advertisement

Most of the activity here focuses on the sand and sea. In addition to swimming and sunbathing, there are plenty of waterborne activities. Most of the beach resorts have their own watersports equipment; if yours doesn't, you'll have no trouble finding someone renting out sailboards, Hobie Cats, windsurfers, jet skis, and the like. The beach of this large, curving bay is made of a rather coarse golden sand. All along the shore you'll find beach umbrellas, portable shade cabanas, and chaise lounges for rent. A beach umbrella and two chaise lounges should cost you $10 (£6.65) per day. The best stretch of beach is Playa Chipipe, which starts just beyond the Salinas Yacht Club and runs roughly west from there.

Surfers will want to head out to the far western end of the peninsula, which is also called La Chocolatera. This is a naval-base territory, and you will have to ask permission to enter (it's almost always granted). Several shops along the Malecón rent out surf and body boards, and offer lessons. Board rentals run from $3 to $9 (£2-£6) per hour, depending upon the quality of the equipment. Lessons cost around $6 to $10 (£4-£6.65) per hour.

Even if you're not a surfer, it's worth going out to La Chocolatera to take in the view. The point here is the westernmost point of land on South America. And, during the whale season, I've sometimes seen whales swimming just offshore.

If you want to go sport fishing, head to the Puerto Lucía Yacht Club (tel. 04/2783-190; www.puertolucia.com.ec), on the waterfront between Salinas and La Libertad); or contact Pesca Tours (tel. 04/2402-504), which has an office on the Malecón and Calle 20. Offshore fishing provides good opportunities to catch black and blue marlin, sailfish, albacore tuna, and a whole host of other big game fish. Rates run from $240 to $800 (£160-£535) per day for up to four people, depending upon the size and quality of the boat, and how far offshore you go.

The small Museo de Ballenas (Whale Museum; tel. 04/2778-329; www.femm.org) features an interesting collection of exhibits about the biology and natural history of whales and dolphins. The centerpiece of the museum is a 12m (39-ft.) complete skeleton of a humpback whale. They also have partial and complete skeletons and skulls of other species, as well as explanatory materials in both English and Spanish. The museum is located on Avenida General Enriques Gallo, between calles 47 and 50. The museum is open daily from 10am until 5pm, but it's wise to call in advance because they often close if there aren't many visitors. Admission is free, but a donation is requested.

The Museo Salinas Siglo 21 (Salinas 21st Century Museum; tel. 04/2771-279) is another option, with a collection of local maritime relics and displays, including coins recovered from the wreck of a Spanish galleon that sank in 1664. This museum also has a good collection of regional archaeological finds of the Valdivia, Machalilla, and Chorrera peoples dating back as far as 4200 B.C. Located on the Malecón, between calles Guayas and Quil, the museum is open Wednesday through Sunday from 10am to 1pm and from 3 to 6pm. Admission is $2 (£1.35).

June through September, the waters off Salinas are a fantastic place to spot humpback whales. Most hotels offer whale-watching excursions, or you can contact Costa Tour (tel. 04/2770-095 or 09/7544-444) or Pesca Tours (tel. 04/2402-504). When the whales aren't around, the above operations can arrange simple half-day, full-day, and sunset cruises or sailboat outings.

Finally, bird-watchers will definitely want to head to Ecuasal (tel. 04/2325-666), a private salt company. Ecuasal's vast salt flats -- where salt is harvested by evaporation from shallow pools -- are a primary feeding and resting ground for a number of resident and migratory species. In fact, over 130 species have been identified here. Ecuasol has built a bird-watching tower in the midst of their 1,300 hectares (3,212 acres) of salt flats. The stars of the show are the Chilean flamingos. Anyone wanting to do some bird-watching here should contact Benjamin Haase (tel. 04/2778-329; bhaase@ecua.net.ec), a leading naturalist guide, who also runs the Whale Museum.

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.