Bahia de Caraquez
Bahía de Caráquez is a resort town in Ecuador on a peninsula by the Chone River and the Pacific Ocean. While during the weekends most people head off to Canoa for their partying, around Bahía you can find many activities such as bird watching on the Isla Corazon, paragliding near the cliffs of Canoa, surfing, and many volunteer experiences also abound.
You can get to Bahia de Caraquez by bus from Quito (8 hours) or Guayaquil (6 hours). Coming from Guayaquil there is a 5 hour ride offered by at least two bus companies (Reina del Camino and Coactur) that stops in Jipijapa (a good point to get on/off to go to Puerto Lopez) and Portoviejo, the capital of the Manabi state.
Bahia can also be reached by boat. There is a cheap passenger ferry (it's USD0.30 for a ten minute ride) from San Vicente, or you can ride the vehicle ferry for free.
To get to Bahía from Quito: The only company that travels Quito-Bahía is called Reina del Camino. There are two kinds of buses; the executive and regular. The executive service is more comfortable and safer than the regular services. It costs only USD1–2 more and is well worth it.
Security is very high on these buses and you will be frisked before getting on. You are not usually allowed to take day packs on the bus for security reasons. Remember to take a sweater with you on the bus as the air conditioning can get very cold.
From Quito It is 7–8 hours to Bahía. You can do it during the day or night, by regular or executive service. There are two executive services per day. The executives leave Quito at 12:50 and 23:45. The regular services are at 10:30 and 23:30.
In Quito Reina del Camino has 2 offices: 1. Terminal Terrestre (the main Quito bus station in the old town) 2. 18 de Septiembre and Av Patria in the new town in the Mariscal area. (very close to the junction of Av Patria and 10 de Agosto.)
You can buy tickets for all services at 18 de Septiembre but the only service that actually leaves from there is the executive night bus at 23:00 (this is the 23:45 service mentioned earlier, but it leaves from here at 23:00 then travels to the main bus station, picks up passengers and leaves from there at 23:45). It is recommended that you get tickets at the 18 de Septiembre station as it is much safer and easier. Be careful with your belongings in the main bus station. Don’t be distracted! If you come from Quito on the day bus make sure you get a seat on the right hand side for great views.
As a small beachside town, there are few places in Bahia that cannot be reached in under 15 minutes on foot. The hospital is an exception, but may be reached by cab or the local bus.
As an "eco-friendly city," Bahia has numerous bicycle taxis that will ferry you from the bus station to the beaches or to the downtown area (USD0.50). Normal taxis are also common and typically will charge USD1 to get across town (this may have changed). There is one major bus route inside the town; it charges USD0.18 no matter where you get off. It can be boarded near the bus station - ask when you arrive.
- Museum (In the old Banco Central building). A great little museum . A number of interesting artifacts from indigenous societies are on display and have been well documented. A multi-lingual guide will accompany you at no additional cost. USD1.
- Chirije Archaeological Site (15 km south of Bahia), ☎ . 5. Chirije (chee-ree-hey) is the newest and most attractive ecological and archaeological park along the Ecuadorian coast. Completed in 1996, Chirije is surrounded by 238 hectares of dry tropical forest and miles of unspoiled beaches. This valley was the home of many consecutive pre-Columbian settlements. Chirije is one of the many interesting archaeological sites of coastal Ecuador. The archaeologist Emilio Estrada discovered the site in the 1950s, and named a new culture called the Chirije culture here. Chirije, an ancient seaport, was the site of the great settlement of the Bahia culture (500 BCE-500 CE). These seafaring merchants traded skillfully crafted ornaments or whole shells as far north as Mexico and as far south as Chile, for gold, copper and other precious items.
- Chirije museum is built over an excavation on a hill. Here you find 3 sources of archaeological pieces. The first being all the pieces found by the archaeologists in controlled excavations. The second, being the pieces found by the staff on site and on the surface of the ground, and the third being the pieces found by all the travellers combing the beach. There are still many mysteries of the ancient past to be found in Chirije.
- They were the most maritime of all cultures on the west coast of South America. They used Ecuadorian balsa wood and for thousands of years traded the mythical and sacred red thorny oyster, the Spondylus shell. The most demanded shell of all the Pacific was this bivalve that existed mostly in Ecuadorian waters. The sailors traded this shell in their routes from the territory of Ecuador all the way up to the lands that comprise Mexico in the north and Chile to the south, for gold, turquoise, lapis lazuli. The first contact of one of these sailing vessels was made when Francisco Pizarro's exploratory ships (Bartolomeo Ruiz was the captain) to the land of the gold, in 1526, and the design was drawn to the most perfect detail.
- "This ship…seems to hold up to 30 tonnes, and the bottom is made of canes, as thick as posts. All tied up with rope made from something like hemp. And in the high parts, thinner canes, tied with this rope, where the people where in. All the items of trade were also on the higher part, because of it probably getting wet if it went on the bottom. There masts and antennas were made of very fine wood, and Sails as large as the ones we use on our ships." —Samano Account, 1526 (The first manuscripts of Accounts of the Conquest led by Francisco Pizarro)
- A balsa wood vessel replica of first contact is found in Bahia de Caraquez Museum. USD35.
