Updated April 14th, 2020.
Surfing originally put Montañita on the map and if you’re looking to catch some gnarly waves, we promise that this tiny coastal town won’t disappoint! You could be forgiven for assuming that because of the surfing scene, that Montañita has a chilled vibe but things have gotten a little more rambunctious recent years!
To put it simply, Montañita has become a massive party destination in Ecuador. It’s not just for backpackers either, Ecuadorians will travel from as far away as Quito to experience a weekend of hedonism. This once sleepy beach town is quickly becoming South America’s very own Koh Phangan!
I vividly remember talking to an Ecuadorian hostel owner on the Galapagos who loved Montañita. All I had to do was mention the town and his eyes would sparkle with memories. He spent one evening telling me stories of whole summers spent there and the Las Vegas levels of partying he was involved in. I promised I’d never write about what he told me and I’ll stick to that promise but what I can say is; if you like a little bit of mayhem, Montañita is the town for you.
That’s not to say that partying and surfing are the only things on offer. There are multiple Spanish schools around the town, as well as yoga classes and plenty of chilled out spots to kick back and watch the world meander by.
If that doesn’t take your fancy, it’s easy to get to the neighbouring villages of Manglaralto and Olón. These two towns share the same beautiful stretch of beach as Montañita but are much quieter and provide a great place to relax without the constant threat of a hangover! You can also use these towns as bases for exploring the local cloud forest.
Montañita can be pretty calm on weekdays, where fruit shakes, yoga, and massages easily replace cocktails but it’s not hard to find the party if that’s what you’re there for. Weekends are a completely different story. Backpackers and Ecuadorians alike pour into the town looking for a weekend of debauchery, meaning the bars and beach can get super busy!
The saying goes that it’s easy to get stuck in Montañita and it’s not hard to see why. If the plethora of activities doesn’t get you, the unrelenting hangover most definitely will. Luckily ‘Lo que pasa en Montañita queda en Montañita!’ (What happens in Montañita, stays in Montañita!)
Where to Stay in Montañita – Top 5 Hostels & Hostels From $5 US/Night!
1. Hidden House Hostel – From $5 US Per Night
If you’ve come to Montañita looking to party, then follow the music to well-renowned surf hostel Hidden House Hostel! Boasting budget dorms from just $5US per night, great surf lessons and the cheapest big beers in town, Hidden House is the perfect spot for meeting other travellers. With different activities every night, it won’t be long before you’ve broken the ice and are playing wingman for your new travel buddy in one of Montañita’s many clubs! With great communal areas and party vibe, this is certainly the best hostel to get the drinks flowing! Check out our full review of Hidden House Hostel, Montañita here.
2. Esperanto Hostel – From $8.50 US Per Night
For the perfect balance of sun, surf and social scene, make sure you head to Esperanto Hostel. Unlike some of the party hostels in town, Esperanto Hostel offers a buzzing backpacker community without the messy follow-up. Here you can enjoy evening activities like BBQs and beer pong or instead take in the beach sunset from the hammocks on the upstairs balcony. All of the staff at Esperanto are outstanding and really go the extra mile to make your stay special. Dorm beds start at just $8.50 US per night which includes a decent breakfast. Wake up to the sounds of the sea and spend your days surfing the waves! Read our full review of Esperanto Hostel here.
3. Hostal Moai – From $9 US Per Night
Located far enough from the chaos of town but close enough to be convenient, Hostal Moai is a popular spot for travellers. They offer both dorm beds from $9US per night and private rooms from $42US. Breakfast is included in the room rate and goes down a treat with hungry surfers! There is French toast or eggs, fruit salad, fresh juice and either tea or coffee. With plenty of hammocks, this is a great option for backpackers looking to chill out a stone’s throw from the beach.
4. Montañita Cabañas – From $19 US Per Night
A two-minute walk from the centre of town is Montañita Cabañas, a resort-style accommodation for the budget traveller. This place has a jacuzzi, pool, communal eating area as well as both dorms and privates. Connected to the Montañita Spanish School, many guests here spend their days practising their español and surfing, because of this the Cabañas sports a tight-knit community which will make you feel welcomed the second you walk in. You’ll instantly make buddies to hit the beach with and order a few cocktails with when the sunsets. The Cabañas also organises activities for guests such as volleyball games and Friday night BBQs.
