Bahía de Caraquez is one of the most beautiful cities on the Ecuadorian coast. Located on a narrow peninsula flanked by a chain of tall hills, the setting for Bahía is spectacular. The pounding waves of the mighty Pacific Ocean on one side, and the tranquil Chone River Estuary on the other side. Bahía lures those eager to be near the water.
This area was a favoured spot for pre-Colombian civilization who made the coastline their home. The first Europeans interested in the peninsula were pirates seeking safe harbour. Bahia was Ecuador's first major port. From the docks of Bahía fruits, vegetables, cocao, tagua, and straw hats were exported to the rest of the world. However erosion of the river banks and silt filled the bay and forced the port to be shut down, with its business going to Guayaquil, Manta and Esmeraldas. Bahía became a home for fishermen, urban center for surrounding farms and ranches, and the sleepy resort town of today,
In 1998, the city was devastated by two natural disasters. Landslides caused by the intense El Niño storms of that year damaged many homes. Shortly thereafter, a major earthquake struck, damaging more of the city's homes and businesses. The community decided to reinvent itself, and in 1998 Bahía self- proclaimed itself one of the world's first eco-cities. Focusing on sustainable development and tourism, recycling and reforestation, the city has received attention from around the world.
Starting at the base of the hills in the new tourist / artisan village along the Pacific Ocean wrapping 270 degrees around the city and then crossing the estuary by bridge to San Vicente the malecon forms the heart and soul of Bahia. The character of the malecon changes along with the surf, from restaurants, artisan stalls, to people filled beaches, shadows formed by tall apartment buildings, benches with local musicians, and the fresh breeze across the estuary. The seawall malecon provides some twenty three kilometres of uninterrupted pedestrian friendly pathways for walking, jogging, cycling, or rollerblading.
La Mirador Cruz
The Mirador Cruz is Bahia's distinguishing landmark perched on the hilltop, and majestically lit at night. It is a giant cross with two staircases inside. From it's base or viewing platform you have panoramic views overlooking the city, the estuary, and San Vicente. The Cruz is accessible from the city centre via several staircases which take about 20 minutes to ascend. Should it be a hot day, or if one is not up to the hike you can take a taxi up to the Mirador la Cruz and easily descend on foot.
Bahia Photo Gallery
Fresh new facility, open daily in the morning, the central market provides fresh fruit, vegetables, eggs & dairy products, meat, poultry, fish, staples, flowers and much more for the daily lives of residents.
Eco-taxis / Triciclos Ecológicos
The environmentally friendly eco-taxis are a very common sight in the center of Bahía. While they form a daily vital part of the local citizen's transportation needs, they are also a great attraction for tourists. For fifty cents the eco taxi allows the tourist to see the town in an enjoyable and less disruptive manner. A highly recommended way to enjoy a sight seeing tour of Bahia.
Currently Miguelito lives in a local elementary school where he is cared for as the school mascot. Miguelito is a Galapagos tortoise just over 120 years of age. The tortoise is a great mascot for the school and the city.
Saiananda Zoo (Bahía de Caráquez)
The word Saiananda means the bliss of Mother Nature. In a serene setting you will find an unusual combination of native and domestic animals, ponds, exoctic plants and cactus and bonsai gardens. This location provides guest accommodation and a vegetarian restaurant in this nature reserve. The zoo at Saiananda displays a wide variety of animal species from many different countries, making it a unique and interesting attraction.
There are a variety of beautiful beaches nearby. These beaches offer a relaxing setting for tourists and locals to enjoy.
Playa El Faro de la Piedra, Punta Bellaca, Punta Gorda, Pajonal, San Vicente & Bricena are our local favourites.
Whether you want to relax and worship the sun or take a more active role with Water Sports - Surfing, swimming, para sailing, jet skis, wind surfing, sailing, rowing and kayaking are some of the water sports that can be enjoyed within the tranquility of the estuary or challenge the Pacific Ocean. El Faro , the landmark lighthouse on the point, built in 1929, to guide ships.
El Puente las Carras Bahía-San Vicente
The bridge joining Bahía and San Vicente is the longest bridge in the country. It is fairly new having only opened on October 31st of 2011. The bridge measures 1980 meters in length and is beautifully lit at night. As the longest bridge in Ecuador, it is also a tourism site.
