Great waves, a lively party scene, tasty food, and beautiful surroundings make Montañita a great hub for backpackers along the coast of Ecuador. We met quite a few backpackers who intended to stop there for a short while and end up loving it and staying much longer. The city is easily accessed from both the north and south, and there are plenty of activities in the area, so don’t miss out on this bustling spot. Here’s a comprehensive guide of things to know before traveling to Montañita.
Getting There and Away
Montañita can be easily reached by bus or private transport. There are plenty of buses that go there from Guayaquil for less than $10 (USD) per person for a one-way ticket. You can simply show up at the Guayaquil station and find a company that goes to Montañita. Most companies will say whether they go on the sign in front of their office. We took Coop Libertad Peninsular.
To get back to Guayaquil from Montañita, wait at the same spot that the bus dropped you off at (but on the other side of the road) and wave down passing buses on the Ruta del Spondylus. Just ask if they go back to Guayaquil. Most buses to and from Montañita by way of Guayaquil run every hour, but it is always best to ask about the schedule beforehand. You can also stop at the Coop Libertad office and buy a ticket before the day of your departure.
There are various bus companies that go to and from Quito and Manta if you come from the North. The buses from Quito are much longer and less frequent, so it is often better to book these before the day of departure. Always go with a reputable company, especially for overnight trips.
Many of the restaurants, hostels, bars, and shops are concentrated near the main beach, making it really easy to walk everywhere. If you aren’t in the mood for walking, there are some taxis that can take you around.
When to Go
There isn’t necessarily a bad time to visit the coast of Ecuador, but when you choose to go really depends on your preferences. Late June through September is typically high season, with less rain and cooler temperatures. However, days can often be overcast and prices during these times are higher because there are more tourists.
December through May is low season and, though it is rainy season, days are often sunnier overall with more pleasant temperatures and less tourists. We went in the shoulder season of November, and there were quite a few overcast days. But, we had some sun, temperatures were nice, there were few tourists, and prices were reasonable.
It is important to keep specifics in mind for an ideal trip to Montañita. For example, if you desire to see the hundreds of humpback whales that migrate to the area, June through October is the time to go. But if you plan to go diving a lot, December through May typically offers warmer waters and better visibility.
Where to Stay
There are various hostels and hotels that offer a good range of accommodation in Montañita. The main thing we suggest keeping in mind is your desire to be amidst the action. If you consider yourself a party animal, then staying in the heart of town near the beach is a great option. If you don’t want to stay up partying all night and want a good night of sleep, you may want to consider staying more on the outskirts of town.
- Casa Mafer Hostel: triple room with private bathroom
- Hostal Yaku: double room with private bathroom
- El Cielo: suites, family rooms, and double rooms with private or shared bathrooms
- Casa del Sol: dorms or double rooms with shared or private bathrooms
- Casa Roja Hostel: double room with private bathroom
- Nativa Bamboo Eco Lodge: deluxe double room with private bathroom and breakfast
- Hotel Kundalini: double room with private bathroom
Where to Eat
There is no shortage of food options in Montañita, whether you are looking for a nice restaurant or a quick bite from a food stall. Most restaurants are clumped in the center of town, making it easy to walk around to take a look at options.
For breakfast, we highly recommend the stalls lining the upper end of Cocktail Street. They serve anything from smoothies and fruit bowls to omelets, waffles, and sandwiches for a pretty good deal. These stalls are also open for lunch, and we took sandwiches to go for the hike to Playa Los Frailes. For another quick and easy breakfast, head to the bakery on Ruta Del Spondylus for various breads, donuts, muffins, and more.
There are many empanada stands and ceviche carts that make their way around town and along the beach. There are also plenty of restaurants that offer a variety of foods for lunch and dinner, including pizza, pastas, grilled meats, and seafood. Many locations will have an employee advertising their menu or a menu standing outside.
We may have been in Ecuador, but we always have loved Peruvian food, and Tambo Sabores Peruanos cooks up some delicious Peruvian dishes. There are plenty of other international cuisine options, including Thai and Japanese at Shankha Sushi and Thai, Italian at Pigro, Mexican at Guadalajara, and more. For healthy vegetarian and vegan options, try Amor Infinito.
Ecuadorian food is also great, so don’t miss out on the traditional ceviche, grilled meats, plantains and beans, and the wide variety of great seafood. Many of the places that offer these dishes may not even have a name out front, but don’t be afraid to ask for prices and to see a menu!
The bars are the place to be at night, many offering fruity beverages and cheap deals. Most of the action happens along Cocktail Alley and the surrounding bars and clubs. Some of these places will offer smaller bar snacks in the later hours.
There is no large grocery store in Montañita. We recommend bringing sunscreen, snacks, and toiletries from neighboring cities, such as Guayaquil, because the prices in Montañita are much above the Ecuadorian average. However, if you need bottled water, simple snacks, toiletries, and other essentials, there are some mini markets, including MiniMarket Don Julio and Minimarket Susanita.
There are many activities to do in Montañita, some of which require a guide. This includes the awesome trip to Isla de la Plata, where you need a boat to get there and a guide to set foot on the island. For other activities, like visiting a neighboring beach to surf or going to Playa los Frailes, you can take a guide, but you can also go easily and safely on your own.
There are many tour operators, but it is important to look online for reviews or ask others for recommendations to ensure that you go with a safe and reputable company. This can also help you avoid getting ripped off. Know your options and visit multiple operators before making a decision if possible.
Most tour operators take both card and cash, but some will only accept cash. Some companies will also allow you to book online. But, they often ask for a bank transfer beforehand, which can be a little sketchy and was not feasible for us since we were on the road. If you have a group, it never hurts to ask for a discount.
There are a few ATM’s in Montañita, but the fees can be quite high and the machine sometimes runs out of money, so we recommend bringing cash or withdrawing in a larger city. Ecuador uses US dollars. There are more establishments that accept card than some other South American cities we’d traveled to. Carry some cash in case paying with card isn’t an option.
We didn’t see any currency exchange houses, so you may want to exchange beforehand. If not, you can ask the bank if they will exchange your money. We also heard that a few business will do an exchange, but you’d have to ask the locals which ones since we did not use this option.
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