canoa ecuador

Canoa, Ecuador: Ultimate Travel Guide [2024]

With its long, wide beachfront and laid-back surf town vibes, Canoa, Ecuador is a dreamy little spot on the coastline that few travelers have heard of yet – thankfully! Offering an ideal mix of local spots for seafood and accommodations for travels of all budgets, plus incredible golden sands and pink sunsets, Canoa is a must-visit destination in Ecuador.

Canoa is by far our favorite beach town in Ecuador and our top recommendation for travelers that have time to just check out one or two of the best beaches in Ecuador as they explore the coast. This ultimate guide to Canoa covers everything you’ll need to know to enjoy a stay in Ecuador’s best beach town!

canoa beach
Eva Kali / Shutterstock

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Canoa, Ecuador

Among a number of beach towns and fishing villages along Ecuador’s coastline to choose from, Canoa feels like something special. Canoa is popular with Ecuadorians and foreigners alike but stays mostly sleepy – outside of national holidays and this small town’s few rousing beach bars and clubs.

Canoa is really quite tiny, with just a main beachfront strip and one or two main stretches running parallel to the beach, with a few tiny streets cutting across the town. There’s not much to the town, but you will find exactly what you need to enjoy a beach getaway – cheap, delicious seafood spots, beachy restaurants with local favorite dishes, and a decent range of accommodation options.

The best things to do in Canoa generally revolve around the beach – relaxing, eating at beach bars, and taking surf lessons – but there are some additional gems in the area. A decent yoga and wellness scene, still growing, adds some fun flavor to the town.

Plan to spend a few days relaxing in Canoa if your Ecuador itinerary takes you to the beach. Ecuador’s highlights in the Andes Mountains and Amazon Rainforest, plus the Galapagos, generally steal the spotlight from the country’s coastline. Those that do make it to the coast enjoy one of the coolest parts of the country, which has turned many travelers into a permanent fixture here.

Is Canoa Ecuador Worth Visiting?

Canoa is absolutely worth visiting! Out of all the small beach towns and coastal villages along Ecuador’s coast, Canoa was by far our favorite destination and is the one we’ll come back to time after time. It has the perfect combination of laid-back vibes, great places to eat and stay, and stunning natural beauty.

Read More: 10 Best Beaches in Ecuador

rio muchacho
Courtesy of Rio Muchacho Organic Farm & Ecolodge

Things To Do in Canoa, Ecuador

The beach is by far the biggest draw for travelers to visit Canoa, and most are more than content to enjoy all that it has to offer as the best of all the things to do in Canoa. A stretch of businesses occupies most of the beachfront, with a good number of restaurants and bars along the sand, along with surf schools and rental spots for water sports gear and beach chairs, cabanas, and umbrellas.

While the beach in Canoa is by no means a busy or crowded one, just walk down the beach for a more secluded spot. The beachfront is quite long, and beautiful from top to toe, so it’s easy to find a spot no matter what kind of beach day you’re looking for.

Looking for something to punctuate your time spent on the sand in Canoa? These are some of the other best things to do in Canoa, Ecuador:

1. Make Chocolate at Rio Muchacho Organic Farm

Located about 20 minutes outside of the town of Canoa, Rio Muchacho Organic Farm & Eco-Lodge is a fascinating spot in the rainforest located alongside the Rio Muchacho (Muchacho River). The farm offers a variety of fun and informative activities, including chocolate-making classes, yoga, hiking excursions to jungle waterfalls, and more. Make sure to reach out before your visit to schedule your experience!

If you’re looking for a break from the beach, plan to stay around for a few nights to get the full Rio Muchacho experience. Accommodations are basic but comfortable.

Read More: 25 Best Ecolodges in the World (Worth Traveling For!)

2. Take a Surf Lesson at Canoa Surf Academy

Canoa is a favorite surfing destination along the Ecuadorian coast, which makes this the perfect spot to take a surf lesson, even if you’re a beginner. There are several surf schools in the area that offer lessons, though we’ve always had the best luck with Canoa Surf Academy.

Group lessons and private lessons are available, and they’ll outfit you with all the gear you need for the experience while offering plenty of safety guidance along the way.

What To Pack for Ecuador

Check out our Ultimate Ecuador Packing List to help you pack for your trip – we’re sharing exactly what to bring to Ecuador and what we never travel without.

3. Take Yoga Classes at Finca Pinguino

There’s a growing yoga community in Canoa, with a good amount of opportunities for individual and group yoga lessons, as well as complete yoga retreat experiences nearby. Just 15 minutes outside of Canoa, you’ll find Finca Pinguino, a mix between a sustainable farm and retreat center, where yoga classes feel like a true jungle retreat.

Come for a yoga class or two, or stick around for a few days to take in the full Finca Pinguino experience. The farm even welcomes extended-stay volunteers, who rave about the great food, company, and the joy of disconnecting here.

hostel coco loco
Courtesy of Hostel Coco Loco

Where To Stay in Canoa, Ecuador

Hostel Coco Loco ($)

There’s no better hostel in Canoa than Hostel Coco Loco. This fun, friendly (not overly party-centric) hostel has long been a fan favorite, and with good reason.

