Who’s the fairest of them all? Santa Marianita? Who could actually award this prize to “the prettiest beach”? The queen’s mirror? The inveterate surfer? Ñan magazine? Davo, of course, would say that the prettiest beach is his beach. But he is, however, critical. “Sometimes it gets too crowded and people don’t always clean after themselves.” His eternal smile do not go well with words. But it is, however, a criticism.
I have walked the entire length and width of the beach for three days now and it is very likely the cleanest beach town, with bamboo kiosks and hundreds of weekend visitors, I have seen. And I have seen many of these towns and many of these beaches, from remote sites like Playa Rosada, which is not as clean as it used to be, to Los Frailes. Of course, Frailes is a protected site with no tourism activity after 4 pm. Santa Marianita, on the other hand, receives hundreds of people.
Constructions (houses and buildings) have multiplied in the last four years. “There are more than ten houses being built right now,” reveals Judith Fausten. She is Canadian, wife of Peter Fausten, a German-born Canadian, and they rent apartments at their comfortable residential complex (with pool and all the amenities). There is no doubt that if you want comfort, you should call, although there are a good half dozen places to stay in town. And if you want a romantic place in forest, you can also check out Pacoche Lodge.
Davo (David Hidalgo), for his part, is eager to build his own cabins. He owns one of the most important spots (and companies) of this beach: Ocean Freaks. More than fifteen years ago, when he was only a teenager, he began a dream, one that today is full throttle: making Santa Marianita the capital of kiteboarding.
A few kilometers from the forest of Pacoche and only twenty minutes from the megacity of Manta, Santa Marianita is a parenthesis along the waterfront, not only because it is a hidden town behind the hills that line the main highway down the Coast, but because its cove is filled with sublime winds. It is the only cove with such sublime winds in South America. Sublime especially for kiteboarding.
What to do in Santa Marianita
Santa Marianita is a beautiful beach where you can hang out and do many fun things:
– Learn to kiteboard with Ocean Freaks or Humboldt Kites (3-5 days of training)
– Practice other sea sports such as paddle boarding or surfing.
– Visit La Tiñosa beach at medium tide.
– Walk the Pacoche Reserve (where the attraction is howler monkeys!)
– Explore the nearby villages of Las Piñas, San Lorenzo or Ligüiqui
– Eat well: good pizza at Ecua-blue and delicious Manabí treats at Ocean Freaks.
Follow the OceanFreaks channel on Instagram and Facebook. They organize events, special trips and tours (including diving).
For someone like me, who has never kiteboarded in my life— although Davo insists it would only take me three days— the activity offers this small beach town a canvas of mesmerizing proportions.
The kites become a constellation of intensely colored dots, animated against the sky, one of the sunniest in the country. Especially when we went up to eat at the Ocean Freaks restaurant/balcony. Eda, Davo’s mother from the inland town of Chone—with decades of experience in restaurants and to-die-for cooking skills—prepares from mixed ‘viche’ soups to a delectable octopus in garlic.
The view of the horizon sneaks deeply into our pupils. One can watch the spectacle for hours. While athletes struggle with the wind and the waves, their kites and their harnesses, they look like the freest beings alive.
It’s whale season—we have already seen a family of whales nodding over the waves and spouting water from their blowholes—and kiteboarders can approach these wonderful creatures at only meters length. Just for that, maybe it’s worth the three days of kiteboarding training.
After lunch, and as the tide recedes, we walk about twenty minutes to the north beach: a true paradise. They call it “La Tiñosa”—its sculptural rocks add to the dramatic vision—a turquoise dream under the afternoon sun, a place to seek solace and the breadth of the ocean tide.
On the way back, at Ecua-blue (owned by another Canadian, because Canadians have made Santa Marianita their prettiest beach) we ask for pizza and are utterly surprised at how good it is (the secret is apparently in the yeast: they import it from Canada).
Tomorrow is Monday, anyhow. That means I will have the town to myself, with the few kiteboard kids that will surely not miss a single opportunity to go out to the water, offering me their show while I drink a cold beer and enjoy a classic ceviche mixto (Eda opens every day). Everything will return to its original peace at this beach, which will certainly reflect its beautiful colors into the say, as if saying, yes, it’s me.