Are you looking for the most beautiful beach in Ecuador? Ecuador has a diverse coastline dotted with breathtaking beaches. It also has the Galápagos Islands which, honestly, is… incomparable. It’s in a class of its own for obvious reasons. In this blog, we’ll go into some of the most beautiful beaches on the Ecuadorian mainland and save Galápagos Island beaches for another blog.
Which is the most beautiful beach in Ecuador?
And the winner goes to….Los Frailes beach in the Manabí province.
Los Frailes is a protected beach within Machalilla National Park. It’s one of Ecuador’s last remaining pristine beaches (outside of the Galápagos) and you can visit it as long as you abide by the park’s rules. In my opinion, it’s the most beautiful beach in Ecuador, but definitely not the only beautiful beach in Ecuador!
Los Frailes is a coral sand beach that gently curves around a small bay. There are hiking paths along the beach that take you to a viewpoint and other protected beaches farther north which are rockier but just as beautiful and quiet.
While you’re visiting Los Frailes, make sure to visit other sights within Machalilla National Park, including Isla de la Plata and the mud baths at Agua Blanca.
Our top 8 beaches in Ecuador
Following the coast from South to North, here are some of Ecuador’s top beaches – they’re all beautiful in their own way!
- Salinas – Salinas offers visitors many of the comforts and luxuries of home. Many wealthier Ecuadorians own an apartment or house in Salinas and, over the past few years, it’s become somewhat of a destination for foreign retirees. The main beach, Playa Salinas, is clean and lined with umbrellas. It’s a great beach for families and small children, especially since there are restaurants and stores nearby.
- Montañita – If you’ve heard of Montañita already, its name was probably followed by “surfer’s paradise” or “the best beach party.” Montañita is a destination for many younger travelers and backpackers that appreciate a good beach party, want to meet new people, and enjoy surfing or lounging on the beach. That said, it has something for everyone! The surf is actually good in Montañita, but surfers should always check the swell beforehand.
- Olón – Olón is the next beach over from Montañita and is preferred by travelers that don’t want to be too close to the party scene. The beach here is beautiful as well and if you want to eat in Montañita, it’s only a short drive away.
- Ayampe – Ayampe is a sleepy surfer beach town farther north along the Ecuadorian coast. The vibe here is more bohemian; there’s a lot of palo santo in the air. The surf is also pretty good, depending on the season, but regardless, it’s a nice town to visit if you want to disconnect or spend quality time with someone special. There’s a few good hostels and restaurants, but not so many that it begins to feel touristy, like Montañita. The area around Ayampe is also quite beautiful; you can hike in the surrounding hills and spot wildlife or at least hear the howler monkeys!
- Los Frailes – As mentioned earlier, los Frailes beach is a beauty, and if you’re spending any time along Ecuador’s coast, try to make it here. I suggest heading to los Frailes early in the morning, from 8:30am, before more people arrive. It’s one of the cleanest beaches in Ecuador for a reason: park authorities don’t permit entry with alcoholic beverages or packaged food. If you do enter with snacks or water bottles, make sure to take all trash out with you to preserve the cleanliness of the beach.
- Salango Beach – A bit farther north is Salango Beach and, facing it, is Salango Island, part of Machalilla National Park. This is a 3.8 km / 2.3 miles beach and a small town with limited services. Since it isn’t very popular, you’ll often have the beach to yourself and, if you like, can take a day trip to Salango Island to snorkel and see blue-footed boobies, frigate birds, and other marine life.
- Cojimíes – Entering the province of Esmeraldas, you’ll start to notice the vegetation getting more tropical. Cojimíes is a long beach, much of it lined with palm trees. It’s somewhat of a hidden gem; not many tourists make it here, but it’s well-known among Ecuadorians from the Andes that visit the beach.
- Portete/Mompiche – Last but not least, also in the province of Esmeraldas is Portete and Mompiche. These are two different beaches, but are accessed through the same main entrance. Portete is technically an island / sand bar. You have to take a short boat ride to the island (literally 2 minutes to cross) and, once there, you’ll find a few spots to eat, but mainly a lot of beach lined with coconut trees. Mompiche is an established town and known for a surf break that attracts surfers and creates a surfer-town feel. There are numerous restaurants and hostels to choose from, and the beach itself is 6 kilometers (3.72 miles) long. Make sure to try some encocado de camarones while you’re here!
Where to stay on your beach vacation?
Where you end up staying on the Ecuadorian coast depends on what you’re hoping to get out of your trip.
- If you want to party it up at the beach, you know where to go: Montañita.
- If you prefer a more sophisticated standard of life while at the beach, or if you’re traveling with family and prefer to keep things comfortable and convenient, head to Salinas.
- If you’re a surfer, check the swell chart to determine the best spot to surf along the coast. Otherwise just head to Montañita and Mompiche.
- If you like a more bohemian vibe in a quiet beach town, head to Ayampe or Cojimíes.
- If you prefer the tropics and want a taste of a different kind of Ecuador, head to the province of Esmeraldas and visit beaches like Portete, Mompiche, and even Muisne. (This area is my personal favorite.)
Tell us which category you belong to (or make a new one to describe yourself) in the comments section below and we’ll give you beach suggestions.
Are you planning to explore the Ecuadorian coastline? The Wanderbus can take you from Guayaquil all the way up until Puerto López on the Wanderpass. The best part is that, as a hop-on hop-off bus, you can choose to stay at beaches along the route. All you have to do is know when the next Wanderbus stops through and where to wait for it.