This past weekend my two friends and I escaped the clouds and cold temperatures in Quito. Our destination: Canoa, Ecuador. A small coastal town that has sandy roads, stray dogs and ceviche (a soup with shrimp). It is an under-developed area and largely a fishing community. The boats sit upon the beach, waiting to head out to sea and do their job.
Canoa’s atmosphere is extremely chill. Just like the rest of Ecuador, the shop doors open when the locals decide they want to wake up and get to work. Besides fishing, the main income seems to be from the tourists or Ecuadorians who want to get-away for a bit and relax. Most of Canoa’s main-strip is composed of juice and ram-shackle restaurants, the occasional handicraft station with bracelets, necklaces and other assorted trinkets will pop up during the day.
Other than that, the roads rarely feel the bare-feet or flip-flops walking upon them, mainly the paws of the stray dogs that could equal the number of people in Canoa. One of the dogs followed us around every time we ran into each other. His left eye was big and blue, multiple sizes larger than the other. We found out from a local that someone had apparently hit him with the rock. Quite upsetting.
To get there, we took an overnight bus ride ($9) from Quito that is roughly six or seven hours long and extremely bumpy. I did not sleep at all due to the rough ride and freezing temperatures inside the bus. However, as soon as we stepped off and looked to our left, the ocean lay out before us and the warmth of the coastal air our enveloped us. All was forgotten. After a quick nap in our room at the unbelievable Hotel Bambu that is located right on the beach, we had lunch and hit the waves.
You can rent surfboards for $3 an hour, or sign up for lessons. We decided to try it out ourselves and did pretty well. It was carefree and full of fun, what we came for in an effort to escape the structure of our weeks. The waves were not too large, perfect for beginners. If you don’t like surfing, you can always take a kayak tour through the caves or try paragliding if the wind is strong enough. Or simply, soak up the sun while laying on your towel on the warm sand. Watch out for the creepy, crawling crabs that scurry in and out of the holes they dig to escape the onslaught of oncoming waves.
Note: Canoa does not have a bank or ATM so make sure you bring your cash when you come. It’s not expensive but you will want to do the activities this cozy little place has to offer.
In the evening, the hotel//hostel has a Happy Hour and you get two drinks for the price of one. The patio area is filled with people eating, drinking, reading and relaxing as the sun sets over the ocean’s horizon, coloring the sky in shades of pink and oranges. At night, Canoa becomes a bit more lively. Locals and tourists are sitting on the beach, cuddling or merely listening to the rolling waves.
The corner “Pirate Ship” turns on its strobe lights and the hostel and local crowd come out to play … and drink. There is one specific drink that all travelers are warned about (a sign was even posted on the wall in the lounge//library at our hostel) that has severe side-effects like diarrhea, headache and upset stomach. Basically a disastrous hangover that will ruin the rest of your time in Canoa and maybe some time afterward.
Here is an excerpt from a a blogpost I found that provides the name and ingredients:
There is the famous drink from Canoa, “Uña de la Grand Bestia”. This “Claw of the Great Beast” is made by marinating scorpions, giant centipedes, and marijuana stalks in caña before selling it for a dollar a shot.
Personally, I don’t know who would even buy it in the first place and then, my friend who had a couple of drinks before the Pirate Ship ended up getting one (answering that question that you’d have to be drunk before even considering taking this shot) and the night was over. She woke up not feeling well at all. Wasn’t able to surf with with us the next day, mostly laying around. After my surfing session, some of the locals and tourists were walking down the beach past us near the cliffs because a sea-turtle had washed ashore.
Since turtles are one of my favorite animals we immediately rushed down with our cameras at the ready. The locals were talking about how the turtles either come ashore to die or lay eggs. We decided to remain positive and chose to believe it was to lay eggs. A full moon was supposed to occur that night and there is supposedly a myth that hatchlings leave the nest during one. However, my conscience kept reminding me that it was only one sea-turtle and not many partaking in such a beautiful moment.
Saturday night is when all the dance clubs blast their music. You can dance hip-hop or latin, or both in the same evening on the beach under a straw hut or on the corner in a building. We checked out one place with a surfer friend and another guy from our hostel we made acquaintances with the previous night at the Pirate Ship. Most of the locals remembered us, being such a small town.
We couldn’t stay out too late because our bus left at 7 a.m. the next morning, so we fell asleep to 5 different types of music playing until the early hours of the morning. The bus ride back took a bit longer but we made it safely back to the hustle-and-bustle of Quito and its cloudy skies with tan skin and rosy cheeks.
Here is a video I put together of our time in Canoa, Ecuador: