Coca, Ecuador Travel Guide
|Related EE.com Pages|
|Tena City Guide|
|Amazon National Parks|
|Amazon Rainforest Tours|
|Lago Agrio section by V!VA Travel Guides|
Although most people travel to Coca on their way to jungle lodges in the Yasuni National Park and Huaorani Reserve, Limoncocha Biological Reserve, and Cuyabeno Reserve, the city has relatively impressive tourism infrastructure. Coca is not a place where visitors spend a lot of time, but it does have its share of hotels, restaurants, bars, and night clubs. The capital of Orellana Province, Coca is situated right at the junction of the Coca, Payamino, and Napo Rivers. It’s a good idea to organize your jungle excursion with an Amazon tour agency or operator before you arrive in Coca, as you must procure permission to enter national reserves in advance. Check with our list of recommended jungle tours for more information and help getting permission. The reserves surrounding Coca generally have slightly more up-scale lodges than those accessed by Lago Agrio. Like Lago Agrio, Coca’s surrounding wilderness features an incredible variety of wildlife in relatively intact primary rainforest.
Until the 1980s, Coca was a relatively small, backwater Amazon town of little regional importance. With the discovery of nearby oil reserves in the 1980s, Coca rapidly grew in size and population, with the help of hefty investments from foreign oil companies. It now has a population of about 20,000 inhabitants. In the late 1990s, Coca’s local government began to shift course. While oil remains an important industry, city government has been investing in tourism infrastructure and marketing the area to travelers for the past ten years. The two sectors are often at odds, as oil extraction has caused considerable degradation to the surrounding jungle, reducing potential for tourism.
The climate in Coca is moderately hot and humid. The heaviest rainfall comes during the Northern Hemisphere’s summer (June through August). Temperatures range from about 23º C to 35 º C. For advice about what to bring on your jungle excursion, see our packing list.
Coca is one of the few places in Ecuador that can be reached by bus, airplane, or boat.
Airlines Aerogal and TAME both have flights between Coca, Quito, and Shell.
Although the main reason to visit Coca is to continue on to an Amazon reserve, Coca itself does have some sites of interest.
The Coca municipal government has invested considerably into the Malecón 2000 Project, a redevelopment of the Coca Napo River waterfront, including a Center for Environmental Education and Tourism. The redevelopment plan arose as Coca’s government began turning to tourism as an alternative to oil extraction, as mentioned above.