5. Kundalini – From $23 US Per Night
With ocean views, this tasteful hostel was designed with the aesthetics of nature in mind. The building itself was created without any environmental or visual impact on the community. The social area is seaside meaning you’re never far from Montañita’s main attraction!
6. Iguana Surfers Lodge — From $5 US Per Night
Just a stone’s throw from both the beach and the town, Iguana Surfers Lodge is well situated for beach lovers and party goers. With everything from 11 bed dorms to private double rooms, there is an option for every type of backpacker.
The onsite bar offers everything from all you can drink nights to chilled out beer and movie evenings that include free popcorn! Those of you wanting a good nights’ sleep will be pleased to hear the bar shuts at midnight when the party animals are ushered out into town. Iguana Surfers Lodge claim they are far enough from the main drag that even the non stop music over the weekend doesn’t interrupt your sleep but in my experience, nowhere within a 500 metre radius of the town is safe from the noise!
The Flashpacker Choice! Nativa Bambu – From $140 US Per Night
Set high on the hill overlooking town this place feels more secluded and quiet than other places with an enormous swimming pool complete with ocean views. Cabañas include their own private balconies complete with hammocks and incredible sea views. A great full breakfast is also included in the price. Stay here if you really want to treat yourself!
Things to Do in Montañita Ecuador
Montañita Spanish School has been recognised as one of Ecuador’s leading Spanish learning institutions and it’s easy to see why. Both private and group classes are offered for any level with the school’s impressive selection of highly qualified teachers. Plus when the classes end, the town is your playground for putting what you’ve learned to the test! Find out more about their Travelling Classroom Immersion program here.
Ohana Language School is another great spot to chill for a week and learn some Spanish. The tutors are all super friendly and as well as being great at teaching, they’re more than willing to share hints and tips about their town. You can book just Spanish, yoga or surf lessons, as well as accommodation in their private rooms, or you can combine any of the above in one of their package deals.
When early backpackers stumbled across Montañita, it was nothing more than four dirt roads and only had two concrete buildings. This wasn’t important though, these intrepid travellers were not on the hunt for a WiFi connection and air conditioning, they wanted waves!
The town has changed since those days but the waves have remained the same. Beginners can stay close to the shore to learn the ropes but more experienced surfers can often be seen catching gnarly waves further out. Montañita offers something for all skill levels.
Board rental is available from almost every hostel as well as specialised surf shops. For those of you like me, who have no idea how to carry a board, let alone stand on one, there are a multitude of surf instructors all over town, who will get you riding in no time!
If you are looking for the best surf tuition possible, there are a couple of prestigious surf camps in and around Montañita. I’m not going to beat around the bush here; they aren’t cheap but you get what you pay for!
Running for over a decade, Balsa Surf Camp is your one stop shop for learning to surf in Montañita. With beautiful private rooms, bungalows and onsite spa, your time away from the swell will be spent in luxury. Surfboard rental is available per hour, day or week and surf courses are also offered. The full courses aren’t cheap but when you consider they include your room, meals, various spa treatments and use of the facilities, including chill out area and cinema room, you get a whole lot of bang for your buck!
As well as offering nice rooms, yoga classes and Spanish lessons, the quirky Casa del Sol also provides guests with board rental and surf courses. A little cheaper than Balsa Surf Camp but still high quality, the surf instructors will make sure you are riding the waves in no time! There are both private rooms and small dorms on offer so no matter your travel style, you will fit in well.
If you are looking for a cheaper option or a DIY alternative then ask around the hostels in the town. Most offer board rental and a few work with surf instructors so can sometimes get you a discounted rate!
Parasailing and Paragliding
Along Montañita’s main beach you can organise paragliding and parasailing trips. If the touts are having a day off and not approaching you whilst on the beach, just head to one of the many tour agencies in town. They will almost all sell either paragliding or parasailing tours. Whilst both give you a birds-eye view of the town and sea, there is a fundamental difference between the two.
