7 Best Beaches in Ecuador and the Galapagos

With Ecuador teeming with gorgeous white-sandy beaches, it can be hard to figure out which one to visit. From the wild coasts of the Galapagos to the laid-back shores of Mompiche, we’ve found a beach for everyone.

23 May 2023

best beaches ecuador

While travelers might rush to the legendary Galapagos Islands, mighty Andes mountains, and iconic Amazon rainforest, Ecuador’s beach towns deserve their moment in the spotlight too. Because, dotted all around the country’s coast are palm-fringed beaches laden with soft golden sand, pristine turquoise waters, laid-back villages, and wildlife to rival the rest of this megadiverse country.

There is a beach for everyone, from surfers to bird watchers, sunbathers to snorkelers, and plenty in between. They are uncrowded, hot all year round, and the water is perfect for swimming in.

Ecuador’s coast is abuzz with life, whether that’s from the creative energy at popular places like Montañita or the excitement of snorkeling with turtles in the Galapagos Islands. At other beaches, things are more languid. Think of long lunches in beachside restaurants or whale watching while the sun sets over the Pacific Ocean. Whatever type of beach feeds your wanderlust, read on to start planning your vacation...

The Best Beaches to Visit in Ecuador and the Galapagos 

Ecuador’s best beaches are found all over the country, from the mainland to the Galapagos Islands and they each offer something different for the discerning traveler. Here are seven, selected by our travel specialists.

  • Best beach for snorkeling: Bartolome Island, Galapagos
  • Most off-the-beaten-track beach: Los Frailes Machalilla National Park
  • Best beach for wildlife: Tortuga Bay, Santa Cruz Island, Galapagos
  • Best beach for sunsets and birdwatching: Isabela Island, Galapagos
  • Best beach for surfing: Montañita
  • Best beach for laid-back village life: Mompiche
  • Best beach for families: Puerto Lopez

1. For Snorkeling: Bartolome Island, Galapagos

Yachts on Bartolome Island

Snorkeling amongst the wildlife off Bartolome Island’s Pinnacle Rock is an unforgettable experience. Sea turtles, playful penguins, and speedy sea lions will swirl and twirl around you as you float in the calm water. This is one of the best beaches in Ecuador to explore the colorful underwater world that it has to offer. Many Galapagos cruises stop at Bartolome Island, but it is also an accessible day trip from Santa Cruz. The water is deep – ranging from 13 to 33ft – so snorkelers need to be strong swimmers.

2. Off the Beaten Track: Los Frailes, Machalilla National Park

A beach surrounded by cliffs and hills

Arguably one of the most beautiful beaches in Ecuador, Playa Los Frailes is off the beaten path, but well worth the journey it takes to get there. And, thanks to its remote location, it’s rarely crowded, providing a private-like experience. This crescent-shaped shore surrounded by cliffs is an easy day trip from Ecuador’s beach town of Puerto Lopez. You can reach it by road but it’s the scenic hikes that will reward you with the most breathtaking views on arrival. Once there, explore the expansive white sand beaches, dive into the blue water, and look out for schools of colorful fish swimming below. This is a beach for those looking for a peaceful day by the ocean to walk, swim and relax.

Guayaquil is a gateway to Ecuador’s beautiful coastline and the Galapagos islands. We recommend staying at Hotel del Parque or Hacienda La Danesa for a day or two before journeying on to Puerto Lopez or Montañita Beach, both of which are good bases for exploring Machalilla National Park.

3. For Wildlife: Tortuga Bay, Santa Cruz Island, Galapagos

Iguanas sitting on the beach

Beautiful Tortuga Bay is named after the black turtles that happily swim through its crystal-clear waters. But it’s not just turtles that make this Galapagos beach so magical. There are marine iguanas, flamingos, brightly colored Sally Lightfoot crabs, and sea lions. Or, if you rent a canoe and head further out to sea you might even see sharks circling below. Tortuga Bay is a splendid stretch of beach, set against a backdrop of mangroves on one side and aquamarine waters on the other. The gently shelved beach is perfect for paddling if you’re traveling to the Galapagos with children. The beach can be reached by water taxi from Puerto Ayora or might be part of your cruise itinerary.

The charming Finch Bay Eco Hotel is a fantastic place to base yourself when exploring Santa Cruz, it has a private boat that will take you out to explore the island’s beaches. Further inland is Pikaia Lodge, which also has a boat for sea-bound excursions like fishing, snorkeling, and scuba diving.