Panga Water Taxis
For 60 centavos you can cross the estuary by water taxi. It is a refreshing ride and a wonderful way to see Bahia & San Vicente views from the water.
The colourful beach city of San Vicente has a long stretch of sandy shoreline just across the estuary from Bahia. The city itself is full of colourful local charm, with plenty of good seafood restaurants, markets, and a community atmosphere. The culture is marked by a strong Afro-Ecuadorian presence. This mixed heritage of Indigenous and Spanish cultures gives a distinct flair in the gastronomy, music, and dance of San Vicente.
San Vicente offers plenty of opportunities for ocean activities, sailing, surfing, kite surfing, and sport fishing.
The main Church of Santa Rosa is a popular visit, with ornate murals and windows of mosaic stained glass. The daily market is also a sight to behold, located up the road on the way to San Isidro. A walk up San Vicente's hill is also recommended, as it affords great view of the city and the neighboring town of Bahia de Caraquez.
18 km north is Canoa, population around 6,000, a small beach village famous for it broad stretch of white sandy beach and great surfing. The town is framed by green-topped cliffs to the north and a long horizon to the south. Canoa rivals Montanita for it's popularity among surfers, beachgoers, and backpackers. Canoa hosts several international surf competitions. Younger and less developed than Montanita, the beachfront road is lined with thatched roof restaurants and bars with typical budget hostal accommodation on the opposite side. Good restaurants include El Bambu, Cafe Flor, & Coco Loco. For young
people or those young at heart Canoa has a fairly active nightlife. The huts along the beach serve drinks well into the night, and there are several clubs on the main street. Canoa has activities for the adventurous and the easygoing. Learn to surf, go horseback riding, take to the skies in a hang glider, and visit a bat-filled cave ( according to legend there is a large emerald in the cave that belonged to the queen of the Cara tribe ); or relax on the beach or in a hammock.
To see the coast from an extraordinary perspective from above try handgliding, or tandem paragliding. Crucita is world famous for wind sport activities.
Many countries with coastal borders host surfing as an adventure tourist activity. Our warm waters, good beaches provide ample waves for beginner and experienced surfers.
Hiking trails in Cerra Seco and Punta Bellaca are popular hikes for novices, enabling the experience of Ecuador's biodiversity.
Salto 9 de Octubre in San Isidro
Experience the magical location of crystal clear waterfalls just 10 minutes outside of San Isidro (one hour north of Bahia) You can relax and enjoy a swim in the pools, canyoning (descend with the waterfalls) or bath beneath the falling water.
The winds and Pacific coastline provide for excellent sailing and the calm waters of the estuary provide safe harbor for boats.
Kayak and Canoeing
This coastal region is full of great opportunities for kayak and canoe activities. The tranquil estuary provides the basis for exploration of the bird and water life by both kayak and canoe. Alternatively, the mighty Pacific ocean provides an exciting opportunity for sea kayaking and discovering the jagged coastline. Canoeing tours are offered through the mangroves around Isla Corazon and kayaking tours are offered out of Canoa to ocean caves.
Other Wind and Water Sports
Due to the currents from the north and south coastlines, Ecuador is privy to warm winds, which form a good base for many wind activities. While paragliding is readily available, sports such as windsurfing and kiteboarding can also be enjoyed.
Tennis, soccer, beach volleyball, cycling
These activities are all readily available for your participation and enjoyment.
Isla Corazón y Isla Fragatas
Isla Corazón is a fascinating experience for the variety, over 60 species, and quantity of birds. The heart-shaped island covers sixty hectares and is located a few kilometers upstream in the Río Chone from Bahía. Isla Corazón is a vibrant eco-tourism project where local fishermen have replanted and nurtured the mangroves and expanded the island. The ecological reserve is now under government environmental protection. The mangroves of the island are a prime breeding ground for many species of birds, and here you will find one of the largest colonies of frigate birds.
The local fishermen lead guided canoe tours through waterway mangrove tunnels of the island, and along an interpretive boardwalk and observation tower in the middle of the island. You will see dozens of different birds nesting, fish jumping, several types of mangroves, brilliant red crabs. Tours depart from Puerto Portovelo, east on the estuary from San Vicente, where an excellent interpretive centre and educational video will start your learning experience. The tours are best enjoyed at low tides, and you can enjoy local fare prepared by locals while you wait.
