ESMERALDAS is the largest industrial port on the north coast and capital of Esmeraldas province, whose economy is mainly driven by an oil refinery at nearby Puerto Balao, which links up to the Trans-Andean oil pipeline, snaking 500km from the Oriente. Despite the city’s shaky infrastructure and the slums that fester on the hillsides fringing the centre, serranos are still drawn here by the lively atmosphere and beaches at Las Palmas, an upmarket suburb at the north end of town, where the city’s bars, discos and the more expensive hotels and restaurants are found.

The tree-filled parque central is the focal point of this city of 125,000, and bustles with street vendors, shoeshiners and fruit-juice sellers. The town’s only real attraction is the Museo del Banco Central, in a sprightly new building on the corner of Bolívar and Piedrahita, housing a good collection of regional pre-Columbian artefacts, particularly the wonderfully expressive ceramics of the La Tolita culture. The Centro Cultural Afro-Indio-Americano on Montalvo and Maldonado is where to find out more about Afro-Ecuadorian culture and history. The busy market, a block west of the Apart Hotel Esmeraldas, is an education in exotic fruits. The biggest city fiesta is the Independence of Esmeraldas on August 5, which includes dancing, processions and an agricultural fair, while around Carnaval there’s the Festival Internacional de Música y Danza Afro, held on Las Palmas beach, featuring marimba players, and traditional Afro-Hispano-American music and dance.

Travel offers; book through Rough Guides

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 trainin…

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

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month