Salinas Ecuador was once a seaside party town but now one of the most popular places to retire in Ecuador.
Salinas is a seaside resort town in the Santa Elena Province of Ecuador. It’s home to some of the best beaches on the Pacific coast along the western most end of the country.
Salinas is also famous for offering one of the most upscale beach town experiences in all of Latin America.
It’s often referred to as “Little Miami” since it was actually modeled after this Floridian hotspot.
Salinas was first designated as a canton in 1937. Its economic development was based mainly around being an inexhaustible source for salt, before it became a classic coastal destination reliant on tourism.
It was once the ultimate vacation destination for people from Guayaquil. Locals would drive down and spend their weekends and holidays here.
In recent years, the city itself has aged, so they tend to visit other beach towns that are a little less crowded with tourists.
Along the northern coast Mompiche and Canoa are becoming more and more popular.
Things to Do in Salinas
There’s no shortage of fun things to see and do in Salinas. The main beach is, of course, everyone’s first stop, so it’s important to know the setup to get the lay of the tropical landscape here.
The Salinas Yacht Club cuts the main stretch of coastline in half with a bustling jetty. On the north end is Salinas Beach, which tends to be the crowd favorite.
This is where it starts to feel a bit like Little Miami, there are lots of hotels and restaurants. That brings lots of party goers and noise.
If you’re ready to drink and listen to reggaeton all day this is where you want to be.
That said, drinking is not permitted on the beach and there are plenty of signs around so there’s no excuses.
On the bright side it dos mean the beach is much cleaner.
On the south side is the quieter Chipipe Beach, where families usually choose to spend more time.
Fun fact, around the marina, or yacht club, there’s also some really nice snorkeling. You can often see turtles and rays swimming in the warm, calm waters here.
San Lorenzo Beach
On the eastern end of San Lorenzo Beach you’ll find a break where all the surfers go to ride some waves.
The swell isn’t too overwhelming, so it’s an ideal spot for beginners to learn how to hang ten or for any intermediate surfers to get some good practice in.
Life in Salinas is considered active to say the least. As you may imagine this sandy shore is a mecca for many water sports.
People flock from all over to get out on the open waters here. You can easily try game fishing, wakeboarding, water skiing, parasailing, jet skiing, paddle boarding, diving, sailing, and more.
All of the equipment can be rented right on the beach for a good price as well. Lessons are typically available from local outfitters in town too if you ask around.
Get Active on the Beach
You’ll also find plenty of people playing seafront sports here. There are a few volleyball courts, as well as spaces for soccer and beach tennis.
Teams regularly gather, so it’s easy to sit back and watch the action or ask to join in for a sweaty, fun-filled day in the sun.
The malecon, or in English the boardwalk, follows along the length of San Lorenzo Beach. It also boasts a very nice bike path, which is perfect for a leisurely ride with waterfront views.
It’s considered safe to meander here at any time of day, and is used by both locals and tourists alike. It’s a great place to grab a seat and enjoy an ice-cold beer under a shady umbrella.
You’ll also find several amazing restaurants and vendors along this scenic strip, as well as sports equipment for rent and boat trips being offered.
La Chocolatera is the westernmost point of mainland Ecuador. You can walk here from La Loberia along an empty stretch of shore that is actually very scenic.
It will also take you through either a protected nature reserve or a military base, depending on which route you choose.
You may need to show ID to get in, so be sure to go prepared.
Here you’ll find a few amenities, including a restroom facility and a snack bar.
But it’s otherwise considered one of the most remote places to venture around Salinas.
There’s also a tourist train that departs from the Malecon and takes you through both La Loberia and La Chocolatera in one trip.
Ecuador Safety Tips
Punta Carnero is arguably the best place to watch the spectacular sunsets in Salinas.
However, it’s important to note that the current here is very strong so it’s not safe for swimming. Mar Brava is located on the opposite side of the peninsula.
This means that it’s harder to access but it does have a more tranquil and unique vibe to it.
It’s best to take a car, though if you’re looking for an active day some choose to go for a very long walk or a bike ride.
The sea is less for swimmers and more for serious surfers here. Though you will likely have the sandy stretch all to yourself.
It’s also surrounded by salt factories and a few of the scenic lagoons are home to flocks of picturesque pink flamingos.
Whale Watching in Salinas
The whale watching season in Salinas is during the summer months. Every year these massive marine creatures migrate to the coast to birth their offspring along the coast.
