Book the best bus tickets from Quito to Atacames (plus Tonsupa, Same, Sua, and Tonchigue!)


on: 2022-05-16

by: Joaquin Russo

Quick Facts

  • Duration

    07 hours 05 minutes

  • Rating

  • Experience

    beaches, parasailing, surfing

  • Best Price

    USD $ 19.92

  • Maximum comfort or class


  • Departures

    9 departures daily

  • Recommended by

    1749 travelers

Price may fluctuate due to seasonal demand and other market-driven and regulatory events.

How to get to Atacames by bus

The beach at Atacames, Ecuador

Unlike most bus trips, this is one is not for a single destination, but a string of pearls. By taking a bus from Quito to Atacames, you are actually going to step off into a series of beach towns that all bunch up next to each other and can be considered roughly the same distance from Quito. The northern beaches of Ecuador, for which we offer a free infographic guide when you get your bus ticket, are more green and dense than the sandy beaches of the south, but they still offer plenty of sand.  They are also more culturally interesting towns as they are the home of Ecuador’s minority population descended from African slaves brought to Ecuador by the Spaniards. They have developed their own culture over the centuries, allowing you to experience music, food, and customs that are unique to this area.

We will first cover all the information about buses and what you can expect, and then go into highlights of each beach town and how they are different from each other.

What are the buses between Quito and Atacames like?

The buses to Atacames are nothing luxurious unless it’s a holiday weekend and everyone’s going to the beach parties there. Only then the bus companies may roll out their best coaches to show them off. Ironically, this author experienced free drinks and snacks on one occasion to Atacames, which is generally unheard of in Ecuador.  

You will get air-conditioning and windows that open, curtains to draw if you want to get the sun off your face.  At intersections, the bus driver may allow vendors to climb on board to walk down the aisle selling home-baked delicacies like empanadas and corviche (stuffed bananas) before letting them off at the next intersection.  

Most buses on trips of this length will show a full-length movie or two from TVs suspended from the ceiling.  Of course, they will be in Spanish.  There are rarely on-board bathrooms, but they do have service stops along the way.  Seats recline to 140 degrees and are cleaned before each trip. There are no separate cabins for VIP fares.  That’s something you’ll find in other countries, but not so much in Ecuador.

How long is the bus ride from Quito to Atacames?

It depends on which side of the city you’re departing from, as there are two routes. The southern terminal is the most commonly used and the route from it to Atacames is a bit shorter because the roads are more developed.  It will take you through Santo Domingo de Los Tsachilas.  The northern route is shorter by the way it looks, but the roads are narrower and curvy, and it goes through Mindo.  In the average analysis, expect a ride between seven to eight hours regardless, as the southern route may only save you ten or fifteen minutes.  Don't try to strategize which terminal to leave from, as you'll be directed to which terminal when you get your ticket, and bus companies change their departure locations frequently.  More on that below.

Keep in mind that mudslides sometimes shut down the highway to Santo Domingo, so that’s another benefit of bus companies having the ability to get to Atacames by the alternative northern route.

How much does the bus cost from Quito to Atacames?

Because Quito and Atacames are both in the northern half of Ecuador, it makes getting to Atacames accessible and affordable.  Bus tickets average about $20 USD unless it’s a holiday or weekend when prices can get a bit higher. 

Other factors that can change the cost are seasons when fewer people are drawn to the beach, like April and May.  But truthfully, because Ecuador is on the equatorial line, seasons don't differ from each other in terms of temperature, they are measured more by the quantity of rainfall.  Therefore, you can expect price stability overall to get to Atacames.

What are the bus schedules from Quito to Atacames?

There are currently 13 daily departures daily from Quito to Atacames.  Four of them are in the morning hours, one in the afternoon, one in the early evening, and the rest are late-night buses for passengers who like to sleep on the bus and get to Atacames bright and early the next morning.  Late-night buses will also have fewer stops, so they are very popular.

Nine of these are only available online for advance reservations, while a few of them can only be bought at the bus station (usually from the smaller northern terminal).

Where can I book bus tickets from Quito to Atacames?

You have two options for purchasing a ticket for your trip from Quito to Atacames and the surrounding beach towns. 


Buying a ticket in person might take a long time. This involves carrying your bags down to either bus terminal, which are not close to the center of the city, and checking out the timings and prices at each ticket window. You might be directed to the terminal on the opposite side of the city, as the bus companies change what departs from where unless seats have already been reserved.  This could cost you a whole day of lots of walking and waiting, and you will be grumpy as a result. To be fair, you also may get lucky and get one of the few remaining seats on-the-spot (although probably not a very good seat).


It is more convenient and time-saving to purchase your ticket online with AndesTransit. You can check out the schedules from the convenience of your own home or hotel, choose the day and time you want to go, and then pay for it using our safe payment platform by credit card or PayPal. You won't have to worry about "adventures" at the bus station, currency conversion rates, or miscommunication due to a lack of comprehension of the local accent of Spanish.

What is the best bus from Quito to Atacames?

Various bus companies operate the route to Atacames and the surrounding region, and most of them are small companies that have an exclusive relationship with the Esmeraldas province or are based there. However, only one bus company, TransEsmeraldas, has a national reputation and professionalism that is above average. We recommend them for their consistency and reliability. They also have the added benefit of routes to elsewhere in Ecuador that basically allow you to know what to expect if choosing them again.

Atacames and the surrounding beach towns - A Comparison

The beach at Atacames, Ecuador

Atacames may be the most popular choice, but it is really just a hub.  We’ll briefly look at each town to give you some ideas of where to choose your lodging.  You can get to any of these towns directly by bus by using our search engine at the top of the page, or by just first getting to Atacames and then taking a local taxi for a few bucks more.


