If you don’t have chance this time around to fly out to the incredible Galápagos Islands, you can still see some of the fascinating species in this Equatorial coastal region. Head to the enticingly warm waves of the Pacific Ocean and Isla de la Plata, a Galápagos in miniature, a stretch of coast where Sir Francis Drake is supposed to have hidden a large treasure and where there are coral reefs with their shoals of magnificently coloured fish.
Isla de la Plata is the place to see blue-footed boobies, frigate birds, albatross and sealions, who are resident on the island year round. If you can’t make it to the Galápagos on this occasion – you won’t be disappointed. The diving and snorkelling are superb, as is the sport-fishing.
On this coast, there is the chance to kayak through magical mangrove forests and, best of all, go out on whale-watching expeditions between June and October, when these magnificent creatures come to Ecuador’s coast to calve in and around the waters close to Machalilla National Park.
Lodging is still fairly simple although comfortable and charming in this untouched region. The beauty of its deserted beaches and coastline, especially around Playa Los Frailes, makes a wonderful relaxing retreat after days spent touring around the cooler highlands, exploring markets and marvelling at the dramatic peaks of the Avenue of the Volcanoes.
Fly across from Quito to Manta in a short scenic flight and perhaps spend some time in Montecristi before heading along the coast to stop and marvel at the incredibly intricate skill of the toquilla straw weavers who make the famed Panama Hats here.
Equally you may decide to enjoy the diversity of Ecuador’s vegetation and scenery as you descend from the pretty colonial city of Cuenca down through Cajas National Park to the coast at Guayaquil and then wend your way north via Puerto Lopez through cacao and banana plantations.
Cacao in particular here is cultivated as single plantation varieties to produce exceptional handmade artisan chocolate with distinctive aromas. If you are looking for a truly unspoilt corner of Ecuador and want to enjoy some time to relax by the coast at the end of your wonderful journey of this small and charming country, then it is well worth making the extra effort to head to Machalilla for a chance to unwind amid stunning coastal panoramas.