Reserva Cerra Seco
For some exercise walking & hiking in Bahia visit Cerra Seco Parque Nacional.
This forty hectare protected area is one of the last tropical dry forests in the world. Located at the foot of the ocean in the south west portion of the city, it is home to a wide range of indigenous flora and fauna. The reserve's facilities include; a center for interpretation, ecological trails, and viewpoints.
An interpretive guide is recommended to enhance your enjoyment and knowledge of the area.
This small ( 10 hectare ) organic farm lies on a river, about 35 kilometers inland from Bahia. The farm offers 1 to 3 day excursions where you can learn about permaculture and organic farming, tropical crops of the area, fish for river shrimp, roast & grind coffee,
make chocolate, or make crafts from tagua nuts.
The farm also offers guided hikes, giant tree, horseback riding, howler monkey viewing, a waterfall swim, indulging in clay face masks, and bird watching trips.
A small primary school educates children about waste management and reforestation. Courses in agroecology, permaculture, ecotourism, and Spanish are available or you can volunteer for longer periods. It has been recognized as one of National Geographic's favorite specialty accomodations in South America.
La Segua (Chone River)
The variety in bird species creates the perfect attraction for bird lovers to view many species at once. Chame, an extraordinary fish capable of living 48 hours out of water, and cayman also reside in the wetlands. You decide wether you wish to relax in the observation tower or enjoy canoeing through the lagoons to more closely experience nature's activity.
One of the country's largest dams is located about 16 km from Calcetta. It is 50 metres in height and some 700 meters in length across the Carrizal River. The river is the main source of water for the region and attracts tourists for water activities.
Isla del Sol
Accessible by boat in the estuary, this island is home to mangroves, many bird species, and best of all it is a thermal mud site. This unique eco-tourism activity is currently offered through Saiananda.
The Island provides the guest with a spiritual connection with nature by allowing them to bathe in the mud, and come into close contact with the biodiversity of the island. The island is free of any human development and provides a pure nature experience.
A worthwhile destination an hour north of Canoa. Where the cold Humboldt currents meet the warm currents of del Nino creates a geographical transition environment. The only area in South America where you can observe the flora and fauna of both tropical and dry forest co-existing in harmony. From dry cactus to tropical rainforest housing howler monkeys. We would recommend this area be toured by horseback, or more adventurous hiking.
Jama-Coaque Tropical Rainforest
The reserve is operated by an organization dedicated to forest conservation and permaculture. It is possible to visit the reserve to observe the organization's efforts. It is also possible to volunteer with reforestation work and live on the reserve with a group of international volunteers.
Museo Banco Central - Bahía de Caraquez
Free admission to the public, and for a welcome break from the sun, visit Ecuador’s third largest archeological air-conditioned museum in Bahía de Caraquez. Professional, well-curated, the museum shows us 11,000 years of history with artifacts from this historically-rich region.
The collection's heart & soul is pottery, tools, weapons, jewelry, sacred relics, and artifacts from the pre-Colombian cultures Valdivia, Bahia, Caras, Tolita, Machalilla, Chorrera, Jamas-Coaque, Guangala, Las Vegas,and Manteña cultures who inhabited the coast for centuries before the arrival of the Spanish. One particularly fine example of workmanship are the carved Manteño stools.
There are also exhibits describing pre-Colombian seafaring with the massive balsa raft display in the entrance. It covers the commerce and navigational history of Bahía with numerous expositions. The highly coveted Spondylus shell aggressively traded in pre-Hispanic society is on display.
The upper exhibit hall interactively educates the public on past cultures of the area, and entertaining for all ages. The museum hosts a large visual arts exposition, and an active cultural event program - watch for notices at the museum.
La Dibujada Petrogliphs
Chone is known for its beautiful landscapes, mountains, and an
archaeological tourism site at La Dibujada. A little north of Chone an
hour and a half hiking trail leads to La Dibujada. The cave like
outcrop hosts many engravings representing men, women and animals.
would indicate the Nauza or Chuno tribes
Cripta de Mastodonte
In San Vicente is a mastodonte skeleton.
