Hotel Gabeal, Mompiche
The modest fishing village of Mompiche is turning into a small backpacker hub thanks to perfect surfing conditions and an impressive setting with thickly forested hills dropping down to a wide beach backed by palm trees. While package tourists are attracted to the glitzy Decameron Hotel on the hill, budget travellers stay in town. For experienced surfers, Mompiche offers one of the biggest left point breaks in South America and attracts surfers from around the world in high season (December to April). Alternatively, go horse riding or hiking in the forests of Mache Chindul Reserve inland. The friendliest place to stay on the edge of town is Gabeal with two tall, wooden buildings. The cheaper rooms overlook the sea and the pricier rooms in the building further back are more spacious with hot water and air-con.
• mompiche.wordpress.com, +593 9 969 6543, doubles $10-25pp (£6-16), camping $4pp
Playa Escondida, Tonchigüe
The north is the most attractive stretch of Ecuador’s coast with scores of beautiful beaches backed by tropical forest. While most locals head to heaving party town Atacames or overpriced exclusive resorts in Same (pronounced Sahmay), those in the know seek out more secluded spots. Canadian-run Playa Escondida is true to its name (hidden beach) – this ecological getaway built with natural materials and composting toilets is set on 34 hectares of forest behind a deserted beach overlooked by cliffs. Nearby rock formations, caves and tunnels provide a little adventure. Choose from rustic cabins or camping, and the restaurant will keep you happy with a wide range of seafood, meat and vegetarian dishes.
• playaescondida.com.ec, +593 6 273 3106/3122, $12-18pp (low season), $20-36 per room (high season), camping $5pp
Hotel Bambu, Canoa
Canoa is the resort of choice for backpackers and surfers who want a more chilled alternative to the crowded resorts of Montañita, Atacames and Salinas. It gets busy in high season but is pleasantly quiet the rest of the year. Canoa’s surf is consistently good and it’s a dramatic setting with waves crashing upon a long beach overlooked by cliffs and caves to the north. Firm backpacker favorite Hotel Bambu has accommodation to suit all budgets – from camping to basic rooms with shared bath and more comfortable mid-range lodgings with sea views and private bath. The restaurant/bar is a good place to hang out with daily happy hour, a wide range of cocktails, hammocks, ping pong and delicious crepes.
• hotelbambuecuador.com, +593 5 258 8017, double rooms $18-30
Hostal Coco Bongo, Bahia de Caraquez
Most of Ecuador’s coastal cities are far from aesthetically pleasing, but eco-city Bahia de Caraquez is the exception – it’s quiet with a spectacular location perched on a sand peninsula jutting from the mouth of the River Chone into the Pacific. Until the late 19th century this used to be Ecuador’s biggest port. The streets are clean thanks to a comprehensive recycling program, and many residents shun cars in favor of bicycles, including taxis. The best budget option is Hostal Coco Bongo run by friendly Aussie Suzanne Butson. Overlooking the park, this converted house has rooms with hot water, private bath, WiFi and cable TV. It’s a good place to hang out with fellow travellers and the breakfasts are very good.
• Intriagi and Arenas, cocobongohostal.com, +593 8 544 0978, dorms $6pp, doubles $20-25
Hosteria Mandala, Puerto Lopez
Puerto Lopez sits at the centre of Machalilla, Ecuador’s only coastal national park, in a wide bay surrounded by green hills crowned with candelabra cacti. This is the best base to explore nearby Los Frailes, arguably Ecuador’s most beautiful beach. Another popular excursion is Isla de la Plata, known as the "poor man’s Galapagos" for its blue-footed boobies and other birdlife. From June to September, the region hosts scores of humpback whales and boat trips to watch them are a must. The best-known accommodation in town is Hosteria Mandala, which has cabins set among dense, tropical gardens. The German and Italian owners have painstakingly decorated each cabin with unique designs. There’s also a good restaurant serving homemade bread and ice-cream plus a music room and library upstairs.
