Posted by: Jena Davison | April 8, 2010

Coastin’ it in Canoa

I re-fell in love with Ecuador this past weekend. The fact that I could hop on a bus in Quito at midnight and be tanning on the beach on the Pacific coast by 10am reminded me just how lucky I am to be living here. For such a small country, Ecuador is jam-packed with ecological, geographical and geological diversity. About the size of Colorado, Ecuador’s borders contain jungle, mountains, beach, active volcanoes and colonial cities—not the mention, the incredible Galápagos Islands. This means that within twelve hours (más o menos) in any direction, I could be taking a canoe ride through the Amazon, experiencing some of the world’s best hiking, relaxing on the beach, wandering through a declared UNESCO World Heritage site or snorkling with sea turtles.

I went to Canoa, which is on Ecuador’s northern coast, with my friends Mark, Nick and Kimrey for our extended Semana Santa (Easter) weekend. Mark and Nick headed there a night early, but Kimrey and I grabbed an overnight bus on Thursday night, which was actually fairly pleasant in terms of overnight buses minus the awful Spanish music blasting and the chill that started rippling through the bus halfway through the night. After checking into our hotel (Hotel Paislibre) and eating some pancakes (more like a dense, flat cake topped with dulce de leche/caramel, perhaps taking the ¨cake¨ in pancake too literally) and fresh fruit juice, we headed to the beach. The weather was warm and sunny, with the temperature climbing to the low 90s by mid-afternoon.

Canoa’s long and wide stretch of beach is beautiful. Due to the strong sun, brightly colored tents pepper the white sand, adding neon hues to the natural blues and browns of the landscape. These tents are for rent, $7 for the day (well, more like $5, but it was feriar/holidays so prices rose). Carts attached to bicycles selling cold beer, water and fresh coconut juice (literally saw some kids bring coconuts straight from the tree to their mother’s cart, who proceeded to slice them open and serve them to bronzed patrons) station themselves intermittedly on the beach. Turqoise Pacific waters with playful waves reflect the fiery sun, which menacingly hangs above, ready to burn any person without cover or 50+ SPF sunscreen on. The water is warm, almost bathlike, and the waves range from gentle tumbles to huge splashes that are perfect for boogie boarding. Kimrey and I were pummeled with waves at one point, barely having enough time to catch our breaths between having to make quick decisions about whether to jump over and go underneath approaching waves. Surfers in the distance ride out the waves to their foamy endings—the more experienced surfers entertaining onlookers with tricks and flips. Stray dogs wander the grounds sniffing for leftover food and begging for attention and companionship.

Little huts lines the beach serving up seafood specialties, cheap beer and fruity coctails. Shirtless, barefooted dudes and bikini-clad chicks relax in hammocks or sit around tables with drink in hand and smile upon face. Hungover beach bums slurp up ceviche, topped with chifles (plantain chips), ketchup and ají sauce, or spoon seafood immersed in coconut sauce (encocado camarones/pescado/calamar) or garlic and lime sauce (ajillo camarones/pescado/calamar) into their hungry mouths—all for less than $5. I am fairly certain I consumed over fifty shrimp while in Canoa, and I enjoyed every single bite. These delicacies are complemented by fresh pinapple (piña), blackberry (mora), watermelon (sandía), coconut (coco) or passionfruit (maracuya) juices or batidos (milkshakes), or of course, ice-cold beer, piña coladas, caipirinhas or cliché sex on the beaches. Que rico!

If you have not already gathered, Canoa has a very chilled-out, Bohemian vibe. Unshaven, dreaded hippies sell knotted and beaded jewelry on the dirt streets and people don’t seem to have a care in the world. The pace of life feels like it is in slow-motion as there is little sense of urgency or importance outside of soaking up rays, surfing and just enjoying life. We even passed a sign graffitied on a small shack that read ¨Tranquilo no más. Bienvenido a Canoa y RELAX.¨

Nighttime continues in this relaxed fashion, as the sublime sunsets make way for starry skies and locals and vacationers alike head to the beachside bars to grab some drinks and socialize. Latin beats, reggae tunes and club hits radiate from speakers, and as the night progresses, some dancing commences, with a normal share of salsa dominating the sand dance floors. Food stands offering steak sandwiches and hotdogs try to lure in drunk customers, who are now more liberal with their money and appetites. The nightlife is not crazy here by any means, but there is enough going on to kick back and have a good time with good friends. Plus, to top it off, we got to watch some March Madness basketball at a Dutch-owned bar called the Surf Shak that had MASSIVE happy hour coctails and fresh sushi rolls. No complaints, here.

Overall, it was a wonderful, relaxing and refreshing beach weekend. Having to come back to Quito was such a bummer, but I returned with recharged energy, a new appreciation for Ecuador and some fun memories.

Below are some photos of Canoa:



  1. i want to go there. now.

  2. DITTO!!

  3. […] itself is beautiful, but not in a pristine-beach sort of way. (Check out my friend Jena’s blog for another take.) There is nothing pristine about Ecuador. Beautiful yes, but not pristine. The […]

  4. Hola, quería saber si podría usar tu foto en una publicación… gracias

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