West from Santa Elena towards Salinas, a roadside petrol refinery signals your arrival in LA LIBERTAD, the largest town on the peninsula and the site of a busy produce market. With its untidy streets and unattractive beach, there’s no reason to stop off here other than to catch a connecting bus (every 30min during daylight hours) north up the coast road, the Ruta del Sol, from the bus station on Avenida 8 and Calle 17, Barrio Eloy Alfaro. Other destinations are serviced by bus companies from their offices in the town centre clustered near 9 de Octubre and Guayaquil: Coop Libertad Peninsular and CICA run alternate buses to Guayaquil (every 15min; 2hr 30min); and Trans Esmeraldas has three nightly buses to Quito (10hr).
Five kilometres south of La Libertad – but reached by a longer, more circuitous road branching off the highway a few kilometres west of town – is the infinitely more appealing PUNTA CARNERO, a lonely, windswept promontory commanding superb views of the fifteen-kilometre stretch of beach flanking it. Pounding waves and strong currents make swimming at the beach unadvisable, but this is still a fabulous place to treat yourself to sun and solitude.