This archeological site is part of the privately owned Chirije Lodge
which hosts visitors in a remote and relaxed atmosphere. Only
accessible along the beach at low tide, 15 kilometers south of Bahía,
Chirije is one of the most important archeological sites on the
Ecuadorian coast. Few building ruins remain, but the amount of
pottery, jewelry and other artifacts recovered at the site suggest
that it was once a major settlement and port. It is believed to have
been inhabited by a succession of cultures, over 2000 years, from 500
B.C. to 1500 A.D. The site today has a small museum housing some of
the archeological finds. The site is located in a large tract of
tropical dry forest. There is also a very nice, quiet beach. Visit
www.chirije.com for information about visiting.
San Isidro archeological site
Archeological site and exhibition for the Valdivia culture.
Archeological Site in Japotó
Located near Charapotó in the province of Manabí, this site includes
petroglyphs and 64 burial mounds from the ancient Manteña culture (
800 A.C. haste el 1532 D.C.) . Although the site currently has minimal
infrastructure with informal tours "plans are underway to make Japotó
into a tourist attraction with more amenities and an on-site museum"
(Ministry of Tourism of Ecuador, October 2010). This site has great
potential if marketed and developed correctly to the tourists.
Museo Luís Félix López
This quaint city museum is located in the town centre of Calceta,
across from the well maintained and attractive Abdon Calderon Park, in
a historical building offering much character. It features pictorial
representations of past cultures in the canton, and hosts various
Cuisine in the Coastal region of Ecuador has its own unique flair
compared to those in other regions. Manabí cuisine is famous
throughout Ecuador - even in Quito and Guayaquil, you will find
restaurants serving Manabi fare.
With an abundance of fresh fruit & cheeses and a wide variety of fresh seafood, the region provides popular dishes of ceviche (lime-flavored seafood), viche - made with fish and peanuts, salprieta ground peanuts & corn, with spices, pan de almidon ( cassava bread ) fresh and fried seafood, morcilla ( blood sausage ) and natural freshly squeezed fruit juices. The area is also a good place to order a Bar-b-qued steak, as many of Ecuador's cattle ranches are located inland just a few miles.
Ecuador is one of the most important Banana producing and exporting countries. With its warm, tropical weather, Ecuador produces some of the best bananas in the world.
After rice, wheat, and corn, bananas are the fourth most widely consumed food eaten by millions of people every day (a valuable source of Vitamin A, Vitamin B6, Vitamin C as well as potassium). Bananas are grown in 130 countries worldwide – more than any other fruit crop. The dominant banana importers are European countries (29.2%), U.S. (27.5%), Japan (8.2%), Russia (7.9%) and Canada (3.5%).
Visit a Dole plantation to learn about the amount of effort that goes into each piece of fruit and the process it takes to arrive to its destination. Tour the plantation, factory line, packaging, and harvesting processes. Banana plantations are numerous around Ecuador.
For more than a century Ecuador has been the most important producer
of the finest cacao - Cacao Arriba - worldwide. Strangely enough most
Ecuadorians prefer whole milk chocolate and white chocolate like the
famous Galak and Manicho.
Until the 1920s cacao production contributed almost 80% to the national economy until the global cacao industry suffered several crisis and sales declined.
Visit the hacienda house and cacao plantation fields of La
Providencia, approximately 20 kilometres East of Chone (Chone holds
the prestigious reputation for being the birthplace of beautiful women
and courageous men).
The cocoa tree is a small tree.
It produces cocoa pods on its woody trunk and brunches. The 20cm long pods are red or yellow and are hard. Cocoa pods are produced throughout the year.
If you enjoy chocolate you may have no idea just what it takes to get
it all the way from the bean to a bar. Learn the methods for
harvesting, preparing, roasting, and grinding to make fine chocolate.
Interact with the local artisans who craft a variety of delicious
products derived from the fresh chocolate.
Here is an interesting video about where Cacao in Ecuador is coming from:
Additional information on Ecuador Cacao
Ecuador is one of the largest exporters of shrimp. The shrimp farming
business is very prevalent in the estuary with the mangroves, these
farms have been able to sustain a large number of shrimp.
