After two and a half weeks of basically non-stop fiesta in Montañita (with a side of Spanish Classes), I needed to find a recovery zone that was quiet, completely devoid of crowds, and with some good surf to boot. Ayampe fit the bill perfectly, and the Picanteria El Paso was exactly the hostel I was looking for.
Located about 25 minutes North of the surf/party town of Montañita, Ayampe is the best place to unwind after, or gather your strength before, fiesta mode. On a busy day, the ‘city center’ might consist of a dude in a hammock and a couple of dogs sleeping in the dirt road. What the town lacks in size, it makes up for in charm, tranquility, and beach real estate. As a beach break, the waves are a bit hard to predict, but the potential is definitely there for some beautiful head high, glassy waves, and even in January/February the waves were unoccupied in the morning.
My home sweet home in Ayampe was the welcoming Picanteria El Paso, a restaurant/hostel located on the main street running from the highway to the beach. It is impossible to miss, as it is the only place to eat or stay on that street. Run by Colon, a super cool Ayampe local, his wife, and their kids, Picanteria El Paso is definitely a family affair. The two available rooms are a new addition to the restaurant, which Colon has operated for many years, and at $10 per person per night it isn’t super cheap, but your money is well spent.
The downstairs room sleeps 4 (a large double bed and a bunk bed), and the upstairs can sleep 5 (two doubles and a single). As a solo traveler you can expect to pay just the $10 and get the room to yourself (definitely worth the money after putting in some dorm time). The furniture is all new, and the beds were amazingly comfortable. Although the floor is entirely concrete, the rooms don’t feel like barracks at all, and it works well for walking home in your wet board shorts. The entire room was very clean, with fresh sheets and blankets in case you get cold (you won’t). The windows open wide and have solid screens on them, and although the mosquitoes were atrocious outside, I didn’t notice any in the room. A permanently mounted fan provides some nice ventilation for all of the beds.
The best part about the entire room was the shower. Never, in my travels in Ecuador, Europe, or the States, can I remember such strong water pressure or instant, scalding hot water. I looked forward to ending a surf session just so I could get in the shower. The bathroom was decked out with nice towels and soap/shampoo to cap it all off.
The restaurant adjacent to the room boasts a solid menu of breakfast, lunch, and dinner, all of which are made fresh by Colon and his family. After you order, you can see the owner pick a hot pepper fresh off the vine in order to make your meal. Colon also makes his own hot sauce, which is distinct and a fair bit spicy. Prices are not shockingly cheap, but are very reasonable….expect to pay 3-5 for breakfast, and 4-7 for dinner, although the meals are quite filling.
Menu includes a solid selection of fish, burritos, spaghetti, rice plates, ceviche, and more, and of course you can buy the popular large bottles of pilsener, or a milkshake or coffee. It is difficult to turn down an after dinner ice cream from the stocked freezer as well.
Cap off the amenities with free Wifi, and computers available to use, the potential to borrow a surfboard for the day, live soccer or volleyball matches played nightly on the next door field, great company, and a very trustworthy atmosphere, and Picanteria El Paso scores highly on my hostel list.
Value – 4/5
Atmosphere – 4/5
Cleanliness – 5/5
Facilities – 5/5
This hostel review is by my surf and travel buddy Adam – expect some more Ecuadorian reviews to be heading your way soon by him!