Overview: Coastal Ecuador
The coastal region of Ecuador encompasses 18,000 square miles of coast and beaches. The fishing industry dominates the province of Esmeraldas, which is also home to dense rainforests. The Manabi area includes fishing villages, mangrove forests, beaches and archaeological sites. Guayas Province has one of the country’s most important ecosystems, the Guayaquil Gulf, just south of the equator, and six environmentally protected areas.
Families living in the coastal region fear the arrival each year of the rainy season, from January through April, which can bring dangerous mudslides and flooding. Severe weather also affects families who work in agriculture. Year after year, they lose thousands of acres of crops to the pouring rain, and then have to struggle to keep surviving crops and livestock alive through the droughts that follow.
The coastal region, the westernmost part of Ecuador, rises from the Pacific Ocean to 3,000-foot mountains. It is divided into six provinces dominated by the seaports of Guayas and Manabi. The area comprises three types of ecosystems: tropical rainforest to the north, savannahs in the central region, and dry forests to the south.
The region’s beaches, especially those in the Esmeraldas, Guayas and Manabi provinces, are popular attractions, drawing tourists and cruise ship passengers with their markets of handmade crafts, jewelry and coral. The El Majagual Forest in northern Esmeraldas is home to the world’s tallest mangroves. Bananas are an important export crop grown along the coast, along with coffee, cocoa, plantains and sugar cane. Coastal shrimp farms are also important employers and exporters.