Montañita: Where the Party Meets the Beach

Country Ecuador | Dates July 12 – July 14 | Accommodation Selina Montañita

We took an early taxi to the bus station in Guayaquil with 2 girls from our hostel, and were not pleased to find the lady called an unlicensed one (the kind you’re not supposed to take). It took a few minutes to find our bus line in the massive station, but soon we had tickets on the Cooperativa Libertad Peninsular. I love love love the beach and am trying to learn to surf, so I was overly excited and wore my swimsuit on the bus. We arrived 2 hours and 45 minutes later and it was, of course, raining. Although dreary, there was still plenty of time for exploring, swimming…and drinking.

Montañita Ecuador

Montañita is a beach town and major surfing destination on Ecuador’s coast. The main beach is crowded and has vendors and hostels lining the sand, but walk a mile or two north or south and you reach more deserted beaches and non-touristy small towns. Montañita is one of the safest towns in Ecuador and has become more popular (read: crowded) in recent years. It is also a major party town. By major party town I do mean every club blares music until 4am nightly, reaching the rooms of the multitudes of hostels downtown.

Around Montañita Ecuador

Montañita has a typical beach town feel, with a bit of a hippie vibe. People walking around barefoot in bathing suits, sandy unpaved streets, tropical-themed restaurants, all day happy hours. Row after row of fruit smoothie stands, down the street from row after row of tropical alcoholic drink stands.

Vendors line all the streets selling the usual jewelry and bracelets (don’t worry, they are displayed on the usual black cloth) and colorful tourist goods in overstuffed stalls from dawn til way past dusk. Some hippies who arrived and decided to stay also sell goods on the streets, so if you want to pay several dollars for a shoddy paper flower, you can! The harassment to buy things is an intense, constant onslaught as you walk the streets. For example, were asked to buy necklaces no less than 25 times by a single vendor, a particularly feisty Venezuelan man who reached out to shake our hands and converse each time we walked by (which was a lot of times as he was in front of our hostel). By day 3 we smiled and said “hola” as we rushed by, having learned our lesson about pausing too long near any booth. We also encountered a strange individual in an oversize hat who greeted us as if we knew one another.  Later, we saw him again and he kissed my hand and said it was such a shame we were leaving. I have no idea who this man is.

These occurrences extended to the beach, where vendors sell street food under rainbow umbrellas, guys sell cheap beer out of carts, and a never-ending stream of vendors approached our towels to sell jewelry, food, large lamps (what?), weird souvenirs, unsanitary massages and hundreds more items all day long. You know just in case you suddenly, urgently need a new floor lamp while at the beach. It sounds kind of annoying, but I didn’t really mind. Everyone was friendly and not overly pushing – a quick no gracias was sufficient – and we played a fun game guessing “what item will they try to sell next?”

Beaches of Montañita Ecuador

The main beach is Playa Montañita which is crowded, especially in the blocks adjacent to town. A walk a few minutes north towards the cliff brings you to a less-crowded spot, dotted with a few hostels that are much quieter. I spent a lot of time here, due to the small inlet area with a treasure trove of shells which I repeatedly searched. I found some amazing purple spirals and pucca shells, and thoroughly annoyed my sister spending so long “shelling.” Maybe I have 5 pounds of shells in my backpack now. It’s also possible this inlet is a crime scene, as we found some interesting items washed up in the morning – 3.5 drug needles, ripped clothing and some assorted animal bones.

North on the other side of the cliff is Olon Beach (and town). You have to go via the road due to the cliff, but there is an overlook area and it’s much much less crazy. If you walk south of the densely populated beach drag, you’ll also quickly get away from the hoards. I did 2 long walks this way (one with Sarah, one solo) and only encountered about ten people total. There are also remnants of a concrete wall covered in graffiti which is pretty cool. Keep following the beach and you’ll pass the tiny town of San Juan which is not really a town, more a smattering of tiny homes on dirt roads, stray dogs, and scraggly trees. It wasn’t very sunny sadly, but I obviously swam a few times anyways and we had some nice to time to relax and read. Sarah got a massage from someone who from afar appeared to be a “young expat” but was actually a not-so-young local.

