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La Costa of Ecuador

Ecuador's insider take:

The coast of Ecuador varies enormously along its 1,400-mile length. The northernmost "Green Province" of the Esmeraldas, where the Spanish first landed in 1526, is part wild, lush tropical jungle and mangrove forest; part quiet shoreline dotted with fishing settlements; and part frenetic oceanfront resort. South of Esmeraldas, Manabí province is lined with resort cities like Puerto López, Montañita (a world-renowned surfing destination), and Salinas, which attract throngs of Quiteños and Guayaquileños in summer. More tranquil is Machalilla National Park, with the perfect Pacific beach of Los Frailes—a good whale-watching point. The central coast has mile upon mile of amazing white-sand beaches and fishing villages stretching all the way to unlovely Guayaquil. Ecuador's biggest city and main port, it's not a big draw, though there have been recent moves to upgrade its desirability. South of here, El Oro province continues all the way to Peru and is notable for its production of two major Ecuadoran exports, shrimp and bananas.

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