Montañita is a village in Manglaralto Parish on the south coast of Ecuador. The region is known for its combination of small tourist-friendly villages and towns, magnificent unspoiled beaches, world-class surfing and both island and mountain natural reserves. Over the years, a relaxed and multicultural atmosphere has evolved.
Ecuador's "Ruta del Sol" ("Route of the Sun") has been renamed "Ruta del Spondylus" and part of Manglaralto Parish in Santa Elena Province.
A hidden treasure that did not even appear on the maps just a few years ago, the combination of perfect waves, golden sand, and tropical vegetation have slowly developed its reputation as a tropical paradise.
Montañita started as a beautiful beach with a few rustic houses of native fishermen and some surfers in tents. Over time it's grown to include vacation homes, hotels, rustic restaurants, bars and open air cafès, created by people seeking to escape the frantic life-style of Guayaquil, Ecuador's largest city and main seaport. Montañita has its share of foreigners who fell in love with the place and settled down. They include Argentinians, Americans, Australians, Canadians, Germans, Jamaicans, Russians and people from all over Europe. This village's colorful variety of street vendors, artisans, activities, and party nightlife provide a multicultural atmosphere that attracts the same variety in its visitors.
The layout of Montañita is a grid of small streets parallel to the north-south main road (E15), or perpendicular to it (east-west, most having beach access). The streets are crowded with shops, restaurants and hostels. North of Montañita's little town is a small mountain often called "the Point" that separates its beach from Olon, Montañita's neighboring town. On this small mountain is a beautiful ocean overlook and the beaches of Olon.
Mosquitoes and other insects can be a nuisance, especially at night. Bug spray or "bugger off" bracelets may help.
The usual way to reach Montañita and the other villages in Manglaralto Parish is overland via the Ruta del Sol, a beautiful coastal highway running along the Ecuadorian coast.
- From Guayaquil: Direct lines from Guayaquil to Montañita by CLP, last one leaves at 18:30. If you don’t make it to one of the direct buses, take CLP bus to Santa Elena or Libertad ($3.30, two hours) and transfer to the Citup bus ($1.50, one hour) which will take you to Montañita. CLP buses to Santa Elena and Libertad start operating around 03:00 (maybe even earlier). Once you are at Santa Elena or Libertad, it is extremely easy to transfer, just look for the blue and white bus called Citup that goes to Montañita.
- From Cuenca, Machala, Loja or other cities in southwestern/southern Ecuador: Take a bus directly to Guayaquil and follow the directions above.
- From Quito, Esmeraldas or other north/northeastern cities of Ecuador: From Quito take a direct bus to Guayaquil and follow directions above or go to Jipijapa or Portoviejo. From there you can get a bus directly to Montañita, or by changing in Puerto Lopez.
- From Peru: Cross into Ecuador at the International Bridge over the Zarumilla River, near Huaquillas-Aguas Verdes (customs/immigration control). From Huaquillas you can get a bus to Guayaquil. From there, follow the directions above to Montañita.
- From Guayaquil or Santa Elena, you can take a taxi to Montañita, either for greater comfort or when the buses aren't running (generally after 21:00). The fare is between $80 and $100, as of March 2019.
Walking is the best way to get around town as Montañita is a very small village and the streets can get too crowded for cars. However, taxis and buses are available and make it possible to consider staying also in the less crowded, more serene and safe villages of Manglaralto and Olon only 5 minutes away, south and north respectively from downtown Montañita.
Surf & bodyboard
From beginners to experienced surfers, Montañita and its surrounding beaches offer an ideal location for surfing and bodyboarding. Many shops in town and on the beach rent out surfboards for about $5 per hour or $15 the whole day. If you want to catch early waves, some of the shops will rent you a board in the evening and you return in when the shop opens.
There is a choice of beaches, both in and near Montañita:
- The Point known as the End in Montañita is a point break just north (1 km) of the center of Montañita. Waves are fast, strong and some of the more respected waves in Ecuador. If swell of the north, the west hard has the propitious conditions with some or the south and little wind. Waves can reach 3 m with sections of impressive tubes. Appropriate for surfers of intermediate and advanced level. The bottom is rocky but the route ends in sand. If you are going to surf, stay in the north part of town.
- Between the Point and the center of Montañita, you'll often find fast, beach-break, running waves (both left and right) playing along the sandy bottom. Great for beginners to more experienced surfers, especially when the Point is not working well.
