As an Ecuadorian, Jazmin grew up going to the beaches of Santa Elena, Ecuador. Santa Elena is a coastal province just north of Guayaquil, Jaz’s hometown. Its main attractions are of its beaches, of course! It has so many different beaches to enjoy including Salinas, Punta Carnero, Playa Rosada, Olón and the famous Montañita.
We were invited by the tourism board of Santa Elena to explore, in one day, some of the hidden gems it has to offer. We had a full day discovering the province, visiting different museums and ending our visit at a breathtaking viewpoint. If you do not have a car you can always hire a tour that takes you to Salinas and Ballenita.
The best things to do in Santa Elena:
1. Visit San Birtute
We started our visit in Scachún, where the San Birtute statue is located. According to the natives legend, if it did not rain during the first days of winter, the farmers would bark at San Biritute, blow up small rations of gunpowder in his body and threaten him with fire. If done correctly, it would rain and the crops grew.
Legend also says that women with problems conceiving would rub their naked body on the stone before heading home to their husband. Just like that the woman became pregnant.
We learned more about the statue and were welcomed by the locals with a delicious homemade breakfast. There is a delicious cheese, which they are known for as well as cheese empanadas and some bread with milk or coffee.
2. Visit the Amantes de Sumpa Museum
After breakfast we visited the Amantes de Sumpa Museum. It is a archaeological museum where the skeletons of two human from the Las Vegas culture were found. The skeletons date back approximately 5000 to 7000 years. They have found different skeletons from the same time.
We learned a lot about the Vegas culture, one of the first in South America to practice agriculture, as well as visiting an old farm house.
The museum is free and open from Tuesday to Sundays from 8:00 am to 17:00 pm. The tour includes a guide and it takes about 75 minutes.
3. Stay at the León Ricaurte
We visited an interesting Museo Casaleon Bed and Breakfast which is also a private museum and the home of an amazing artist, León Ricaurte. In this small museum you will find archaeological ruins from the Engoroy cultures dating back from 800BCE to 800CE. It is a beautiful boutique hotel with a beautiful beach and gorgeous views. Each room is decorated in its own unique way.
If you plan to visit the free museum you need to contact them in advance to make reservations.
We stopped for lunch at the Hotel Punta Mar in Libertad, the biggest city in the province. It has a stunning view, delicious food and is the only four star hotel in the region. It has been the host of the Miss Ecuador pageant and other important events.
4. Take a bunch of photos at the La Chocolatera
To finish the day we visited the most beautiful view of the peninsula, the Chocolatera. Located inside the Naval Base of Salinas, this viewpoint is free to enter. At this point two ocean currents converge, pushing the sand up from the bottom, giving the water a chocolate tone, hence its name.
The viewpoint “El Mirador” is perfect to see the whole city of Salinas and the Pacific Ocean along the coast. You can walk down the path to see more beautiful spots. In La Loberia you can see sea lions on the rocks as the waves crashes below the wooden boardwalk.
It is a must visit in la peninsula as the perfect place to hike and enjoy a beautiful sunset. Depending on the time of year you can also see fragatas and blue footed boobies.
It is open daily from 6AM to 7PM. There is a small tour available to learn more about the park.
As the day came to a close it was back on the bus to head home to Guayaquil.