While often overlooked by visitors to Ecuador in search of mountain views in the Andes, Amazon Rainforest tours, or bucket list excursions to the Galapagos, the coast of Ecuador is a beautiful and diverse region with delicious food, incredible beaches, and tons to offer travelers.
We lived in Ecuador for more than two years and had the opportunity to explore so much of the coast and so many Ecuador beaches – now we are sharing our overview of some of the best beaches in Ecuador.
On this list you’ll find everything from tiny, sleeping fishing villages on calm stretches of sand to larger cities with all the beach amenities you could ever ask for. Plus, which Ecuador beach towns are the best for seeing wildlife, surfing, and partying? Keep reading to find out.
Best Beaches in Ecuador
There is a vast array of beach towns, fishing villages, large cities, and resort towns that dot the coast of Ecuador, meaning you’re never going to be far from a beach in Ecuador that is just right for you. Here are some of the best beaches in Ecuador for every type of traveler:
- Best Beach in Ecuador for Surfing: Ayampe
- Best Beach in Ecuador of Partying: Montañita
- Best Small Beach Town in Ecuador: Canoa
- Most Beautiful Beach in Ecuador: Playa de los Frailes
- Best Beach in Ecuador for Wildlife: Puerto Lopez
- Best Beach in Ecuador for Slow Travelers, Digital Nomads, and Expats: Salinas
The best beach in Ecuador is the one that fits exactly what you are looking for in a vacation. However, if you’re looking for our input, we loved Canoa – it’s my favorite beach town in Ecuador. It’s sleepy and relaxed but with a great variety of places to stay, restaurants, and more to keep you busy for several days. Other top contenders for our personal favorites are Mompiche and Puerto Lopez.
Ecuador Beaches Map
I’ve made an interactive Ecuador beaches map with pinpoints on all of the best Ecuador beaches. Whether you’re looking to backpack the Ecuador coast or just pick one top beach destination in Ecuador, this map will help you get an idea of where to find the best beaches in Ecuador.
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Ecuador Beach Towns
Beach towns in Ecuador vary significantly, from larger cities like Esmeraldas and Salinas to small fishing villages like Ayampe and Mompiche. You’ll find relaxed eco-friendly travel destinations like Playa Escondida and Puerto Lopez, or party destinations like Atacames or Montañita. There is truly an Ecuador beach town for whatever type of beach getaway you’re looking for.
Ecuador is well known for surfing and has several surfing enclaves along the coast. Head to Ayampe and Canoa for surfing lessons from hippie surfing schools on nearly empty beaches, or head to Salinas for a surfing experience in a city with a bit more amenities to offer visitors.
You’ll also find tons of activities in the various beach towns that dot the coast, from kite surfing and bananas boat rides to the unmissable summer whale watching excursions at Puerto Lopez and Ayampe. Plus, you can’t miss the incredible Isla de la Plata off the coast of Puerto Lopez – known as “the poor man’s Galapagos,” this island is home to some incredible wildlife you won’t see anywhere else.
Word is starting to get out about Mompiche – especially with surfers and backpackers! – but this small seaside town remains a true escape, not yet overdeveloped. It’s just the place to head if you’re looking to disconnect, enjoy the freshest seafood possible, and relax on a great stretch of sand.
While there are a few beaches around Mompiche, the central beach in town shrinks quite significantly during high tide – use this time to explore Playa Negra and some of the other beaches, or call it quits for a few hours and nap in a hammock at The Mudhouse Hostel or Casa Gaia.
There isn’t too much to do in town, but you wouldn’t want to come to a beach like Mompiche if you’re one to want a packed itinerary anyways. You can rent surfboards or boogie boards from the local surf school, check out Playa Negra and the mangroves, and take a jungle tour of the area around town.
Make sure to check out the Secret Garden, as they tend to hold events or classes such as cooking classes, chocolate making, and more depending on the season.
