Surfers’ paradise! Travellers flock to Montañita for sun, waves and partying all year round, and we thought it would be full of Aussies, but in reality most of the town’s revenue seems to come from the locals rather than the gringo dollar, as evident in the fact that most bars, clubs and food stalls only open on Fridays and Saturdays, when the place is full of Ecuadorians, young and old. Parties flood onto the street and music pours out onto the beach until the early hours; expect to see kids up super late while they accompany their family on their big night out – sort of bizarre, yes, but remember that South Americans don’t binge drink like we do, so they’re here for the love of dancing rather than to take brightly coloured jelly shots until their drooling face hits the pavement. This guide will tell you all you need to know about things to do in Montañita, Ecuador, where to stay, eat & party, and how to get to Ayampe from Montañita.
How to pronounce Montañita: monta-NYEE-tah
How to pronounce Ayampe: eye-AM-pay
One thing you will notice though is a sad lack of respect by some locals for their environment; it’s easy to take the natural beauty for granted when you grow up surrounded by it. The beach and streets are pretty heavy with litter on weekends, but after a Sunday clean-up it remains clean and free of waste the rest of the week while domestic tourists are back at work in the city. Thankfully, if you go to the lesser visited towns such as Ayampe from Montañita you’ll notice that everything is totally pristine.
Things to do in Montañita
Catch some Montañita surf
Well, most people come here to surf. Surf lessons cost around $20 per hour depending on which school you go to, and board hire is in the region of $5 per hour, though you will get discounts for renting for longer. There weren’t actually as many surfers out as we expected, although the waves seemed much bigger than in Máncora (perhaps the reason people say Máncora is better for beginners). Lots of surfers also head down the coast to other, less busy beaches such as Olon and Ayampe to fully immerse themselves in the surfer lifestyle.
Fill your backpack
Montañita is full tourist territory, and the prices are therefore a lot higher. There is a plethora of shops and stalls from which to buy some pretty cool looking clothing and souvenirs, but if you’re going to be in Ecuador or Peru for a while you’re probably best holding off for a city market, as some shops will charge £20 for a tshirt. Some shopkeepers will try and chance charging you more than the market rate; feel able to challenge the price if it’s starting to look ridiculous.
Hike to Cascadas de Dos Mangas
Near to Montañita are the Cascadas de Dos Mangas waterfall and pool. You can arrange tours from an agency in the town (approx. $25 with lunch), or get a taxi to the park entrance (small fee) and do the hike yourself with the option to hire a horse/bike.
Day trip to Ayampe from Montañita
Ayampe itself is a lovely little getaway from the hustle and bustle of Montañita. To get to Ayampe from Montañita, and any other beach town along the Northern coast, just go to the main road, on the side furthest from the sea, and flag down any bus on that side. When we went to Ayampe from Montañita in March 2018, it cost us per person $1.50 each way, it may be a little more now. Buses stop at any place you want them to along that road, and should come along every 10-15 minutes. The driver will shout out when you get to each small town, but best to track yourself on Google Maps just in case.
Coming to Ayampe from Montañita is pretty damn refreshing. There is more or less nothing in the town itself other than a few beachside hostels, and it’s the first place in a long time where we’ve been able to hear a pin drop in a town centre. There are jungle hikes should you wish (we absolutely did not wish), or a beautiful long beach to walk down. While there are barely any people on this beach apart from the odd dreadlocked blonde guy, there are thousands of little crabs burrowing in the sand. Don’t worry though, they’re deathly scared of humans and will crawl underground at the sound of your footsteps.
For eats in Ayampe, we recommend Restaurant El Paso, which has an excellent Menu (hello, prawn soup) and gave Lozzy two of the largest stuffed fruit and honey crepes of her life.
Where to eat and drink in Montañita
On the weekends, the food and drink scene is alive with lights, music and people calling you into their establishment! Things heat up at around 10-11pm in the centre, and by midnight you’ll see people spilling out on the street.
One of the coolest things about Montañita is the food and cocktail stalls down the creatively name ‘Cocktail Alley’. Each small stall has its own table and chairs for you to sit at close range to other customers and chat to the owner if you want to. The cocktail stalls are right in the action on the busy street next to Quebecer Bar and charge $3-4 for a cocktail made fresh in front of you. If it’s not strong enough, feel free to tell them and they’ll top it up without issue, but we really doubt you’ll be finding these cocktails weak!
Down the next street, you’ll find a row of restaurant stalls, again with their own table and chairs, which the best-smelling grills you can imagine. We made the mistake of skipping these on a Saturday night and saying we’d go back on Sunday when it was less busy, but they didn’t open again for the next 4 days we were there! Further from the beach, there is also a street of breakfast stalls if you want epic Nutella pancakes and waffles any time of day (of course you do).
Theres also a little street one in from the main road that offers good BBQ grilled food (parilla) for $4, including rice, beans and a drink, plus another for roadside ceviche.
Bar-wise, Santo Cielo was right up our street, with hammocks downstairs and a sick balcony vibe upstairs. The staff here were really friendly and the drinks weren’t badly priced (3 beers for $5), which always helps :
For dancing the night away, Lost Beach Club is the place everyone raves about (quite literally), but it was waaaaayyyy too techno/trance for us, and it seemed a little steep to pay $10 for entry. Spacio is just down the beach and had some decent sounding music early on in the night when we were strolling along the sand. Down the road and just inland, Alcatraz seemed like the best large club, with multi-storey galleries and all our favourite Reggaeton tunes for $5 entry.
For a chillaxed bar and some decent drinks, head down the the very north of the beach, where you’ll find the Montañita Brewing Company. This is the perfect place to watch surfers as the sun comes down, and make sure you ask for a trial of their flavoured craft cider!
Where to stay in Montañita
We stayed at Hostal Lumaga, which was more like a backhouse to a family’s home. We had to walk through about half an acre of land amidst chickens and ducks to get to the three-storey wooden house, but the peace it gave us was incredible! Lying in one of the hammocks on the balcony, you could forget you were only 300m away from the craziness of the main town. At $20 for a large double room with a private bathroom AND a fully-functioning mosquito net, it was a bit of a barg.
That’s another thing – being so close to humid coast and surrounding jungle, mozzies are rife in Montañita, so make sure you have a strong repellent spray and that you check your hostel provides nets on all beds.
We also checked out Hidden House just across the road from us; unfortunately we weren’t able to see the bedrooms but the vibe and set-up of the communal area (pictured) was really cool, complete with PS4 and Netflix on a giant outdoor plasma!
The town itself is horrendously loud on a weekend, and still pretty noisy into the late hours on weekdays, so we really recommend going to one of the hostels on the riverside across the bridge from the town. It’s only a 3 minute walk into the centre or beach from there.
How to get out of Montañita
The bus ‘terminal’ is along the main road. Buses to from Montañita to Guayaquil go 10 times a day (4:45am to 6pm) for $8, and outside of high season you shouldn’t have to book ahead. The terminal staff will tell you when the bus arrives (I mean, it’s pretty obvious), so you don’t have to wait on the roadside. From Guayaquil terminal, you can get to practically anywhere in Ecuador or northern Peru.
How long to stay in Montañita: 3 days
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