Atacames has become the most popular of choices for the Esmeraldas beaches and you can get there by buses from Guayaquil and buses from Cuenca, too.  This is because Atacames has the most variety of lodging for all budget options, as well as a myriad of restaurants and lots of beach parties.  It is a very lively place day and night, similar to Montañita, but preferred by Ecuadorians from Quito because it's easier to access.  For such a small town, there are actually two sides of Atacames, separated by a small canal with pedestrian bridges.  The oceanside section of town is where all the skyrises and the majority of tourist hostels and parties are to be found. But, if you want better deals and quieter nights, just stay on the town-side of the bridges that are still just a couple minutes' walk from the bridges to the ocean beach so you won’t feel far away from the action.  See more in my article about the two sides of Atacames.


Tonsupa is so close to Atacames that you can run into it on a leisurely walk without knowing you’ve left the city boundaries of Atacames.  It is basically just a northern neighborhood of Atacames for a more exclusive and dignified set of clientele willing to spend more money for more privacy and tranquility.  The beaches are more serene and clean, and the accommodation is stylish and upscale.  Since the two towns kind of run into each other, the bus to Atacames is also the bus to Tonsupa, and you just ask the driver to let you off in Tonsupa about 5 minutes before the arrival in Atacames.


Súa is just the southern equivalent of Tonsupa, i.e., a southern neighborhood of Atacames.  You can also walk there on the beach from Atacames or on the road, but be warned that the road is wooded and has lots of curves without broad shoulders that prevent fast-moving cars or buses from seeing you.  It’s better to get between Súa and Atacames by a moto-taxi (a makeshift motorized tricycle) or a regular taxi.  The benefits of Súa are much more privacy and luxurious lodging.  Súa is also home to a nudist beach if that’s something you’re seeking out in particular.  Because of its more exclusive location, buses don’t go into the Súa village itself, so our best suggestion is to get off the bus at the highway access point to Súa (it’s a traffic circle) and wait there for a little bit until a moto-taxi shows up to carry you into the village.


Pronounced saw-may, Same is the next town south and as close to Súa as Súa is to Atacames if you’re a bird flying from one to the other.  However, for us two-legged mammals, it is not that close and is more completely cut off than any of the previous towns mentioned.  You can’t access it from the beach walk, you can only get there by the highway, and only about half of the moto-taxis willing to take you to Súa from Atacames will also be willing to go as far as Same.  So it takes a little more effort.  The advantage of Same over any of the other towns is there’s very little distance, a couple of blocks at most, between the beach and the highway, very similar to Montañita.  So you get the best combination of being far away from the crowds, but close enough that you don’t need any taxis to move your luggage around between the bus and your lodging.  The bus fare difference to Same only amounts to about a dollar extra than to Atacames.


The most southern of the string of Esmeraldas beaches is Tonchigüe, which is itself the dividing point between the more classical beach towns we already mentioned and Punta Galera, a cape of wilderness area and tiny fishing villages, rocky beaches, and tortoise nesting areas.  Punta Galera is definitely not serviced by buses and requires private transportation to reach after you reach Tonchigüe.  Most travelers coming to Tonchigüe are campers or coming to the fabulous eco-lodge Playa Escondida that has beach access and sits nestled in a tropical green paradise truly disconnected from civilization and yet comfortable enough for travelers who don’t mind being unplugged.


Not far south of Tonchigüe is the famous resort town of Mompiche, as well as one of the longest beaches in Ecuador, Muisne.  These we will save for another day, but you will have plenty enough for loads of fun experiences on the Atacames beaches we’ve described here.  You can get there by bus!

Route Map

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Does Esmeraldas itself have good beaches?
Most tourists bypass Esmeraldas and head for the smaller beach towns to the immediate south. Esmeraldas is the largest city and capital of the Esmeraldas province, but not a destination for beach life. It is a business center and industrial port.
Can I travel up the coast to Atacames from Manta or Canoa?
Yes, absolutely, and we encourage it! However, the road is meandering, with more stops, and it’s much more likely you will need to transfer buses a few times, i.e., they are not direct. Nonetheless, they do exist.
Is it true that the Esmeraldas area is unsafe and prohibited to travelers?
News of this is greatly exaggerated hype, and it’s important to challenge such generalizations. Only some very particular areas closer to the border of Colombia would be considered factually dangerous, and they are rural and far from regular tourist activity. Atacames and the surrounding beaches are mainstream, secure, and hours away from the Colombia border.
What are the ticket policies?
It depends on the carrier you choose, but their specific policies can be previewed during checkout or in the summaries printed on your ticket email. For a general overview, see the Ticket Policy page.

Ticket servicing by AndesTransit -- The #1 Bus and Shuttle Ticket Hub in Latin America

Why the smartest travelers choose AndesTransit

AndesTransit is the only transportation booking platform with coverage in all countries of Latin America, connecting you with more than 900 private and public transport companies, thousands of routes both popular and rare, and countless schedules to fit your needs.

Customers appreciate our bilingual team of seasoned travel experts who have deep knowledge of the terrain, cultures and subcultures, complex laws and policies, a wide personal network to the back channels of transport, and most importantly who themselves ride the bus!

To complement our physical presence in Latin America, we give our customers the benefits of a best-in-class US-based business framework, giving you the best uptime experience and most internationally accessible and trustworthy payment systems.

To get the best rates and discounts and priority support, we encourage you to sign up for one of our BusClub plans.

  • Avoid the long lines and bus station bureacracy by getting your ticket delivered to your email inbox.

  • No language barriers! Plan your journey with the assistance of land travel experts fluent in both English and Spanish.

  • Get the best deal, period. Every purchase includes support and care from real travel experts, as well as free digital information gifts to make you a smarter traveler too!