Parasailing involves being strapped into a special parachute, or parasail and being pulled behind a speeding boat, like in Jurassic Park 2 but with less dinosaurs. Depending on the speed of the boat, size of your parasail and weather conditions, you can expect to get up to between 200-400 metres. Most of these flights will last 15-20 minutes and cost around $20USD.
Paragliding differs because there is no boat. Instead, the pilot will have a fan engine strapped to their back which provides enough thrust to keep you airborne. You always fly with a pilot who has total control over the paraglider.
The parachute, or wing, looks much more like typical parachute too and gives much greater control and stability to the flight. Whilst paragliders have been recorded at over 8000 metres, a flight from Montañita will only go up to about 200. Typically flights will last 20-30 minutes and cost anywhere between $30-$50USD, depending on the season.
A little-known secret, that we were only recently let in on, Montañita has some of the best diving in Ecuador! Otro Mundo Dive School offers certification courses, one-day dive experiences and even onward dive trips to the Galapagos Islands if you fancy something pretty unforgettable!
Yoga, Massage and Health
After a whole lot of partying, a little relaxation might be exactly what you need. Luckily, Montañita offers plenty of options to take a deep breath and say omm. Almost every hostel and hotel offer daily yoga classes, as does Montañita Spanish School.
If you party hard, you also have to work out (unless a beer belly is your thing). Montañita has one good gym sporting a range of equipment and reasonably modern facilities. Muscle Beach Gym (don’t be put off by the terrible name) costs around $3USD per day, so a couple of workouts a week aren’t going to break the bank.
Isla de la Plata
Touted as ‘the poor man’s Galapagos, Isla de la Plata is a small island sitting around 70 km north of Montañita. Head here for a glimpse of blue-footed boobies, sea turtles, and at the right time of year, whales, without the cost of a trip to the Galapagos themselves.
If you plan on visiting Puerto Lopez after Montañita, then it is worth holding off on visiting the island until you get there. If you are not planning on staying in Puerto Lopez, then you are still going to have to visit, all boats to Isla de la Plata leave from the town. A bus ride between Montañita and Puerto Lopez will cost around $3USD per person and take close to an hour. In high season, trips to the island will set you back around $50USD per person and it is worth booking these a day or two in advance. Don’t wait until you get off the bus in Puerto Lopez to arrange them or they may well be full! Instead, book your tickets in Montañita to ensure you get on the boat!
In low season, you are more likely to pick up a last minute tour which will cost around $35 per person, some travellers have been known to just arrive at the docks and see who will take them for the cheapest price. This can be a good way to save money but also a bit of a gamble, you really don’t know what you’re getting when you do it this way, especially if you don’t speak good Spanish!
If you don’t want the hassle of getting a bus between Montañita and Puerto Lopez you can book your Isla de la Plata tour through Go Montañita S.A. They will set you up with a taxi to take you directly to the beach where you will join the rest of your group for the day.
This is another one to put off if you are heading to Puerto Lopez for a few days as you will need to go through the town anyway. If not, then jump on a bus from Montañita to Puerto Lopez (Approx $3USD, 1 hour). From there you will need to get onto another northbound bus and ask for Agua Blanca (Approx 25 cents), the driver should tell you when to get off but if it is busy they may forget, so keep an eye on maps.me as well.
From where the bus drops you off it is a 4-5km walk to the village. You can try your luck at hailing a mototaxi or even sweet talking a local into giving you a lift if you don’t want to complete the journey on foot. If you choose to walk, keep an eye out for dogs, there is a lot of them!
When you make it to Agua Blanca proper, be prepared for a Spanish speaking guide to show you around the museum and explain everything in great detail. This is great if you speak Spanish but it’s hard to feign interest if you don’t! The guide will also walk you around the park and finally to the pièce de résistance, the sulphur pool. Although pretty smelly, the pool is said to have healing properties and be great for the skin. If you can get past the stench of rotting eggs, the warm water is pretty relaxing and you are encouraged to scrape mud from the bottom to smear all over yourself which makes the healing properties even more potent!
Nightlife in Montañita
If you can’t find a good night out in Montañita, it’s time to go home, you’re too jaded for this world. As day turns to night, the quiet streets come to life with flashing lights, loud music and more alcohol than you would find at a Mötley Crüe party.
