The main attraction in town is the Museo de Arqueología Regional (Museum of Regional Archeology; tel. 06/2727-078; admission $1/65p; Tues-Fri 9am-5pm, Sat-Sun 10am-4pm). Housed in the Centro Cultural Esmeraldas (Esmeraldas Cultural Center), which also has a small library, bookshop, and gift store, this modern museum's collection features over 500 pieces of ceramic, bone, gold, and iron. There's a good selection of pieces from the La Tolita indigenous group.
The main beach area of Esmeraldas proper is Las Palmas, located 3.2km (2 miles) north of town. The beach is a long, broad stretch of brown sand, which usually has gentle waves and is good for swimming. The seaside Malecón here is packed with simple open-air restaurants and bars. During Esmeraldas's annual Carnaval, which celebrates the town's Afro-Ecuadorean heritage, Las Palmas is ground zero for some impressive revelry. Each year the celebrations coincide with the locally produced Festival Internacional de Música y Danza Afro (International Festival of African Music and Dance), and feature dancing in the streets, organized parades, and marimba band competitions. As with other Carnaval and Mardi Gras celebrations around the world, Esmeraldas's Carnaval occurs each year in the period prior to Lent.
Warning: In October 2008, a pair of U.S. tourists were assaulted on a quiet section of beach in Esmeraldas. The assault received international attention because of the brutality involved -- the victim was stabbed some 20 times -- and the fact that the attack occurred midday.
If you want to do any organized tours, check in with your hotel desk or contact Delgado Travel (tel. 06/2723-723), Calle Sucre 627 and Calle Cañizares, a large, national tour agency. Possible tours include sport fishing, whale- and dolphin-watching, and visits to La Tolita and the mangrove forests of the Cayapas Mataje Ecological Reserve.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.