South America Living

Canoa, Ecuador Travel Guide

A Path of Colorful, Canvas Tents on the Beach at Canoa

Canoa, Ecuador is one of our featured “Cheap Places to live in South America” and is a very popular vacation spot with foreigners as well as Ecuadorians who reside in Quito.

Located on the Pacific coast of Ecuador, Canoa’s biggest draw is its wide, clean stretch of beach lined with colorful tents during high season and on weekends which visitors can rent for the day for around $5 USD. Amongst furrows of sand hippies sell handmade jewelry, while barefooted vacationers swing in hammocks while slinging back cerveza.

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The edge of the white-sand beach is lined with palm trees and thatched-roofed cabanas that serve ceviche (fresh seafood marinated in fresh lime juice and spices) as well as cold cerveza (beer in English). Add-in a selection of tropical cocktails and fruit batidos (milkshakes in English)and you are all set for an enjoyable, relaxing day.

The town attracts surfers from around the world. The break is small the majority of the year – Canoa is a great place to learn how to surf – but they do get larger swells during December and January.

Things To Do in Canoa

  1. Adventure Tours – The company Canoa Thrills (owned by Surf Shak) offers various tours such as kayaking to nearby caves with a private beach. The 3 hour trip includes a beer to enjoy, plus a guide to lead the way for $25 USD. Head to the Surf Shak across from the beach to see what’s on offer or check out their website:
  2. Learn to Surf – One of the prime surfing spots on the Pacific coast in addition to Montañita Canoa abounds wtih many small surfing schools in town and on the beach, offering board rentals as well as private or group lessons for around $10 USD per hour.
  3. Paraglide – Many people paragliding or hang gliding for the first time when visiting Canoa, and some travel to the area to partake in annual competitions. Whether you want a quick thrill (15- to 45-minute tandem ride) or want to take a course to become certified as a guide, there are two options: Canoa Thrills and Fly Gravity Sports.
  4. Visit Bahía de Caráquez – A nice side trip from Canoa is to hop on a bus to San Vicente, which is 20 minutes away, and take a small motorized boat across the bay to Bahía de Caráquez (see photo page). This cute coastal city is a great place to walk along the water, visit the city’s archaeological museum, rent boats or try some local steaks and fresh seafood.
  5. Visit Isla Corazón (Heart Island in English) – Nature lovers may want to take advantage of tours to nearby Isla Corazón which is a heart-shaped island located between San Vicente and Bahía de Caráquez. Home to endangered mangroves formed by the Rio Chone estuary and an abundance of frigate birds, tours to the island include canoeing through tunnels formed by mangroves, walking along nature paths and bird-watching.

Most are content with spending a few days in Canoa, just lying on the beach soaking up the sun, surfing or swimming in the warm Pacific waters then watching fabulous sunsets over the ocean from a beach bar such as the Surf Shak.

I’m saddened to say the Shamrock Irish Pub that was nextdoor to the Surf Shak has closed (January, 2013) and been replaced by a French International-style restaurant. The new French/Ecuadorian owners have turned the bottom level into a discoteca. If that’s your thing, you may want to check it out.

If thinking of a move to Canoa or the surrounding area, read: Canoa, Ecuador – Cheap Place to Live.

Where to Stay in Canoa

Name: Hotel Canoa’s Wonderland
Address: Carlos Cassis abd Calle San Andrés streets, on the waterfront.
Website:   This is the most upscale option on Canoa’s beachfront with 20 private rooms – all with balcony, cable TV, WiFi, and a choice of fan or AC (for a small extra cost). There is a rooftop terrace, outdoor swimming pool and on-site restaurant and bar. Prices (around $65 USD per night) include a buffet breakfast.

Name: Hotel Bambu
Address: North end of beach (facing the water, walk to your right!)
Website:   Right on the beach, Hotel Bambu offers spacious rooms with comfortable beds and private bathrooms (around $25 USD per night) – some with balconies – as well as cabins, suites and cheaper rooms with shared bathrooms. It has an outdoor restaurant and bar, complete with hammocks and a ping-pong table, making it an easy place for socializing. Nice place for an early morning breakfast if staying elsewhere, opens around 8 a.m.

Name: Amalur
Address: San Andrés St. (in front of the football field)
Website:   Attached to the restaurant of the same name, this newer hostel has several airy rooms with private bathrooms arranged around a courtyard and garden. Located close to the beach but off the main strip, Amalur is a quieter option for those who actually want to get some rest. Its rooftop terrace with hammocks has ocean views and is the perfect place to watch the sun set.

Where to Eat in Canoa

Name: Amalur
Address: San Andrés St. (in front of the football field)
Website:   A nice break from Ecuadorian coastal food, this Basque-owned restaurant is a great place to sample Spanish tapas and sandwiches or pair fish and meat mains with some wine for a romantic meal. Some of the more interesting offerings including Galician octopus and squid in its own ink, but no matter what you order, you’ll want to end your night with an order of the heavenly homemade chocolate truffles.

Name: Surf Shak or The Shamrock Irish Pub
Address: Next door to each other on the beach.
Website:   Surf Shak has two-for-one jumbo cocktails during Happy Hour and typical American fare right on the beach – including seasoned greasy french fries to die for plus great burgers. Open for breakfast they have large-portioned pancakes and egg/bacon combos.

Irish-owned The Shamrock serves up burgers, pizza and a variety of homecooked meals such as mashed potatos with meatloaf, fried chicken, beefsteak, sandwiches, etc. Great place for a late-night meal, open until 1 a.m. or later.

Name: Saborearme
Address: On malecon (waterfront).
Website: None. This family-run restaurant with an open kitchen and sandy floor has some of the best typical dishes around such as ceviche, camarones encocados (shrimp in coconut
sauce) and camarones al ajillo (shrimp in a garlic lime sauce). All meals are cheap and served with rice and fried plantains (similar to bananas).

Interactive Map of Canoa

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Photograph by Jena Davison, all rights reserved.

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