07 hours 05 minutes
beaches, parasailing, surfing
USD $ 19.92
Maximum comfort or class
9 departures daily
Price may fluctuate due to seasonal demand and other market-driven and regulatory events.
How to get to Atacames by bus
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.