Finding updated, quality information on traveling and living in Ecuador can be like bobbing for apples - after many searches you might get lucky & find a winner.
So, I've compiled the following shortlist of Ecuador blogs and resources that you can use as a starting off point. Each of these resources has been helpful to me throughout my journey of living in Ecuador.
Our blog (ExpatsEcuador.com) covers practical information on living and traveling in Ecuador. It's based on topics we feel are missing (ie expat family life), under-reported or we are simply passionate about and want to share.
You may find some information cross-over between the different resources (including our blog), which is completely okay. Hopefully you'll leave with multiple points of view to digest.
Traveling through Ecuador and need a few tips? Great. Here's some travel blogs you should consider:
This travel blog is focused on Ecuador, but also includes content on neighboring countries like Peru and Colombia.
We like Not Your Average American because the content is detailed, making it very helpful.
In fact, there's been instances where I've spent time researching topics, only to find Angie's already written about it. For any other blog this wouldn't matter as there's normally a lot of improvements that can be made to provide additional value.
But, Angie's articles can be so comprehensive that I don't feel the need to cover the topic as there's few improvements to be made. Case in point is Angie's article on handmade makanas near Cuenca. I visited the same lovely shop, took all the same photographs, but haven't written about it because Angie's attention to detail is superb.
Ecuador is just one of the numerous countries included in this extensive travel blog. We like that the content is authentic, detailed and includes lush photography.
The most helpful articles to us have been the hiking guides, like this one on hiking the Quilotoa Loop. They cover the basics with enough detail to give you the confidence to plan the trek, but you'll still need to be ready to improvise a little as the content is a few years old - such is the curse of any travel blog.
The layout and readability of Nomadic Matt makes it an easy read for first time visitors to most countries. His section on Ecuador is no exception.
We like that it allows visitors to digest the basics of Ecuador quickly. But, as his name suggests, his nomadic lifestyle prohibits him devoting a lot of time to each location. This can limit the depth of information available.
More interested in what life looks like for expats in Ecuador? The following resources have provided us with useful, practical, first hand information:
Amelia & JP's vlog on YouTube (free) and Patreon (paid) covers many topics relevant for current or aspiring expats in Ecuador. The video format works great for capturing the visual nuances that can be difficult for text based blogs.
A lot of their content is Cuenca related, but they moved to Olon in 2020. This is great as it gives you the opportunity to experience two very different expat living environments - mountains and beach.
Cuenca High Life is an expat-friendly Ecuador news site with a focus on issues related to Cuenca.
Editorial content is provided by contributors, so non-news topics will be skewed towards the most active contributors. In 2020, the most prolific contributor has been Susan Burke March, who uses her background in nutrition to focus on topics related to food, nutrition and health.
We like that this blog does the heavy lifting of aggregating stories relevant to expats and publishes them in English. However, I don't see them as a replacement for national news sites like El Comercio.
Gringos Abroad is a large travel and expat site focusing on Ecuador.
We've gotten the most value from their earlier articles like this 2013 one that covers expat issues. This 'boots on the ground' content helped me when I was researching Cuenca as a possible city to live in.
The owners, Bryan and Dena, left Ecuador in 2015. This has made it difficult for them to provide updated travel and expat information. They've since focused on more general topics related to animal facts etc.
So, we still think their content is useful, but it won't be the most recent and you may need to find a more updated source for specifics.
Honestly, I'm a little apprehensive to include International Living because they have a reputation for over-selling their destinations.
But, I've included it as some of their information on Ecuador was helpful for me as a starting point.
Just know that they have a vested interest in showing their destinations in the best light possible. So be weary of any claims that you cannot otherwise substantiate or polls only designed to grab headines like 'Cuenca is the best city in world to retire' etc.
The most useful forum for Ecuador's daily events is the Ecuador Expats Facebook group (not related to this site). It's a private group so you'll need to request membership.
I like this group because it has many engaged members and the main admin, David Sasaki, provides random snippets about Ecuador and translates relevant news articles.
There are other FB groups that are more relevant for each city that you should also join, but this is certainly the most useful at the national level.
Gringopost is more of a traditional public forum where you can post messages and classifieds. I've used it in the past for checking out some Cuenca-based real estate or items for sale.
