Bahia de Caraquez
Bahía de Caráquez is a little town in Ecuador with beaches and friendly people. It is situated on a pointy peninsula between the Chone River and the Pacific Ocean. While during the weekends many people head off to Canoa for their partying, around Bahía you can find activities such as bird-watching in the Isla Corazon, Paragliding near the Cliffs of Canoa, surfing, and volunteer experiences also abound. The town still shows damages from the 2016 earthquake and is recovering (2018).
About a 5 mile beach walk outside of Bahia de Caraquez is Punta Gorda Reserve where volunteers can work on the last bit of the Tropical Dry Forest while getting away from the gringo trail, busy bus lines, always on the go travel style. The Cabin Tortuguita “Small Turtle” is perched high on a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean to the west. In the reserve you can discover many old pottery laden fields from thousands of years ago, hike, maintain the trails, fish with the only subsistence fishing family for miles, try out some surfing on the board provided, and just relax on the hammocks with the cool breeze.
You can get to Bahia de Caraquez by bus from Quito (eight hours) or Guayaquil (six hours). Coming from Guayaquil there is a five-hour ride offered by at least two bus companies (Reina del Camino and Coactur included) that stops in Jipijapa (a good point to get on/off to go to Puerto Lopez) and Portoviejo, the capital of the Manabi state.
As a small beach-side 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 (Pedicap) that will ferry you for short distances (0,50 to 1 USD (2018)).
Normal taxis are common (do not have meters) and typically will charge for a short ride 1,25 USD, Bahia to Leonidas Plaza 1,50 to 2,00 USD, to San Vicente on the other side of the Rio Chone 2,00 USD (a bit more at night).
There are two city-bus lines from the Terminal Terreste in Leonidas Plaza. A bus can be flagged down anywhere. Shout when you want to have a stop, some are going farther than the busterminal, so tell the ticketguy where you want to get out, when you get in!
Bus to Canoa-Beach ca 25m in for 1,00 USD (2018) : Watch for the sign in the windscreen! You can stop the bus going from Leonidas Plaza before it will take a leftturn to go onto the bridge to San Vincente (wait ca. 4 lampposts before the crossing upriver of the shoppingmall on the side of the river)
Busterminal for long distances at the E end of town (Leonidas Plaza) - In a Bus to Quito take a seat left on the drivers side for best views; 10-12USD (2018)
There is a great little museum in the old Banco Central building. A number of interesting artifacts from indigenous societies are on display and have been well documented. Entrance fee is free and a multi-lingual guide will accompany you at no additional cost (if available - spanish speaking guides will be there for sure).
Closed due to the damage through the earthquake 2016 (2018).
Chirije Archaeological Site
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 B.C.- 500 A.D.). 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 Onsite museum, is built over an excavation in a hill. Here you find 3 sources of archaeological pieces. The first being all the pieces found by the Archaeologists in scientific 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 travelers combing the beach...There are still many mysteries of the ancient past to be found in Chirije.
Come and explore the preincan cultures of Ecuador.
Chirije pre-Columbian Port
They were the most maritime of all cultures on the western coast of South America. They used the Ecuadorian Balsa 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 actual territory of Ecuador all the way up to the lands that comprise Mexico in the north and Chile to the south, for gold, turquoise, lapilazuli. The first contact of one of these sailing vessels was made when Francisco Pizarros 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)
Balsawood vessel replica of first contact found in local Bahia de Caraquez museum.
Chirije is an ecolodge located on a secluded beach atop an ancient archaeological site. Bahía de Caráquez is the nearest town to the resort, located 15km North of the site. On the coast of Ecuador, Chirije lies just 90 km south of the Equator line. The only way to access this piece of ancient paradise is to drive with us on the beach, while enjoying an incredible view. Come and enjoy this unique and authentic experience! Cabins at great prices with hot water and super comfortable.
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 frigatebird colonies. During mating season, male frigatebirds 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 7km up the road. Bus rates average about 30 cents.
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 Canoa which also sells fair trade items(their Bahia office was closed some time ago).