• Malecon, hosteriamandala.info, +593 5 230 0181, rooms and cabins $31-49pp
Hosteria La Barquita, Puerto Rico
Splendid isolation makes tiny Puerto Rico an attractive alternative base to busier Puerto Lopez, and the best accommodation option is Hosteria La Barquita. The boat-shaped restaurant provides its name (little boat), and the Swiss owners are very hands-on with plenty of helpful advice. There is a swimming pool plus a tree-house and adventure playground frequented by the owners’ children. The boat theme is reprised in the cabins with porthole mirrors, rounded doors and natural stone locks. Choose from simple rooms to new suites with air-con and cable TV. The seafood in the restaurant is particularly good.
• Ruta del Sol, Km. 15, Via Puerto Lopez, hosterialabarquita.com, +593 5 234 7051, double rooms $32-85
Casa del Sol, Montañita
Perhaps there should be a sign over the entrance to Montañita proclaiming "You are now leaving Ecuador" such is the international vibe of this hippy haven. It’s a little pocket of heaven if you like being surrounded by bare-chested, long-haired surfers and their tanned girlfriends. Like other backpacker hubs, you’ll either love it or hate it, but the infectious energy of the place is undeniable. However, you must stay outside town if you want to get any sleep after riding the waves and partying til dawn. Away from the crowds, north, towards the point is Casa del Sol, run by a Californian surfer. The rooms are well-equipped, many with sea views, there is a yoga studio and the reggae bar and restaurant are great hangouts. Surfing classes and tours are available.
• Playa de Montañita, casadelsolsurfcamp.com, +593 9 248 8581, $20-40pp
Playa Blanca Bungalows, Organos
If you are looking to get away from it all, then few beaches beat Organos, a sleepy fishing village on Peru’s northern coast. Unusually for Peru, the beach is wide, sandy and well sheltered from the crashing Pacific, making it suitable for small children. Playa Blanca Bungalows has 12 thathed-roof bungalows that open directly on to the beach. Activities offered include surf classes, sport fishing and daytrips to Peru’s only mangrove forests, near the Ecuadorian border. They also have a full kitchen service, offering international and Peruvian cuisine, with the highlight of the menu being ceviche, a marinated fish salad. Should you get bored of your hammock, you can always take the 30-minute moto-taxi ride to Mancora, the main resort town in the area, packed with everything from nightclubs to body piercing shops
• Playa Blanca Bungalows, bungalowsplayablanca.com, +51 7325 7487/+(51) 1230 7365, double rooms $80 (£50) a night
Casa Barco, Punta Hermosa
No list of Peruvian beaches would be complete without Punta Hermosa, capital of Peru’s rich surfing tradition and scene of the 2010 World Surfing Games, which Peru won. Half-an-hour south of Lima, Punta Hermosa fills to bursting from late December to March as beachgoers flee the capital’s brutal summer. The waves, though, are perfect throughout the year. Surprisingly, Punta Hermosa is under served by good hotels. But the best of the crop is Casa Barco, with 25 simple, clean, whitewashed rooms. A five-minute walk from the beach, it offers a pool and full kitchen service. Punta Hermosa’s numerous breaks are fast, powerful and no place for beginners. They are concentrated off the twin beaches of Señoritas and Caballeros – literally "Ladies" and "Gentlemen", a hangover from the resort’s 19th-century segregation of the sexes.
• Casa Barco, casabarco.com/puntahermosa, +51 1230 7081, double rooms from $70-90 (£65) a night, dorm from $20pppn
Hotel El Condor, Paracas
The seas of this marine reserve, four hours south of Lima, team with life. You can take a boat ride to see – and smell – islands housing vast colonies of sea lions, penguins and the many other seabirds that once made Peru the guano capital of the world. But Paracas National Reserve also includes a huge chunk of desert coast, complete with shifting dunes straight out of Lawrence of Arabia, and spectacular, empty, windswept beaches. You will need a car, preferably four-wheel drive, to explore. There are no hotels inside the reserve, so most visitors stay in the tiny town of Paracas. One of the best, middle-range hotels is Hotel El Condor, facing out onto the beach, with 10 rooms, decorated in a modern style and each with a terrace.
• Hotel El Condor, hotelelcondor.com/completo.html, +51 5653 4883, double rooms with a sea view cost up to $120 a night
• Peru entries by Simeon Tegel