Only 30 minutes from the capital of Manabí we arrive at a beach and an estuary destination. It is surrounded by amazing nature, an all-encompassing relaxing atmosphere by the sea and delicious food.
Between Crucita and San Jacinto, where both beaches end, the Portoviejo River flows into the waters of the Pacific Ocean. It is in this division where one of the most important ecosystems in the region lies. La Boca is a mega-diverse mangrove swamp, located in Las Gilces commune. Here, navigating through its waters, our adventure begins.
On the shores of this estuary, colorful boats proudly boast the Manabi flag on their decks. This is the only mode of transportation to enter the dense mangrove terrain, which, unlike the sea, takes us away from the visions of sand and beach. However, both coexist in perfect contrast and harmony.
Pascual Cobeña, the driver of our boat, was born in the San Jacinto commune. San Jacinto and three other communes are part of the “Portoviejo River” estuary community. While we sort our luggage, Pascual shows us his identification. He is a certified guide. He knows the routes, he knows the birds, he is ready to show us around. “You have to go with people who know. Although it may not seem like it, the current does pull,” he says.
We only need to enter the body of water a couple of meters and the show begins: birds peek around every corner, forcing us to go slowly to appreciate and identify them. Here, we can find several types of herons and they come in all sizes and colors. There’s also sandpipers, ibises, stilts, frigate birds and pelicans that have chosen to settle their most numerous colonies in this ecosystem. In addition to the fauna, the flora is also special. Four types of mangroves grow here: red, white, black and gray, all of which purify the river waters. Pascual remembers a time when even houses were built out of mangrove material. Now it is forbidden and the area is protected.
An activity that is allowed in this protected area is crab fishing. Carlos Vietra, a local fisherman, travels by raft with his wife to collect them. The traps are made of iron and on a good fishing day he will catch between forty and fifty crabs.
During the summer, the tide is usually higher but it won’t prevent people from walking along the beach to reach the next destinations on foot. Of course, it will be a nice workout.
It takes about thirty minutes to walk to the commune of Las Gilces, where you can enjoy a delicious lunch or breakfast overlooking the sea. The always fresh seafood and the unmistakable seasoning of the place are a great combination to enjoy a day at the beach. We recommend the wide array of dishes with locally harvested peanuts.
Inside the commune, you can find Las Gilces Environmental Interpretation Center, a place to learn with local guides the importance and development of the area. It has five dynamic and didactic interpretive stations where the importance of the Portoviejo River estuary is thoroughly explained.
The calm beaches of Las Gilces, accompanied by good weather and nothing but the sound of the waves, is a good place to rest for a moment… or even to take the whole afternoon off. But you can also continue to Crucita. We recommend the bus that runs along the main road from La Boca. The ride to the main boardwalk takes about fifteen minutes.
On the golden beach, there are two options: pure relaxation or adventure, with everything at hand to fully enjoy them. If you choose the latter, there is a range of water activities to pick from. The most popular one is perhaps “la banana”, an inflatable raft shaped like the fruit, attached to a speedboat. Another favorite one is “la bestia”, a similar concept to la banana but with a circular shape, which creates even bigger waves. Finally, another great activity is parasailing, a kite for one or two people that, unlike the other two options, does not float over the ocean, but rather flies in the air.
To relax, walk along the wide beach and its boardwalk. Enjoy a refreshing slushie or rent a tent to rest on the sand and protect yourself from the sun. Crucita is well known for the colorful tents that paint the landscape with color.
It should go without saying, but here the gastronomy is delicious. From seafood casseroles, ceviches, viches, shrimp rice and seafood of all kinds. A favorite of ours is Rimini Bar, a restaurant where you can taste all these delicacies. Héctor Núñez, the manager, offers the best seasoning for local and international tourists who never cease to be surprised and return to the place during their holidays.
Isabel is another great place to taste Crucita’s cuisine, the famous “El Crucitazo” dish contains all the seafood available and caught in the surroundings. But you can also go to some of the classics – Las Gaviotas and Alas Delta – where the seafood platters are a hit. Or you may want to venture out and try the fried camotillo (a fish), a specialty at Yolita or Aloha.
To finish off the afternoon, there is no better option than a panoramic view to truly understand why this beach is known as “La Bella” – the beautiful. At the end of the boardwalk you can access La Loma, a restaurant and an airfield. The view from Crucita is wonderful. It can be windy, so we recommend bringing a light coat. With some luck, you will be able to fly and do some paragliding. Flights are available 365 days a year at the times indicated by certified guides. For the locals, this is the perfect spot to fly.
And so, with the horizon as our landscape, the day comes to an end in this Portoviejo beach.