Looking for the best beaches in Ecuador? We don’t blame you. This naturally-beautiful country has over 2,000 kilometres of coastline, making it popular with backpackers, honeymooners, eco-tourists and everyone in between.
Whether you’re looking for a hidden beach to relax and spot wildlife or a place to sip cocktails, you’ll find your dream destination along the Ecuadorian coastline.
But it’s not all about relaxing and soaking up the scenery: there are plenty of beach activities and watersports that put Ecuador on the map as a beach destination globally.
Surfers will be in their element in Ecuador. If you don’t believe us, check out this guide to the best surfing spots in Ecuador. Popular spots like Montanita have been frequented by surfers for many years, and you’ll even find a surfing festival that takes place each February.
Another phenomenon that brings travellers to the Ecuadorian coast is the annual whale migration between June and October. Read our ultimate guide to whale watching in Ecuador for all our top tips.
Best beaches in Ecuador
Whatever your motivation for visiting Ecuador’s beaches, you won’t be disappointed. What you mean by ‘best’ depends a lot on you, though. Let’s break up this question together!
Ecuador beaches are beautiful
Most beautiful beach – Machalilla National Park
There are three beaches in Machalilla National Park you shouldn’t miss: Playa Priega with its striking black sand, Playa Tortuga known for its unique wave formation when two crash together, and Playa Los Frailes, a white-sand bay in a perfect circle. Don’t miss the viewpoint overlooking both Los Frailes and Tortuga. Entry is free, just leave your trash at home!
Best city beach – Playa Murcielago in Manta
Honesty, the best city beach I’ve ever seen! This is a refuge completely free from cars and city noise. There’s plenty of spaces for events, restaurants, artisan shops and travellers pitching their tents near the palm trees. There’s even a surf/SUP/bodyboard club founded by one of the best surfers in South America. Don’t miss this place!
Best kitesurf beach – Santa Marianita
The morning starts a little cloudy. Then around 11am, the day breaks open: sun and strong steady wind blow across sleepy Santa Marianita beach! About 15 years ago, this sandy 7km beach was discovered by a Colombian kitesurfer. Now there are three kite schools but luckily, it hasn’t become overrun with tourism just yet.
The main activity is fishing so ensure you wave to the friendly fisherman – they’ll help you get back on your board when you’re in trouble 😉 There’s a wavy spot (in front of Punta La Barca) as well as calm waters where the schools are located. It takes a week or two of lessons to really get the hang of kitesurfing.
Windy season runs from April until December. From June to October, you can follow the whales with your kite. Read more about kitesurfing in Ecuador here!
Best beach for drinking cocktails – Puerto Lopez
The main claim to fame for Puerto Lopez is Isla de la Plata, also called ‘the Poor Man’s Galapagos’. Check out our guide to visiting Isla de la Plata if you’re interested in spotting unique wildlife without blowing $1,000 for a few days in the Galapagos!
Puerto Lopez is also Ecuador’s prime whale-watching location. Each year between June and September, you can spot humpback whales travelling along the coastline. Definitely read our whale watching guide if you can’t wait to meet our biggest friends :).
Many travellers don’t know that Puerto Lopez is also home to a gorgeous bay beach. It’s protected within a lovely cove where gentle waves tickle the plentiful fishing and whale watching boats. The beach is lined with cute beach bars, providing delicious cocktails at affordable prices. There’s also a basic but very popular workout place on the beach where local boys show off acrobatic tricks at sunset. Those that dare can join in!
Best surf beach – Montanita
Idyllic blue waters? Check. Surfing opportunities? Check. Beach bars and restaurants? Double check. Montanita Beach may be one of the busiest and most touristic beaches in Ecuador but it’s for good reason: a trip to Montanita is always a good time!
If you’re a surfer, we’d recommend Montanita as an excellent place to ride waves and catch swells. There’s no shortage of surf schools along the beachfront so you can browse the competition and grab a bargain.
Montanita started life as somewhat of a hippie, backpacker location but has evolved over time, like many Ecuadorian beach towns. Nowadays, there are upmarket hotels as well as hippie hostels, ensuring Montanita Beach attracts all kinds of crowds.
Most exclusive beaches in Ecuador – Galapagos Islands
If you’re looking for the best beaches in Ecuador, you can’t overlook the Galapagos! While many people visit solely for wildlife, we’d also recommend checking out the beaches. Rabida Island is a striking red sand beach home to blue-footed boobies and other incredible creatures, while Tortuga Bay is known not just as one of the best beaches in Ecuador but also the world. As well as being a good spot for sunbathing on pristine white sand, it’s also the perfect place to watch as baby turtle hatchlings are born and make their way to the ocean. Just remember to look but not touch!
Other sandy Galapagos spots worth mentioning when discussing the best beaches in Ecuador include Post Office Bay, Bartolome Bay known for its distinctive rock formations, and Puerto Chino renowned for its excellent sunbathing and impressive sea lion population who may join you!
Best party beach – Salinas
We couldn’t talk about the best beaches in Ecuador without mentioning Salinas, could we? Salinas is the beach for those looking to party. Disco bars, restaurants, plenty of sky-scraping hotels, and even a nearby airport. This beach is especially popular with folk from Guayaquil, Ecuador’s largest city, who visit to dance and take selfies.
Best alternative beach in Ecuador to relax – Ayampe
Ayampe is definitely one of the best beaches in Ecuador. A loooong stretch of beach with a gentle beach break is ideal when practising surfing. The natural setting has resulted in an alternative travellers’ community setting up in Ayampe. They’ve set up initiatives, plus there’s a cute pizza restaurant, yoga studios and massage salons. Definitely worth a visit for the alternative traveller!
Best deserted beaches – Santa Marianita and San Lorenzo
Do you look to be totally alone on the beach? No one around but crabs, birds, shelves, and the sound of the sea? Definitely try out the walk between Santa Marianita and San Lorenzo, crossing more than 10km of various deserted beaches, separated by climbable rocks. But be careful! The sea doesn’t let you pass at high tide, so watch the tide times on Magic Seaweed. Leave Santa Marianita two hours before the lowest tide so you have plenty of time to complete the walk at your own pace. Don’t forget sunscreen and water!
Once in San Lorenzo, you walk up the cliff towards the lightning tower, enjoying the most wonderful views. You can get back to Santa Marianita hopping on the white camionettas (the local public transport). Punta La Barca Nomad Hostel in Santa Marianita will happily help you further with more information about the walk.
Best turtle beach – San Lorenzo
Last but not least, San Lorenzo, where sea turtles bury their eggs. Wake up early to walk the beach and spot hatching nests. Be patient! Don’t touch the babies – they have to find their own way to the sea so they can return and lay their eggs in the same spot. San Lorenzo also has an amazing cliff, where the water has eaten out a bridge. Totally unknown and definitely worth the walk!