2007 we made a short trip to Manta in October. Probably not the
best time to visit, as the whales had moved on and the Humboldt
current makes for a cooler than expected atmosphere. Nevertheless
we did have some sun.
We flew from Mariscal Sucre Airport
Quito to Manta, courtesy of Aerogal.
The cost came in around $100 each for the round flight. Manta
is Ecuador's second largest port. It is also an American military
base (until 2009 at least).
We had pre-booked at Hosteria
Alandaluz and didn't fancy the bus trip down, so tried to
hire a 3 door Gran Vitara for the drive down the Ruta del Sol
as we had been told the roads weren't too good. We actually ended
up with a monster Nissan Pathfinder from Budget
for the same price as no Vitaras were to be had -I have to say
the service was excellent with the car being handed over and
collected at the airport by the ever helpful Byron.
The drive down the Ruta del Sol
to Puerto Lopez is just fabulous -we took a couple of leisurely
hours to get to our destination. We had been told we would need
a 4WD because of the state of the roads. We didn't. There was
no need whatsoever for a 4x4. The only real bumps were the speed
bumps at the start of every village -they are locally made and
therefore unpredictable -take some of them at speed and you would
leave the wheels behind!
Apart from this we were able
to sit back and enjoy the landscape, which is reminiscent of
the Galapagos, particularly around Parque Nacional Machalilla
-we were in the dry season and some areas were very parched indeed.
There were huge numbers of birds of every size and colour you
can imagine, but those the made the most impact were the ubiquitous
is a little way south of Puerto Lopez. It is located just behind
the beach, and we were given a room on the top floors of Cabaña
Colibri -the front window looked out over the Pacific and the
rear into the treetops of a forest of palms and other exotic
trees. It is extraordinary how the birds vary between the two
zones. At sea you can watch lines of frigates skimming the waves
using ground effect to keep them in flight; whereas looking inland
one can see dozens of fast moving, highly coloured tropical types,
many nesting a few feet from our window.
think for the first time, I understood the term 'rolling surf'
-the waves were coming in continuously along the shallow beach
so that there were always at least five visible -unlike the coast
in England where individual waves crash against the shore and
retreat before the next one arrives.
The Alandaluz is both an hotel
and an ecolodge carrying out work on creating a sustainable local
environment. The main buildings are built of bamboo and they
welcome architecture students who want to help develop this versatile
material -the illustration shows the large roof over the main
They also have a volunteers programme
-nearby they operate a wildlife sanctuary at Cantalpiedra, and
are also working locally towards developing sustainable communities.
Hosteria will organise activities and excursions -whale watching,
scuba diving, boats to Isla de la Plata to see blue footed boobies
and frigate birds. However we elected to make our own way to
the beach at Los Frailes in the Machalilla National Park (Alandaluz
has a beach but there is a strong undertow which makes it less
safe to swim). Having paid our entry fee, we spent a hot and
happy day in the national park, walking over the headland to
the virtually deserted beach beyond (the view opposite is from
the headland). The only mistake we made was in not bringing lunch
-you will not find shops and cafés here!
route to Frailes took us past Puerto Lopez, which is a small
and extremely muddy port. It is the point of embarkation for
boats to Isla de la Plata and whale-watching
trips. The standard method of getting around town is a three
wheeled motorbike taxi. It is a popular stopping off point for
young travellers, although James wasn't too impressed with his
hostel on his gap year travels.
See our list of hostels
on the Pacific Coast for budget accommodation in the region.
We did some exploring along the
coast in each direction -there are a number of quality hotels
and hosterias located in close proximity -Punte Ayampe, La Barquita
and Mantaraya Lodge are all nearby. Follow this link for other
hotels on the Pacific coast.
After our few days relaxing at
Alandaluz, we headed back north towards Manta again. We stopped
of at the small fishing port at Machalilla -the site on the beachfront
felt almost primaeval with hordes of frigate birds and pelicans
hovering over the colourful small boats that were being used
to unload the larger fishing boats anchored in the bay.
We turned off the coastal route
to see the wonderfully named Jipijapa and then Montecristi on
the way back. Montecristi is very much the home of manufacture
for Panama hats, but has found more recent fame through President
Correa's decision to construct a building here to house the Assembly
reviewing Ecuador's Constitution. The building, which includes
a monument to Eloy Alfaro is strangely bland.
to Manta, which has expanded up to the edge of Montecristi. It
is a large and bustling commercial city, and I am sure it would
be worth spending a couple of days exploring it. We had a cebiche
on the beach front at Playa Murciélago before returning
to Eloy Alfaro Airport to catch our flight to Quito. Unfortunately
we arrived in time to learn that Quito airport had been closed
because of an incident and we had to stay the night in Manta.
We opted for the Howard Johnson
and followed the hotel bus back in the dark. We checked in and
were given a room on the seventh floor -it came as a bit of a
surprise then when the lift went DOWN from reception. What we
hadn't appreciated in the darkness is that the hotel is built
on a cliff top with the rooms cascading down the cliff to the
beach below. Unfortunately, as it turned out, the 7th floor is
directly below the reception level, and there was a party that
night.....we had to ask to be moved because of the noise. All
I can say is avoid the 7th floor at all costs if you want to
The following morning we did
eventually return to Quito (albeit after starting out on an abortive
eight hour drive over the mountains when we were told there would
be no flights for two days).
- Further information:
- Manabi -information from the ministry of tourism.
- Ruta del Sol -tourist site with information on the coastal
peninsula of Santa Elena from Salinas to Puerto Cayo in Manabí.
- Hostels -budget accommodation on the Ruta del
- Hotels -a list of hotels on the pacific Coast
- Search this site with Google: