We Found Queer Love In Esmeraldas, Ecuador — Atacames

A main entry to the beach as viewed from our hotel room.

2019 April — Atacames is heaven. It is everything. This place is so perfect. First of all, we stayed in the best room in Hotel La Barca which also happens to be the best location for a hotel in Atacames in my opinion. Found on Airbnb, it is the first hotel at the entrance of the beach where the Atacames sign is. Our room was the corner room honeymoon suite. Two of the four walls are actually just big windows that overlook the downtown boardwalk and the entire ocean. Every day our room was cleaned, new bed sheets were placed, all new toiletries were provided, and new towels were provided. It felt good knowing that every time we go to the beach, we come back to fresh clean room.

When we arrived in Atacames at night we had to take a cool mototaxi from the bus station to the hotel. It was a wild ride!

Riding on the mototaxi.

When we got to our room, we could hear the sound of the ocean from our window. We settled down a bit and then began to walk downtown to scope things out. We stopped by a restaurant across the street and had a merienda, dinner. We proceeded walking down the boardwalk and saw that there were lots of stands selling handmade crafts. There was also a large pavilion with multiple stalls selling a variety of things. After we explored for a bit, we returned to our hotel and rested up.

A sexy mural inside the hotel.

The next day was beach time! The waves aren’t as intense as Montañita. It was so nice. There is so much more color in Atacames because it is in Esmeraldas, the Afro-Ecuadorian region of Ecuador. I was constantly mistaken as a local. It felt good to feel as if I belonged. I didn’t get any strange looks. People looked at me and saw familiarity. It is my favorite place in the trip hands down. After this experience, there’s no way I could settle down in a place without other black people. I felt comfortable in my own skin for the first time. I wasn’t getting strange looks from people. I was accepted without having to constantly prove myself. I could just exist in peace alongside everyone else. I can’t believe it took me this long to end up in a place where I finally felt like I was at the pinnacle of self confidence. The story of Esmeraldas is a beautiful one. It is about a shipwrecked slave ship off the coast. The slaves made their way over to Esmeraldas and joined with the indigenous people to survive and make a home here.

The Atacames sign at the entry of the beach by our hotel.

The beach was so refreshing and beautiful. The sun energized us. The sound of the ocean is like hearing the earth inhale and exhale in meditation. It was a very grounding experience. Being in such a large and powerful body of water makes you aware of your own insignificance and yet living in such a tropical place feels so spiritually and physically enriching.

A beautiful beach with a beautiful view of the distant landscape and boats.

After basking in the glorious sun, surf, and sand, we returned to a clean hotel room. We didn’t have to bring our room keys with us to the beach because the front desk holds onto them for you while you are out. That’s a wonderful feature to go along with the daily room cleaning. Not to mention the rooftop pool directly above our room!

We were like mer-people in Atacames. We were hardly out of the water. It was great for me because I love the way my hair looks when it is wet. Even the shower in our private bathroom was one of the best we had. This was a nice shift from Otavalo where we hardly showered because it was always super cold. Before then the shower in Centro Historico was never hot for long enough. Plus, the way it operated was very tedious. Shower quality is so important. In Atacames, we showered every day to clean off the sand, salt, and chlorine. Our bodies and hair were totally moisturized the entire time. The ironic part was that we didn’t drink enough water. It was kind of hilarious to think about considering we were literally in water more than half of the time. We did drink a lot of coco water though. It was delicious. Everyone was selling it on the beach and near the food stalls around town. We aren’t 100% sure how it is made, but we suspect that it is coconut water with the pulp of the coconut blended in to get it creamy and then sugar is added. It is soooo refreshing!!!!!! Ever since then, we have been drinking it whenever we find it.

Street food as far as the eye can see.
Vendors and beach-goers sprawled along the beach.

Next on the agenda was groceries. We had access to the kitchen on the ground floor of the hotel and we are allowed to cook whenever we want to. The only downside to the kitchen is that it was on the ground floor and our room was on the top floor. Having to bring things up and down and be far away from the amenities was a bit of a hassle. But honestly, it wasn’t that bad. Also, because Esmeraldas is a tropical environment, there are more bugs around. So you have to be extremely careful and clean when it comes to food. We walked to the supermarket in town. We had to cross a bridge to get there. It spans over the Atacames river. As we got deeper into the city, it got super crowded. There was so much hustle and bustle. It was exciting! Everything and everyone was so alive! We returned to the hotel, cooked, and we worked on various projects on our laptops. The wifi was really good. There was a different wifi for each floor of the hotel.

Crossing Rio Atacames to get to the supermarket.
The pedestrian bridge spanning across Rio Atacames.
The hustle and bustle of the town on the other side of Rio Atacames.