I will admit I am using Facebook Marketplace more and more for these types of activities, but Gringopost still provides value if I'm looking for something that might be more expat-friendly.
I've enjoyed pulling together this post. It's taken me longer than expected because I've been sidetracked by discovering new posts from the above resources.
Have I missed your favorite Ecuador blog or resource? Please tell me why it should be included in the comments below or contact us.
Ecuador is the Mecca for hummingbird watchers and photographers. With more than 130 of the world's 340 species, it's no surprise Ecuador is known as the "Land of Hummingbirds" and the hummingbird capital of the world.
Hummingbirds (colibríes in Spanish) have long fascinated us with their speed, agility, compact size and perfectly adapted beaks and tongues. Many cultures have placed spiritual significance on these pint-sized marvels. The Aztec god of war, Huitzilopochtli, is depicted as a hummingbird because of his belief that hummingbirds contained the spirit of fallen warriors.
Christians associate hummingbirds with the resurrection because they appear lifeless when sleeping, but will rapidly fly away and 'resurrect' when then sun rises.
The symbolism that resonates strongest with me is from the Native Americans who view hummingbirds as healers or a spirit-being helping those in need.
You see, we went through a very difficult time with the loss of a loved one and over the next week two events happened:
These may seem like trivial events. But, at the time they were beautiful moments of reprieve from the persistent despair we were all feeling. For this I was incredibly grateful.
From then on hummingbirds have taken on a very special meaning within our house, elevated to the position of our family symbol.
I've heard similar stories from various friends and read numerous other stories online about similar experiences. This leads me to think there are many people out there that share the same appreciation for hummingbirds on numerous levels, including physical beauty and spiritual.
Feel free to share the above hummingbird infographic. You can also download the high-res version here.
Everywhere! Well, except the Galapagos - Darwin certainly would have mentioned these remarkably adapted creatures if so...
This doesn't mean you're going to come across Hummingbird nests on every street in Quito or Guayaquil. But, get a few minutes outside of the city and you can potentially have an encounter.
The cloud forests have the highest concentration of hummingbirds, so that's a great place to start your journey.
The most popular areas for tourists to visit are divided into the eastern & western slopes of the Andes mountain range that runs through Ecuador.
Some of the most popular spots for the eastern and western slopes have been included in the map below (blue = east slope, red = west slope). These are mostly accessible from Quito, but don't think for a second that these are the only places to find hummingbirds in Ecuador - they just happen to be the most popular.
If you're like many visitors to Ecuador, this is likely where you're going to start your hummingbird exploration.
Mindo has quickly become one of the premier bird-watching locations in the world. The lush cloud forest provides a rich biodiversity, allowing visitors to see many of Ecuador's birds, plants, insects, vegetation and pack in some other sightseeting activities like chocolate and coffee tours, rafting, ziplining and hiking. All within a 2 hour drive of Quito.
With over 15 hummingbird species (several endemic), the Reserva Ecologica Yanacocha is well-known for watchers looking for a quick weekend trip from Quito.
It takes around 1 hour to get to Reserva Ecologica Yanacocha from Quito, making it the closest of the western slope locations to do some serious hummer watching.
At least 17 species of hummingbird have been spotted around the Tandayapa Valley, including the Purple-throated Woodstar (Calliphlox mitchellii) .
Two of the popular spots to bird watch and stay are:
A little further out, about 3 hours from Quito, is the privately held Reserva Mashpi Shungo. In addition to howler monkeys, you can find 13 types of hummingbird, including the Violet-tailed Sylph (Aglaiocercus coelestis).
Whilst here, you can also treat yourself at the luxurious Mashpi Lodge.
Still around 3 hours from Quito is the Silanche Bird Sanctuary. In addition to several toucans, you can also spy around 7 hummingbird species, including the Booted Racket-tail (Ocreatus underwoodii).
The eastern slopes of the Ecuadorian Andes starts about an hours drive east of Quito, heading past Papallacta. Hint - be sure to give yourself some time to soak up the hot springs in Papallacta.
I've included this spot on the list because it is a convenient starting/stopping off point given its close proximity to Quito's international airport. If your sole aim of visiting Ecuador is bird watching, then staying here will mean you don't need to go into Quito and you can start enjoying some 35+ different species of birds, including several hummingbirds.
