloped paradise which those looking to get off the beaten path will love. Although it’s quiet during the week, the weekends come alive with fiestas – though it’s still nowhere near the debauchery that Montañita is known for!
Surf is great year-round and boards can be rented from around $3USD per hour. Lessons are also available for newbies. The whole place has a chilled vibe so even if you aren’t into water sports, you can still enjoy soaking up the sun.
After the weekends, litter can be particularly bad on the beach which of course, mars its beauty. Sadly, this is the case with many spots in South America, especially when there has been a party the night before. If you’re at a loose end, we recommend getting stuck into a bit of trashpacking to set a good example!
Where to stay near Canoa:
6. Tortuga Bay
If you like your beaches to look like they’ve fallen straight out of an episode of Attenborough’s Perfect Planet, then you’re in luck. Located on Santa Cruz island in the Galapagos archipelago, Tortuga Bay is a must-visit spot.
This Ecuadorian beach is one of the country’s finest and it is easily possible to while away hours watching the marine iguanas shuffle past or the pelicans flying overhead. The beach isn’t huge so can get busy quickly, but the sand is fine and the setting is world-class.
If you’re heading to Tortuga Bay, don’t miss the opportunity to rent a kayak for an hour or so to explore the bay. The beach has no entrance fee (making this a great activity if you’re exploring the Galapagos on a shoestring) and kayak rental costs around $20USD for an hour. Sharks group in the small inlets around the bay and the water is so clear that you can see them below you!
Where to stay near Tortuga Bay:
7. Tonsupa Beach
Situated northwest of Ecuador’s capital city Quito, Playa Tonsupa sits in the Esmeraldas province. Compared to some of the other beaches in the area, Playa Tonsupa is fairly quiet. High season is between June to September.
This beach is most notable for its incredible amenities. Bars and seafood restaurants line the coastline. They offer a chilled place to relax during the daytime and a more pumping vibe once the sun sets. This is a great place to sample fresh Ecuadorian ceviche.
The beach is mostly clean and whilst there is a bit of potential for surfing, the waves here are more suited to bodyboarding or swimming. However, you should be aware of rip currents and not venture too far out.
Where to stay near Tonsupa:
8. Ayampe Beach
Offering a more chilled alternative to the pumping party of Montañita, Ayampe is a great place to kick back with a book on the soft sand beach. This place is all about healthy living and cherishing the moment.
Ayampe is another one of Ecuador’s surf beaches and most travellers will take this opportunity to hone their skills on the waves. If surfing is a bit too physical for you or you’d rather work your mind than your body, surf business Otra Ola, also offers Spanish lessons.
Yogis will definitely want to make a stop in Ayampe and check out one of the morning classes, again run by Otra Ola. Pulling out your best tree pose with the sand between your toes and the sound of the waves lapping against the shore offers a whole new meaning to the word zen.
Where to stay near Ayampe:
9. Ayangue Beach
The golden sands of Ayangue Beach are irresistible for those on the hunt for a tan. It is located around an hour from Salinas and two hours from Guayaquil.
Unlike many other of Ecuador’s beaches, the party scene is yet to find Ayangue. This means that revellers tend to avoid it and as a result, it has more of a family vibe. Parents appreciate the lack of nightlife and the calm waters are ideal for swimming.
If you’re craving seafood, Ayangue is the place to be. The restaurants in the area work with the local fishermen to provide the freshest catch to diners. Look out for menus featuring patacones with fried fish – it is a local favourite.
The waters close to Ayangue are also popular with divers. El Pelado Islote, around 20 minutes from Ayangue, is a great place to dive and has a high level of marine biodiversity.
Where to stay near Ayangue:
10. Los Frailes Beach
According to many, Los Frailes is the most beautiful beach in Ecuador. It’s nestled in the heart of Ecuador’s only coastal national park, Machalilla and is a beach that really needs to be seen to be believed.
Although you can get a tuk-tuk directly to the beach, many choose the picturesque hour-long hike to get there. This means that there aren’t usually huge crowds at the beach – most people are put off by the effort! The white powdery sand and sparkling waters make this a welcome paradise and spot in which to rest after the sweaty journey.
As Machalilla National Park is a protected area, it is definitely lacking in terms of amenities. There is certainly nowhere to buy an ice cream! However, the upside of this means that the beach stays pristine and the local wildlife can enjoy this area as its own. Keep an eye out for colourful birds and even monkeys hanging around.
Los Frailes is easily visited on a day trip from either Montañita or Puerto López. Also in the national park is a black volcanic beach which whilst nowhere near as impressive as Los Frailes, is still well worth a look.
Where to stay near Los Frailes:
Although Ecuador has a lot of great surf spots, perhaps none is better than Mompiche. Regardless of your level, warm sea temperatures and wind conditions make this a perfect place to try your skills on the water. Surfboards cost around $15USD to rent per day and lessons are also offered at some places around town.
Aside from surfing, there isn’t all that much to do in Mompiche, though arguably that is part of its charm. It has a super laid-back vibe which provides the perfect escape from a few days on the road. Grab a beer and just lie back and watch the world go by.
There are a number of restaurants in the area which serve cheap almuerzos though there isn’t really much in terms of nightlife. The party surf scene is definitely in Montañita!
Where to stay near Mompiche:
12. Puerto Villamil Beach
Playa Puerto Villamil is another beach within the Galapagos archipelago but this time located on Isabela Island. Think of the beautiful beach paradise of Maui without the crowds and you go some way to picturing Playa Puerto Villamil.
This white sand beach is characterised by large chunks of volcanic rock. Keep an eye out for marine iguanas around these areas. It is generally pretty quiet, devoid of the crowds you see at some beaches on the mainland of Ecuador.
Playa Puerto Villamil is a great place to catch the sunset and there’s a small sprinkling of bars which means that you can enjoy the view with a cocktail. That sounds like heaven to us!
Where to stay near Puerto Villamil:
13. Salango Beach
Although this is a popular day trip from the fishing town of Puerto López, for some, Salango is a destination in its own right. It’s located in the Machalilla National Park and is teeming with exotic wildlife such as pelicans and Frigate birds.
Salango is a coastal town in Ecuador that is routinely missed by tourists and as a result, has not seen the development that has characterised other parts of the coast. The beach is around a half-hour drive from Puerto López and offers a rustic escape from the bustle of more heavily foot trafficked areas.
The main draw for visitors is the impressive coral reef there. It is known for its colourful fish which makes this area great for both snorkelling and diving.
Where to stay near Salango:
Do you know a great beach in Ecuador that would be a worthy addition to our list? Let us know in our Facebook community!