La Tolita Island is located at the mouth of the Santiago river, in the natural reserve Cayapas-Mataje, in the province of Esmeraldas; Eloy Alfaro Canton; La Tola Parish.
The culture Tolita inhabit Ecuador from 500 B.C until 500 A.C There are two important settlements of this culture, the first one is located in the Tumaco Bay, Colombia, and the other in the island of La Tolita, Ecuador. On the Ecuadorian side, we can see lots of artificial mounds or tolas, as well as archaeological remains of pottery and gold work.
The island of La Tolita has been considered as a ceremonial center where inhabitants of different regions of the coast met. Other researches believe that this island was a large workshop of precious metalwork, ceramics and metallurgy. This culture is well known for the development of the arts.
The ceramic used grayish and sandy clay for the production of variety of tripods pitchers, figurines that usually represented mythical beings and deities. It’s common to find large amount of ceramics of many erotic scenes that might correlate with fertility rites.
They worked in stone with which one developed axes, chisels, spearhead, and grinders. They also worked on Platinum, precious stones and gold. Rescued items include funerary mask in the form of Sun that nowadays symbolizes the Central Bank of Ecuador, which is currently in the Museum of the Central Bank in Quito along with much of the remains recovered from this culture.
Other valuable elements that have been rescued include parts worked in gold and ceramic, pitchers, whistles, figurines and graters, grinders, as well as depictions of mythological figures, especially cats and snakes.
Now, with regard to their economic and social organization, research suggests that the economy of La Tolita was based on Agriculture: the predominant products were maize and cassava. Also they practiced hunting and the extraction of resources of the sea.
It is also supposed that La Tolita was a society divided according to the rank and position of persons. It included a social stratum of farmers and other top individuals free of subsistence activities, such as goldsmiths and artisans. In the highest hierarchy were the chieftains, caciques, rulers who governed the destinations of La Tolita from semi-urban centers.
In addition to these archaeological remains, the tourist can enjoy the lush nature of the Ecuadorian mangrove. You can also ask for guided visits to the Museum in situ and the different Tolas (or mounds of Earth) in which the ancient inhabitants built their homes.
Other attractions to visit are the Tolita del Pailón: is one of the sites of archaeological interest because fragments of pottery and other artifacts can be found along the beach. In this area, other places of archaeological interest are La Tolita de los Ruanos and La Tolita de los Castillos; all are accessible by waterway from San Lorenzo or from La Tola, 30 minutes from the previous town. You can finally travel in canoe around the island of the birds and the parrots, Isla de los Pájaros y los Loros.
There are two options to go to La Tolita: access road to the town is in the highway E15 in northerly direction, in other words, from Esmeralda’s canton. From the sierra you have the access road in the E10 highway taking the Quito-Ibarra-San Lorenzo road. In both cases you will arrive to “La Y de las Peñas”, where you should take the road to La Tola which is a 18 Km ballast road.