The road wound north up Ecuador’s Pacific coast, twisting between the dense, wooded slopes on the right and the glinting infinity of the ocean on the left.
We had just pulled out of a perfect…and perfectly deserted…half-moon cove where sand and surf played lazy tag between rock-boned headlands. After driving just a few more minutes north, our driver again turned off the coastal highway and again we dropped into another beach scene lifted straight from a tropical postcard.
“Tasaste,” our driver said.
Tasaste is a beachcomber’s dream of tan sand and gentle surf, although not deserted like many of the other coves we visited that day. Tasaste has a small concession area and restaurant next to a cabana built in the shape of a giant sea turtle where locals can while away their days near the ocean with cold beer and fried fish.
We kept driving north, turning off the coastal highway here and there to poke onto gravel roads and dirt tracks ending in coves hidden from the rest of the world by steep hills and jutting headlands. One after another. Places to relax. Places to get lost. Places to forget the rest of the world even exists.
To say that this stretch of Ecuador’s northern Pacific coast is “undiscovered” is true only from one point of view. The fishermen and farmers who live here have always known about it… but it has certainly been undiscovered by the casual traveler, and even by most city-dwelling Ecuadorians.
Until recently the only way to reach this cove-dotted getaway was a bone-jarring, days-long drive from either of Ecuador’s largest metropolitan areas. Only the hardiest of Ecuadorian vacationers, or those whose families originally came from the area, would hazard the trip.
But those days are quickly coming to an end. Two new highways and a modern bridge have recently made this area accessible to day-trippers, weekenders, and people looking for that perfect beach home… not just locals, but expats from all over the world.
And the beach homes are coming. Several new residential projects have already sprung up in a couple of the nicest coves along this coast. Over-development is a possibility, but the very thing that makes this area so desirable also works to stall the kind of sprawling, chock-a-block, uncontrolled development that has ruined so many other beach destinations.
The coast is winding and the coves are isolated by their guardian headlands and densely wooded back hills. Even if it were possible to build a residential development on each and every one, each and every one would still feel like the only place on earth once you arrived. Nothing but the forest behind, the cliffs on either side, and the vast Pacific in front.
And as people arrive and projects go up, prices are rising… slowly right now, because it will take a few years for the new highways to become popular and familiar routes from the cities. Land and construction prices, once jaw-droppingly low, are inching up…but still extremely affordable compared to any other like-for-like beach destination in the world.
Prices will continue to go up, of course, and some day they may reach the level that these pristine bays and beaches could rightfully command.
But that is years away. Right now it’s still possible to drive along this coast and think of California in the 1930s, not only in terms of scenery, but in lack of development and prices as well.
A place to relax…to get lost…to forget that the rest of the world exists.
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