In a country as beautiful as Ecuador, it can be difficult to put out a list declaring "Ecuador's best places." Whatever travel experience you're seeking, you can't go wrong — as a visitor, this is a very good issue to have. However, it can make it difficult to know where to begin. When you visit Ecuador, do go off the beaten path, but also make sure you leave time for some of the destinations outlined here, because they are Ecuador's top places to visit for a reason.
Included are the incredible ecosystems of the Galápagos Islands — a destination on almost every list of "Places to See Before You Die." You'll also find the quaint cities of Quito and Cuenca, and the surf-friendly beaches of Montañita. If you're heading to South America with your entire family, or simply a travel companion with tastes different from yours, then Ecuador's top places to visit will do the impossible — satisfy everyone.
"Top Destinations" tend to have an assortment of activities —including natural, adventurous, and cultural options — and good restaurants. Try to visit at least a few of these destinations during your trip to Ecuador and see what no one should miss.
In Quito, you can walk down a sunny city street and take a step back in time. According to UNESCO, Quito’s Old Town is the “best-preserved historic center” in Latin America. Historic tours here will take you to some gorgeous Spanish cathedrals.
Quito is Ecuador’s capital city, as well as a sophisticated metropolis with a thriving art scene and high-end cuisine. Travelers here are spoilt for choice with places to stay — browse collections from renovated colonial mansions or cutting edge contemporary hotels, along with plenty of options for families and budget travelers.
Take a city tour that stops at the Mirador de Panecillo, which offers a sweeping view of the massive city. Just outside of Quito, you can take some of the country’s most breathtaking hikes to places like the Cotopaxi Volcano and the Mindo Valley.
Guayaquil is Ecuador’s largest city and, at first glance, the one most likely to overwhelm the senses. It’s a younger city than Ecuador’s colonial destinations, and brims with the potential of the next generation.
Get your bearing with a stroll along the Malecón 2000, a waterfront walkway lined with a variety of modern shops and restaurants. Nearby, you can check out the local art scene in the Las Peñas neighborhood, where you can stroll past historic homes and browse attractive galleries.
Leave from this port town for whale watching tours off the coast of Salinas. Guayaquil is also the setting off point for flights and cruises to the Galápagos. The majority of accommodations here are modern, upscale, and beautifully appointed.
#3: Santa Cruz
If you're planning a trip to the Galápagos, chances are good that the bustling island of Santa Cruz is on your itinerary. But this isn't just a place to spend the night — it’s also home to some of the top attractions in the Galápagos Archipelago, like the tortoises at the Charles Darwin Research Station and the white-sand beach of Tortuga Bay.
Santa Cruz’s landscape is full of surprises, like the sinkholes called “Los Gemelos” and the lava tunnels near the research station. Take a walk into the highlands, which are a different world from the tropical beaches. These contrasting environments in a relatively small area are part of what make the Galápagos so compelling.
Just because you're on a volcanic rock in the middle of the ocean doesn't mean you can't splash out. This island is home to some of the most opulent accommodations you can find in the Galápagos. Of course, you may opt not to stay on shore for long — lots of cruises depart from here, taking you to the more remote islands where you can see the incredibly rare wildlife that make these islands famous.
#4: San Cristóbal
San Cristóbal’s main town, Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, is an easygoing port town that lets you visit a number of the Galápagos’ remote diving and birdwatching hotspots with ease. Staying here puts you a bit off the beaten path from the main traveler hubs like Santa Cruz.
There are just 6,000 residents here, and meeting locals and frequenting local businesses gives you a bit more insight into what life in the Galápagos is really like. You can book pleasant accommodations along the waterfront, where you'll find most of the action in town.
Besides the nearby attractions, the island has its own beaches and hiking trails that are easy to access from the city center. Popular tours that leave from the bay take you to places like Isla Lobos, which is known for its populations of sea lions, marine iguanas, and blue-footed boobies. Kicker Rock is one of the top diving and snorkeling attractions in the area, with its incredible diversity of surrounding marine life.
Frequently asked questions
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- Where Is the Best Surfing in Ecuador?
If you’re looking to surf, you’ll find plenty of beaches along Ecuador’s Pacific coast with excellent waves. The best time to surf in Ecuador is during the wet season, from November to May. On the coast, these months are the warmest and sunniest.The following Ecuadorian beaches are some of the country's best known surf spots — frequented by tourists and locals alike. If you’re interested, we can help set you up with surfing instructors and surfboard rentals (one less thing you'll need to pack for your trip to Ecuador).
