If you’re a surfer, a hippie, a party animal, a gringo, or simply someone who happens to be meandering down the Ecuadorian coast, there’s a good chance you’ve heard of Montanita. Situated smack dab in the center of Ecuador’s famed “Ruta del Sol”, Montanita is the love-it or hate-it surf outpost that eventually sucks in everyone for at least a day or two. Whether this is the coastal utopia you’ve always searched for, or just another trashy tourist trap worthy of turning your nose at, join me in a sneak peek inside this haven of balsa, bikinis, and way too many beers.
Where to Stay
Considering its notoriety, Montanita is actually remarkably small, with all of the action happening either in the center of town or out near “the point”. If you’re looking to drink your face off, mingle with a bunch of bead-weaving hippies, and set up camp no further than stumbling distance from the bars, then go ahead and stay at any one of the hostels smack in the center of town. Most of them offer a free drink with check in!
If on the other hand you want to be able to wander in to town when you feel like it, but would prefer to get a good night’s sleep and be closer to the surf, head 5 minutes north to “La Punta”, where there are a wide range of bungalows and hostels that specialize in hammock swinging, board rental, and overall beach lounging. Of the handful of establishments up on the point, I recommend either Sole Mare Hostale or Balsa Surf Camp. Sole Mare is situated right on the sand, and is much cheaper than Balsa Surf Camp, but the garden setting and balsa wood interior of the Surf Camp–along with the fresh cups of coffee–simply can’t be beat.
Where to Head for a Drink or Five
With a wildly liberal open container policy, there is always someone having a drink somewhere in the town of Montanita. That being said, the largest crowds definitely congregate on the weekends when throngs of locals from nearby Guayaquil rush out to the beach to mingle with the transient gringos and surf tourists. A great place to start is at Papillon, a corner restaurant where the ceviche is out of this world and the cheap beer goes down smoother than the reggae tunes. Once the night has really started to heat up, the two main places to head in town are either to HolaOla Restaurant and Bar or Nativa Bambu, where live laser shows and techno-fueled DJ’s literally keep the crowds dancing ’til dawn.
What to Eat
Ceviche. For every meal.
What About the Surf?
It’s no secret that Ecuador has surf. Really good surf. So good in fact, that when you paddle out at the point at Montanita, you could easily have 30 other surfers competing for waves with you (Click for Montanita surf report). While the heaving beachbreak stretches the length of the town, the best wave is found on the north end at “La Punta” where some of Ecuador’s best come to excercise their aquatic skill. Anyone really wanting to escape the crowds and go on a proper wave hunt can participate in any of the guided surf trips up and down the “Ruta del Sol”, where the waves can be much larger, far less crowded, and perhaps everything you’ve ever dreamed of. For those who are content to stay in Montanita, nearly everywhere rents boards for $4/hr or $15/day, and it’s best to catch the wave at high tide when the point really starts to come alive.
Great. So How do I get there?
Seeing as there are no flights into the town of Montanita, you’re gonna have to show up on a set of wheels. Either rent your own car or hop on a bus, but the most convenient way is to fly into the nearby city of Guayaquil and take the 3-hour bus ride out to the coast. Check out here for more info on how to get to Montanita.
Overall, I would call Montanita a great spot to drop in and chill out if you have a couple of days, and if you have longer, explore one of the towns further along La Ruta del Sol such as Ayampe, Puerto Lopez, or Canoa. Either way, it’s well worth the trip down to beach, I just wouldn’t recommend spending all your money on surf wax and booze and get stuck making necklaces for change.