Situated about 10 minutes past Papallacta is Guango Lodge. Here you can see around 17 types of hummingbirds in well maintained gardens. These include the Mountain Velvetbreast (Lafresnaya lafresnayi).
Continuing along the E20, about 2 hours from Quito is Baeza. This lesser known little town has several options to stay and view the many animal and bird species in the area. Approx 6 types of hummingbirds have been known to live here, including the Speckled Hummingbird (Adelomyia melanogenys).
Turning right onto the E45 will have you at Cosanga, around 2.5 hours from Quito. This town includes bird watching options like Cabañas San Isidro. Here, around 10 species of hummingbird have been spotted, including the Sparkling Violet-ear (Colibri coruscans).
Continuing down the Ecuador's Eastern Slope, turning left at Narupo onto the E20 for around 40 minutes and then left at Wawa Sumaco towards the Sumaco Volcano, you'll find the most remote lodge on the list - WildSumaco Lodge. This birding lodge has been know to contain 21 species of hummingbird.
Moving further south down the eastern slope you'll pass through other areas such as Baños, Cuenca (where we live) and Loja. Whilst you won't find many bird tour companies offering tours here, that doesn't mean there aren't quality hummingbird spotting opportunities.
One of the 5 different species that regularly visit our home in Cuenca is the Giant Hummingbird. We love having him visit us because his large size seems to calm down some of the smaller, but more aggressive, hummingbirds. They seem to know that this larger hummer deserves respect and they agree to give him some space.
This brings a more harmonious vibe to the 3-4 hours in the morning when the hummingbirds are at their busiest and creating the most noise (and we might still be sleeping!). Check out the Giant Hummingbird in this video:
The giant hummingbird's habitat extends from Ecuador down to Argentina and Chile and can be found on both slopes of the Andes mountains. This covers a sizeable range of 1,200,000 km2.
They are around 23 cm (9.1 in) long, with a wingspan of approx 21.5 cm (8.5 in) and weigh 18–24 g (0.63–0.85 oz). This is about double the weight of the next heaviest hummingbird.
There is an estimated 10,000+ adult Giant Hummingbirds in the wild.
For all you hardcore hummer fans, here's the list of all the different species you can find in Ecuador along with their scientific names:
Eriocnemis nigrivestis (EM)
Oreotrochilus cyanolaemus (E-M)
Heliomaster furcifer (H)
Chaetocercus berlepschi (EM)
Polytmus theresiae (H)
Thaumastura cora (H)
Lophornis delattrei (H)
Chionomesa lactea (H)
Thaumasius taczanowskii (H)
Metallura baroni (EM)
Are you planning a visit to Ecuador to check out hummingbirds? Please feel free to let us know in the comments where you're going and whether you're doing it by yourself or through a tour group.
Image credits: I have not taken the incredibly superb photos of hummingbirds used in this article. I wish I was that talented with a camera. They are from a UK photographer, Andy Morffew. If you like the photos, let him know on his website & peruse his other fantastic wildlife images.
Cojimies beach is a popular weekend destination for Quiteños seeking a no-frills beach escape. We arrived at this beach just a few days after visiting one of Ecuador’s finest beaches; Los Frailes. So, our expectations were super high.
I recommend staying away from the small town of Cojimies as the main beach is busy and I’d argue the town itself is gritty without much charm. There’s numerous accommodation options along the main road coming into town which are better as they all have private entrances to cleaner, less crowded sections of the same beach.
The beach is undoubtedly the main attraction for visiting Cojimies. The super wide and long beach is perfect for endless strolls, taking a dip and lounging on the sand.
There are very few waves on the beach as they break way off into the distance. You can see them on the horizon. As they never reach the shore, the beach is very flat and has an almost lagoon type feel.
The main part of the beach does get pretty crowded. It’s so wide that there’s multiple layers of vendors renting lounges, umbrellas and beverages (yay coconuts!).
I found the main beach to be interesting and good for people watching, but ultimately I enjoyed the beach in front of our hotel more as it was peaceful and more isolated.
