Ecuador’s Coast actually refers to the lowland region on the coastal side of the mountains, (as opposed to the Jungle side), so you can be in the Coast and still 3 hours from the beach…
The Northern province of Esmeraldas has the most popular beaches for people from Quito, with places like Atacames being swamped at holiday weekends. If you want somewhere quieter (and I do recommend this with kids, then try Tonsupa, Mompiche or Same, which are all lower key.
We went so often to the coast at Esmeraldas that I never bothered taking any pictures, but if you take a slice of Ecuadorean jungle and populate it with Afro-Ecuadoreans, you will get a rough idea. A lot of Ecuadoreans will warm you against travelling to the capital city itself, but I visited on several occasions for work and always found people as welcoming as anywhere else in the country, and of course you can get some great seafood and some really atmospheric bars-cum-shacks.
On balance I would probably not choose Esmeraldas if I was going to have one beach holiday in Ecuador, but if you’re based in Quito and want to get away, or have a particular hankering to listen to some marimba then it’s a good option.
La Ruta del Sol
La Ruta del Sol is term coined by some bright spark in the ministry of tourism to refer to the mid section of the Pacific coast line. We have been to various spots along the route and it is an interesting part of Ecuador that Montanita aside (in all its tacky glory) is visited by relatively few foreign tourists.
We first drove from Quito when Tommy was a baby in an Opel/Chevrolet Corsa and it was 8 hours of pot-hole hell. When we finally arrived in Puerto Lopez Tommy was in meltdown and the only way we could get him to sleep (after 8 hours of driving) was to keep driving up and down the road outside the hotel….
Still the roads are much better now, and the chance to go whale watching (at the right time of year) makes the place a real draw, as well as the fantastic chevices.
While you’re there you can also mess around on the beach, chat with the fishermen and visit some local indigenous communities from the Huancavilca culture. It’s not the most spectacular part of the country, but it is the nicest part of the coast for families in my opinion.
Ecuador’s second city doesn’t get the same attention as Quito, and if you are travelling for a family holiday to Ecuador chances are it’s not on your itinerary. A Guayaco would say that’s your loss, and it’s true that there’s plenty do, like visit the Malecon, go up the hill to Las Penas, check out the the Parque de las Iguanas try the new Parque Historico (which we haven’t yet), or just stroll around the downtown and soak up the very Latino vibe of the city.
But if you are travelling with kids, the city can be very muggy and warm and you do need to be aware of where you are, as there as still some reported muggings in the city, (but NOT I should say in the places I have just listed).
Only Tommy has been with us to Guayaquil, (and that was pre-digital camera), I used to go a lot for work and have very fond memories of the city, but Lorena is a typical Serrana who only goes when she has to.