Along with Puerto Lopez, you can also find whale watching tours in Salinas. The cruises to spot them depart right from the beach and usually run for about an hour.
You’ll likely be able to see several humpback pods majestically diving in and out of the water as they swim. It’s truly a spectacular sight to behold.
Salinas is also home to a whole museum about these gentle giants, the Museo de Ballenas. The educational exhibits explore the conservation and natural history of whales in the area.
You’ll even see some very impressive bones on display. Be sure to schedule a tour in advance for this spot.
If you’re into trying to spot cute critters, many come here to enjoy bird watching as well.
Salinas, Ecuador is home to an abundance of coveted species to see, including the blue footed booby, the frigate bird, the Pacific parrotlet, and the small rufous tailed hummingbird.
La Loberia is set just outside of Salinas, Ecuador at the end of Chipipe Beach. You can arrive on foot or by a taxi, which should be pretty cheap.
The claim to fame here is both another surfing hotspot for anyone that’s super experienced, and a place to see some seriously adorable sea lions.
While the smell can be strong, the visual is well worth it.
From afar, they can look like just a rocky outcrop, until you notice that many of the giant boulders are actually moving.
Be sure to catch the sunset from the Mirador Puntilla de Santa Elena if you can here too.
Nightlife: Bars & Clubs in Salinas
Salinas, Santa Elena, Ecuador is known for its happening nightlife, especially compared to some other smaller towns around the country.
As soon as the sun goes down, there’s a plethora of places to let loose and have fun, whether you’re looking for a dance club or a beach bar.
The Aloha Bar is a local haunt located right off the beach. The Tulum RestroBar is super trendy for seafront cocktails, traditional Ecuadorian drinks and Boa Lua is ideal for any late nights complete with DJs.
Salinas During the Holidays
Salinas has also become a famous destination during the holidays.
Unique to the city is Las fiestas de Salinas in December. New Year’s Eve in particular is also a popular draw for a lot of tourists.
Ecuador is known for hosting elaborate festivities surrounding La Noche Buena.
Day of the Dead
Christmas in Ecuador
New Year’s Eve in Ecuador
The fireworks start days in advance and can be purchased at stalls all over the streets.
It culminates in an enormous beachside show. You’ll also see cartoon effigies being burned, Chinese lanterns, bonfires, and live music all over town on this night.
Best Salinas Restaurants
Much of the cuisine in Salinas is seafood based, but there really is a wide variety of eats to enjoy because of the huge expat population.
You’ll be able to find more European fares as well as casual fast food from burger joints.
There are a ton of pizza places all over town as well. Though the pies may not always be up to the standards you’re used to, they all offer a discounted dinner on Tuesdays to try.
If you’re looking for traditional food look for the iconic dish served is the seco de chivo.
It was actually introduced by the Spaniards, but has come to have its own unique local style.
It’s a stew traditionally made from sheep or goat meat, then simmered in a sauce of fried vegetables and fermented liquid.
Locally, it’s served with rice, avocado, and plantain.
A hidden gem in Salinas. It’s an adorable and easygoing place to go to start your day with cafe and Ecuadorian desserts.
There’s a variety of breakfast plates, including many vegetarian options. The space is quaint and charming.
They sometimes have live jazz bands playing as the name suggests and there’s always coffee and cocktails to pair with any order.
If you go later in the day, there are many tasty seafood bites to try too, all made in the classic local fashion.
Lucy’s Mexican Grill
For organic Mexican fares in a casual beachy atmosphere head to Lucy’s Mexican Grill.
It’s an adorable eatery where you can dive into a flavor packed plate while washing it down with a delicious margarita. It’s a fun and colorful atmosphere with an affordable menu.
Go for the famous, fresh cocktails or the enchiladas while here. Everything is made from scratch and the menu offers a fusion feel, incorporating local ingredients and even an Italian flair.
Locals and tourists alike love this place, and it’s easy to see why. It’s set conveniently close to the malecon too.
Mar y Tierra
More of an upscale restaurant located right on the Salinas waterfront. It’s a Mediterranean-style spot, with an eclectic menu.
They serve lots of fresh seafood of course, including traditional shrimp and octopus dishes of the region. You’ll also find a variety of steak preparations and pasta dishes.
A staple of the foodie scene here, they’ve been around since 1982. The cocktails are all delicious too.
Be advised that the price is higher than other restaurants around, so it’s a great spot to go if you’re looking to treat yourself.
Eating at Home
If you’ve booked an airbnb and prefer to cook at home you can save a lot of money. The daily cost of living and eating in Salinas is fairly affordable.
