Ecuadorian Beach Stop: Salinas

On Batalla de Pichincha, a public holiday in Ecuador, the family hosting us in Guayaquil was headed to Salinas, and they invited us to join them.  Salinas is one of the beach towns we had heard about on the west coast of Ecuador, and I was super excited.  I had read about many beaches on the coast – Manta, Puerto Lopez, Olon, Montanita, Salinas, Playas and others.  Salinas gets a lot of attention and is known as the beginning of the “Route of the Sun,” which is a road along the coastal resort areas.  Eventually I’d like to check them all out, but without a car and only a few days in Guayaquil, that could prove difficult.  This was definitely an opportunity we did not want to pass up.

Our host family did not have a car either, but there’s a good bus network in Guayaquil, and it’s just two and a half hours by bus to Salinas.  It seemed like we were there in no time.  The change was sudden; from rural, developing areas, to a small city with buildings as high as 12 or even 20 stories rising around a crescent moon shaped area of sand.

Salinas’s nickname is “Little Miami Without The Crime.”  While I’m not sure it reminds me much of Miami, it is certainly hot and sunny and I like that there’s not much crime.  Salinas is the most western city in Ecuador, and lies at the same latitude as Guayaquil, so the weather was plenty warm and plenty humid.  The beach is narrow and butts up against a road and the tall buildings are all along the other side of the road.  The water is as clear as the Caribbean.  The temperature of the water was relatively nippy, which surprised us, especially after experiencing such warm water in Sanibel, Florida a few weeks ago.  Elliott definitely felt Salinas in May is a place to *swim* (and in turn stay warm), not to lounge, in the water!  Then again, the humidity of Guayaquil meant the cool water was a welcome relief to me.

Since it is close Guayaquil (Ecuador’s largest city), Salinas has more infrastructure than many other beach towns along the coast.  There is health care, shopping, accessibility to an airport, social life, etc.

Those may sound like “the basics” if you come from a modern, developed area, but this city also offers a huge infrastructure for visitors.  In fact, Salinas is considered ‘the’ vacation beach town in Ecuador.  There is whale watching, jet-skiing, fishing, hang gliding and skydiving.  There are even luxury resources like yacht clubs, an extremely rare concept in a country such as Ecuador.  And the prices are waaay lower that what we’re used to.  Our friend took his daughter on a wave runner for a half hour and paid only $12!

The real estate is a bargain as well – I did some reading and it turns out you can buy a brand-new unfurnished condo overlooking the ocean (and the world-class yacht club) for around $70,000… or a furnished and newly renovated three-bedroom, three bath condo with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the ocean for $135,000.  Sound appealing?

We’re not interested in buying real estate in Salinas, but it did make for a great day at the beach.  We swam a few times and walked along the shoreline as the tide rose and even collected a few shells.  I noticed that the local beach visitors do not “sun worship,” and only strip down to their bathing suits when they are ready to go into the water.  We ate fresh pineapple we bought from a vendor, and laughed over the variety of things people sell as they walk along the beach, ranging from sunglasses to fresh fruit to necklaces to clothing!  And I marveled over the blatant cell phone company advertisements on buoys way out in the water.

Afterwards, we went with our host family for a fabulous seafood meal.  We were struck again by how fresh, delicious and, of course, inexpensive the food is here in Ecuador.  We beat the holiday crowds, and hopped an early bus back to Guayaquil.

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