Hostel Coco Loco offers both shared downs and private rooms, so it’s popular both with the backpacking crowd and those traveling a little more generous of a budget. While rooms are nothing special, they’re perfectly comfortable and welcoming. The terraces, lounges, and grounds of the hotel are the real star of the show, offering plenty of space to connect with other travelers and enjoy Canoa’s lovely sunset.

Reviews and Bookings: Hostel Coco Loco

Travel Essential

Don’t think about traveling without a good VPN (Virtual Private Network). Using a VPN while connecting to the internet is an easy way to keep your personal information safe from hackers and trackers. We’ve used NordVPN for years and couldn’t recommend it more – it’s a must for safety online, at home or abroad. 

posada olmito
Courtesy of Posada Olmito

Posada Olmito ($$)

Another one of our favorite places to stay in Canoa, Posada Olmito feels like the ultimate beachy getaway – just look at all that bamboo and the sandy beach bar!

While rooms are simple and a bit rustic, they totally fit with the laid-back vibe of this friendly hotel and hostel. The beachfront location is everything most travelers are looking for in a trip to Canoa; palapas and hammocks everywhere complete the vibe.

Reviews and Bookings: Posada Olmito

canoas wonderland
Courtesy of Hotel Canoa’s Wonderland

Hotel Canoa’s Wonderland ($$)

A perfect beach town mini-resort, Canoa Hotel Canoa’s Wonderland is one of the best spots in Canoa for relatively affordable private rooms with some great amenities in an excellent oceanfront location.

The hotel offers direct access to the beach and has a lovely swimming pool and plenty of space to spread out around the grounds. While the hotel is by no means a luxury place to stay, it offers everything you need for a perfect stay in Canoa: strong wifi, clean rooms, and pleasant service. Rates include breakfast and dinners.

Reviews and Bookings: Canoa Hotel Canoa’s Wonderland

Travel Essential

Don’t head out on your adventure without comprehensive travel insurance! Good travel insurance may cover lost or stolen gear, medical emergencies, delayed or canceled flights, and more. Check out the policies available from SafetyWing or compare plans using Visitors Coverage.

Places to Eat in Canoa, Ecuador

Cevicheria Saboreame ($)

Cevicheria Saboreame is absolutely the best kind of place to eat in Canoa – very local, very fresh, and very cheap. This is the best of Ecuadorian coastal cuisine, with the star of the show being the encocado de camarón – shrimp cooked in coconut milk. It’s worth traveling all the way from Quito just to enjoy this dish! Other favorites at this no-frills spot include fresh fish and seafood rice dishes.

Hotel Bambu Canoa ($$)

The beachfront restaurant at Hotel Bambu Canoa has been around for ages and is a particular favorite among dining options in Canoa. While it’s a bit more expensive than some of the more local “hole-in-the-wall” options around town, you’ll find much more variety here, with everything from burgers and vegetarian options to Ecuadorian dishes.

Surf Shak ($$)

Surf Shak has great seafood options but even better international food like burgers, pizza, and the like. Prices are a bit higher than other spots in town, but still quite fair. The opening dining room is great for breezes. They used to have really great trivia nights on Tuesdays, but drop by to check beforehand, as this might be dependent on seasonal travel trends.

things to do in canoa
Jess Kraft / Shutterstock

Getting to Canoa, Ecuador

Canoa can be a bit of a journey to get to, depending on where you’re traveling from in Ecuador. However, Canoa is quite well connected for such a small town, with direct bus service connecting it to Ecuador’s transportation hubs of Quito and Guayaquil, as well as nearby beach towns.

Quito to Canoa

There is frequent bus service between Quito and Canoa, with three different bus companies offering service between the cities (Reina del Camino, Coactur, and TransVencedores), departing from the Quitumbe bus terminal in the south of Quito.

Schedules change more or less frequently, with buses generally offered during the day and overnight. The journey generally takes about 7 or 8 hours, though night buses tend to be short.

Alternatively, skip the tiring overnight bus and fly from Quito to the coastal city of Manta. However, you’re still looking at over a two-hour drive from there, though you’ll skip the perilous descent from the Andes to the coastline.

Read More: Where to Stay in Quito + Best Quito Neighborhoods

Guayaquil to Canoa

The bus journey from Guayaquil, Ecuador’s “coastal capital” to Canoa is much less tiring, and you’ll find more service options from the same three bus companies that offer service from Quito. The journey lasts between 5-6 hours and really isn’t too bad. You’ll also find more taxi and private car options from Guayaquil if you’d rather skip the bus altogether.

Read More: Guayaquil, Ecuador: Ultimate Traveler’s Guide

carley rojas avila

Carley Rojas Avila is a bilingual New York-based travel writer, editor, content marketer, and the founder of the digital travel publications Explorers Away and Home to Havana. Carley is an expert on all things Latin America, the Caribbean, and Cuba, having lived and worked in four different countries in the region. Her writing has appeared on the Associated Press wires and in Travel + Leisure, Yahoo, MSN, Euronews, The Weather Channel, and more. When she's not writing about her travels, find her front row at a Bad Bunny concert, befriending street cats, and taste-testing every pizza in Havana.