After three weeks living in Cotacachi in the highlands of Ecuador, we decided to take a short trip to the northern coast of this beautiful country. It is about a four hour drive from Cotacachi to our destination – Las Penas – a tiny beach community just north of the bustling port city of Esmeraldes. After stopping in Salinas for lunch ( Quinoa soup, chicken, beans and rice) and fuel, we headed down yet another twisty highway (I wish I had my motorcycle!). The scenery changed gradually from sierra mountains and sugar cane fields to banana, coconut and cacao plantations as the elevation slowly dropped.
We passed through several military/police checkpoints where we kept saying we were tourists and didn’t speak Spanish. I think maybe they were hoping for a bribe, but we played stupid, showed photocopies of our passports, and they eventually just let us continue on our way. Eventually we ended up in the small fishing village/beach town of Las Penas.
We checked into our hotel – the Hotel Maria Jose. It is a well kept building with a pool in the centre courtyard, about a block from the beach. Our room was tiny, but equipped with air conditioning. We had to pay extra for that, but it was worth it, as it was extremely warm and humid outside.
After getting checked in and scoping out the pool, we headed towards the beach to see what might be available to eat. The main street was lined with small restaurants all along the beachfront, each serving different variations of the same thing – shrimp ceviche, fish, lagostinas (very large shrimp), clams, and even lobster. We settled for one small place that was open and ordered a plate of popcorn shrimp, and shrimp ceviche. Our view down the beach was nice and the food wasn’t too bad. We actually found some “light” beer as well.
After dinner, we headed back to the hotel for a dip in the pool to cool down. We definitely were not prepared for the oppressive heat and humidity. Once the sun goes down, it gets dark very fast, but the heat lingers…… The pool stayed open til around midnight, when things finally quieted down and we were able to get some sleep.