The bustling surf town of Montanita in Ecuador is one of my favourite backpacking destinations. In fact it’s the place I headed to for my first real long haul solo travel experience back in 2007 and I’ve currently juts finished my third stint there.
Considering I could literally be anywhere in the world right now I think that means it comes highly recommended?!
So I thought I’d give you the low down on the beach side mecca of Ecuadorian surf lifestyle – why you should come visit, what there is to do here, how to get there and of course what you can expect to spend once you finally turn up…
Why Visit Montanita?
For me Montanita is one of those perfect combination destinations (alongside Byron Bay in Australia, Raglan in New Zealand and Kuta in Bali) which provide me with heaps of surf, a good nightlife, excellent vibes and a reasonable price tag.
Like most surf towns Montanita becomes a bubble, and once you’ve entered that bubble it’s hard to stray away – and moving onto a city no longer becomes a viable option!
Barefoot living, board shorts, street food, buskers and sand in your bed are the order of the day here – it’s really a tale of waves, babes and bad decisions!
…not only that but one quick glance at my monthly budgets for Ecuador and you can see it won’t even smash your wallet!
What Is There To Do In Montanita?
So what is there to do? What keeps me coming back for more?!
For most the surf is the main draw of the town – but whether you’ve spent years trawling the globe for warm water waves or want to give it a go you’re covered. The main beach offers up some great beginner waves year round with a whole host of local surfers offering private and small group lessons and board hire is an easy option once you’ve got the basics.
For those with a bit more wave experience the bigger days hold true and you can find some solid waves across the beaches. For those looking for something a bit less crowded though (especially in high season between Jan-Apr) the neighbouring town of Olon offers empty beaches and uncrowded peaks.
The crown jewel in the surf through is the iconic point. A reeling right hander it can hold solid sizes of swell and is pretty forgiving with a mainly sandy bottom. Tubes, big open faces and long rides await you…but if it’s firing there will be plenty of competition in the water!
Even if you don’t surf yourself a big day of surf means grabbing a beer, heading to the rocks overlooking the point and enjoying the show!
But it’s not all surf – plenty of beach based activities are in abundance – be it games of football at sunset, volleyball, slack lining or simply kicking back and topping up the tan.
The days here are a slow pace of relaxed lifestyle – enjoy the time to unwind!
The other big draw is the world famous Spanish School in Montanita (disclaimer – this is who I was surf coaching for!) and they run a variety of courses including group lessons, privates, survival Spanish and medical Spanish alongside other activities like surf lessons and yoga.
They even run and epic travelling classroom programme in Ecuador which allows you to learn Spanish on an awesome 1 month trip through Ecuador covering Montanita, Manta, Quito and even the Amazon Jungle – check out the full course here.
The night time is when Montanita shows it’s other side and nightlife here is great fun – filled with Latino tunes, salsa dancing and mojitos.
The infamous cocktail alley is the starting point for any night out with a double shot cocktail setting you back around $3.
Go check out Eugenio for arguably the best mojito in town and he’ll happily top up your rum – “moy fuerte por pa four”!
The street is a bustling array of cocktail stands, music systems and dancing in the road – it’s a great communal atmosphere that runs well into the early hours of the morning.
If you fancy hitting the clubs there’s a few options. The main one being Cana Grill (mid way down cocktail too so it’s the easy option!) where reggae ton, salsa and pop music get you dancing under the stars with it’s half open roof and sandy floor.
Other options include Nativa Bambu (a bit more upmarket and usually with a $5 cover charge on the weekends), Hola Ola and the newly opened Alcatraz (which I personally think is a massive eye sore and totally out of place here!).
And of course there’s numerous beach bars and beach fires to hit up too.
Eating and Sleeping
Obviously you’ll need somewhere to crash and some good food in your belly once you arrive – and there’s plenty of choice for all budgets and tastes.
Accommodation runs from around $6 through to $20+ depending on what you want – here’s some of my favourite options and recommendations from fellow travellers;
- Montanita Cabanas – $15-19 per night (this is where I stay every time I come here!)
- Iguana Hostel – $8-12 per night
- Hostel Sumpa
- Tierra Y Mar – $7 per night
- Pop Hostel
- Chill House – $8 per night
When it comes to eating out Montanita has a mix of local and international cuisine – again suiting every tastes and budget – so here’s my personal favourites;
- Diablos – amazing mexican restaurant, their Tortilla Salad is AMAZING!
- Kaffetina – a great little veggie restaurant which also caters for gluten free, lactose free and other dietary requirements.
- Rocios – the menu looks a bit pricey – but trust me split a pizza here, it’s more than enough!
- Wipeout – serves up some amazing local food, the Tacu Tacu veggie is my personal recommendation.
- Papillon – possibly the quickest service in town and with a varied menu and epic portion sizes!
- Tiki Limbo – a good mixed menu with great portion sizes and awesome taste. Bit more high end price wise though.
- Hola Ola – a good bar and restaurant with some amazing hummus and falaffels amongst other dishes! Also has the best ice coffee and free wifi in town!
…and of course there are numerous street food stalls throughout the town serving everything from home made burgers and ceviche through to smoothies, pancakes and pizza.
Many hostels here also have cooking facilities and there’s plenty of stores to grab fruit, veg and supplies to cook yourself and it’s easy to smash together an amazing meal for under $2.
How to Get To Montanita
Getting to Montanita itself is a pretty easy affair.
Basically you need to head to the city of Guayaquil – either by bus or flying into it from either internally or internationally – and then the major bus terminal offers a direct service right through to Montanita itself which takes around 3 hours and will set you back $6 one way.
- You’ll need to head to window 83 and buses run at 5am, 6am, 9am, 1pm, 3pm and 4:30pm. Arrive around an hour early if you can as the buses can fill up quickly.
After your stay in Montanita you can either head back to Guayaquil and bounce onwards around Ecuador to places such as Banos, Cuenca, the jungle or Quito or you can head up the coast to explore spots like Manta, Ayampe, Las Tunas, Mompiche and Canoa.
…so there you have it – how to get there, where to stay, where to eat and of course what to do when you’re there! Hopefully I’ve more than enticed you to head that way – I promise you won’t regret it!