Our first destination once we crossed into Ecuador from Peru on our overland adventure from Argentina to Montana was the tiny beach town of Ayangue. This quaint fishing village, nestled within the protective cliffs of a small bay, is a haven for local families from Guayaquil and other points in southern Equador. A good friend of ours from Quito, who I met in Ashland, Oregon over 12 years ago while attending Southern Oregon University, recommended the place as a great beach for families, and he was right.
Check Out Our Video Highlights of Ayangue
You couldn’t ask for a more peaceful to place to unwind on the beach and let the kids run amok than Ayangue. It’s a great vacation spot in Ecuador for families traveling with small kids as we could walk to the beach down mostly deserted dirt roads, and had the beach mostly to ourselves. The only drawback could be that the town offered very few amenities; aside from a few small markets that sold basic staples there is no place to buy groceries. So if you are planning to come to Ayangue with your family, make sure you do your shopping before you arrive and bring enough food and necessities to last the duration of your stay.
But don’t worry – if you came empty handed to Ayangue, you can still find supplies. For those with a car – or “movilidad” as they say here – you can drive or bus it 3 miles or so north to another small town with a market area where a few vendors offer fruits and vegetables, a few basic staples, and fresh seafood, chicken and meat for sale. As there are quite a number of shrimp farms nearby, and fishing is the main livelihood for locals, your best bet is to stick to buying the seafood, which surprisingly was cheaper that buying chicken. The closest supermarket and shopping mall is 45 minutes by car or bus to the south in a town called Salinas, a trek we unfortunately made on a Saturday along with the rest of the families in the region.
For a family, having a kitchen to cook your meals in on your vacation is essential. For this reason, we always look for homestay opportunities online through sites such as AirBnB.com, check TripAdvisor, LonelyPlanet.com or RoughGuides.com for recommended hostals with kitchen access, or simply check for signs along the road to find cabañas to stay in on our travels through the Americas. Ayangue has no shortage of lodging options, and we decided on a quaint bamboo cabaña at Rica Ruca Eco-Lodge, an eco-tourist oriented site that offers a couple of rustic bamboo cabañas for rent at USD $25 a night, a few campsites, a dorm building for those just needing a single bed to stay, an outdoor kitchen with a picnic table, a sink, a grill for cooking (with plenty of wood piled nearby to use), and an interesting compost for your kitchen scraps called an “African Keyhole.” The kitchen area has strong wi-fi signal, which means it became our base during our stay as the kids enjoyed playing in the dirt while we got some work done and cooked. The bamboo cabin itself, though in need of a bit of a “feminine touch” in the cleaning department (not to generalize) – even provided mosquito netting over the beds (which as we found out later in our travels is not common in budget lodging).
Our idyllic days in Ayangue included our daily 2-block walk to the beach in the morning and lunch at one of the cheap beachfront “comedors” or lunch places. For $3 we filled our bellies with the basic lunch special or “almuerzo” that came with fresh seafood, plantains, rice, salad, and a fresh juice. Then back to our cabin for a siesta, then a walk in the early evening above the cliffs or a drive to one of the many nearby attractions. Great side trip options include going to Moñtanitas, a hippie-surfer beach town about 20 minutes to the north that boasts one of the top 5 spanish schools in the world; a visit to the sleepy fishing village of Valdivia to check out the Museo de la Cultura Valdivia to learn about one of the oldest cultures in the Americas and view the famous Venus of Valdivia pottery among other fascinating artifacts. Along the way you can make a stop at one of the colorful if slightly dangerous (by US standards) beach playgrounds and stop for a delicious Coconut smoothie. To the south, you can bike or hike to Playa Rosada, a sheltered beach that is very quiet, clean, and also great for families as the waves are small similar to Ayangue and the beach is very flat.
As swimming beaches go, Ayangue has the potential to be a truly great family destination. It’s location within a small secluded bay mean that the water is warm, the waves are small and currents minimal – which takes a big load off your mind as a parent! However, the fact that it is a fishing village means that there are always a good number of fishing boats anchored just off shore, which are undoubtedly responsible for the presence of plastic bags and other trash that gets stuck in the bay and swirl around your feet as you enter the water. Another hazard for families is that the boats dock directly on the sand to unload their daily catch, so you have to keep your eye out for approaching vessels as you swim. Also, we were told that we could snorkel in the bay, but we found the water to be pretty cloudy and really couldn’t see anything. But regardless of these annoyances, the warm water (the first beach we hit going north from Peru that had water above 70 degrees) and relaxing atmosphere make Ayangue a great choice for families with small children looking for a vacation along the Ecuadorian coast.