Festival of San Pablo and San Pedro

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When I made plans to visit Canoa I thought I would stay for less than a week. I love the ocean but South American beach towns have been a toss-up.

I hated Mancora and so I bypassed Montanita. But then again I loved Mollendo in Peru because there were no foreign tourists.

And after a week I decided I needed to stay in Canoa, I just couldn’t say goodbye.

Part of that reason was that locals kept telling me that this weekend was one of the biggest fiestas of the year.

The Festival of San Pablo and Saint Pedro is celebrated up and down the coast but it was very special in Canoa.

So said the locals but I couldn’t find anything on it online.

That’s because this festival isn’t hyped up to lure in tourists, it’s a local festival. It’s a two-day festival where the town basically shuts down. It’s about as big as independence day in Cuenca.

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Even all the beach bars which depend on tourists for the weekends shut down so they can party in the dusty town square. 

Here half of the town dresses in all white to represent Saint Paul and the other half in black to represent San Peter.

Canoa festival

The details of this festival aren’t really explained well but on the first night everyone goes to church for mass and then they walk around town.

Then a duel between the two saints with the custom that the white team wins on the first night and is served dinner by the black team but the next night roles are reversed.


And while this coastal town breaks up into two teams there is a favourite as Peter was a poor, uneducated fisherman from Galilee.

And so when his black team wins the next night it means good luck all year with harvest and of course fishing.


There were a handful of gringos like me but the square was full of locals.

And because they had seen me walk around for the week they were comfortable enough to start a conversation and ask me to dance.

Of course no one spoke English but that didn’t matter as after a few canelazos I had the courage to freely speak in Spanish and not worry when I knew I was saying some things incorrectly.

This is why I wanted to stay.

I danced until my feet were so sore I had to sit and had laughed so much my cheeks were sore.

People were so gracious and friendly, offering me food, drink and to dance. They were welcoming and I felt like I belonged.

And so I’ve fallen in love with Canoa.

There are moments where things just click. And at this festival things fell into place for me. I feel like I belong here even if just for a little while.

This is no typical beach town. And so I stayed out, until 3am on Friday night and 2am on Saturday night.

And the rest of the town? They danced until dawn. 

Join the Conversation

  1. Amanda @ Adventure Year says:

    That sounds like a wonderful fiesta. I’ve never heard of it before, but it just sounds so perfect! I’m glad you got to stay in Canoa and experience this.

  2. I really wish I’d gone there now. I’ve been thinking a lot about Ecuador recently as it was exactly this time last year that I was in Montanita and preparing to go to the Galapagos. How fast life flies by when you’re having fun!

  3. Scott - Quirky Travel Guy says:

    It’s pretty cool to locate a local festival that can’t even be found online. I could go for some canelazos right about now.

  4. Quiero canelazos!!! Mmmmm!!!

    Local festivals are the best. And the fact that this whole town shuts down so that everyone can dance!! It’d be my favorite festival of the year! D-Man’s little Spanish pueblo does their local feria every year in September, and it’s wonderful – tons of food, drinks, dressing up, dancing, socializing til the wee hours of the morning. It’s a great way to end the summer. 🙂

    Good thing you stayed a bit longer in Canoa! 😉

  5. Thanks for sharing good post in your website.It’s pretty cool to locate a local festival that can’t even be found online. I could go for some candelas right about now.

  6. Irene @ Curacao Contest says:

    It is nice that you were comfrotable although you were the only English speaker there. I think you had a lot of fun. It is a pity that places like this one are not often met.

  7. Cheryl Howard says:

    I love discovering things like this which don’t really see tourists! Sounds like a lot of fun. can certainly see why you stayed.

  8. A small town with friendly locals is my favorite kind of destination! Looks like it would have been a great night out.

  9. TammyOnTheMove says:

    I can’t wait to go back to Ecuador next year to discover some places I haven’t been to on my first visit. Canoa definitely looks like one of those places.

  10. You didn’t mind language barrier, you even danced with them. Was real fun also shows you are flexible to interact.

  11. That sounds amazing! I love going places where mostly the locals go because then you get a true sense of their culture. Can I ask what time of year this was? We’re travelling through South America next year and perhaps we could make this a stop off on our itinerary.

  12. What a lovely description!

  13. We also celebrate fiesta here in the Philippines. We often cook good food for everyone to eat, hang colourful banderitas (flags) on the streets and people are dancing to the music!

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