Love Island is a large sandbank that stretches from the mouth of the Cojimies River. You can easily organize a tour from operators in Cojimies town or find one on the beach.
A popular tour option is to include the mangroves and then dropped off on a beach for a few hours to chill, check out the various crabs and other marine life (depending on the season you may be lucky to see some turtle’s nesting).
The below video gives a good overview of the Isla Del Amor – but it’s in Spanish so turn on English subtitles if needed.
The food options are limited to seafood and local food such as plantains, meat and corn. The main beach has lots of cabana seafood restaurants and it can be difficult to know which are best.
My rule is to never visit an empty cabana and I normally try to eat in the busiest one. Is this foolproof? No, but given there’s little else to differentiate one cabana from another, it’s the best I’ve got.
My favorite fish from the area is camotillo, but it’s also one of the most expensive.
Note – Cojimies is not a resort like town with a lot of western friendly options.
It’s difficult to near impossible to find quality coffee in Cojimies. Like a lot of smaller towns in Ecuador, you’ll be given a cup of hot water or milk and provide with the container of instant coffee to make your own cup. For addicts like me it’s better than nothing.
The 30 min coastal drive from Pedernales to Cojimies was really enjoyable. You’ll come across several view points with beach access, lush coconut palms, shrimp farms, dry and tropical forests.
Cojimies popularity largely comes from it’s relative closeness to Quito and the super wide, safe, lagoon like beaches. I’d recommend it for expats based in Quito that are short on time.
But, if you have more time and willing to travel a little further, then you might find the beaches in the Esmeraldas or south of Manta with more tourist facilities more appealing.
Have you been to Cojimies or thinking about visiting? Feel free to let us know in the comments below.
Playa Los Frailes sits inside the Machalilla National Park in Ecuador’s coastal province of Manabi.
There is a limited number of car parking available (60 spaces) right next to the beach. You will need to pay $2 for parking. Try to get there early (ie before 10am) for the best chance of getting a car park – else you’ll need to leave your car near the highway and either walk the 3km or get a tuk tuk mototaxi ($2-$5).
Free to enter. Showers are $1 and bathrooms $0.25.
8am to 4pm
No. It’s a bay with only small, family friendly waves.
I’m putting Los Frailes down as one of the best beaches in Ecuador because:
1. Protected within a national park
This prevents unrestrained commercialization and ultimately the destruction of the sand vegetation and habitat.
2. Accessible to all
The main entrance is right on the main highway that runs through Ecuador’s costa del sol – the main coast road. This means most buses will drop you off at the entrance and you can either walk the 3km to the main beach or grab a tuk tuck motorcycle for $2-$4.
3. Free entrance
You no longer need a permit or pay an entrance fee. Car parking costs $2.
4. Clear, blue waters
We visited on Christmas day and the water was just lovely. The turquoise color and goldilocks water temperature (ie just right) made swimming for hours a pleasure. Some families were in the water for the entire 6 hours we were there!
5. Crisp, white sand
The white sand of Los Frailes is some of the nicest along the coast. The sand along Ecuador’s coast often consists of heavy, black minerals. But not here! Enjoy the white sands between your toes.
6. Rocks & caves
The cliffs and caves make for some wonderful views, photos and provide some much needed shelter from the sun.
Did you go to Los Frailes? We’ve love to hear your opinion in the comments below.
The closest town with tourist amenities is Puerto Lopez. This town has some decent restaurants and a very relaxing beach. Featuring both a local vibe (incl functioning fishing fleet) and tourist offerings such as good hotels, beach side restaurants and some souvenir sellers.
The next village south from Puerto Lopez is a small fishing town of Salango. Even quieter than Puerto Lopez, Salango has a quaint beach, a few local restaurants and an island (Salango Island) which is a popular boat ride amongst day-trippers that don’t want to spend the hour each to visit Isla de la Plata.
Bordering Machalilla National Park is the town of Puerto Cayo. This growing expat retirement location has a long, wide beach and plenty of seafood restaurants.
Perhaps my favorite spot in all of Manabi is the small village of Ayampe. Good surfing, yoga and an expat population focusing on wellness is what Ayampe is known for.
Montañita is the party and surfing scene of Ecuador. Here you can dance and drink until all hours of the morning or surf and chill. It’s your choice.