Just north of Mompiche, the beach town of Muisne is a great place to base yourself for a beach getaway in the Esmeraldas province. Here you’ll enjoy a relaxed small beach town feel, but just about an hour away from Atacames, you’re close to the action. What Mompiche lacks in expansive beach Muisne makes up for in spades.
For having such a great stretch of beach, its almost surprising that Muisne is still so relatively undeveloped and peaceful. You’ll find hostels, bars, and restaurants dotting the beach and the main streets across town, but you won’t find the massive resorts and developments that overwhelm some of the beaches further north.
Muisne is definitely still a hidden gem, so get here while you can. Like neighboring Mompiche, there isn’t too much to do here, but that might be just want you’re looking for. It’s the perfect spot to kick back and relax.
Playa Escondida – the hidden beach – is a gem along the northern Ecuador coast; despite being just a short drive away from Atacames and Esmeraldas, here you’ll actually find a truly tranquil and relaxing beach to enjoy the sun, sand, and water.
Set among an ecological reserve, the eco-lodge at Playa Escondida is set among the forest, and feels like both a jungle retreat and a beach resort all in one. You’ll learn so much about the area from the owner, Judith, and her dedicated staff, as well as the beautiful and thoughtful installations of the lodge.
The beach isn’t necessarily perfect – you’ll find craggy rocks and coves in the coastline mixed in among stretches of perfect sand, but there is plenty of space to relax and enjoy, and it makes for some interesting beach walks at sunset. If you’re up for a retreat, this is the place to find one.
A favorite resort town known as the closest beach to Quito, Atacames is the place to head for a good time along the northern part of Ecuador’s coast – it’s one of the most popular beach vacations in Ecuador. This built-up beach town is packed with rental apartments, hotels, beach bars, and so much more, so if you’re looking for beach amenities this is the place to be.
Neighboring resort towns like Tonsupa, Same, and Sua are also popular destinations with Ecuadorian travelers, and all have nice beaches, though I recommend you base yourself in Atacames for a visit. You’ll be much closer to restaurants, bars, and accommodations overlooking the Pacific Ocean – plus countless other amenities – than you would be outside of town.
I came to Atacames convinced it wasn’t for me, and I was quickly proved wrong. While Atacames might not have as pristine a beach as other Ecuador beach towns nearby like Canoa or Muisne, you’ll find a great patch of sand filled with daybeds and hammocks for rent, water sports, and a row of beach bars and shacks selling fresh ceviche and other seafood. There’s a lot to love in Atacames, and especially if you’re looking for a quick and easy escape from Quito, this beach is worth a visit.
Canoa will always be my personal favorite beach destination in Ecuador – the perfect small beach town and the place I still can’t wait to head back to. With an expansive beach wedged between stunning cliffs, Canoa is an ideal beach getaway destination. This charming small town – not quite a sleepy fishing town – has a handful of casual restaurants serving delicious, fresh seafood, a few beach bars serving cold beers and soda, and just enough beachy hotels and hostels for you to have plenty of choose from at different price ranges.
You’ll find plenty of beach amenities here, like day beds, vendors that walk up and down the beach selling beverages and snacks, and bathrooms. Canoa is known as a fantastic surfing destination, and you’ll find several surf instructors and schools in town, though the beach is still great for swimming.
While Canoa is an Ecuador backpacking favorite, its still just a small town and fishing village, and you’ll see fisherman bringing in their catches in the morning. If you’re looking for the ideal small Ecuador beach town for a getaway, this is it. Couple your trip with a visit to nearby Bahia de Caraquez if you’re looking for a more lively larger town as well.
Playa de los Frailes
Rightfully known as the most beautiful beach in Ecuador, Playa de los Frailes in Machalilla National Park is worth the visit. With white sand and crystal clear water, you’ll feel like you’re in the Caribbean on this secluded beach in the middle of the National Park, and shallow shores and usually flat conditions make it ideal for swimming.
To reach this pristine beach, you’ll need to hike in the 7.5 kilometers from the entrance to the park, meaning that Los Frailes beach has few visitors despite being so stunning. While the hike is quite easy, it also means you won’t find many amenities here – just bathrooms and showers, and a little shack selling waters and souvenirs.
