Salinas, Ecuador is like any other big city on the beach that you might find in Florida or Hawaii or Australia – money meets small stretch of sand meets huge crowds.
It didn’t feel like the safest place on the Ruta del Sol either – not like Puerto Rico for example. There is an undeniable trace of ghetto that lurks a few blocks away from the main road, waiting to grab the unsuspecting tourist who strays too far in the wrong direction. An inflated number of police and private security guards, in a number I haven’t seen since Colombia, serve to deter anyone with intentions to harm Salina’s tourism industry.
Just an hour or so from Guayaquil, the majority of visitors here are from the rainy port city. Most are families that come down for the weekend, though yachts and 5-star hotels serve some of the country’s elite as well as newly married Ecuadorians (akin to going on Hawaii honeymoons for Americans).
On the first sunny day, we left the hotel and walked down the Malecón, the main road that splits the expensive high rises from the “beach”. Peeking over the edge of the sidewalk, I wondered where the beach actually was. The first stretch is covered in tiny broken shells, suitable for masochists and avid sea shell collectors.
Where the shards give way to a tolerable surface, families occupy every single grain of sand. To walk from the sidewalk to the ocean, you have to bob and weave in a zig-zag fashion in a way Floridian kids are taught to escape an alligator.
Advertising companies take advantage of the huge consumer presence by printing their brand on everything. Tents sheltering families from the harsh sun are marked with advertisements for electrodomesticos and beer.
The most obnoxious advertising award goes to Pingüino, a popular ice cream producer whose slogan is compartiendo felicidad, or sharing happiness. On the densest part of the beach, they set up a massive Happy Park filled with large inflated games and competition for kids.
Every surface available is branded. The structure itself is painted an angry red that likely causes planes flying overhead to crash. Scattered throughout this area are six-foot tall ice cream sandwiches and cones – part of the “happiness” that they share.
This beach destination is overrated and worth a miss. I’ve now been on Ecuador’s Ruta del Sol for over a month, and I’m looking forward to getting to the mountains of Cuenca and heading south to Peru.
What beach destinations do you think are overrated? Share your thoughts here.