Bahía de Caráquez, one of the stops on the Spondylus Trail


When we think of ecotourism, Latin America is one of the first destinations that comes to mind. And now with Ecuador ramping up its ecotourism initiative with the development of the Spondylus Trail, there’s even more reason to explore this part of the world.

The Spondylus Trail

The Spondylus Trail is part of one of the most important tourism projects in Ecuador and is expected to be the key to tourism development of the country’s Pacific Coast.

The Ruta del Spondylus (or Spondylus Route) interlinks attractions in Ecuador’s coastal region, including important historical and archaeological sites, water sports and activities (surfing, fishing, whale-watching, kayaking), agro-tourism (visits to banana and cacao plantations, shrimp farms, etc.) and large nature reserves, where visitors can enjoy bird-watching.

The route was developed in 2008 by the Ministry of Tourism as part of its Strategic Plan for Sustainable Tourism Development, PLANDETUR 2020. The route also links Ecuador’s coastal region to Peru and retraces the coastal Inca trail. “Spondylus” is a type of seashell that was traded by the Valdivia people—a pre-Colombian community known for its advanced sailing skills. These people initially set up trading routes along the coast as far south as Chile and Mexico in the North.

The Spondylus Trail connects four objectives, each pertaining to product development and promotion, capacity building and infrastructure development.

The first is the restoration of value of the historical, cultural and archaeological heritage in relation to the ancient peoples and the place of the spondylus shell in their lives. The second is sustainable tourism, which involves the locals in conserving the environment as part of a corporate social responsibility. The third is to develop and provide services using the best management, business, environmental and social practices. And the last is the development of gastronomical and handicrafts activities in line with the traditions and special products of each province.

Where to Stay

Chirije Ecolodge has romantic bamboo cabins on a secluded beach in an area of pre-Inca archeological importance. There are five solar-powered bungalows, each meant for six people, with views of the Pacific Ocean and the surrounding forests. On the water’s edge, there are three larger cabins for group activities, hammocks and a restaurant that serves local cuisine.

The CasaGrande Oceanfront Boutique Hotelis the starting point for trips to all the tourist destinations in Bahía de Caraquez. A stay here is ideal for some delicious seafood while soothing your senses at the endless beaches, and for taking a step back to ancient cultures with the archaeological findings on display. This is also a great property for clients interested in a walk through a tropical dry forest rich in flora and fauna.

Contact Patricio Tamariz for reservations at either Chirije property at [email protected], or 011-593-9-9171935.


Chirije Ecolodge’s beachside bamboo cabins are built near an area of pre-Inca archaeological importance


El Faro Escandinavoat Cabo San Lorenzo has eight separate bungalows with either double or twin beds. The rooms have split air conditioning, running hot water and a terrace on a small roof. The bungalows are in a tropical garden, while the main building is on the seafront with a terrace leading out onto the beach. The main building houses areas to socialize, a bar and a dining room. While your clients can recline on sun beds by the pool, the property also has a faro, an observation platform where your clients can watch the whales or enjoy a drink at sunset. Agents should call 011-593-9-1122336 or e-mail [email protected].

Galapagos Safari Camp is a new camp resort comprising eight luxury safari-style tents. Onsite hiking, bird-watching and excursions to other parts of the island as well as neighboring islands for kayaking, snorkeling, scuba diving, guided nature walks and more can be arranged.

All tents have balconies with views of the park and the ocean. Guests can also gather by the fireplace in the main room to view the sunsets, taste the chef’s dishes that cater to an international palate in the dining room or enjoy the property’s infinity pool with great ocean views.


Hundreds of tour operators sell Ecuador. Some of the top sellers are Big Five, Gate 1, Goway, Collette Vacations, General Tours, GAP Adventures, Adventures Associates, Wildland Journeys, Pacific Holidays and Absolute Travel.

Ecotourism, including bird-watching and whale-watching, and visits to archaeological sites can be arranged with tour packages. A visit to Isla Corazon near Bahia de Caraquez—which has a bird colony larger than the one on Tower Island in the Galapagos—is recommended.

Getting There

The newest flight to Ecuador is on Aerogalvia Miami, which started in December 2008. And the airline announced last month a new daily service connecting Guayaquil and New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport. A Boeing 767 will reportedly fly the route, beginning December 7, although Aerogal does not currently have one in its fleet. Apart from Aerogal, the most popular flights from the U.S. are LAN Airlines and American Airlines via Miami, and Continental Airlines via Houston.


The Spondylus Trail is named after a seashell traded by a pre-Columbian community


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