Malecon | There’s a short but high boardwalk above Playa Montañita, which becomes necessary during high tide when this area of the beach is not passable on foot. At the end, there are some rocks painted with flags and the omnipresent I ❤ Montañita logo.

Eating in Montañita

There are lots of food vendors on the street, and I was pleasantly surprised at the good values considering the tourist nature of the town.  For breakfast we had smoothies, including an amazing avocado and chocolate one we ordered two days in a row ($2). We also had chilenas,  or balls of egg dough fried on the spot and sprinkled with sugar (12 for a dollar). We loved them so much we approached eagerly the second day, way too early, and impatiently watched the man prepare his cart. Additionally we got some cornbread, pan de yuca, and plantain chips.

For lunch, menus for $3.50 at Empanada Arte and El Papa del Shawarma. The former was standout; it was the standard meat, vegetables and rice plate, but tasted unique and came with delicious coconut pineapple juice. For cheap dinner we ate hamburgers from the many street vendor carts set up around the town at night. Cooked fresh for $2, the burgers were large and juicy piled high with a fried egg and a ton of mayonnaise. Our second night Sarah said she didn’t want a hamburger, then promptly ordered a hamburger. We supplemented this with a giant plate of fries for $1usd, eating on the small plastic table on the street.

Drinking in Montañita

I should have put this before “eating” as you can’t really go to Montañita without drinking. We don’t go out a lot while travelling as we’re a bit old and prefer to get up early and enjoy the day. But in Montañita at night there was little else to do and since we couldn’t sleep prior to 4am due to club music city-wide, we figured why not.

On Thursday we did happy hour drinks at one of the many options with 2 for $5 drinks (they’re all the same). We then went to The Attic, but went too early (as usual) and were the only people there. We played pool, at which time we were stalked by an aggressive bar employee. “I work here!” she yelled over the American club music. “Do you want a drink?” She grabbed a menu and proceeded to watch us and walk around the pool table following our every move. When we asked for a free drink (huge signage said unlimited free drinks till 11) she feigned she didn’t speak English although she’d been speaking English a few minutes before. Then Sarah asked her in Spanish, and she ignored her. We got tired of her shadowing us around the bar, so we ran out when her back was turned.

Friday started much the same, with  2 for 1 happy hour at a slightly nicer bar called Tuja. Things got interesting when we met some locals on a weekend trip who kindly shared their alcohol with us (we drank from shared plastic cups in the road, sanitary) and brought us to their favorite club. It was Friday so it was packed. The one guy was an avid dancer, and proceeded to have an alarming although admittedly impressive dance off with himself. We ended the night with a 1am swim in the ocean, along with hundreds of others who were out on the beach.

Montañita Brewing Company | We also visited the town’s only microbrewery, Montañita Brewing Company, where we enjoyed two pints beachfront while watching the surfers. The beer was mediocre, but it was a good atmosphere and decent price ($5).

Budget & Practicalities

Getting There | CLP has the monopoly on the route Guayaquil -> Montañita. Bus costs $2.50 each way, with times nearly every hour both ways. Bus is right downtown, no more than a few blocks from most hostels.

Transportation | Once you’re there, no need for a taxi for any reason. Everything is easily walkable or bikable if you want to go to surrounding towns.

Eating | Street snacks from $.50, smoothies for $2-2.50 (if it has fancy fruit); Lunch menus from $3.50-$7+ (but again, just avoid tourist areas).

Drinking | Dozens of bars offer the same drinks for the same “happy hour” prices which extend all day. Don’t pay more than 2 for $5. The tropical drink vendors sell theirs starting at $3, and a large Pilsen beer on the beach is $2.

Surfing | Board rentals seem to average $10 for a half day, $15 for a full day. Lessons vary depending on length, etc. Literally dozens of options for surf schools and rentals.

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