If you’re headed to the Galápagos Islands, you’ll probably fly out of Guayaquil, not Quito. This means you might have the opportunity to explore the city for a day or two, before and after your departure. While here, and if you’ve run out of things to do, consider visiting nearby Guayaquil beaches where you can enjoy another facet of Ecuadorian beach life.
Why you will love Guayaquil beaches
Guayaquil’s beaches are considered some of the top in the country for a number of reasons.
For one, since Guayaquil is a coastal city, one of the easiest ways to escape the city on the weekend is to drive to a nearby beach. Given the number of people that visit these beaches, infrastructure is fully developed in many of these places and there are many options to choose from in terms of restaurants and accommodations. In fact, some beach towns have grown into cities and are becoming retirement destinations for expats, as well as locals, like the city of Salinas.
Guayaquileños have the reputation of being more laid-back than serranos (those from the sierra, or Andes), and visiting their coast has a fun, laid back feel that you’ll surely enjoy. Places like Montañita attracted travelers worldwide because of the laid back, surfer / beach party vibe, not to mention the delicious restaurant options.
Another reason you’ll appreciate these beaches is because, quite simply, the beaches closest to the south of the country, near Guayaquil, are some of the most beautiful beaches in the country. Though not as lush and tropical as the coast near Esmeraldas, the slightly drier climate means clearer waters and sand.
The food. Oh, man. The food in and around Guayaquil is to die for, especially if you love sea food. This coastal region is known for its delicious crab and other traditional foods, like encebollado. Pretty much everything you eat around here is best combined with a cold beer.
The Most Beautiful Beaches Near Guayaquil
Guayaquil itself isn’t located on the coast, rather it’s located at the inlet at the mouth of the River Guayas. The city is surrounded by mangroves and water, but to get to Guayaquil beaches you’ll need to jump into a vehicle and drive south west. Along the way, you’ll encounter a number of lovely spots to spend the day, rent a surfboard, and enjoy a bowl of fresh ceviche.
The Wanderbus offers a few passes that make it easy to hop on and off along coastal route running north from Guayaquil. Check out the Garza pass to travel from Guayaquil to Montañita and Puerto López.
Playas de General Villamil
Guayaquil is an exciting city, but like any city, it can be exhausting to live there without escape. In Guayaquil, those with the means invest in a beach house at Playas de General Villamil in the same way some might have a cabin in the countryside.
Playas is only a 1.5 hour drive from Guayaquil and offers pretty much everything you might need from a beach town. Great food, easy access to the beach and ocean, and if you’re staying the night on a weekend, it’ll be buzzing with activity, including bars and nightlife. The only downside is that many people tend to come here for the weekend. If you prefer a quieter beach, consider heading farther west.
Only 20 minutes west of Playas you’ll come across the beach town of Engabao. This is a humble fisherman town that will definitely be quieter than Playas and also happens to have one of the best, and most consistent, surf breaks in the area, for the surfers among you.
Because it offers a much simpler set up, it tends to attract those that appreciate the simplicity of a quieter beach village. Sunsets here are incredible and, during your visit, make sure to grab a picture at Punta de Piedra.
As you continue along this stretch of coast, you’ll find a few similar beach towns you can visit, including Chanduy and Anconcito.
As you near the city of Salinas, you’ll come across Punta Carnero, a local destination for water sports like surfing and parasailing. This beach is named after its rocky point, which is also the reason why surfing is so good here. So good, in fact, that it is the regular location for national and international surf competitions. If you’re there between June and October, keep your eyes open for whales!
Playa de Chipipe
Playa de Chipipe is a small, family-friendly beach that is usually much quieter than Salinas’s main beach, Playa de San Lorenzo, if you visit on the off season (avoid national holidays!). You can rent beach chairs and an umbrella for just $5 and vendors will stop by regularly to refill your cooler! The water is calm and perfect if all you want to do is watch the kids from the shade.
Playa de San Lorenzo
The most popular beach around Salinas, Playa de San Lorenzo might feel too busy and commercial for you, especially on the weekends and holidays. However, if you like the activity and close access to delicious food, this might be your spot! The water here is calm and you’ll find umbrellas and beach chairs for rent pretty much along the whole beach.
Beaches further from Guayaquil
If you’re exploring this region of the country, starting in Guayaquil, you might want to venture beyond the nearby Guayaquil beaches. Farther northwest along the coast, there are some of the country’s best beaches.
Anyone traveling through Ecuador will hear the name Montañita, at some point. It’s a destination for all types of travelers, from surfers to Spanish students to people seeking a good party on a beautiful beach.
The town is located 2.5 hours from Guayaquil, so ideally you’d have more than a day to spend here, though many people will just come during their 1 day layover! In Montañita you’ll find activities for everyone, including surfing (boards and classes available), cycling (bikes rentals available), yoga, partying, and Spanish classes.
Literally the next beach over from Montañita, Olón is a good place to go if you prefer more peace and quiet to Montañita’s beach party vibe. It’s generally described as a better option for families.
Though quieter, its location makes it easy to access Montañita’s restaurants as well as nearby surf spots, since the point between Montañita and Olón provides one of the best breaks. The beach itself is long (nearly 10 km long) and wide, perfect for that morning jog.
The little beach town of Ayampe has been getting more popular, but still feels like a sleepy-surfer beach town and is worth a visit. The advantage to gaining popularity is that better restaurants start to pop up; this is definitely the case in Ayampe, although you might still find that pickings are slim.
One personal favorite is The Barn, deemed the best pastry and coffee shop in town.
There are a variety of hostels here and you’ll surely find something within your budget and, in terms of activities, like the majority of beach towns in this area, you’ll find surfing classes and surfboard rentals without a problem. The lush hills behind the town offer hiking options and the opportunity to spot a few wild animals.
Other places to visit near Guayaquil
If you’re interested in places to visit beyond Guayaquil beaches, there are other nearby, and equally as beautiful, destinations you might want to consider.
Bosque Protector Cerro Blanco
A nearby (30 min drive away) destination for nature lovers and birdwatchers, Cerro Blanco Forest is a tropical dry forest reserve where you can spot (or at least hear) howler monkeys and see over 200 species of tropical birds. There are four different trails to choose from of varying difficulty. Expect muddy terrain during the rainy season!
Reserva Ecologica Manglar Churte
About an hour’s drive from the city, this ecological reserve is another nearby place to appreciate the tropical forest and mangroves surrounding Guayaquil. Given the distance, this is easily a full day trip and day packages may not be easy to find. Inquire directly with your hotel or, as a last resort, hire a taxi driver for the day to take you and wait for you as you explore the reserve.
At the reserve you can go on a canoe ride through the mangroves and explore the forest to spot (or hear) howler monkeys and numerous bird species.
Isla Santay is the landmass that can be seen across the Malecon 2000 and can be explored by foot, bicycle or kayak. It’s a wonderful way to experience Guayaquil’s surrounding mangrove ecosystem where you’ll spot a number of tropical birds and critters. If you don’t feel like spending an entire day here, you can also just go to watch the sunset (or sunrise!) from Isla Santay’s pedestrian bridge.
Guayaquil is more than a big, bustling city. Quite unexpectedly, less than two hour’s drive from the city you’ll come across many options to explore the area’s natural surroundings, including its beautiful beaches and mangrove forests. If you’re traveling through here on your way to (or from) the Galápagos Islands, consider exploring these nearby destinations and making the most of your trip to Ecuador!