As I near the end of my time in Ecuador, I have decided to explore the areas along the country’s southwestern coastal region. My first stop was Salinas, a small beach town about 2.5 hours west of Guayaquil. It is a small beach town along South America’s most western tip which caters mostly to local Ecuadorians. Salinas reminded me of a poor-man’s Miami Beach (no pun intended). However, I am glad to finally be able to relax on a beach again after nearly 2 months of traveling inland.
Arrival to Salinas- After leaving Cuenca due to outrageous hotel prices, I technically stayed in Guayaquil for the weekend but made it a point not to explore the city. I decided to first explore the coast and come back a stay a proper week in Ecuador’s largest city. From the Guayaquil bus terminal, I took a 2 hour bus to the town of Santa Elena ($4.40 USD). The bus was comfortable despite being packed and the ride was smooth. After arriving in Santa Elena, I had to take one of the many local buses for .30 cents to Salinas which was about 25 minutes away pass the town of Libertad. I actually lucked out because I happened to check Google Maps right as the bus was passing my stop as there wasn’t a municipal bus terminal (my phone was also at 2% battery). I got off the bus and arrived at the hotel that I booked via Booking.com. Unfortunately, despite annotating that they accepted credit card for payment on the website, they did not accept credit card. That actually made me angry because it amounted to deception in order to get people to book non-refundable rooms. I ended up telling the owner that I would book another reservation for fewer nights but I wasn’t going to pay for 7 nights in cash. After I he cancelled my original reservation, I took a look at the other available room which turned out to be a dump. I ended up just leaving them high and dry. Fortunately, I only had to walk about 2 blocks before finding a nicer hotel which cost a little bit more but did accept credit card.
Playa Las Salinas- As for Salinas itself, it was a sleepy beach town transitioning between tourist seasons. The beach was so-so but the farther you went from the shore the more picturesque the water. Playa Las Salinas had a long causeway lined with restaurants and hotels that was reminiscent of South Beach in Miami, although not as nice. However, it was acceptable given the affordable cost. There was a nice pier (El Malecon) which provided a nice panoramic view of the city shoreline. The beach itself is a swimmer’s beach and I was able to rent an umbrella and chair for $3 USD which is cheap compared to other places. While not as bad as Bocagrande in Cartagena, I did constantly have to shoo vendors and ad-hoc masseuses away as I was trying to relax. The most frustrating thing about Salinas was the inconsistent hours of the restaurants in that a restaurant would be busy one day and completely boarded up the next. It was the same thing with food vendors, I never ran into the same vendor two days in a row. The only restaurants that remained opened throughout the week were either the ones that charged US expensive prices or the seafood places which I couldn’t eat due to allergies. There were several instances where I enjoyed a dish but didn’t get to eat it again. In the end, Salinas was a cheap place for locals to come to relax and do as little as possible which is why it seemed that there weren’t many foreign tourists hanging around.
La Chocolatera- Salinas didn’t have much to offer as far as site seeing. However, if there is one thing that I felt I “must do” while hanging out for the week, it was going to visit La Chocolatera at the most western tip of the country. The easy way of doing this would be to pay a taxi $6 USD to take me there and back. However, as someone who is always looking to save money, I decided to go the more “adventurous” route. I took a bus (.30 cents) to the entrance of the Ecuadorian military base where the site is located. (The Ecuadorian government only recently opened up the base to allow for tourist traffic). After showing the soldiers a photo of my passport on my phone, I was allowed inside where I had to walk another 3.5 kms to the point. I took the street path but could have taken the beach trail from La Loberia which is two miles and takes a little under two hours. La Chocolatera was fairly commercialized as it had multiple parking lots, souvenir vendors, and a small café. Because I went on a Thursday afternoon, only a few people were walking about. I was able to get some great pictures of the crashing waves, the small lighthouse, and the coastline. Despite being on a beach, the current is way too strong to swim in, although you theoretically could get close enough to touch the water. I spent about 30 minutes at the point before paying a waiting taxi $3 USD to take me back to my hotel. I think La Chocolatera provided a nice distraction from the beach and even better photo opportunities.