Bahía de Caraquez lies on a peninsula to the south of the Chone river, in Manabi province. The name derives from the Caras who populated the region from about 800 AD. In the republican era the local economy has been driven by cocoa and more recently shrimp farms. There are still buildings in the town which date from 1890, with commerce on the ground floor and a house above, where you can see the chaza windows which open out from the bottom
Nowadays Bahia is a clean and fairly modern city. After suffering damage due to an earthquake and El Niño in 1998, the town was rebuilt and remodelled as an eco-city on the basis of recycling and reforestation projects and the use of eco-friendly taxis.
Bahia is a nice place to stay for a day or two on your way up or down the coast and although there’s not that much to do in the town itself, you can go on many interesting excursions in the local area.
A malecon runs around the peninsula. On the north side you can look across the estuary to San Vicente and take a motorized canoe (lancha) there from about 6am to 11pm. To the south a wide bay opens up. There’s an OK beach here facing the ocean.
To the east of the centre is the Mirador la Cruz – you climb up a hill for great views of the city and bay.
You can visit the Museo Banco Central to see artefacts from the first coastal civilisations.
There are some nice beaches south of town. You can take a taxi there (and ask them to pick you up). Behind the beach at Punta Bellaca is tropical dry forest which has some interesting trees, though as a whole it looks a bit grey and depressing for most of the year.
Further south at Chirije (17km from Bahia) there is an archaeological site and museum.
You can take a trip through the mangrove islands in the Río Chone estuary to see many dolphins, seabirds (such as frigates) and also wetland birds near to Isla Corazón. It’s also possible to see whales between July and September.
Much of the mangrove has been cleared to create shrimp farms. There is one organic farm which you can visit. It’s called EcoCamaronera Bahía. It is managed by Guacamayo Bahía tours. They also arrange trips to the Río Muchacho organic farm.
There are direct buses to Guayaquil (6hrs), Manta (3hrs), Portoviejo (2hrs) and Quito (8hrs). You can also get a bus to Chone or to San Jacinto. To continue north take the canoe (cheap) across the river to San Vicente. From there you can continue to Canoa, Jama and Pedernales.
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