It’s just what Playa de los Frailes doesn’t have that makes it worth coming – here you’ll leave behind the beachgoers with loud music, meandering vendors, and beach bar options for true peace and privacy on one of Ecuador’s most beautiful stretches of sand. If you’re looking for those typical beach amenities, stick to Puerto Lopez, just 15 minutes away from Playa de los Frailes.
Couple your visit to the famous Playa de los Frailes with a weekend in Puerto Lopez to enjoy some of the best beaches in all of Ecuador – and two of my personal favorites. Puerto Lopez is a small and relaxed beach town with the perfect mix of tourist infrastructure and activities for visitors. Throw in the fact that the beach is stunning and great for swimming, and its easy to see why Puerto Lopez is universally known as one of the best beaches in Ecuador.
In addition to being one of Ecuador’s best small beach towns, Puerto Lopez sits directly across from Isla de la Plata, an island off the coast colloquially known as “the poor man’s Galapagos.” Home to countless species of wildlife like the blue-footed and red-footed booby, an excursion to Isla de la Plata is a must when visiting Puerto Lopez, and a highlight of any visit to Ecuador.
If you can plan to visit in the summer months, make sure to book an excursion to Isla de la Plata that includes a whale watching excursion – you’ll get up close and personal with migrating whales, making for a truly unforgettable trip.
Perfect for those looking to completely disconnect and unwind, Ayampe is a haven on a beautiful stretch of beach in the province of Santa Elena. Here most of the streets are unpaved, and hotels, small restaurants, and cafes dot the area along the beach and main streets. It may not look like much, but if you’re looking to relax and disconnect, you’ll find that Ayampe may be one of the best spots on the coast to do just that.
Ayampe is also one of the most important surfing spots in all of Ecuador. Home to one of the only coastal reefs along the Ecuadorian coast, here wave conditions can be just right at times to produce perfect tubes. You can rent boogie boards and surf boards as well as other related surfing gear from shops and even hotels in town. Don’t worry, the beach is still perfect for swimming even if you’re not planning on heading for the waves.
If you’re looking for a bit more activity, you can also embark on a whale-watching tour from Ayampe during the summer months. While Puerto Lopez might be more well known for these incredible whale-watching tours, Ayampe has a few of their own tour providers that do a fantastic job.
Head to Montañita if you’re looking to party! Just a few hours away from Guayaquil, the beach town of Montañita is well known as one of the party capitals of Ecuador. Despite being such a small town, Montañita is packed with hostels, bars, and restaurants catering to both foreign visitors and fun-loving Ecuadorians alike.
This Ecuador backpacking paradise is more than just a place to visit for a great party, though. Set on a beautiful stretch of beach, Montañita is actually a great place to kick back and relax, as well as enjoying some of the best surfing in Ecuador. You’ll find several tiny surf schools and surf instructors here if you’re looking to learn.
While this might not be the best place to visit with family, it’s not a bad option even if you’re not looking for a party. Montañita’s reputation actually means that there are a fair amount of great places to eat, Spanish schools, beach activities and other amenities you might be looking for on one of the best beaches in Ecuador.
Just two hours from Guayaquil, the small city of Salinas is a favorite beach destination for Ecuadorians looking to escape the city. It’s also a fantastic option for visitors looking to enjoy a fantastic stretch of beach and a relaxing getaway. Occupying a peninsula jutting out into the Pacific, Salinas is actually home to several beach options, so you’re find a classic stretch of peaceful sand with chairs for rent, a stretch of beach better for surfers, and even rocky sections of beach where you can spot sea lions.
Salinas is one of the best beaches in Ecuador for digital nomads in Ecuador – it’s the perfect combination of great beach and relaxed atmosphere with all the amenities of a city you might need to work remotely.
Salinas might not be the best choice if you’re looking for the slow pace of a fishing village or plenty of privacy – head north to Puerto Lopez, Ayampe, or Mompiche for that – but don’t rule it out when planning your trip to Ecuador’s coast.