While Ecuador is a comparatively tiny nation in South America there is so much I have not seen. In fact I hadn’t visited the coast the last time I was here. With two months to travel I knew it was time to visit the beach. I did not want to visit the popular but dirty backpacker spot of Montanita after visiting its Peruvian equivalent in Mancora but many locals recommended Canoa.
At first it was going to be a quiet visit but then Michael from Go See Write offered to meet up on his way to Peru. Then Kim from Go Galavanting offered after her trip to the Quilotoa loop. Finally one of Michael’s friends, oddly enough without a travel blog, also decided to come.
I would have friends!
A novelty for sure as I am often alone but I was really looking forward to being with others for a change. We are spending a week here and it’s been really nice to have people to eat lunch with go to the beach and trying to balance nightly cocktails with yoga in the morning.
And Canoa is nice. It is much quieter than most beach towns I have been in. Fisherman arrive in the morning to sell fish, then some head out at 12pm for 8 hours to get shrimp. Most people are very friendly and helpful.
It’s going to be a good week.
A Travel Guide To Canoa, Ecuador
This small beach town lies on the Pacific coast of Ecuador, and is around six hours away from the capital Quito. Canoa is on a beautiful stretch of coast, and draws a growing number of visitors who come to enjoy the wonderful natural surroundings, the brilliant waves for surfing and the warm welcome of the locals.
Here is a look at the basics of what you need to know for your first visit to this lovely little town.
The Relaxed Atmosphere of Canoa
One of the main reasons that many people visit and return to Canoa is the pace of life and the atmosphere here. Canoa is a town to relax and take things slower. Traditionally the main industry has been fishing, and you will still see the simple wooden boats lined up along the beach. In fact, the busiest time is when the fishermen head out on to the Pacific to cast their nets for the day.
How to Get to Canoa
Canoa is not large. There is a night bus which travels directly to Canoa, there are also several buses a day that travel from Quito to the nearby towns of San Vicente and Bahia de Caraquez. From there regular local buses serve the rest of the route to Canoa.
The town is just off the main coast road running alongside the Pacific, so if you are planning to rent a car and drive to the town, it is a good road for the most of the way.
Canoa Beaches and Surfing
Canoa lies at the northern end of a very long beach, which runs for nearly seventeen kilometers. This means that even on the busiest days you can find a lovely peaceful part of the beach if you’re willing to walk. The sand is golden, and the climate here is warm with a lovely refreshing breeze coming in off the ocean.
Canoa has great waves for surfing and it’s started to attract more visitors from January to April for this reason. There are several surfing instructors in town that offer beginner lessons. The conditions here are ideal for beginner and intermediate surfers, as waves aren’t too large and there are few rocks beneath the water.
Other Activities and Sights to Enjoy in Canoa
While surfing is the most popular activity in Canoa, there are plenty of other things to enjoy. Swimming and kayaking are among the most popular things to do in the warm waters of the Pacific. You can also take a whale watching trip out into the waters off the coast of Canoa.
There are lots of opportunities to hike in the area. And with a hippie vibe there is no shortage of yoga. Nature lovers enjoy the Rio Muchacho Organic Farm, where you can see the local colony of Howler Monkeys.
Getting Around Canoa
Canoa is not really a town but a village that is so small the roads are not paved. The beauty is that you can walk anywhere in town. Unfortunately Canoa doesn’t have its own bank or ATM. So if you do need to pick up cash the nearby town of San Vicente is the best option.
There is bus service every thirty minutes throughout the day, with a fare of fifty cents. There are also several taxis that serve the town, and fares to the towns of San Vicente and Bahia de Caraquez are usually around five dollars. But make sure that you agree to the fare before beginning the journey.
Where to Eat And Drink in Canoa
Like many small beach towns you’ll find lots of great seafood at rock bottom prices. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of diversity. Most beach shacks serve the same ingredients so just find your favourite one. There’s fantastic Ecuadorian ceviche, bolon de verde and encebollado in Canoa.
The popular Suki Bar run by Becky and Carlos serve North American fare if you’re looking for something from home. The Surf Shak also offers cooks several North American dishes including burgers, pasta and pizza dishes. Those looking for healthy natural food should order the vegan menu at Adicto Surf and SUP Cafe.
Local tip: If you fancy a free cocktail, the bar at Hotel Bambu gives visitors a cocktail in exchange for collecting litter on the beach. And they provide the garbage sacks!
Accommodation in Canoa
There is pretty good variety of accommodation in Canoa. Hostel bed usually cost between four and eight dollars per night. Budget hotel rooms cost around fifteen dollars per night. There are also small boutiques mall hotels down the beach.
There are plenty of places that are right on the beach. But be careful as the beach will usually be the noisiest place in town at night. So it pays to stay across the street.