Head down to cocktail alley and get ready to lose all your inhibitions! The cocktails are strong and the general attitude means that as the night progresses, anything goes. Plenty of discotecas compete for customers with pumping baselines and cheap drinks, so finding a place to dance is guaranteed.
Most hostels also offer happy hour deals so you’ll already be well on your way by the time you stumble into the first bar!
1. Cana Grill: Located right on cocktail ally this place isn’t hard to stumble into. A sand dance floor, dim lighting, and live bands make this a popular spot. Head here on Wednesday for a particularly big crowd.
2. Hola Ola: This spot gets going on Thursdays with one of the most popular lady nights in town. During the day the venue is an extremely popular restaurant with a great variety of western meals as well as Israeli specialities.
3. Nativa Bambu: This massive beachfront discoteca is housed in a mighty impressive structure made of, you guessed it, bamboo. This place is the towns largest discoteca giving you plenty of space to show off your dance moves.
Where to Eat in Montañita
As it continues to gain popularity amongst Ecuadorians and foreign backpackers, Montañita is becoming a hub for tasty food from across the world. As you would expect from a backpacker town, burgers, pizzas and hotdogs are for sale in every bar. Empanada trolleys line the streets, frozen coconuts are sold along the main road and fresh seafood is barbecued all day long, there is no end of cheap food.
But all that choice can be overwhelming so here are some of our favourite places to eat in Montañita:
Tambo Sabores Peruanos
Let’s face it, Ecuadorian food is a little… meh. There is either too much coriander (cilantro for those of you outside the UK), not enough salt, too much water or nothing is properly cooked. In my opinion, even the famous Ecuadorian Ceviche leaves a lot to be desired.
Thankfully, Tambo Sabores Peruanos is not an Ecuadorian restaurant. It is run by a Peruvian family who add the taste of Peru to each dish. With the two countries being so close, you would think that their cooking would be the same. Whilst there is a lot of base ingredients shared between the two, namely potatoes, pasta and chicken, Peruvian cuisine is just better.
The flavours are stronger and they don’t just use coriander but instead get stuck into a whole plethora of herbs and spices. Even the ceviche is completely different (and much, much better!). You can learn more about the origins of ceviche here.
With rotating daily specials and a very reasonably priced almuerzos, Tambo Sabores Peruanos is well worth a visit!
Ezzio’s is a firm backpacker favourite thanks to their massive tasty pizzas and low prices! The only downside is that It can get super busy, especially over the weekend. To avoid standing around waiting for hours, try to get there early to secure a seat. Failing that, take your pizza away and head to the beach. What better way is there to spend an evening than watching the sunset over the ocean and gorging on Italy’s finest export?
This Thai, Ecuadorian fusion restaurant is a great choice for travellers looking for a taste of Asia whilst in South America. The Pad Thai doesn’t hold a candle to the real thing but the idea of creating a South American style Pad Thai is, if nothing else, an interesting experiment. The real draw to Tiburon and what makes it a favourite for locals and backpackers is the giant empanadas. These are stuffed with various fillings but nearly always include cheese and a type of meat. Deep fried and served like a calzone, empanadas grande from Tiburon are a right of passage for those in Montañita. They are also a great hangover food – you heard it here first!
Getting to Montañita
From Guayaquil, direct buses head to Montañita daily, with the last one leaving at 4:30pm. If you miss that bus catch a bus to Santa Elena and then onwards to Montañita.
Where to Head Next?
- Ayampe: Ready to walk away from the party for a bit? This coastal town is the exact opposite of Montañita, expect days filled with surf and nights filled with nothing but sleep.
- Guayaquil: Ecuador’s largest and most populous city. This coastal metropolis is a fantastic hub for onward travel and commercial splendour.
- Puerto Lopez: Just an hour north of Montañita, Puerto Lopez is way more down to earth than it’s sibling. Still not as laid back as Ayampe, there is plenty to do in Puerto Lopez, even if it’s just relaxing for a few days and nursing your epic hangover!
Header photo by: Laura Katherine.