The north and central coast of Ecuador  is the road less traveled. While it does not have the “wow” factor of Caribbean or Brazilian beaches, this is the most scenic part of the coast.
If you make your way through the uninviting larger towns, you’ll be rewarded with stays in isolated fishing villages with beautiful beaches, some of which are developing into backpacker hubs.
Esmeraldas Province gets nearly 300 centimeters of rain per year, and the northern coast is considerably wetter than the south. While this causes problems with flooding in the rainy season, it also makes the region more beautiful, with verdant vegetation backing the beaches.
The tropical dry forests of Manabí Province turn into rainforest farther north and inland, and despite deforestation, much of it can be explored on day trips and overnight stays from the beach resorts. The best area for this by far is Machalilla National Park  in Manabí.
On the shore, in addition to long sandy stretches there are interesting tours to areas of mangroves that have escaped the clutches of shrimp farming. On the beaches, the region has several excellent surf spots—notably Canoa  and Mompiche .
The coast has cultural attractions as well as natural beauty. Ecuador’s oldest advanced culture, the Valdivia, can be traced back to 3500 B.C. in the south of Manabí, along with the Manteña-Huancavilca culture, which flourished until the Spanish conquest. Manabí is dotted with museums and archaeological sites from Salango and Agua Blanca  to Montecristi and Bahía de Caráquez  farther north. Esmeraldas is home of the vibrant Afro-Ecuadorian culture, people descended from escaped slaves who landed here in the 16th century. They lived isolated for many years and have preserved many traditions of music and dance.
Mosquitoes are a problem on the northern coast, so carry plenty of repellant and consider bringing your own mosquito net. The sun is very strong, so sunblock, a hat, and sunglasses are obligatory. More importantly, the northern coast is sadly one of Ecuador ’s worst regions for crime. Muggings are common, particularly in Atacames. Don’t walk alone on the beach at night, and single women should take particular care.
Note that the areas north toward the Colombian border, including San Lorenzo, are notoriously lawless and should be avoided completely. Pickpockets and theft on public transportation and from hotel rooms is also common, so keep your wits about you.