Planes, buses, and automobiles.
One would think a plane is faster than a bus. Not always. Time is relative. For some people driving five hours in an air-conditioned SUV to go to a beach for the weekend seems like an ordeal. For those in Ecuador, five or even seven hours on a bus to get out of the city and surf the waves is nothing.
If you are thinking about going to Canoa from Quito for a couple days, there are a few ways you can get there. None of them are quick or easy. Fortunately, there is no smoothly paved, direct highway.
There is no international airport in Canoa, so get the thought of a quick one hour flight from Quito to Canoa out of your head. You can fly from Quito to Manta. One hour. Easy. Canoa is only 102 km (63 miles). I will tell you from experience, this is not the quickest or cheapest way without a car.
When I arrived in Manta, a flight that set me back about $126 (round-trip), I had to take a $4 taxi to the bus station. There I happened to get on a 45 minute bus that went from Manta to Portviejo (a mere $0.80). After waiting over an hour for the next bus to Canoa, I was off for an approximate 3 hour bus ride to Canoa, with all the typical Ecuadorian style bus stops along the way. This set me back another $3.00. The grand total was seven 1/2 hours and around $134.
At first, a seven to eight hour overnight bus ride to Canoa seemed long. Of course, my mind went to image of crowded city buses. Not the case if you take the overnight bus from Quito directly into Canoa. No changing buses, no taxis (except maybe to the bus station in Quito), and certainly no security lines at the airport. This is a popular option that I will take advantage of on the way back to Quito (yep, that return portion of my flight was not even used).
This bus ride is about eight hours and leaves from Terminal Quitumbe in south Quito. Take the night bus and you can sleep the whole way. This bus ride is $10 or $12. Cheapest option.
When I say car, I mean taxi or rental car. Or a combination of these. I don’t truthfully know the cost of a rental car, but you have to consider gas, too, which is about $1.50 a gallon. Depending on how much time you will be in Canoa, you will not need a car in town at all. If you want to explore other beaches, a car certainly is convenient.
A taxi ride all the way from Quito would be pretty pricey since it is about 325 km (200 miles). Not cheap at all. You could take a bus back to save some money though.
Now, you can use a combination of any of these options, of course. For example, take a plane to Manta, than a taxi ride to Canoa. This would be the most expensive, but probably the quickest. Maybe four hours total. Still a long trip. My recommendation: take the bus.
Getting to Canoa is Not Quick via Public Transportation
I am grateful for this long trip and the lack of a direct route. There are no high-rise luxury hotels here or spas for facials. If you are expecting a resort-town with Pina Colada’s, stay away from Canoa…far, far away. There is nothing here for you to see.