Located in the mouth of the Emeraldas river is the city of Esmeraldas, average temperature 23 Grads Celcius. This city of 416.272 inhabitants is the capital of the province of the same name and enjoys a tropical warm climate year round. It is the principal port of the north of the country and possesses the largest refinery of Ecuador. Agricultural products, trade, wood, and the refinery are the base of the economy in Esmeraldas. It is also an important tourist center for national tourism and access to the stupendous beaches northward of Tola and southward until Muisne.
The Esmeraldas province is called the " green province" for the incredible plant-life of the forests. Despite the location in the coast, with it's main rivers: Esmeraldas, Cayapas, Santiago, Quininde, Viche, these forest are less dense and in the southern part you will find dry tropical forests. The Emeraldas name originates from the first Spaniards that disembarked in these coasts in 1526 and saw that the Indian chiefs of Atacames were carrying gold and emerald jewels. These precious stones probably originated from trade or wars with other groups from different sectors.
The population is predominantly of black race. Originating from slaves that were brought in a ship from Panama in 1553. The ship crashed into a reef and the slaves were sent to seek food, but never returned. The Spanish died of hunger and diseases, while the new esmeraldeños that escaped were established and formed a well organized community that prospered during more than 50 years. The African cultural influence is very strong and is observed very much in the music, dances, clothing, gastronomy, religion, magic and social organization.
The music has Afro-American paces with the marimba as characteristical instrument. Percussion instruments, such as the bass-drums, maracas, and drums are also popular. The music is always accompanied with those which prefer frantic paces that invite everyone to dance. The food is very rich, assorted, and is based on fish, rice, seafood, fried and familiar banana coconut sauces. The women dress with brilliant colors and preserve the usage of carrying baskets and jugs on their heads. There also exists a complex spiritual world with catholic religion mixtures, budu, magic, with strong beliefs in what is supernatural.
Esmeraldas’ beaches are undoubtedly one of its main attractions. Atacames, an all-year-round tourist resort, is just 30 km from the city Esmeraldas. Atacames’ well-developed tourist infrastructure and plethora of seaside restaurants, bars make it a great beach destination for relaxing. It’s markets selling locally made handicrafts, jewelry, and coral products make Atacames a great place for an affordable shopping spree, as well.
Five km further south is the quiet fishing village of Súa, which is also a great destination with comfortable hotels and delicious cuisine.
Forty eight km to the south lies the island of Muisne, known for its unspoiled beaches and tranquil waters.
Continuing southeast for another 11km, we arrive in Same, nestled among palm trees and set along a strip of coast known for its crystal-clear water.
Other popular beaches include Playa Ancha and Tonsupa, located 20 km from the city of Esmeraldas. There are more beaches to the north, towards the Colombian border, namely Camarones, Colope, and Río Verde, all of which are small fishing villages.