I’m sad to say, I’ve done very little travel around Ecuador in my 2.5 years of living here. Other than my favorite nearby day trip cities and a few visits to Guayaquil for various reasons, I’ve not had a real vacation, despite the fact that there are numerous places I’ve heard about and want to explore. But finally this past week, I was presented with the opportunity! My good friends, Bill & Elaine, were approaching their departure date for their annual return trip to Canada, along with their friend (and mine) Rick, who is also building a house in their development and has been visiting for a month. We had all kinds of glorious plans of things to see and do while Rick was here, which came to a screeching halt just a few days after his arrival with the earthquake. After that event, several of the things we wanted to do were no longer options, I had my head buried in working with trying to coordinate several relief efforts, and they also needed to help Rick pick out finishes for his house. But lest the time get by us without any outings, last week I threw out the idea for a trip to Salinas and they all agreed.
The city of Salinas is the southern most coastal point in Ecuador, and has often been nicknamed “little Miami.” My neighbors, Mark and Diane, lived there for over a year before they moved into their house here. They had told me a lot about it. It was also one of the places Robert visited on his first trip here. None of us had been, so it was a new excursion for all of us.
We planned to catch the earliest bus that came along the coast on Tuesday morning and we were all on by 6:20 a.m. The bus ride is 2.5-3 hours, depending on stops. The terminal is actually located in a suburb on the outer edge of Salinas and then you take a city bus or taxi into town. We elected to take a taxi for the 30 minute ride in and arrived at our hostel almost 4 hours after boarding the bus. I located a hostel on Trip Advisor that got great reviews and was in the heart of Salinas, just a block and a half off the beach. The owners were very nice – the husband was Ecuadorian and the wife German. It was basic, but very clean and accommodating for $15 a night.
We dropped our bags and were off for a late breakfast at one of the many restaurants my friend Diane had told me about. They served American breakfasts and fresh brewed coffee (believe it or not, that is a rarity in Ecuador – most restaurants serve instant!) It was quite a challenge finding a cab driver who actually knew how to get us there, despite the fact it was a straight shot down the malecon from where we were (note – malecon is the name for the street alongside the beach in any of the coastal towns). Finally I found a guy who could get us close and I used my new map app to get us the rest of the way. (Here I have to give a shout out to the “maps.me” app. You are able to download maps for use offline and still have it locate where you are. It took us turn by turn to our hostel with GPS, without using data or cell service. I highly recommend it for travel to unfamiliar places, especially when you may not have cell or data service available.)
After enjoying a hearty breakfast, we walked the 1.5 mile malecon road along the beach, looking at the various buildings and enjoying the view. We stopped along the way for shopping and ice cream. Afterwards, we returned to our hostel for an afternoon siesta.
In the evening, we once again headed to the malecon to find a restaurant for dinner. Along the way, we stopped into a place for Bill and Rick to get a haircut. We ended up in a very nice, upstairs patio restaurant with a lovely view, great food and the place all to ourselves. Afterwards, we again strolled along the malecon. We loved the “nightlife” feel – people were out walking, jogging, bicycling, etc. It felt very safe and social. For a while, I totally forgot I was in Ecuador! We finally wandered back to our hostel and Bill and I played a few hands of our favorite card game, while Rick and Elaine checked internet. Shortly after we all turned in early.
The next morning, we once again headed to the malecon to locate a place for breakfast. Afterwards, we hailed a cab and went to an area we were told was a must see – La Chocolatera. If you’re like me, it’s easy to get excited thinking this has something to do with chocolate, but not so. As Wikipedia explains: “Choco meaning to hit or collide and la tera meaning ground, a large cliff that is the most salient point of the Peninsula of Santa Elena where the north and south moving currents colide.” So in essence, it is the place where you are standing on the tip coastal point of Ecuador, looking out at the wide open ocean. Interestingly enough, this area is enclosed inside what was formerly a U.S. WWII military base, now used by the Ecuadorian military. So you have to actually go through a gated military entrance to get there, but it is also part of the national park system. We in fact tried to go the previous afternoon as recommended, when it was cooler and we could view the sunset, but were turned away at the gate because they were closed while doing training exercises.
After spending about an hour and a half at La Chocolateria, we took a cab to the local mall. This is the same mall “chain” (El Paseo) that was in Manta and Portoviejo. My primary goal there was to go to the pet store to restock Charcoal’s canned food. But we all found things on our lists to buy and enjoyed comparing the stores to the same ones we have in our area. In all honesty, their’s seemed to be a bit nicer and stocked with more items.
Before leaving the mall, Rick treated us to a “5D movie ride.” Inside a small theater are six seats that bump and jar you as you watch a 10 minute 3D movie. There are also special effects, like water misting, air blasts, etc. at various spots in the film. We had the theater all to ourselves and got to choose our own movie. We looked at the list on the screen and all voted a resounding “NO!” to Earthquake! In the end, we chose, “Crazy Ride” and it was one! It was a simulated roller coaster ride through various scenes and scenarios – it was like being in a video game! We all had great fun and it was a very “vacation thing” to do – I would have never in a million years imagined I would do it in Ecuador!
We left the mall and caught a cab to retrieve our bags at our hostel and head for the bus terminal. The taxi driver we had was so friendly and helpful – we really enjoyed conversing with him and got his name and number for future visits.
We bought our tickets just minutes before our bus was to leave a little before 3:00 p.m. Once again, I sat on the side for a coastal view. It would have been impossible to take any pictures of the scenery to do any justice, but the drive is breathtaking all along the way – mountains, jungle, beaches and ocean, as well as quaint little Ecuadorian towns. We were home before dark and although only an overnight trip, it felt like I’d been away for much longer. I will definitely visit Salinas again and often – why don’t you come for a visit and join me? 🙂