By: Charlie Conner


Sitting on a picturesque white-sand beach nestled in la Bahía, it was hard to imagine anything that would stop a passerby from missing the natural spectacle that unfolds each evening in the small fishing village of Crucita.

Yet, as I sat there contently, the sight before me met few face-to-face. The beach was far from deserted on this particular holidayd weekend. However, the majority of the crowd had long since turned their backs on the spectacular seaside sunset to revel in an entirely different, yet equally marvelous sight; that of the golden orange skies circling the village filled with the bright, multi-colored sails and chutes of the dozens that had come to enjoy the only attractions in Crucita as irresistible as the scenery and serenity: world-class paragliding and handgliding.

Up, up, and away. A paraglider launches out over the deep blue yonder from the hilltop overlooking Crucita. Photo by Charlie Conner.

Up, up, and away. A paraglider launches out over the deep blue yonder from the hilltop overlooking Crucita. Photo by Charlie Conner.
Surrounded by steep hills and bald overlooks and graced with consistently strong winds rising from the Bay, Crucita has long been the preferred destination for Ecuador’s growing number of paragliding and handgliding fanatics. In fact, on many weekends, sails can be easier to spot than clouds in the chronically blue skies of Crucita. However, on this particular weekend the town took on a particularly festive air as an independence day weekend paragliding contest attracted dozens of participants and hundreds of onlookers from all over the country. By mid-morning Friday, the village had reached its maximum capacity, the beaches had been filled with sunbathers and anxious onlookers, and the hill/launchpad, Villa Balsamaragua, that rises over southern Crucita had been taken over by contest participants, paragliding fanatics, the families and friends that had come to support them, and onlookers waiting for the chance to do a tandem jump with the aerial tour guides.

For three days, Villa Balsamaragua became the small town’s hottest spot, with festivities and excitement reigning as mornings and early afternoons were passed practicing, sipping on beer, and socializing with friends while afternoons – always bringing the strongest winds – were reserved for serious launches, tandem flights for tourists and onlookers, and contest jumps to determine who among the two dozen participants could land on a target marked a mile or two down the beach with the most precision and accuracy. Moreover, throughout the weekend, nobody was disappointed or let down. The participants, as always, cherished their ability to defy gravity in a place where flight offers unparalleled views of the confluence of rugged landscape, deep blue sea, and endless sky. Onlookers celebrated day-in and day-out as the aerial feats being performed above the scenic bluffs and beaches of Crucita amazed them as much as it mystified the flocks of seabirds unable to grasp the idea of humans capable of graceful flight. And those adventurous enough to try their hand at a tandem flight got a chance to soar with the grace and agility of an eagle while taking in some of Ecuador’s most impressive coastal scenery. Indeed, when the weekend came to its inevitable end, all had seen and done much more than what they had traveled hours to experience.

Touchdown.A contest participant eases in above a pre-marked target

on the beach. Photo by Charlie Conner.

Touchdown. A contest participant eases in above a pre-marked target on the beach. Photo by Charlie Conner.

However, although the contests are normally only held semi-annually (usually in July and November, though precisely fixed dates and religiously adhered to schedules are still foreign concepts in Ecuador), the chance to take flight for a few dollars can almost always be had in Crucita. Spur of the moment tandem jumps can often be arranged (especially on weekends) in Crucita simply by inquiring in the town or by taking the hike to the top of Villa Balsamaragua at the south end of the village. Alternatively, tours can be arranged in Quito with a variety of operators, most of which offer a variety of packages from tandem jumps in Quito and Crucita (normally USD 5 to USD 20, depending on your ability to negotiate) to four-day certification courses (usually USD 200). To get in touch with tour operators based in Quito, you may contact El Centro del Vuelo Libre’s Henri Leduc (email). In addition, for the most up-to-date and detailed information on ecotourism and adventure sports in the province of Manabí, from windsurfing to paragliding to the latest extreme sport, kitesurfing (a unique and adrenaline-packing blend of windsurfing and paragliding), contact Kendru Guerrero (email) at Fundación Pelicanos at 593 5 631604 (office) or 593 9 9259336 (cellular).

Best of luck to you and be sure to enjoy your flight!