- Ecuadorian Air Force (FAE — Fuerza Aerea Ecuatoriana). 70km south of Montañita, in (Salinas). This sensible left to nobody swell, is one of the favourites of tablistas Guayaquileños. Special permission used to be necessary to access the beach, as it belongs to the armed forces of Ecuador, but since October 2013, you only need an ID. Waves here are very consistent; with low tide there are almost always good waves (left ones). Only for experienced surfers.
- Tunas/Ayampe. 25 km north of Montañita, Tunas, and Ayampe (3 km apart) both offer powerful and tubular waves almost every day. With lefts and rights, the waves of Tunas and Ayampe are a good option when the water is calm in Montañita, since they always can give a good wave for you to have fun.
- Ecuador Spanish Schools. The school is also present in Quito, Manta, Cuenca.
- Mar Azul Spanish School. In Montañita, this school is the perfect place to study for the discerning traveller. This school, run by an expert experienced teacher who taught in Quito, offers private lessons, which is proven to be the best way to learn Spanish quickly. Rather than being taught from a book, this school focuses on practical Spanish, depending on the interests of the students. Steps from the beach, 30 m away from the constant noise and distraction of the town, this is the place to go if you really want to learn the language. Programs include book materials free and variety of options for extra activities: surf, yoga, medical Spanish, volunteer work, etc. The owner, Gaby, is incredibly friendly, and the size of this school makes it extremely accommodating, without many of the policies and rules that make the other schools difficult to deal with.
- Montañita Spanish School. Up a series of steps from the main road. There is a variety of courses on offer, from traveller's survival Spanish to intensive Spanish, medical Spanish (interning at the local hospital), Spanish and volunteering, Spanish and surfing, and Spanish and diving.
- [dead link] Garcia Surfboards. Victor Garcia, surfboard maker, is a local legend. If you are looking to buy a balsa or foam board while in Montañita, or if you want to become an apprentice in learning how to make boards, you can now visit him at his new website at where you can find his mobile number. As an alternative, ask locals in town or walk through the local neighborhood of Kamala between Montañita and Manglaralto asking where Victor lives.
Local artisans walk around carrying displays of their handmade necklaces, earrings and a variety of other jewelry. Along the streets are tables of vendors selling interesting and beautiful crafts. Tagua [formerly dead link], also known as vegetable ivory, is native to the area and is used to make rings, necklaces, and other crafts including animal figurines.
A few vendors from Otatvalo have tables and a small store with crafts, artwork, bags, and clothing found in the mountains. Some of the clothing and bags are woven from alpaca.
There a several surf and rental stores available offering everything you need for the beach. On the main street, one of the neatest and exotic things they have are necklaces made out of strings from hemp that hold neat things like shark tooth. These usually sell for about $3-4.
Also, if you are in the need for marijuana, you can ask any of the surfers or restaurant owners, as they will have some for you. Montañita is the most famous weed-smoking beach town, although the quality is not always good, the amount is plentiful. Because of local tolerance, Montañita is becoming known as South America's Amsterdam. The attention has brought higher qualities of marijuana to the local market.
Montañita has a well-deserved reputation for culinary variety and surprises. From vegetarian pizzas to delicious spaghetti with shrimp, the lists of restaurants and of special dishes are both long. Like a good coastal pueblito, most restaurants have a fish/seafood menu for reasonable prices. For example, you might find a menu with vegetable soup as the starter, a second course of fish with rice, fried bananas, and salad from $2. Another important point is the fruits. It is practically a religion in Montañita to take a good breakfast with pineapples, bananas, papayas with yogurt and granola here, nutritious food that the restaurants offer from 08:00 to lunchtime.
On the busiest streets, there are small stalls during the evenings and night selling hamburgers and hot dogs for about $1.50. Many restaurants are transformed into bars, and many bars become nightclubs. Tourists come to enjoy the beach, but also because they know that the nightlife is spectacular.
- Happy Donkey House Parrillada Restaurant (Across from the church opposite park square), ☏ . Wonderful restaurant with an odd name. They offer a wide variety of cuisine. The pastas and grills are the most popular. The coffee served is excellent as well. Happy Donkey House has been featured on nationally televised shows which have helped the restaurant gain a lot of recognition.