Isla Corazon Tours
Isla Corazon (Heart Island) is a naturally heart-shaped mangrove island in the Chone River estuary. It is a nesting site for one of the Pacific's largest frigate bird colonies. During mating season, male frigate birds inflate a red sac on their throats and make loud, clicking calls. Local fishermen expanded the island through their mangrove restoration efforts and have since begun to offer canoe-led tours of the mangrove ecosystem. The island is now recognized as a National Wildlife Refuge and National Heritage Site.
Tours are offered directly through the local fishermen or can be arranged through E Ceibos Tours, Bahia Dolphin Tours (in Bahia) or Guacamayo Tours, with offices in Bahia and Canoa. Tours depart from Puerto Portovelo, a small village on the north side of the Chone River. To arrive from Bahia de Caraquez, take a boat taxi across the estuary to San Vicente. Then, catch a bus or taxi on the "via Chone" (route to Chone). Puerto Portovelo is just 7 km up the road. Bus rates average about 30 cents.
Take a trip to Rio Muchacho Organic Farm. They offer 1-3 day tours with activities including horse treck to howler monkey forest and waterfall, making chocolate and coffee from the bean, making necklaces, bowls, and rings from natural materials, and lots more. They also offer volunteer programs for the farm and ecoschools. You can get more information on Rio Muchacho or other tours in Ecuador at their office in Bahia which also sells fair trade items.
- Arena Bar Pizzeria (On Avenue Bolivar near Hotel Italia). More than just pizza. The pizza is good, and is popular for take out. There are many other things on the menu. The shrimp in fresh sauce is fantastic at USD4.79. The fish in asparagus sauce is also excellent at about the same price. One may dine inside, or sit on the sidewalk and watch the passing people. The owner, Elizabeth, is very friendly and takes pride in the quality of the food.
- D'Camaron (At the end of Ave Bolivar, where it intersects the Malacon at the tip of the peninsula). Delightful al fresco restaurant. As the name implies, there are many shrimp dishes on the menu, along with some fish and chicken as well. Most menu items are between USD3-4.
- Restaurant Row (Adjacent to the ferry landing). There are four, almost identical, barbecue restaurants next to the ferry landing. Each features charcoal broiled beef or chicken and fried fish or shrimp. USD4-6.
- El Rey del Burrito (Two streets from the bayside at the streets Daniel Hidalgo and Carlos Hurtado (corner)), ☎ . Excellent Mexican food: burritos, fajitas, enchiladas, flautas, tacos, quesadillas and much more. The most popular dish is the "Rey de Burrito" which is quite big and very delicious. The owner, Maria Elena de Dueñas, looks forward for high quality food and is very friendly. Home delivery service. Meals between USD3-10.
- Saiananda, Av Sixto Duran Ballen km 6 (Five minute drive out of town). noon-18:00. Saiananda is a serene marina and resort just five minutes from Bahia. They have beautiful gardens with a large and diverse collection of birds including peacocks and parrots. They only serve a delicious three course vegetarian meal for USD12, but both the food and setting are wonderful. USD12.
- CasaGrande Boutique Hotel (Casa Grande), Av Circunvalacion 606 and Virgilio Ratti (Oceanfront diagonal to the small lighthouse, great gardens), ☎ . Check-out: 14:00. Comfy and beautiful rooms with a Pacific Ocean view. 6 rooms, air-con, cable TV, Wi-Fi, pool, tour office, Breakfast included. USD60.
- Ecohostal Bahia (Next to La Herradura). Actually a bed and breakfast, this place is a slightly upscale little hostal with an environmental decor. A cool mural is painted on the front of the building as well as in each of the rooms. Prices range from USD20 single to USD25–35 a couple and includes a gourmet breakfast. Only hostal to include free Internet as well as cocktail service in the evenings. Great location.
- Hostel Coco Bongo. Very friendly hostel. The ground floor is devoted to a bar and breakfast room in a garden setting. Up one flight, there is one very nice room with private bath and air-con for USD30.00. There are several communal rooms with bunk beds and shared bath that cost much less. A very nice balcony overlooks the park. There is a TV in the sitting room. The owner, Susy, is from Australia.
- Hotel Italia. The rooms are clean, the beds are comfortable, and the air conditioning works well. The Italia is in the center, and none of the rooms has a view. There is no elevator, and all rooms are at least one flight above the lobby, if you like hiking take one of the upper floors the stairways are so steep you feel like you are in the mountains. Rooms USD25 per night with air-con, or USD20 without.
- La Piedra. A modern hotel on the ocean at the tip of the peninsula. The two-story hotel is in a "U" shape which is open on the sea side. There is a swimming pool in the center of the "U". The restaurant balcony is over the ocean. The hotel looks extremely clean and convenient, although it occasionally runs out of hot water. The most expensive, although not a bad value at USD48 without breakfast.