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Altitude: 3 meters (10 ft)

Population: 3,995

Code: 06

Set in a pleasant cove behind the picturesque green hills, cradling Atacames and separating it from nearby Same, Súa is a slightly — albeit not much — quieter version of its bar-infested big brother to the north. Talk to travelers and you're bound to get mixed reviews about this place: either it’s a chilled-out place to throw back a few beers, enjoy the beach and rest your head, or it's a lackluster, lonelier version of Atacames. Contrary to some guidebooks, Atacames locals say Súa is more dangerous, as there are fewer people and beach-prowlers tend to be more aggressive — but this could just be a ploy to lure back tourists attempting to avoid their notoriously crowded beach. The town is a bit scruffy, with the same unruly Reggaeton blasting from generic bamboo beachside bars; and you’d think the street vendors had just pushed their cart over the hill. To give credit where credit's due, the beach is less crowded and surprisingly picturesque, considering the shabby shops and hotels fronting its shores: expanses of fine gray sand stretch towards the sea, curling into a quiet cove at the far end.

If you make it to this side of Atacames, head over to the massive cliffs dropping abruptly into the sea on the western side of the bay. Known as Peñón del Suicida (Suicide Rock), the rock is named after Princess Súa and conquistador Captain de León — Ecuador's own Romeo and Juliet — who leapt headlong into the sea after a forbidden love affair gone awry. At night, their ghosts are said to wander along the beach, but by dawn these legendary specters slip back into the sea and the day shift arrives: shrieking pelicans, blue-footed boobies and frigate birds stake out the cliffside, occasionally swooping down on unsuspecting fisherman and their haul.

Between June and September, you can catch a boat from here to spot humpback whales off the coast, near Punta Galera (about 40-60 minutes by boat). Simply look to the shores for fishermen - sometimes they'll even have inflatable barges/tubes - and ask them if they can take you out. There's also the nearby Isla de los Pajaros (Island of the Birds) that's worth checking out via boat.


Other places nearby Súa: Atacames, Esmeraldas (City), Tonchigüe, Chamanga, Mompiche, Muisne and Same.

29 Aug 2013

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