While as in most of the rest of Ecuador, tap water is not safe to drink, as far as bar drinks, Montañita will not disappoint. The delicious mixture of licores with fruit juices results in tempting daiquiris. The supply of bars is ample and spans a large range of styles.
- Cafe del Mar (Near the center). Vegetarian restaurant with the most relaxed atmosphere in the village lots of cushions and sofas, books for sale and exchange, low prices for quality homemade healthy food, caters to special diets, oatmeal cookies and brownies, carrot cake.
- Caña Grill. This bar is half indoor and half outdoor and frequently hosts concerts. The stage faces the outdoor portion, which is completely covered in sand.
- Hola Ola (On the main strip), ☏ . Restaurant, bakery, bar, club, Net café, surf shop, etc. Good food and drinks. A huge courtyard sits behind the restaurant with a stage and hosts live bands on the weekends. No cover. $5-20.
- Insomniac Cafe (Next to the town church, across from the town park). The gringo (visitor) location in town. Real coffee, espresso based drinks from an espresso machine from Italy, great fast snacks, full bar and NFL football.
- [formerly dead link] Karukera Restaurant. This is a bar and a good Ecuadorian and French restaurant. The flaming shots are the best here.
- Planeta Tierra (Planet Earth) (Main street), ☏ . Great restaurant. Sopapilla is the best in town; the owner also owns a hotel in town. Marthita, the owner's daughter, speaks perfect English and is more than happy to show you around.
During busy evenings, the entire street of Calle Tercero (northernmost) has over 20 barlets on carts serving fresh juice cocktails, and seating for 2-4 people at each.
- Balsa Surf Camp (At the Point (en la Punta)). A fantastic, hand-crafted hotel owned by a well-known surf board shaper. Rooms are nice and clean, and come with balconies and private baths. Free Internet, and great food including breakfast. Speaks English, Spanish, and French.
- 1 La Gondola Hosteria (right on the beach on the less crowded side.), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Check-in: 13:00, check-out: 12:00. At a walking distance to town (300 m from bus stop), but far enough from the noise and chaos. Lovely, clean, big rooms and bungalows surrounded by a massive garden. Each room is different and unique. Also bungalows with small kitchen ideal for longer stays. Many relaxing areas with hammocks and board games. Good breakfast, all day bar/restaurant with view of the beach. Friendly staff. Private parking, 24-hr security. $45 for a big double room including breakfast..
- [dead link] La Barranca, La Punta-Baja Montañita, Calle Principal, ☏ . Check-in: 15:00, check-out: 13:00. A luxury hotel on the Point in Montañita on the main road to the Sanctuary. All 17 rooms have air conditioning, TV, private bathrooms with hot water. Wi-Fi, Jacuzzi, restaurant/bar, back-up power generator. Free parking, 24-hour security. 50 m from the beach, and a 10-minute walk to the village. $30.
- La Casa Blanca. A comfortable place to stay in Montañita. Rooms have private baths, mosquito net, fan, and hammocks. Some rooms offer ocean views.
- Charo's Hostal. The premier hotel in the center of Montañita. On the boardwalk, Charo's offers first-class accommodations at competitive prices. Swimming pool and restaurant. Upstairs rooms often lack decent water pressure. The rooms are not very spacious. You get a better price, service, and accommodations at La Barranca on the other side of town if you are looking for high end in Montañita. However, if you want to be in the center of town and directly in front of the beach, then this place is it.
- [dead link] Hachuwa Hostal & Restaurant, Calle Guido Chiriboga y Vicente Rocafuerte, ☏ . Very good value for the price. Simple but clean and modern rooms, some with balcony. In the heart of town, but just outside of the club's blast zone to be fairly quiet at night. No hot water, however. $10.
- Hostal Centro Del Mundo. Right across from the beach, this basic but tidy place offers both single and double rooms at about $8 per person, or you can sleep on one of the mattresses in the loft space for $4 a night. To find it, just walk along the beach (near the center of town). At times the water doesn't work, and if you are scared of "cricket roaches" you probably don't want to stay here. USD4+.
- Hostal Las Palmeras, Av 15 de Mayo y Javier Ledesma, ☏ . Rooms with ocean view, a bit away from all the commotion of the centre of the town. Low season $10.
- [formerly dead link] Hostal Papaya. Hostel and restaurant is in the center of the village. It has nice balconies, good food, and laundry service. TV room with armchairs.
- Hostal Sole Mare (10 min walk from town), ☏ . Beautiful hostel in front of the beach just in the right spot for surfing competitions.
