The turning for Muisne off the Vía del Pacífico is at El Salto, a collection of grimy roadside stalls, shacks and comedores, 11km to the east. From El Salto, the main road speeds south for 56km through land dotted with only the odd stilt hut, passing a turn-off to Mompiche (Km27) and then Chamanga (San José de Chamanga in full, 2km from the main road), from where there is regular transport to Pedernales.
Beyond Chamanga and into Manabí, the province of the central seaboard, the climate and scenery soon change from the lush greenery of Esmeraldas to an increasingly dry, scrubby landscape. South of Pedernales is a sparsely populated area of small settlements, the largest being Jama, 45km down the road, and a rolling shoreline interspersed with deserted beaches and the occasional secluded hotel. A further 41km away, after turning inland past shrimp farms and through agricultural land, the road rejoins the coast at Canoa, an attractive beach resort with good surfing. The beaches continue south from here for almost 20km down to San Vicente, a bustling town opposite the high-rises of Bahía de Caráquez, across the Río Chone estuary.
Down the coast from Jama and sitting at the upper end of a huge beach extending 17km south to San Vicente is CANOA, which has shifted from sleepy fishing village to laid-back beach resort, thanks largely to its fantastic surf and clean sands. With only a single paved street linking its shaded square to the sea, the town’s low-level hubbub is submerged under the continuous roar of breakers rising and falling on the shore.
It’s a lovely place to relax, with long, empty expanses of coastline and ample waves for surfing (good from Dec–April, best Jan–Feb; many hotels have boards for rent). At low tide you can take a horse ride or a walk to the sandy cliffs rising up through the haze in the north, where there’s a cave to explore; it’s best done with a local guide for safety. Trips to the Río Muchacho Organic Farm can be arranged at their office on 30 de Noviembre and Javier Santos, the second street on the right if walking up the main street from the beach.