The Top Things to See and Do in Montañita, Ecuador

Montañita, Ecuador | © mariaflorine/Flickr
Montañita, Ecuador | © mariaflorine/Flickr
Photo of Ocean Malandra
26 July 2021

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.

Find the best spot to surf at the Point

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View from the point La Punta over the bay to Montanita the popular resort & surf spot north of Guayaquil Guayas Province Ecuador
© Rob Francis / Alamy Stock Photo
Get your surf on at the Point, where the pros congregate for the gnarliest breaks in Ecuador. If you want to join them, head just north of the town center, and you’ll soon see them: waves rising more than nine meters, shaping themselves into picture-perfect tubes as they limber up to provide long rides. Beginners might want to start with the beach between the Point and Montañita first, where the waves break closer to shore and fewer rocks lurk below the surface.

Bird-watch on Isla de la Plata

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Isla de la Plata, Ecuador
© Wilfrido Lucero / Alamy Stock Photo
Eyes peeled for blue-footed boobies – among the other exotic species – on Isla de la Plata, popularly known as the budget answer to the Galapagos, about 60km off the coast of Ecuador. It’s also a great place to get up close with migrating whales and manta rays – the waters around here teem with marine life. The best way to guarantee sightings is on a tour that provides snorkeling gear: bays of brilliantly clear waters are just the ticket for subaquatic adventures.

Sample ceviche at Tambo Sabores Peruano

Restaurant, Peruvian
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Shrimp ceviche
© Robert Briggs / Alamy Stock Photo

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.

Spend an unforgettable beach day on Los Frailes

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Los Frailes, Puerto Lopez, Ecuador
© Emiliano Barbieri / Alamy Stock Photo

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.

Go hiking and sulphur-bath bathing

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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.

Discover intriguing exhibits in the Valdivia Pre-Columbian Museum

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The Valdivian culture was a complex society that evolved around 700CE and lasted until the 16th-century Spanish conquest. Settled on the Ecuadorian Pacific coast, these fascinating ancient peoples were, famously, among the earliest cultures to produce large varieties of ornate ceramic objects, including lifelike statues decorated with shells. Allow a morning to admire this unique and fascinating artwork at the Valdivia Pre-Columbian Museum, just south of Montañita.

Live it up for a night in Cocktail Alley

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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.

Take a day trip to neighbouring Olón town

Architectural Landmark, Historical Landmark
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Olon Beach, Santa Elena, Ecuador
© Zoonar/Daniel Ferreira-Leites Ciccarino / Zoonar GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo
Montañita is a party lover’s paradise, but when the pleasures of living la vida loca start to pall, simply pace your way to Olón, a 30-minute amble north along the beach. This chilled-out coastal town is a hit among tourists desperately seeking peace and relaxation. On the menu: a range of local seafood restaurants as well as places serving international cuisine. Among the very best are some top Indian curry houses, if you fancy a change from ceviche.

Take Spanish classes at Montañita Spanish School

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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.

Surf and sunbathe on Playa Montañita

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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.

These recommendations were updated on July 26, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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