When we swam in the rooftop pool quite a bit. It was a lot of fun. It overlooked the ocean and downtown. It was so nice. There was also wifi, an outlet, and a place to setup our laptops and work. Sometimes there were other people swimming there too. They’d play party music and it was just good vibes the whole time. One day, there was a German couple that came up to enjoy the pool. I entered a long conversation with them about conspiracy theories, chemtrails, the cloud nine drug, and Indigo Children. It was so interesting.

Roof above our room with a pool and covered seating area. The boardwalk downtown and the beach are perfectly visible.

Time on the beach was awesome because we got to chat it up with a lot of the locals that were part of “La Raza.” It was a new word I learned from them. We helped one of the women with her son’s English homework. One of her friends was lesbiana and we got to chat about of LGBTQ things in Ecuador. It was cool to find a queer friendly crew. I bet if we had stayed longer, we could have gotten introduced to others. Still, it was nice to know that we had found queer love in Atacames. Night time at the beach was nice as well because every single bar was bumping the tunes! All the lights were on and the smell of food was everywhere.

A really cool sculpture in the town on the other side of Rio Atacames.
A beautiful mural by the beach of “La Raza”.

Every morning we woke up to the sound of party music, ocean waves, and the shining sun! Best alarm clock ever! It makes you feel excited for the day ahead. Like, why sleep life away when everyone is outside celebrating? And the ocean is right there waiting for you? One really important revelation that was had during our many days of beach lounging was about how to handle situations when people are trying to sell us things. There are lots of vendors walking up and down the beach trying to sell food, drinks, and other items. Since we are not from there, a lot of times, people will try to sell us things for a higher price than they normally would. Other times, vendors would be extra persistent. Saying “no” the first time isn’t always enough to get them to go. That can be frustrating at times when you’re just trying to chill. So the question is how do we respond in such a way that is nice and funny and could potentially lead to a new friend? It is something we are hoping to get good at while we are here in South America. Although, other times, I can just pull the “No hablo Español” and call it a day.

Creating a minimalist beach sculpture to pass the time.

The last night we were there, we decided to party it up! We had some tequila in our hotel room and then set out on the town. We were bar hopping for a while, drinking, dancing, eating food from various restaurants and stalls. All the bars were beachfront and we got to enjoy the ocean while we drank our cocktails. We were walking through the artisan markets and we encountered a tattoo artist. He was listening to Nightwish. So of course, I had to bond with him about the band. I asked if he knew the song “Nemo” by Nightwish. He said “no” and looked it up so he could hear it. He liked it and we continued vibing. That’s when Viviana decided it was the time to get the tattoo they wanted on their arm. It is a minimal mountain range tattoo on their forearm. It was so badass because other people were around watching them get this tattoo like a boss! I’m personally pretty scared of needles, so I was thoroughly impressed with how calm they were. Although, that could have also been from all the tequila shots we had taken that night. Other younger girls were watching excitedly because the only other people who were scheduled to get tattoos were these macho looking guys. I guess it isn’t very often they anyone, but men get tattoos.

Walking along the water on a weekend night. You can see all the lights and hear all the music from the beachfront bars and clubs.

Further down the road of artisan stalls, we encountered someone beautiful and radiant. He was wearing a straw hat and a floral shirt. We spent each day looking at all the people to see if we could find ones that looked like a racial mix between Viviana and I. He was definitely that! His name is Frikso and his friend was Israel. Frikso was beautiful, suave, sexy and super kind. We had to party with him. We hung around and started to chat with him and his friend. We loved his hair and asked how I could get my hair like his. He ran across the street to his place and brought back a leaf of aloe vera. This was aloe straight from the plant. He started cutting it open and getting the pulp from it and rubbing it into my hair. It was really nice! Afterwards he made us both a bracelet right on the spot. It apparently is one where you can make a wishes and when the bracelet falls off your wish will come true. It was so cute. We told him that we had a bottle of tequila that we wanted to share with him so we walked a couple blocks back down to our hotel to get the tequila and we met up with him again. At this point, he was packing up his jewelry stall and focusing on bartending at the beachfront bar/club right next to it. It was badass to see him entertaining us and hustling at two jobs all with ease. It was sexy and inspiring. We took shots together and then he got us setup in a little VIP spot of the bar. It was 3 hammocks in a circle around a tree stump table. We were surrounded by small palm trees, our toes were in soft beach sand, and right in front of us was the ocean. We had privacy from the rest of the club and a beautiful view on the beach. We hung out in the hammocks, took lots of shots together and got to know each other. Viviana and I were both so mesmerized by him. We hope that one day we get to meet again. He was our queer love in Atacames.

The VIP section. Hammocks, tequila, sand, ocean, and beautiful people.