Once a sleepy fishing village lost in time, Montañita is now the most famous party town in Ecuador. Golden-sand beaches and some of the best Pacific surfing in South America draw the faithful, while dozens of waterfront bars and clubs rage until the sun comes up – just about every night of the week. Here’s our guide for the best things to see and do in Montañita, Ecuador.
Put your taste buds through their paces at Tambo Sabores Peruano, where fresh local fish is transformed into real-deal, Lima-style ceviche that gets rave reviews. This fine, unfancy local restaurant is open for lunch and dinner daily, and is so popular that you should expect a line during high season. Besides classic Peruvian seafood specials such as tiradito (Peruvian sashimi) and arroz con mariscos (seafood rice), they do killer Peruvian-Chinese fusion plates.
Beach bums are invariably blown away by the iridescent green waters of Los Frailes, a trio of gorgeous coves about an hour’s drive beyond Montañita, north along the Pacific coast. Part of Machalilla National Park, these paradisiacal strands are backed by rugged cliffs and feel worlds away from the busy sands of urban Montañita. Don’t have a car? Don’t worry – Los Frailes is also easy to get to from town by bus. Or make the stunning hike from nearby Puerto López.
Should you for any reason be suffering from stress on holiday, soak it away in the sulphur lake at Agua Blanca, before relaxing into a mud facial or full body massage at the on-site spa. This rural community welcomes visitors to its lush territory, with miles of hiking trails through the forest, and first-rate bird-watching and wildlife-viewing. Top tip: browse around for artisan products, which make great gifts, and take time for lunch at the community restaurant.
It’s a non-stop fiesta every night of the week in Cocktail Alley, where a bunch of simple shack bars serve low-priced drinks as pop music and salsa sounds pulse into the air. On the cards for you is a wild time sure to feature dancing in the streets as you mingle with complete strangers – possibly making a bunch of new best friends. When hunger pangs strike, there’s no need to leave the party as street vendors swing through nonstop, touting all kinds of moreish food.
Of course, a few glasses of Dutch courage might make you think you’re fluent in Spanish – but if you really want to get in with the Ecuadorians, you’re going to need to take some proper lessons. Enter the Montañita Spanish School, which specializes in both one-on-one tuition as well as group classes. If the idea of wall-to-wall classroom is daunting, combos include Spanish + Surf and Spanish + Yoga, so school takes in the natural splendor of Montañita’s beaches.
Wobbly swells of turquoise waves rolling up onto the white sand make Playa Montañita the central attraction in town. For many it’s enough to simply lie gazing at the scene, sipping a cocktail and letting the worries of the world slowly slip away. But this is also a great place to surf some decent-sized rollers. Don’t know how? Don’t worry – Balsa Surf Camp offers everything from one-day lessons to full-on surf camp style immersion. Hourly board rental is available, too.
This is an updated rewrite of an article originally by Harry Stewart.