The local market serving local Ecuador fruits and vegetables isn’t in Salinas, but actually La Libertad next door so you’ll need to grab a quick taxi.
Salinas does have great supermarkets. There are high-end supermarkets selling imported goods and fancy brands if you prefer to splurge on any food items while in town.
Budget Restaurants in Salinas
Or if you just prefer to grab take out, in central Salinas there are food stalls selling local cuisine such as Ecuadorian encebollado, bolon de verde, pescado encocado and empanadas.
These spots, such as the one featured in the photos above typically consist of fresh seafood straight from the ocean and prepared on the spot ceviche.
Where to Stay in Salinas
Due to such a massive tourist population in Salinas, Ecuador, expats who have relocated, long term rentals in Salinas, Ecuador are abundant.
If you plan to stay living in Salinas, Ecuador then this can actually end up saving you quite a bit of money.
Check out Airbnb to see everything from lowkey apartments to private villas, most offering a discount if you book for the whole month. Of course, consider the Ecuador safety of the neighborhood before renting anything.
Chescos Hostel and Hotel
One of the most popular places to stay in Salinas. It’s on the more affordable side; a room should run you under 15 USD a night.
It boasts a great location, only a minute’s walk from the waterfront. Each room comes with all the necessary creature comforts, including Wi-Fi, air conditioning, and a private bathroom.
There are shared spaces to hang out in and enjoy as well, like the lounge or the terrace bar. It may look basic, but this stay is a great bang for your buck.
A midrange boutique stay, costing under 50 USD each night, though rates can vary depending on the season.
As a family-owned abode it has a cozy and familiar feel compared to some of the more resort-style hotels along the shore. It’s right on the Malecon, so everything is easily accessible and the views are gorgeous.
The rooms are spacious and offer the amenities you’d expect, like a fridge, warm shower, and air conditioning.
They also serve a very tasty breakfast each morning and have a lovely pool to spend time lounging by or swimming in.
Blue Bay Hotel
is on the more expensive end when booking a room in Salinas, though it should still be under 100 USD per night.
If you’re looking to enjoy a luxurious stay and splurge on the finer things in life, this is probably the place to do it. There’s a private indoor and outdoor pool and restaurant on-site.
The suites include a full kitchen and many of the rooms offer a stunning view of the sea. The tour desk can help you book any outings and the gardens on the property are lovely as well.
It’s spacious, clean, and has an Ecuadorian style to it.
Retiring in Salinas Ecuador
Today, Salinas has a huge expat population. Anyone who visits the coast of Ecuador tends to have this town on their itinerary.
High rise condominiums and gated communities can be found all around the scenic shores here. An important side effect to note about this volume of foreigners, is an influx of Ecuadorian crime in recent years.
Many retirees from North America have chosen to escape to the idyllic enclave of Salinas. As such, real estate has become quite a commodity in the area.
For a city with a resort, Ecuador style, it’s actually reasonably priced, which of course makes it an even more attractive destination for a specific kind of traveler.
A fancy hotel room, high end meal, or night out on the town will still likely cost a fraction of what it might in other countries.
This sandy, crescent bay is covered in palm trees swaying in the sea breeze and clear, cerulean waters that are warm enough to swim year round.
The weather certainly stays tropical as well. Salinas, Ecuador beach is considered the place to be for anyone who enjoys amenities as it’s covered in upscale eateries, hotels, bars, and stores.
It’s sometimes referred to as the Blue Paradise of the South Pacific. The high season runs from December to May, which is when it’s at its most crowded.
Getting to Salinas
From the international airport in Guayaquil, Salinas is only a two hour drive away. There’s a regular bus service that runs throughout the day and it’s easy enough to purchase a ticket without much advance notice.
Once you arrive at the station, you’ll need to take a short taxi ride to get into Salinas proper.
Alternatively, you can take a private taxi, which will be a faster and more comfortable journey but way more expensive as well.
Salinas is about four hours directly down the coast from Manta. The bus ride via Cadeate and Santa Elena will be closer to six hours, though it is an extremely scenic journey.
There is no Ecuador airport close enough to make this trip more convenient, so driving is really your best bet.
Since there is actually a lot to stop and do along this route, many people choose to rent a car so they can enjoy the trip at their leisure.
Don’t forget to stop over at several other remote but breathtaking beaches along the way to Salinas.
What do you love about Salinas Ecuador, let me know in the comments below!