San Clemente, Ecuador

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The Andeans call people from the coast “monos” or monkeys, presumably because they blast their salsa music and go to beach (or swing from trees) while their homes crumble from the corrosive salty air. I got a firsthand look on my four-day vacation to San Clemente, with 4 Cuencanos and me the lone gringa.

I’ve been to some absolutely stunning, world-class luxury beaches in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic where you can lounge in pristine beds on the white sand and eat lobster, and work off the meal swimming in crystal clear turquoise waters. This ain’t it. Yes, the buildings are all crumbling in the salt air with the exception of some gated gringo communities which are perfectly modern. We were lucky enough to stay in my friend’s aunt’s vacation house in one of these. What San Clemente offers, however, is tranquility that makes Cuenca seem like Manhattan. There’s honest, family run plastic table marisquerias that serve some of the best ceviches and other seafood dishes I’ve had.

Try:

  • Ceviche- unlike Peruvian style ceviche common in the US, Ecuadorean ceviche is cooked. The specialty if you can find it, i ceviche de jaiba (tiny crabs the size if your thumb that skitter among the rocks).
  • Cazuela de Mariscos – this is a delicious seafood stew with shrimp, corvina, clams, calamari in a rich hot stew made from mashed verde (un ripened bananas) and peanuts served in a cast iron bowl.
  • Tigrillo – this personally wasn’t my favorite, but worth a try since it is the most typical breakfast food of the coast. It is boiled verde, mashed up and stir fried with scrambled eggs and fresh cheese.
  • Camarones Encocao – deep-fried shrimp encased in coconut.

And hey, the beach is gray and the water grayish blue, but there are zero complaints when you’re lounging on the beach with a pina colada, right?

Travelers note: bring bug spray! A lot!!! You’ll need it. There’s also some weird beetle looking creatures called “chunas” by the locals that are attracted to light and come out at night in droves when rain floods them out of their hiding places. Watch your step!

Cazuela de Mariscos
Ceviche Mixto
Vacation townhomes across from the beach in San Clemente in a private gated community
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