Montañita isn’t the kind of place I’d normally travel to, but it turns out warm ocean and $1 beers can win even the most indignant of us over. The two weeks I spent studying Spanish and staying in the Montañita Cabañas turned out to be pretty damn awesome.
Montañita is in Ecuador, but the funky beach town could exist in just about any country in the world. The ramshackle development and over-the-top nightlife (like prison-themed Discoteca Alcatraz) drag it close to being tacky, but for now, it’s still just a sweet little spot on the Ecuadorian coast. With a lovely waterfront and a tranquilo quality of life, it’s easy to understand why Montañita is so hard to leave. If you’re going to Ecuador and looking for a break from the urban chaos, duck over to the Pacific and experience all the best travel experiences and things to do in Montañita!
8 Reasons You’ll Never Want to Leave Montañita
1. The surfing is awesome
Montañita is a town well known for its surf. With beginner waves on one end and a point break that can swell up to 3m on the other, there are options for surfers of all levels. If you’re just learning, lessons start at $20. Board rentals are also available for $5-8 hour all along the beach. The best time of year to catch a wave is December through June. Tip: Looking to avoid the crowds? Head 20 minutes north to the super-chill town of Olon.
2. You can fix your Spanglish at the Montañita Spanish School
Preterite, imperfect, future perfect… oh, shit. With one of the clearest accents in Latin America, Ecuador is the perfect place to improve your Spanish skills. Sure, you can scrape by with the basics, but spending a few weeks at the Montañita Spanish School will get your conversation skills up to speed before you take on the rest of South America.
Going for it? Spanish classes range from $170-$240. Check out our full review of the Montañita Spanish School for everything you need to know about learning Spanish on the beach.
3. You can venture to Isla de la Plata to spot Blue Footed Boobies
If you dream of the Galapagos but don’t have the funds to do it, Isla de la Plata is a budget Galapagos alternative. For just $50, you can head out from Puerto Lopez – a town about 1 hour north of Montañita – for whale watching, blue-footed booby spotting, and one of the most epic birdwatching experiences of your life.
Don’t believe me? Check out my full post on Isla de la Plata to see for yourself!
4. There is ceviche everywhere
Ecuador may be a tiny country, but the regional cuisine is impressively diverse. You have to take advantage of your time on the coast for ceviche straight from the sea! Tip: If you haven’t tried it before, ceviche is a dish of raw fish that is cooked by the acidic lime juice. It’s prepared with onions, chiles, and cilantro and often served with plantain chips or fried corn.You can grab ceviche from one of the yellow carts in town, but I’m a little bit suspect. Good news is that many restaurants will offer it as a starter to their $3 almuerzo.
Love street food? Check out our post on the best street food in Quito.
5. You can do nothing and feel alright about it
I’m a huge advocate of the occasional (ok, frequent) do-nothing day. In fact, I’d say doing nothing is one of the most quintessential things to do in Montañita. You can burn yourself out when you travel too fast! If you make it to Montañita, I recommend lots of time sprawling out in a hammock and lounging beneath beach umbrellas. Swim, but don’t swim too hard. Walk from one end of the beach to the next, grab an empanada, pick up a beer along the way, and call it a day! There will be lots of other people sharing your do-nothing day, so you won’t even have to feel bad about it.
6. It’s inexpensive to get certified in yoga, massage, or diving
Ambitious, are you? If you have ever wanted to get yoga, massage, or PADI certified, Montañita is one hell of a place to do it. Cost of certification is well below what you’d pay in other parts of the world, and you’ll have plenty of opportunities to earn money if you stick around afterward!
If you search online, you’ll find yoga teacher retreats upwards of $2,000, but there are at least a few studios in town with cheaper 200-hour yoga certification programs. PADI certifications are available from 4-20 day courses and start from $350-400.
7. You can pregame a night out with $3 mojitos on Cocktail Alley
The cocktail books in Cocktail Alley cocktails are longer than a Korean karaoke songbook (I hope some of you can get the reference). Expect iterations of everything from White Russians, to caipirinhas, to passion fruit mojitos, all for just $3. Pick your poison and grab a plastic chair on the street. You’re in for some excellent people watching and a uniquely Montañita experience.
8. You’ll stay out too late, but the company is great
I got to Montañita on an overnight bus and was greeted by a few sandy-footed folks still out from the night before. Maybe you think your party days are behind you, but Montañita can bring out the irresponsible side in anyone. Grab a $1 Brahmas, sip cocktails at Cocktail Alley, listen to 5-year-old hits at Caña Grill, and head into Lost Beach for house music playing well into the morning. It’s hard to go back to being adult after a few weeks in Montañita. Tip: Clubs get increasingly more expensive as the night goes on. For the best price, get your wristband early or go with a big group to get a deal.
Where to Stay in Montañita
Looking for a place to sleep between surf trips and late nights out? Here are a few of the best hostels and hotels in Montañita, Ecuador.
The Montañita Cabañas | Owned by the same guys behind the Montañita Spanish School, the Montañita Cabañas are the comfy thatched-roof bungalows on the edge of town where you join in a community of Montañita long-timers. While there are cheaper hostels in Montañita, the Cabañas are your spot if you want something young, but a bit cleaner and a whole lot quieter. Bungalows from $34 or read the full review here.
Hotel Kundalini | Just 6 minutes up from the beach, the Hotel Kundalini is a little slice of Hawaii on the coast of Ecuador. The hotel itself is just fine, but reviewers call the property “spotless” and “relaxing” which is basically unheard of in Montañita. Doubles from $72.
Nativa Bambu Ecolodge | Nativa Bambu makes the list for ocean views, professional service, and more modern furnishings than most other hotels in Montañita. If that doesn’t sell you, the hotel also uses solar panels and a recycling program to reduce its ecological imprint. Twins from $115.