Ecuador and Pacific coast of Colombia
November 24, 2016 10:16 PM   Subscribe

My current thinking is that the next trip abroad will be to Ecuador and Colombia (Pacific coast only) What can you recommend for nice beaches, viewing flora & fauna, etc?

Fwiw, I'm American, speak passable Spanish. 10 days total.
posted by allelopath to Travel & Transportation around Ambato, Ecuador (5 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Some inland recommendations for Ecuador:

Don't miss Banos, which has dozens of waterfalls and hot springs in and around it - I stay at the Chimenea hostel, a block away from the large hot pools on the edge of town. The main pool is right next to a waterfall. It is one of my favorite cities in Ecuador. So much art, everywhere! Make sure to try their local sugar cane taffy, it's best when it's fresh.

Cuenca, a bit further south, is a quaint old city with beautiful architecture and a very colonial style. There is an avian sanctuary where you can see all the jungle birds up close (they are injured animals being cared for before reintroduction to the wild). They also have a huge artisan hall where you can buy all kinds of locally made crafts. It's fairly high-end, but the products are incredible, and you won't find quality like this many other places. There are a lot of European bakeries and several antique markets, which is unusual for Ecuador.

Quito is fun and has great culture and dining (obviously), but parts of it can be quite dangerous, so please be careful! While you're there, go to the butterfly pavilion just north of the city.
posted by ananci at 10:55 PM on November 24, 2016

for beaches in Ecuador I would say Puerto Lopez as a laid-back beach village, MontaƱita is a more party surfer town, and Manta as more family and luxury hotel beach. I travel to Manta quite often and stay at the Oro Verde which is *right* on Playa Murcielago, and the "Oh Mar" restaurant has the best grilled shrimp for lunch. Leaving again in 3 weeks.....
posted by alchemist at 12:37 AM on November 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

Columbia has this protected area on the north west coast, Tayrona National Park. It wounds wonderful, really huge and a lot of things to see.
posted by diode at 12:09 PM on November 25, 2016

Parque Tayrona is indeed lovely but it's on the Caribbean side of Colombia not the Pacific. I haven't been to the Pacific side but I do have a good friend who has.

Here are her recommendations: in terms of cities, she really loved Cali. For beaches, she found Juanchaco to be ok but touristy (and not nearly as bad as Lonely Planet's description!). She liked Ladrilleros better and La Barra is where the good beach is. These are all in the Buenaventura area of Colombia.

I have to admit that I think the beaches are much nicer on the Caribbean side based on my friend's and others' descriptions but these are starting places for researching where you might go on the Pacific side.

It's worth noting that I consistently found the official Colombia tourism website to be helpful when planning my trip last year. Yes, it's far more cheerful than is always true but I found several suggestions for things to do there (and nowhere else) and verified how things really stood by reading people's travel blogs.

Also, be warned that you will be relying heavily on your Spanish basically everywhere you go in Colombia outside the major cities. To get anywhere in the countryside (aka to the beach) you're going to have to navigate the bus system, both formal and informal. It's an adventure, but if you're in the right frame of mind and go with the flow then you'll be fine. MeMail if you'd like more specific travel advice and happy to help. Colombia is an amazing country.
posted by librarylis at 8:12 PM on November 25, 2016

In June we flew into Guayaquil and took a private car taxi to the Montanita area, but you can also take a bus (not a city bus, an air-con greyhound-type bus) and it takes 5 hours. Montanita itself is very energetic youth touristy, but the towns ~30 miles up or down the coast in either direction are smaller, laidback, and have some hostels/hotels and restaurants-- this is the same area that alchemist has visited too on preview. The beaches along this stretch are gorgeous for looking at waves and surfing. Puerto Lopez (10 miles N of Montanita) has whalewatching tours and birdwatching.
posted by holyrood at 2:22 PM on November 26, 2016

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