San Luis de Pambil
San Luis de Pambil is a small town in Bolivar Province in the Coastal Lowlands of Ecuador, or at least in the foothills of the Andes mountains as they slope downwards towards the coastal lowlands. It's one of many rural agricultural communities in the area, cultivating crops such as plantains, oranges, sugarcane, coffee and cacao (chocolate). The area was once virgin rainforest, which was partly destroyed by the original settlers, around 50 years ago. The remaining forest is threatened by logging, though environmental awareness is gradually increasing and new ecotourism projects are trying to create alternative sources of income and conserve the forests.
By bus, travel to Zapotal (on the main route from Santo Domingo to Guayaquil, between Quevedo and Babahoyo). This takes around 5-6 hours from Quito, about 3 hours from Guayaquil. Zapotal is just a small collection of restaurants and shops on the main road - get off here and wait for the local buses to San Luis de Pambil (about an hour, last bus around 6pm). The other, far more adventurous, way in is the 2 day hike down from Salinas, in Bolivar Province - go with a local guide.
On foot... or hire a horse.
Mountain valleys, waterfalls and streams, bits of rainforest, hummingbirds, toucans, local life in an agricultural community in an area of extreme poverty and natural beauty.
Walk, photograph, bathe in waterfalls, relax, watch birds, hire a horse, visit local charity projects...
Not a lot, so make sure you bring anything vitally important with you. Food supplies are easily available, but there is little in the way of souvenirs or luxuries. There is no bank, so bring enough cash for your trip.
Food is basic, mostly made from local ingredients - chicken, rice, plantains, sweetcorn, avocadoes, etc.
Aguardiente! This 'firewater' is made from sugarcane, which is crushed, fermented and then distilled into a clear, potent 60 proof drink. CADO, a local cooperative has achieved organic certification for their sugarcane plantations and can take you on a tour to see how aguardiente is made and taste the results. CADO . Tours arranged through Eco-Friendly Farmstays (see below).
Eco-Friendly Farmstays is a charity-run eco-tourism project, offering farmstays with local families. The price for each night's accommodation includes a tree which you must plant (with help), so you will be directly involved in reforestation in the area. It's very basic, no-frills accommodation, but the people are friendly and you will experience authentic rural village life in a little-visited part of Ecuador, well off the beaten track.