From La Libertad, a paved road runs 137km up the coast to Puerto Cayo – a stretch promoted as the Ruta del Sol, offering fantastic views of long, empty beaches and passing a string of modest fishing villages and resorts. At Puerto Cayo, a branch of the highway heads inland to the unremarkable town of Jipijapa, while a new coastal road continues to Manta. Along the Ruta del Sol sit the moderately interesting archeological museum at Valdivia and the attractive little seaside village of Manglaralto; most visitors give these a miss and head straight for laid-back Montañita, a favourite with surfers and a rapidly growing backpackers’ beach hangout. A little further north, the dry, featureless landscape gives way to lush vegetation as you enter the Cordillera Chongón-Colonche, where the road veers inland from the coast through thickly wooded hills. The next gringo stop is Alandaluz, an ecologically focused resort, while further north Puerto López is a base for whale-watching trips (June–Sept) and visits to the Parque Nacional Machalilla, which takes in a major tract of tropical dry forest, fabulous beaches and the Isla de la Plata – favoured by bird lovers as a cheaper alternative to the Galápagos Islands.

Getting to the various points along the Ruta del Sol is easy on the many buses running up and down the coastal highway. In high season (Jan–April) there are regular direct services from Guayaquil to Montañita and Olón. Otherwise, there are frequent year-round services from La Libertad to Puerto López (continuing to Manta, beyond), stopping at all the villages en route; Puerto López can also be reached on direct year-round services from Guayaquil, as well as from Manta or Jipijapa, north of the town.

Book through Rough Guides’ trusted travel partners

Ecuador features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

15 things everyone learns backpacking South America

15 things everyone learns backpacking South America

South America has become a favoured destination for the intrepid backpacker, and while it’s impressive in the astounding diversity of its nations, there are a…

02 Mar 2016 • Steph Dyson insert_drive_file Article
19 places for a digital detox

19 places for a digital detox

Find peace at Buddhist monastery, Nepal Trim out the religious and/or mystical connotations and Buddhism boils down to something quite simple – brain trai…

14 Nov 2014 • Neil McQuillian camera_alt Gallery
Things to do in Ecuador beyond the Galápagos

Things to do in Ecuador beyond the Galápagos

There's so much more to Ecuador than just the Galápagos. Chitra Ramaswamy went on her own voyage of discovery to find the best things to do in Ecuador, beyond …

07 Nov 2014 • Chitra Ramaswamy insert_drive_file Article
View more featureschevron_right

Weekly newsletter

Sign up now for travel inspiration, discounts and competitions

Sign up now and get 20% off any ebook