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In Quito
Local Trips
Northern Andes
Southern Andes
Pacific Coast
Galapagos : Manabí + Ruta del Sol


IMG_1681.JPGIn 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 vultures.

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Alandaluz 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.

IMG_1629.JPGI 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 dining area.

They also have a volunteers programme -nearby they operate a wildlife sanctuary at Cantalpiedra, and are also working locally towards developing sustainable communities.

IMG_1623.JPGThe 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!

IMG_1663.JPGThe 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.

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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.

IMG_1684.JPGOn 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 sleep.

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 Sol.
Hotels -a list of hotels on the pacific Coast


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