4. For Sunsets and Birdwatching: Puerto Villamil, Isabela Island, Galapagos

A group of blue-footed boobies standing on a rock

All around Isabela Island are coves, bays, and islets to discover, each in its own pocket of nature. One of the best of the Galapagos beaches is Puerto Villamil, two miles of white sand making up one of the longest stretches of beach in the archipelago. Prehistoric-looking marine iguanas guard the beach, while pink flamingos balance elegantly in nearby lagoons. This is bird-watching heaven, from the naughty frigate birds hoping to steal a snack, to pelicans and blue-footed boobies. Plus, there is a giant tortoise breeding center just around the corner, and bars and restaurants in which to sit and sip a cocktail while the sun goes down.

To reach Isabela, you’d need to book a Galapagos cruise. Many of the yachts’ itineraries will include Isabela, so speak to our travel team about your requirements and they’ll find the right one for you.

5. For Surfing: Montañita Beach

People surfing at sunset

Famous for its surf culture and laid-back vibe, this Ecuador beach town will be popular with teens thanks to its buzzy nightlife, which attracts artists, musicians, and travelers from all over the world. It is also a great place to catch some waves, offering good surfing for all levels, although it’s the left-hand break ‘La Punta’ that avid surfers flock into the town for. Lush hills and rolling mountains surround the area and if you can tear yourself away from the beach, they’re just the place to go hiking or horse riding. Back by the water, there is whale watching to be done, or just kick back under the palm trees with an ice-cold drink.

6. For Village Life: Mompiche

A large grass-covered boulder on the beach

Cocooned by a lush jungle filled with monkeys, birds, and butterflies, and lined with palm trees, Mompiche Beach is as picturesque as it gets. Its long sweep of golden sand is another popular spot with surfers, but the village life is a little slower-paced and more relaxed than Montañita. Its waves reflect that more bohemian feel, making it one of the best beaches in Ecuador for beginner surfers. There’s also kite surfing and windsurfing for the more adventurous, or just stunning walks for those looking for a barefoot, fuss-free Ecuador beach vacation.

For Mompiche and the Esmeraldas Coast, fly into Quito and stay at Illa Experience Hotel or Casa Gangotena to explore the city before traveling on to the beaches.

7. For Families: Puerto Lopez

People playing soccer on the beach as the sun sets

Puerto Lopez is one of the best beaches in Ecuador for families. Giving the Galapagos a run for its money, this area is home to a myriad of wildlife, found both in the waters and the nearby Machalilla National Park. Inside its forests are howler monkeys, iguanas, and over 270 bird species. Look out for the magnificent frigatebird, blue-footed booby, and brown pelican.

Meanwhile, out snorkeling or swimming in the calm water brings about dolphins, green sea turtles, olive ridley sea turtles, and hawksbill turtles. And, if you’re visiting between June and September voyage out to sea to spy on the incredible humpback whales, which migrate there. Aside from soaking up all the amazing animal life, the beach is beautiful for swimming in and playing on, and there are hikes, horse riding, and plenty of family-friendly accommodation options.

Choosing Your Perfect Beach

When choosing where to go for your Ecuador beach vacation consider if you’d like to tie it in with other stops, like visiting Quito, the Amazon Rainforest, or the Galapagos for example. Guayaquil is the gateway to the islands, where many cruises depart from, and is just a few hours south of Puerto Lopez, Los Frailes, and Montañita Beach, making them all great options to head to after your cruise and find your land legs again. Further north, there’s Mompiche, which is the best beach close to Quito.

Which Ecuador beach you think is the nicest will be down to what you look for in a perfect shore. Is it about the idyllic scenery and a remote location, or the perfect left-hand break? Are you looking for exotic wildlife, adventure and hiking, or buzzing village life? Scott Dunn’s travel specialists will help you select the right location for you.

Lastly, think about when you’re visiting Ecuador’s beaches. While they rarely get crowded, its peak season attracts international and domestic tourists and hotel prices spike. This typically runs from mid-December to early January, as well as during Carnival in February or March.

Start Planning Your Trip to Ecuador’s Beaches Today

No matter your tastes, there’s a beach in Ecuador and the Galapagos for you. If you want a customized trip, fill out our inquiry form to get in touch with our travel experts and start planning your perfect beach vacation now. If you’re still looking for ideas, then check out our itineraries which are bursting with adventure.

For more inspiration for a beach vacation, read about our favorite beaches in South Africa.

Renata Da Silva

South & Central America Specialist

I am passionate about travel and the endless opportunities it brings to bridge history, cultures and cuisine. I was born in Brazil and my passion for travel began when I studied Travel Administration and learned different languages at a young age. Although I’ve lived mostly in the US, I have had the opportunity to explore over 28 countries, a significant amount being in Latin America.

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