Ecuador is perhaps one of the smallest countries of the Americas but it still is the most impressive place to visit for the different biodiversity offered in its four well marked regions, Coast or lowlands, Sierra or highlands, Oriente or Amazon Rain Forest and the unique Galapagos Islands.
The Botanical Garden is located at the foot of the Cerro Colorado hill at Francisco de Orellana Avenue. Here you can find three thousand varieties of vegetable species including hundred and fifty varieties of orchids.
ClimateOn the coast, the dry season runs from about June to December. The temperature can drop to about 16ºC and it sometimes overcasts with a damp mist called "garúa" settling in. The rainy season, however is fairly humid and sunny which lasts from December to May. It's generally hot all year round, but just a little muggier during the rainy season.
The ProvincesThe Province of Esmeraldas
While today's Esmeraldas harbors few emeralds, it does live up to its other name, the "Green Province." The northernmost of the coastal provinces, Esmeraldas is also the lushest, lined with mangroves, and flooded tropical forest. Its wild and remote inland areas, accessible only by canoe, make Esmeraldas the ideal staging ground for a classic river safari.
If you're not feeling up to the jugle, Esmeraldas also boasts some of the coast's most stunning beaches, most bordered by small settlements living on what they catch. The province's waters are rich in shrimp, oysters, crabs, clams, lobsters and other crustaceans, which like in the rest of the coast, are very cheap, especially if you buy them directly from the fishermen as they're taking in their catch. When walking on the beach, you will usually encounter someone, dragging in their day catch, or someone offering to sell cheap "fresh" fish. But please be careful, because you can easily get very sick with local foods, especially seafood. And please take a look at our Health & Saftey section for more details on food saftey in Ecuador.
The Province of Manabí
South of Esmeraldas, lays the coastal province of Manabí. This can be a great place to relax, but you'll likely end up getting-up soon to go out to enjoy your self and dance. Manabí is well known in Ecuador, for its late night distractions and its peoples delightful apperance.
The beaches along the coast of this province are very popular. During holidays and summer season, many ecuadorians head to beaches such as Puerto López, Montañita, and Bahía de Caráquez, as well as Machalilla National Park, with its gorgeous close by beach of Los Frailes - considered one of the best beaches on South America's Pacific Coast.
The Province of Guayas and Guayaquil
The Province of Guayas houses the city of Guayaquil, Ecuador's largest city and main port. Guayaquil's Puerto Marítimo was opened in 1964 and now handles approximately 90% of Ecuador's imports and nearly 50% of its exports. Mostly recognized for its commercial and industrial reputation instead of a vacation spot, historically Guayaquil has not been a very popular site on a list of places to visit. One of the most ambitious projects on the year 2000 was the start of the renovation of the Malecón. This well known pier includes a number of parks, restaurants, a theatre, and its purpose it to increase touristic interest. In addition to Malecón, the picturesque Las Peñas district and the Centenario Plaza are worth a look. These are just a few of the attractions that visitors should visit while staying in Guayaquil. Taking a closer look at what the province of Guayas has to offer, you will find great beaches as Montañita, Punta Blanca, Playas (General Villamil), and Puntas Arenas; many in which you can practice water sports.
The Province of El Oro
El Oro stretches from Guayaquil to Peruvian borders. Considered by many as just a way station between Ecuador and Perú, El Oro can surprise those willing to spend a few days exploring it.
The thriving banana and shrimp producing city of Machala divides El Oro's portion of coast in two. While not an appealing destination in itself, Machala is a great jumping-off point to explore the mangrove circled town of Puerto Bolívar, the markets of Santa Rosa, and the delightful gold-mining community of Zaruma.
The Highlights and Attractions
There are countless things to do and see in the coastal region of Ecuador. If you want to spend time just kicking-back there's Montañita, Ecuador’s premiere surfing spot and a great place to meet more "gringos" or "extranjeros".The Santa Elena peninsula near Salinas is known for its world class yacht harbor and deep-sea fishing. As a contrast, the traditional fishermen can be seen sailing the waters in balsa rafts, catching fish for the local population. There are several comfortable hotels and hostels to choose from and the long, golden beach makes the area a popular place for tourism.
From June to September is whale season. Humpback whales migrate to La Isla de la Plata which is part of th Machalilla National Park. Once a year these whales come all the way from Antarctica to this island to breed. Sailing from Puerto López you can easily view these giant creatures of the deep. The journey includes a stop at Isla de la Plata, home to pairs of waved albatross, as well as other sea birds, including boobies, frigates, tropic birds and much more.
Archeological excavations based near the village of Salango center on the Valdivia culture, which inhabited this region 3000 years ago. Nearby the Machalilla National Park are sulfur springs and an unusual tropical dry forest which is an exceptionally good area for bird watching.
Aside from these things there always is the vibrant nightlife of the cities and towns of the coast. See our sections of Ecuador's Nightlife and more specifically, our sections on cities of Guayaquil, Manta, Salinas and Esmeraldas.