Montañita is the surfer / backpacker / hippy hangout on the coast. Canoa and Atacames have some of the same things (and other charms) but nowhere is like Montañita. It only comprises a couple of streets but they are packed with hostels, bars and restaurants. In between the tables salespeople chill next to their collection of beads, or CDs. At the tables people sit and enjoy a pizza, a burger or a toasted sandwich until it is time to get started on the beer and cocktails.
The best months to be in Montañita are from January to April. Then the sun is shining almost every day and at the weekends the place is full of Guayaquileños jostling for space with the backpacker contingent and it feels really alive. During the rest of the year you can still surf, but you can’t rely on the sun, and the water’s just a touch colder.
Once upon a time Montañita was all about the surfing. The surf is still good and lots of Ecuadorians and foreigners come here for that reason. You can also take lessons. However, the party scene has taken over, and after a heavy night it’s a struggle for a lot of people to get onto the beach before sunset the following day, let alone into the water. Apart from the bars, there are several little discos which are really just enclosed spaces where you might be on a dancefloor but just as likely dancing round a fire on the sand.
The beach isn’t the best in Ecuador, far from it, but there’s just about enough space for everyone to lie out and the sunsets are great. If you walk down the beach you will come to an area called Baja Montañita at the end which is a bit more chilled out and has some nice places to stay (in fact that is all it has).
One sad thing about the village for me is that for all the income generated from tourism, if you walk south through the streets you will see that the majority of people are still dirt poor and haven’t figured out a way to really benefit from all those gringo dollars. They just seem too relaxed to worry too much. There is a huge contrast between the smart and cool restaurants and the no-frills places which may serve good and cheaper food but have a truly hideous toilet experience which must put so many customers off returning.
There’s an ATM if you run out of cash and an office where you can buy tickets (get them in advance) for the direct afternoon bus to Guayaquil. Otherwise just wait on the roadside for one of the many passing services to take you to your next destination on the Ruta del Sol.
Click here to find out Where to Stay or Where to Eat in Montañita.