I was sad to leave the mountains behind, but I was excited to relax on the beach. It was a five hour drive to the coast from Quito. We stayed one night in Bahía de Caráquez. It's a small eco-city, home to an organic shrimp farm and not much else, since the high rises are vacation homes and are only occupied during peak season. From there, we traveled the coast with a two night stop in Puerto Lopez, a small fishing village. It's know for whale watching and tours to Isla de la Plata aka poor man's Galapagos. We had intentions of visiting, but once we settled into our hammocks, we vowed not to leave. We drove back to Guayaquil via Ruta del Sol. Overcast skies kept it from being too scenic. This is the last entry. Ecuador is a special place and I bet tourism will boom in the coming years.
Driving becomes far easier upon exiting this tunnel. Driving the coast is a breeze compared to the white knuckled rides through the Andes.
This is the Los Caras bridge, longest bridge in Ecuador it is 3.5 years old and 1.24 miles. It used to take three hours to get between the two towns, it now takes 15 minutes.
Finding our hotel in Bahía de Caráquez was a chore. There are three places to stay with Hotel Bahia in the name, ours was not the first two we located. It is Hotel Bahia B&B near the police station, a fair distance from the beach. When booking, I had the understanding that it had ocean views. It does not. Depending which room you have you might see the Rio Chone estuary. The owners, David and Sofia, provided us a warm welcome, it was nice to chat in English off the bat, we arrived earlier than they expected. David explained the shower had a leak, but he would fix it while we were out. However, it was not repaired.
Excuse the messy bed, I had forgotten to snap a photo before we slept.
View from our room
The accomodations are clean and cozy, and the A/C kept us cool - thank goodness, it was hot and muggy, a big change from the Andes. We had difficulty flushing the toilet, and the problem worsened with each use. The owners left shortly after we checked in so we were not able to have lunch (or dinner) at the restaurant as we had initially planned. We went into town, which is an extremely sleepy village. We were able to find one open restaurant, Puerto Amistad, it sits on Rio Chone overlooking the Los Caras bridge.
The restaurant looked promising, but service was slow. The glasses they provided for the Pilsener had spider webs. None of the food was very good, Frank went with a quesadilla which was the best bet. My shrimp in garlic sauce was too rich and the shrimp were pretty tough. The ceviche wasn't much better. I think we left more behind than we actually consumed.
We drove around the peninsula, eventually, ending up on the beach. I'm such a cold water wuss, I've never put my feet into the Pacific despite all my visits up and down the US coast. The water was warm. The beach was clean, but I was freaked out by jelly fish. I got in about calf deep and that was enough for me.
We hung out there until Frank got a hankering for ice cream. We found a little spot serving frozen yogurt, we had a delicious brownie sundae. We returned when night fell for empanadas. We had a couple orders for dinner (our cheapest meal of the trip). The chicken were the best! The cheese were ok and we found it odd that they were served with sugar, but I guess this is the norm.
We went down to the end of the beach, we had a couple beers at the snack shack across the way. We waited for the sun to set.
The next morning, we woke bright and early to set off for Puerto Lopez. It rained off and on while we drove down the coast, but by the time we arrived the clouds had parted and the sun was out. It was an easy drive, but locating the hotel was a difficult task. Google Maps does not have Hosteria Mandala in the proper location, GPS was unable to locate it, Tripadvisor maps was not helpful. We cruised up and down the beach. Frank was terribly irritated, he was convinced that I was scammed, and the hotel didn't exist. I assured him, it did. We had been everywhere but north, so we set off in that direction and low and behold tucked away from the rest of the fishing village, Hosteria Mandala has its own oasis.
Check in was a little tricky, but I got it sorted out. We were in the room called Galapagos. The grounds are lush and it's a bit of a maze to the various rooms. We got ourselves turned around on the first couple trips. The room was large and nicely appointed. There was no A/C, even with the fans it warm to sleep. Also, the mosquito nets above the beds are not for show. You need them! The owners have dogs that have adjusted well to the beach life. Overall, we were relieved to have found the perfect setting to begin the relaxing part of our trip.
We had a late breakfast in the restaurant before hitting the beach. The food was pretty good, but service suffered. For a while, we weren't certain if we'd be served, just when we had nearly given up the waiter appeared. Breakfast is not included with your stay. Meals and drinks are ran on a tab for the duration of your stay.
The hotel has private cabanas for guests, and hammocks are available. We picked up two and strung them up and barely moved the rest of the day. Heaven.
That evening we had dinner at Paella Mar. The sangria was fantastic, but we barely touched our food. We had a spanish omelet and paella, both were so salty, it was practically inedible.
Our second dinner was at Casa Vecchia Ristorante Pizzeria. We had caprese to start and we shared a pizza with mushrooms. The crust was cracker thin and pretty tasty.
On our way back to the hotel, we noticed that our tire was a bit low. We made note to check on it in the morning. Sure enough, we had a flat. We asked if the hotel had an air compressor by chance, they didn't, but they did have a bicycle tire pump. It was a slow leak so Frank was able to fill the tire enough to drive it into town to get it repaired.
Thankfully, Vulcanizadoras or tire repair shops are plentiful all over Ecuador. Not quite the same as Discount Tire, and the like, back home; those guys have it easy. Yet, these guys are quick and bust their ass. They had us on our way in no time.
Our work for the day was done. We lazed in hammocks all day, only breaking for lunch, beer runs and potty breaks. The hotel has beer koozy's made in prisons in Brazil that guests can use on property. They don't like them on the beach because they turn up missing. However, Frank convinced them to allow us to use one. We guarded it with our life. It kept our beer cold for hours. It was a miracle!
The beach was very much alive, you could practically feel it move beneath your feet.
Puerto Lopez's main mode of transportation; rather than busses or taxi's you get around on these.
One final sunset...
Then, we were off to dinner. We decided to eat at the hotel, since breakfast had been pretty tasty. We ordered ceviche, chicken in tomato sauce and cheese, and steamed fish. Followed by homemade ice cream, which was really delicious.
Up until today, we kept protected from the sun, but those equatorial rays prevailed. We were both sun burnt. I was lobster red, Jill, the night manager (originally, from Chicago) took pity on me and plucked some aloe from the garden. My legs hardly ever burn because they're rarely exposed so they stung quite a bit, it was nice to have the cool aloe soothe the sting.
We drove back to Guayaquil via the Ruta del Sol. It was an enjoyable ride along the Pacific through various coastal towns. By the looks of it, Puerto Lopez was the perfect choice. It was just our speed.
Hasta luego, Ecuador. Gracias por la aventura.