Montañita is a town on the south west corner of Ecuador’s coast. It consists of half-built concrete buildings and bamboo structures
each either a hostel, a restaurant, a bar or a shop selling sun hats
and not a whole lot else.
I really liked Montañita and stayed there for about a month. (Read here about how I saved on 3 weeks of accommodation here.)
Many people from other Latin American countries, mainly Argentina and Colombia, go to Montañita to work for several months. They then take home their valuable dollars and exchange them on the black market, for several times the official exchange rate. There are therefore a lot of people that stay in the town long term, and as it is such a small place I started recognising faces and soon got to know a lot of people.
I started out at Hidden House Hostel, where I loved the garden
and hammocks but didn’t appreciate the swarms of mosquitos, and I quickly relocated to Hostal de Ricky where I had a private room for the same price I’d paid for a bunk in a dorm.
I don’t know why but not a single gringo (the Latino’s name for us Westerners) stayed at Hostal de Ricky while I was there; the clientele instead was made up almost exclusively of Venezuelans. I learnt some Venezuelan slang and ate lots of arepas,
I spent most of the days on the beach, basking in scorching sun, and when I got so hot I could barely breath, I’d swim and enjoy the powerful waves. Even in the middle of the night Montañita is roasting. I went a month in shorts – I never needed trousers or long sleeves.
I enjoyed many a sunset
and loud reggaeton from the bars every night of the week. That’s right, Montañita is well-known for being a party town and the best nightlife spots are probably:
Cocktail Alley – a row of stalls on the main street, selling all kinds of cocktails with fresh fruit. Most people congregate here before going to the bars. Each stall blasts reggaeton music.
Caña Grill – at the end of the row of cocktail stands is Caña Grill, a club with sand on the floor that is always packed on the weekend. Latin music.
Hola Ola – a restaurant and bar with a swimming pool and delicious cocktails. Latin and pop music.
Montañita is home to Lost Beach Club. It is apparently one of the best clubs in South America, however if you don’t like back-to-back electronic music, I advise you not to bother wasting 20$ on the entrance fee. (It’s free for girls on certain days of the week which is the only reason I went!)
Montañita’s beach is lovely. It’s long and it’s wide so there is plenty of room for everyone and their parasols.
After a while however, the vendors walking up and down trying to sell bikinis, summer dresses, caipirinhas, all shouting, became a little bit annoying so I went on some excursions, to:
The most beautiful beach I have ever seen, Los Friales is part of a nature reserve and is simply white sand and nothing else. There isn’t any infrastructure (take food and lots of water!), few visitors go there and it is blissful!
Getting there requires a bit of effort, which might explain why there were so few people. We took a bus and after about an hour we were dropped at the entrance to the reserve. We had to sign in at the gate, and then there is about a 3km walk along a dirt track to the beach. A few motortaxis tried to take us, telling us the walk would take 45 minutes, but as I try to spend as little as possible, we started on foot. A few minutes later a pickup truck stopped to pick us up so we got in the back and were at the beach in minutes.
On the way back, a minivan came up behind us and we shouted out to ask for a lift back to the main road. Once we were on board and had started chatting to everyone, we learned that they were going to Montañita too so they took us the whole way back! They were a group of firemen from Quito down for the weekend and they were really kind.
I had heard that Isla de la Plata, a little island just up the coast from Montañita, is known as the ‘poor man’s Galapagos’, a place to see lots of wildlife without paying for the flight to the Galapagos Islands. We took a bus to Puerto Lopez, an ugly little town with a nice beach
from where boats heading to the island leave.
Once at Puerto Lopez and in a travel agency’s office (yes regrettably you have to join a tour to get on a boat!) we learned that a trip to Isla de la Plata was really expensive – the cost of food for 3 days, so we settled for nearer and cheaper Isla Salango.
Pelicans flew past
on the way to the island, and we sailed past nesting blue-footed boobies. Once moored we were given snorkels and I lost all concept of time as I followed huge, colourful fish through the warm water.
In Montañita make sure you don’t miss:
‘Breakfast Alley‘ – a row of stalls selling pancakes, omelettes, fruit salads, toasties, fruit juices and batidos (made with milk)
The street art. to the west of the town centre, the streets are quieter and lots of murals
cover the walls.
´Normal´ Ecuadorian life – Montañita is full of tourists and it´s easy to stick with other travellers
Head away from the centre or wake up early occasionally and observe rural life
Ceviche in the street
seafood is best enjoyed at the coast in my opinion, and the ceviche at the stands is brilliant.