San Lorenzo is a port town situated on the north coast of Ecuador, about 18km south of the Colombian border. It is joined by a narrow gauge rail to the city of Ibarra which lies in the Highlands and for many years it was an important port.
There is only one rainy season, which runs from January to April, the average temperature at this time of year being around 24 degrees Celsius.
It is encircled by verdant jungle at the edge of a dank, still sea. The population here is only about 14,600. This city has been described as a ‘decrepit, lively hodge-podge of blazing heat, tropical beats and crumbling storefronts’ by Lonely Planet which goes on to say ‘Marimba notes and salsa music flavor this mostly African-Ecuadorian outpost which goes all out in August with an annual music festival.’ The main reason for visiting San Lorenzo is to explore the infrequently visited mangroves of the area. Boat tours can be arranged once you get down to the port.
If you do decide to explore the mangroves, there is a recommended hotel through them via Limones, at the muddy fishing village of Olmedo which is a short walk from La Tola. This is where you’ll find a tiny hostel run by local Afro-Ecuadorian women. There are few beaches in this area owing to the masses of mangroves.
This seemingly unlikely travel destination scores between four and five out of five for its accommodation on tripadvisor, which makes it seem somewhat appealing. It is hard to find well-catered secret gems to travel to and if mangroves are what you’re into, then this could be the next holiday destination for you!
Ecuadorian cuisine is diverse, varying with altitude and associated agricultural conditions that affect it. Cuy (which is a guinea pig), pork, chicken and beef are popular in the mountainous regions and are served with rice, corn and potatoes. A popular street food is ‘hornado’ which consist of potatoes served with roasted pig. Some examples: Patacones (unripe plantains fried in oil, mashed up and then refried); Ilapingachos (pan seared potato balls); Seco de chivo (a type of goat stew). There is also a wide variety of fresh fruit available, including granadilla, passionfruit, naranjilla (a small perennial shrub cultivated for its edible bright orange fruits resembling tomatoes or oranges), many types of bananas, uvilla (a species of pourouma – a species of flowering plants), taxo (banana passionfruit) and tree tomatoes.
San Lorenzo is the Spanish and Italian name for Saint Lawrence, the 3rd century Christian martyr.
The dominant languages are Spanish and Amerindian languages (especially Quechua) and the religion is 95% Roman Catholic.
Restaurants in Ecuador add a 10% service charge to all checks. It is common to add 5% to 10% on top of this. Taxi drivers don’t expect tips and hotel porters are typically tipped 50 cents to $1 per bag.