Esmeraldas - Ecuador's "Green Province"
Esmeraldas is located on Ecuador’s northwestern coast and is also called the Green Province. Esmeraldas has a very favorable climate all year round that ranges from about 21 to 25 degrees Celsius. The beaches and the Cayapas-Mataje Ecological Reserve are arguably the main attraction of Esmeraldas.
Esmeraldas is also the capital of the province. It is one of Ecuador’s main ports and the terminal for the nation’s petroleum pipeline. It also has a domestic airport with many connecting flights available to Cali and Colombia.
Atacames is probably the place in Esmeraldas that attracts the most visitors. It is an all-year-round tourist resort and is located just 30km from the city center. Atacames has a well- developed tourist infrastructure and a wide selection of seaside restaurants and bars, which makes it a great beach destination for relaxing. Atacames is also a great place for an affordable shopping spree; the crafts markets sell beautiful handicrafts, jewelry and coral products which can be bought for a nice present or a souvenir.
The Cayapas-Mataje ecological reserve, located in the northern Esmeraldas, is extensive and spectacular. The main feature of Cayapas-Mataje is the El Majagual Forest, where the world’s tallest mangroves grow. It is impressive to see their huge roots intertwined in marshland and creeks.
The most exciting time to visit Esmeraldas is during the first five days of August when the city shuts down its usual activities and transforms into one massive party celebrating its independence. During the day parades featuring cowboys, high school bands and military platoons liven up the streets before a throng of onlookers, while at night dozens of block parties erupt with frenetic revelry.
Keep in mind that Esmeraldas is generally safe for tourists; so many local people have come to depend on tourism for their income that there is growing community concern for visitors' wellbeing. If you ask questions, most people will give you correct information and advise you on how to reach your destination. If you are worried about buses and taxis, many Esmeraldas hotels have organizations that can arrange for dependable, inexpensive transportation. Also, most rural communities have reliable local guides that can be hired for excursions.