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Enjoying Montanita: Ecuador’s Surf and Hippie Hangout

Kativa & I on Avenida de los Cocteles
Kativa & I take over Poeta's bar on Avenida de los Cocteles

I arrived in Montanita on a Saturday afternoon, the busiest day of the week, in the little surf and hippie hangout on Ecuador's Pacific coast.

The streets were filled with a mix of vacationing Ecuadorians, dreadlocked South American hippies, and surfers from around the world.

My friend Kevin likened Montanita to a “backpacker vortex” because it sucks travelers into its laid-back, daily rhythm of life.

After spending two weeks, and three weekends there, I wholeheartedly agree. Montanita quickly grew to become one of my favorite places in the world.

And much like my visits to Indonesia's Gili Trawangan and Belize's Caye Caulker, my time in Montanita was defined not by a single amazing experience but rather by all the little ones that collectively made up the whole.

Making Friends

I met Kativa and Whitney that first Saturday night at Hola Ola, a Western-owned bar known for its weekly Ladies Night every Thursday and Saturday's “all-you-can-drink-for-$6” night.

(Note: both open bars are only about two hours, and the drinks they peddle are a heavily liquored vodka-juice combination that's intended to get you drunk before you realize how terrible it tastes.)

Montanita is a short two-and-a-half-hour bus ride from Guayaquil, so it's common for the town to swell with partying Guayaquilenos on the weekends.

Kativa's outgoing personality (and cute looks) immediately caught my attention.

We ended up spending the following week together: drinking, dancing, speaking in Spanish, and walking in countless circles around town.

She had lived there for a few months previously and seemed to know everyone. And if she didn't know someone, she would change that quickly.

The beach in Montanita, Ecuador
The beach in Montanita

The Beach

Montanita was originally a surf destination. If you talk to the local expats, it won't take long to meet some who talk of the days when they first visited years ago, before the paved roads and Wi-Fi-enabled hostels were constructed today.

I've already tried my hand at surfing around the world, so I spent my time taking reflective walks down the beach to The Point (a rocky outcropping at the North end) and back.

On one occasion, I walked with Kativa to The Point in the late morning at low tide.

We continued beyond the “danger” sign, walking past tidal pools until we had turned the corner of the cliff.

We were suddenly alone, with only the sound of the crashing surf against the jagged rocks. We were rewarded for our valor with a view of the neighboring pueblo further up the coast.

Other popular beach activities included soccer and volleyball, eating ceviche, and the typical tanning and people-watching.

Ocean view at Mochica Sumpa hostal
Ocean view at Mochica Sumpa hostal

A Room with a View

Arriving late on a Saturday afternoon, I walked into the first oceanside hostel I saw and ponied up for a private room.

The next day as I shopped around, I quickly found I was paying three times the typical rate.

I moved to Hostal Papaya in the center of town, where I proceeded to lose any ability to sleep due to the constant noise, a mix of cement mixers and construction on the hotel across the street, and music blaring until 3 AM from the local bars and discotecas.

If I was going to stay in Montanita another week until my birthday, I had to find a quieter room.

I gave up Wi-Fi access in favor of a room with an ocean view at Mochica Sumpa. I offered to pay a week upfront, and they slashed the room rate in half (to $10/night).

Despite the presence of a big discoteca 50 meters away, the loud music was softened by the sounds of the waves crashing on the rock retaining wall at high tide.

The ocean was so loud, I wondered at first if it would keep me awake as well, but I quickly got used to the new soundtrack playing outside my room.

Sunday Night Concerts

Every Sunday night, after the weekend party crowd goes home, Montanita becomes super-chill again.

Sunday nights were my favorite for this reason, as well as the concerts and performances held outside the Mochica Sumpa Hostal.

Around 10 PM, a singer from Guayaquil would perform a set with a group of local musicians. He sang slow enough that I was able to understand some of the songs in Spanish.

After the Guayaquileno sang, others would perform. And it wasn't just musicians.

Some very talented local jugglers would do their thing, and on my 2nd Sunday, there was a full-fledged visiting circus — clowns and all!

On my third and final Sunday in town, before the Guayaquileno singer performed, I introduced myself as a new fan.

I then recorded his entire 40-minute set that night, as I knew it would always be a way for me to return to those Sunday nights in Montanita.

Pizza for sale
Pizza for sale on the streets of Montanita

Sampling the Street Food

While there are plenty of restaurants in Montanita, none featured food that really stood out to me. Instead, I became a fan of street food.

There are the regular vendors, mostly Ecuadorian though I met some Colombians from Cali selling Colombian-style empanadas.

And then there are the hippies walking the streets with platters of homemade pizza, empanadas, and sweet pastries.

The hippie food was my favorite. Most portions cost one US dollar, and you knew the money was helping them live their hippy lives.