- 2 Los Tigrillos (100m east on the first street north of the town bridge), ☏ , , . Check-in: anytime, check-out: anytime. Lots of covered camping spots for $3 per person ($4 if you don't bring your own tent) with showers, bathrooms, and a community kitchen. $3-4.
- Hostal El Turista, on the beach (200 m N of the town bridge, 5-7 min by road), ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Check-in: anytime. Two words: friendly and relaxed. Nice and simple hostel with the motto "Enjoy Montañita". Clean rooms, private baths with hot water; a few meters from the sand, 5-7 min walk to the town. Enjoy the beach, party at night, and come back to sleep in the quiet and relaxed part of town. Surf lessons, board rental, surf trips within Ecuador, tours and excursions. Very friendly and relaxed environment. $10 (if you travel alone you can share a room), with private bathroom, hot water.
- Hotel Casa del Sol, 100 m of the point break (300 m N, on the beach), ☏ . Yoga and surf. Rustic hotel in front of the point break. Breakfast, Wi-Fi, hot water sometimes, and air-con. Owned-operated by Americans. Rooms are OK, but old and not the best in this part of the beach for the money you pay. Taco bar $1.50. $25 double with private bath.
- Hotel Funky Monkey (N of the village). Rooms with private and shared baths. Bar, restaurant, common area with satellite TV and pool table.
- Hotel Montañita (N of the village). The biggest hotel in town, on the beach with 36 rooms with private baths, swimming pool, parking, and restaurant.
- 3 Kundalini Hostal, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Check-out: 12:00. Small relaxing hotel at the bottom of the beach. Private bath. Hot water. Rustic cottage with ample garden in front of the sea. $40 private.
- Manglaralto Sunset Hostel (S of downtown, five min by car or a twenty min walk along the beach), ☏ , (Mobile), ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. In the quieter setting of Manglaralto, the hotel offers some of the most comfortable rooms in the area, some with air conditioner, each with large private bath and hot-water shower, independent entrance and multi-coloured hammock on portal. There is a café and bar in the hostel, 24-hr reception, travel info, lounge, and free parking. MasterCard and Visa accepted.
- 4 [dead link] Montañita Cabañas, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Eco-friendly hostel in quiet area bordering the farmland, but a 2-minute easy stroll to the beach and 3 minutes to centre of town. Beautiful huge cabanas, large swimming pool, Jacuzzi, and hang out hammock areas. Private bathrooms. Communal kitchen and some cabanas have private kitchens and air-con. Dorm from $15..
- Las Palmas Hotel. Good hotel away from the downtown crowd and noise. Great rates. Groups welcomed. Speak English/Spanish/French/Portuguese.
- El Refugio de Las Aves (Tigrillo neighborhood), ☏ . Wooden and bamboo houses with kitchen. Also offerings comfortable rooms for days or month with shared clean kitchen, laundry, and TV. $20.
- [dead link] Tabuba Hostal. Modern hotel, in front of the beach. All rooms have private baths, air-con, and satellite TV. This place is cheaper than Charo's and also in the middle of town and right in front of the beach. The rooms are small.
- Tikilimbo. The coolest, most popular hostel for surfers. They have a clothing shop, rent surfboards, and equipment, give lessons, have a tattoo parlor, and tour desk for setting up cool trips. The hippest, most fun hostel in town at the heart of nightlife and activity, with a super relaxed atmosphere. $15.
Most of the accommodations have decent Internet connection with wifi. There are a few Internet cafes and call centres around with similar prices :
- Cyber Hostel (At the end of the busiest street.). Open late. The cheapest Internet cafe in town. The connection is usually fast enough but the computers are slightly outdated. $1 per hour.
Direct CLP buses from Montañita to Guayaquil depart few times a day. Check the departure times from the small CLP office in Montañita. The bus schedules vary by day of the week, and the information on the company's website (if you can find the schedule at all) may not match reality, so check at the counter the day before if you need a specific time. The price is around $6 and the journey takes between 3 and 4 hours.
More frequent buses go to Santa Elena (Ecuador), where you can catch another bus service to Guayaquil (departs every 15 minutes during daytime).
- Puerto Lopez is the ideal place from which to explore Machalilla National Park.
- Salango is a tiny tranquil fishing village has only a couple of streets but is home to an impressive and well-maintained archaeological museum.