Santa Marianita, Ecuador
Girmantas | Surfing, Kitesurfing, Spots | July 30, 2010
Beautiful Latin country Ecuador is divided to four main touristic areas. Galapagos islands are famous for its incredible variety of flora and fauna. Islands are also well known for surfers who usually visit other great, famous surfing spots on the Ecuador coast. Rolling hills on the coast merge with Andes Cordilleras. Incredibly green and beautiful mountains, great number of volcanoes (some is still active nowadays) and moon-like surfaces close to the furthest point from the center of the Earth separates west of Ecuador from the Oriente on the East. Mountain rivers brings their water to the mother Amazon through steep waterfalls and dense jungle. Ecuador is proud to have full variety of landscape and different activities including windsurfing and kitesurfing.
However, wind sports are not as popular in Ecuador. First wind/kite-surfers came to Ecuador in the late 90′s and the first schools were started six years ago. While Ecuador coast is famous for the waves, wind area lasts only for a few kilometers around Manta – tuna capital of the world. Manta fishermen cut the trees in surrounding areas for the boats and production boxes. This created deserted piece of land that contrasts with forests and create the wind here, in Santa Marianita bay. Since this area spread is only for 20 kilometers, locals say that’s the one and only place in Ecuador for the wind sports.
The main airports in Quito (UIO) and Guayaquil (GYE) have a decent range of connections to the main European and American airports. Guayaquil is said to be the biggest city in Ecuador. It is also the main sea port for Ecuador. Since it’s already on the coast, minibus ride to Manta takes only 3-4 hours. It’s also possible to take your equipment on the roof of the bus. On the other hand travel to/from Quito is a bit more complicated. Quito is located in the highlands, so the bus ride to Manta takes more than 10 hours. The ride is very nice and bus is visiting a lot of local towns and villages on the way. But for a traveler bringing sports gear, we recommend to take a local flight from Quito to Manta (UIO-MEC, $70-100 USD one way).
The morning flight views are simply incredible. Quito is one of the highest capitals in the world, with an altitude of 2800 m. Right after the take-off plane flies over the colonial city surrounded by volcanoes. It is worth to take the plane only to experience the rising sun. Right after short snack and a cup of coffee you reach Manta. From here to Santa Marianita – only 15-20 km. Taxi costs $8-10 USD one way. For the travelers with the sport gear we recommend to contact the local schools before the trip. Usually they can pick you up from the airport.
Firstly Santa Marianita can be divided to “new” and “old” parts. The new has already been touched by the civilization brush. Concrete entrenchments and oversized villas drastically change the landscape. Two hostels “Maresol” and “Donkey Den” are located at the beachfront on this end of the town. “Maresol” is the biggest hotel in Santa Marianita, however their rooms are average and service has a lot of room for improvement. It’s hard to get around there without speaking Spanish, since you have to ask for everything – from room cleaning through soap or toilet paper. There is no English speaking staff except the hotel owner who is not necessarily around. “Donkey Den” – another hostel in this part of the village. It is being developed much nicer. American owner Linda combined highest class rooms with kitchen on the first floor and basic youth hostel on the second floor. However, our stay here was not the best experience, so if you want to avoid any unnecessary intrigues, be sure that Linda is in the hostel herself during your stay.
Austrian Kite Casa is in between the new and old Santa Marianita. Austrian order and friendly hosts are ready to accommodate you in nice basic rooms. Despite the fact that second floor is still under construction – we strongly recommend a beachfront room with huge window. That’s gonna be a bestseller. Just a few days ago, further south, merged into old fishermen village, the Ecuadorian Kitehouse was finished. The place seems to be simply the best. The place owner Paul Menta is professional kiteboarder. Combined work and life experience helped him to create a perfect place for other athletes. Cozy atmosphere, waves rolling in front of the house and huge terrace to chill-out and watch the whales – that’s all you need for great holidays.
Nightlife in the village is limited to few restaurants and drinking beer on roadside. Manta has some bigger dance parties and it’s easy to get there. For the best food experience we strongly recommend small blue restaurant in front of the Kitehouse. For a great dinner here, including seafood soup and a couple of beers, you would expect to pay $10-15 USD. Friendly owner Arturo will not only astonish you with his cooking skills, but also will be a great conversation companion. In the other restaurants you’ll be rather surprised with the prices, but not the kitchen. On the other hand, small outdoor tents built on the beach during weekends has a great opportunity to have a quick snack in between sailing sessions. Food isn’t something very special, but no doubts about the quality.
Wind and waves
Despite the fact, that wind is created in Santa Marianita locally, just like any other thermal wind – it requires sunny weather. Unfortunately when hurricanes form further in the North, low pressure front brings clouds over Santa Marianita bay and the wind is simply switched off. During our stay some big hurricanes were active on the North Pacific, so most of the time it was cloudy and the wind was light. On the other hand, on those days when the sun was coming out – wind was blowing well over 20 knots.
With the sunny conditions change in Santa Marianita drastic. It’s not only good for the kitesurfing, but also enough for windsurfing on smaller sails. Water area is open ocean, some swell and a bit choppy. For a few days we have got some nice head high swell too. The main beach has some beach break, that is not too difficult even for beginners. Few hundred meters upwind lays a rocky reef which creates nice but short right-handed break that mostly works for surfing and much longer left-hander that works for kiting and windsurfing.
Even though conditions were not very special during our stay in Santa Marianita – it is definitely a good place for those willing to improve in kitesurfing. Long and wide beach is perfect for beginners. Nice, long and clean waves are perfect for improving your waveriding skills. Also Ecuador is great destination for those willing to feel different culture, visit some volcanoes, get lost in a jungle or simply have a cup of coffee in colonial architecture city. It’s not only about sailing and there’s a lot of things to do and see.