Getting to Ecuador is fairly easy; you'll likely arrive by airplane, but if surfing in Ecuador is one stop of a longer voyage, then you do have options for arriving by land or sea. Entry requirements are fairly basic, and include a valid passport, proof of onward travel, and proof of funds to cover your tip, so it won't be long befor you're riding those waves.
Montañita and Vicinity – Guayas Province
Montañita is Ecuador’s most popular surfing beach, located a little over 100 miles (180 km) northwest of Guayaquil. This beach has hosted several World Masters Surfing Championships. It has what many think of as a typical surfer scene, with a strong bohemian vibe. Surfing and partying are the little beach town’s main attractions, and you’ll find a variety of restaurants and bars in town.
Surfers should take caution — rip tides and big waves are common here. At one section of the beach, known locally as La Punta, experienced surfers can take on waves between 6 to 10 feet (2m – 3m).
There are several beaches nearby Montañita that are also worth checking out.
Las Tunas beach is only 10 minutes away, and usually less crowded than Montañita. This is a better option for beginner level surfers. It’s also a good place to visit when Montañita gets too crowded on the weekends.
14 miles (23 km) north of Montañita, you’ll find Ayampe. This small fishing village is popular with locals, but does not get nearly as crowded as Montañita. Ayampe's beach usually has strong waves, but is still suitable for most experience levels.
Mompiche – Esmereldas Province
Mompiche is a quiet town, and only recently accessible by a decent road. It’s located about an hour’s drive south of the popular beach town of Atacames, in the very southernmost part of the Esmereldas province.
Beaches at Mompiche have black sand and big waves. The beaches here can produce very long waves, up to 985 feet (300 m). Only skilled surfers should tackle the waves, which can be tricky and quite powerful.
Canoa – Manabí
Canoa is a relaxed beach, popular with the locals but not heavily trafficked. Surfers of all levels can catch a wave here.
Canoa is a good destination for a number of sports besides surfing. It’s often windy, and hang-gliding and parasailing have become quite popular. Low cliffs overlook the beach, and create the perfect takeoff spot for hang-gliders.
Puerto Baquerizo Moreno – San Cristóbal Island (The Galápagos)
This beach is located on one of the larger islands of the Galápagos. The surfing here is of the same high caliber as the waves in Hawaii. But the waves are also powerful, and best left to experienced surfers. If you take a cruise to the Galápagos, try to make this gorgeous beach one of your stops.
- Where Is the Best Fishing in Ecuador?
Ecuador may be home to the world famous Galápagos Islands, but that's not all there is to the country. Obviously, the nation's protected areas are off limits for any activities that might stress or interfere with nature, but did you know that the country boasts exceptional deep-sea fishing off of it's coastline? Book a vacation you'll remember for years to come when you do some of the best fishing of your life in Ecuador!Grab your sunglasses, sun cream, and sense of adventure — it's time to pack for your trip to Ecuador. The beaches of Ecuador hold more than just beauty...The best fishing in Ecuador is along the Pacific Coast between Montañita and Salinas. Here, you can enjoy deep-sea fishing and will have the opportunity to hook Pacific sailfish, black and blue marlin, mahi-mahi (i.e. dolphinfish), and bigeye tuna.
Excited? You should be! So how do you make this fishing pipe dream a reality?
Well, you've already discovered Anywhere, so your biggest hurdle is out of the way! The next step is deciding when to book your trip. If you're taking the entire family, then there are some things you'll need to know about the country's weather patterns when determining the best time to visit Ecuador. The wet season is December to May, but this is also the best time to visit the coast; while the best fishing in Ecuador is to be had from July to October.
Next comes traveling from point A to point B; you can get to Ecuador by land, sea, and air, but unless the voyage is part of your vacation, flying in will be your fastest option. For most travelers, Ecuador's entry requirements will be little more than a valid passport, proof of onward travel, and proof of funds.
The final step? Make sure you've booked your accommodations, transportation, and other amazing tours with the assistance of your Anywhere Travel Consultant. Then, sit back and count down the days until you're out on Ecuador's high seas — reeling in your biggest catch to date.