San Jacinto & San Clemente
Small neighbouring fishing villages stretch along some fine sandy beaches which are very popular on the weekends.
For additional information
The coastal town of Crucita is a hidden jewel among Ecuador's beaches. It is a quaint, charming, and welcoming fishing village with a beach malecon full of seafood restaurants set below a hillside of whitewashed, bougainvillea lined Mediterranean style housing. From beautiful beaches, to the adventurous thrills of paragliding and whale watching , to delicious food and drink, Crucita has it all.
Crucita's high picturesque bluffs, and good wind conditions, are conductive to airborne activities. The warm thermal currents against the southern hills make it an ideal site for paragliding, a sport for which it has quickly become internationally renowned. The town hosts a flight school as well as lessons and tours. These tours commence and end on the upper hills above the town, and boast incredible scenic views of the surrounding countryside. If you wish to give the sport a try, Raul or Luis Tobar are the town's most highly recommended flying guides. They are well-trained professional instructors. A fifteen minute tandem ride requires no previous experience and costs $ 35 .
Another popular activity for visitors to Crucita is humpback whale watching or dolphin spotting. The whale watching season runs from approximately June to September. During these months the whales migrate north from the Antarctic with the Humboldt Current in order to gather in the warm, shallow waters off of the Ecuadorian coast in search of a mate. They travel individually, in pairs, or sometimes in groups of eight at a time. Whale calves are born and fed to develop fat reserves for their return migration in September/October, while the courting adults perform spectacular displays with impressively breaching the water with their leaps and tail thrashing. Whale watching tours generally last between 2 - 4 hours ( $ 15 - $ 25 ) and depend on the type of operator from professional to an off-duty fiberglass fishing boat which has been temporarily re-purposed for tourism. The open ocean can be very rough for those with seasickness.
A small community which is home to the artisan tagua (vegetable ivory)
workshops used for high quality handicrafts, buttons, and jewelry
throughout the world.
About two hours south is Montecristi. Commercial centre for making
Panama Hats, wicker furniture, and other artisan crafts. It also has
the House & Museum of Eloy Alfaro, Mausoleum of Eloy Alfaro, National
Railway Museum, and the historic church Basilica de Nuestra Senora de
June 29 & 30 - Fiesta patronales de San Pedro y San Pablo in Leonidas Plaza
July 30 - Chone Geopolitical Foundation in Chone
August 27 & 28 - Fiesta patronales de San Agustin in Calcetta
October 13 - Bolivar Cantonization in Calcetta
November 3 - Sucre Cantonization in Bahia
November 16 - San Vicente Cantonization
When to visit
Our rainy season is between January and April with more sun and warmer temperatures. If you would like cooler dry weather and want to see the humpback whales that pass by offshore you should visit between late June and August.
How to Get here
A full guide to the beaches of Ecuador from Esmeraldas to Salinas
Deborah gives us a little history of Bahía de Caráquez and the surrounding bio-region. She runs through all the local attractions and adventure activities. Close by are many eco-tourism opportunities, cultural attractions and agricultural experiences.ReplyDelete
great description of bahia.ReplyDelete
I've just finished reading your entire blog. You're overview of the best of South America, the coastal areas of Ecuador and the major cities is a must-read for anyone considering tourism or relocation to Ecuador. I fall in both categories, so am in the process of acquiring as much info as possible.ReplyDelete
While attracted to many aspects of the lifestyle change, I remain concerned about the personal safety issue. I agree that a "try before you buy" approach makes sense. I will not have the option to change my mind and return to the U.S. without incurring financial penalty. Your balanced overview is very helpful. Nita N
Personal safety is an issue. My friend and I were robbed at gun and knife point on January 23, 2013 on the beach in Bahia de Caraquez. Just a warning to everyone that there is crime in paradise, and the police are wholly ineffective.Delete
Very sorry to hear of your misfortune - but we would agree crime is prevalent here, the police ineffective, and one needs to be very vigilent and always aware ! Another significant rather violent home invasion just incurred south of Bahia near Crucita. For reference please read our post entitled " Eyes Wide Open "Delete
We are glad you enjoyed reading, and found the resources valuable for your new adventure. We look forward to meeting you when you travel to our coastal region.ReplyDelete
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Whale Watching in Cabo