“Happy” brownies (aka pot brownies) were also openly for sale on the weekends. Weed was certainly the most benign drug available for partiers in Montanita.

The police don't strictly enforce the drug laws there, which might explain all the hippies!

Nativa Bambu discoteca
Nativa Bambu discoteca

Feliz Cumpleanos a Mi

I enjoyed Montanita so much, I stayed a third weekend to celebrate my 35th birthday.

My friend Jodi of Legal Nomads likes to celebrate her birthdays by climbing mountains around the world.

I prefer to spend it dancing the night away in Latin clubs. Preferably salsa dancing.

To kick the night off, I had a mojito mixed by an Ecuadorian friend, Fatima, who I'd met through Kativa the week before.

Fatima had just moved Montanita from Guayaquil and was working for one of the cocktail vendors.

I don't think her new boss was too happy she took off work early on a Saturday night to help me celebrate, but I certainly appreciated it.

We went to my discoteca of choice, Nativa Bambu, which overlooks the ocean and features the biggest dance floor in town.

While there was a dire lack of salsa played that night, I still had a lot of fun dancing to the merengue and reggaeton.

As with my 34th birthday in Medellin, I couldn't have been happier to be celebrating my 35th in the friendly surfer/hippie enclave of Montanita, Ecuador.

Planning a trip? Go Backpacking recommends:


Thursday 7th of January 2016

Looking at visiting the Montanita area for 6-8 weeks in June/July. I am looking to work and volunteer part time as well as explore with my 9 year old daughter (she will only be there for 2 weeks). I do know this will not be their busy season but I am a teacher and my summer is the time for me to travel. I am looking for any information on part time work and volunteer opportunies. I am a special education teacher, paddle board instructor, and surf lover. Looking forward to a great experience in Ecuador. Any information and/or suggestions would be much appreciated. I have found your site to be very helpful. THANK YOU! AMBER


Wednesday 3rd of June 2015

really cool places to visit there in montanita

Ben Alcock

Friday 12th of July 2013

REALLY enjoyed this post...brought back some pretty special memories of some weeks there a long, long time ago.

It reads like the essence of the place remains fairly unchanged.

We arrived late at night in the back of a pick-up after full 24 hours journey from Huanchaco, Peru...from my diary (29 June, 1997):

"After an hour or so we reach Montanita and reluctantly left our curious local companions in the pick-up and wandered into town. An excellent place! We could hear the surf as we searched for somewhere to stay. We settled on a magnificent 3-storey timber building with hammocks and views of the beach...$2.50 a night!

"We checked in, strung up our mosquito nets and headed off up the beach for a bite to eat. The water was busy with fishermen catching prawn larvae to sell to the local shrimp farms. Their female compabions sat on the dry sand tending small fires and keeping an eye on the tubs of wriggling larvae that bring them a substantial income.

"The only person we encountered up the beach was an armed security guard giving off an angry vibe so we strolled back to town. It was quite late by now but we found a small, outdoor bar and ordered great vego pizza and cold beer.

"The waitress gave us something to smoke down by the beach so we kicked back by the life guard's tower and absorbed the sounds of the waves, and the fishermen's lights before returning to our lodgings. Up, up, up the stairs, into our open-ended room. Got tangled up in my mosquito net and fell asleep scratching. A very long day, indeed."


Friday 12th of July 2013

Hey Ben, glad you enjoyed it. And I'm glad to hear it hasn't changed all that much in the 14 years since you visited. I'm sure it's more developed, but it was still incredibly small compared to other popular beaches I've visited.


Tuesday 25th of June 2013

I have been to Montanita for couple of days and loved the place. Now, I am seriously into surfing and thinking of going back and surf and work remotely for a few months- September to November-

I recall there was a surf bar with lots of english speaking people. Do you happen to know anyone so I can ask them questions about staying there? thanks


Wednesday 26th of June 2013

I don't remember a surf bar, specifically, but the town is so small you can ask anyone working at the restaurants. Most, if not all waitresses are foreigners. I met a lot from Argentina and Chile.

Robert Eggleton

Sunday 10th of March 2013

Life is just too short. Looking back, I'm amost 62, I wish that I'd made more time for fun. Even during the 60s, while I have a lot of fond memories, I mostly remember work orgainzing protests, writing counter culture newsletters, etc. Please go back on a second vacation for me. Right now I'm involved in a project (Lacy Dawn Adventures) trying to raise money to prevent child abuse in West Virginia. I feel stuck in the hollow (Rarity from the Hollow is my first novel and is now for sale) and keep singing "Free Bird." Have a great life.


Sunday 10th of March 2013

Hi Robert, thanks for stopping by Go Backpacking. One thing I love about travel is it always keeps you appreciating the present moment as you encounter new and different experiences.

In that regard, I've already lived several lives at the age of 36, but I'm starting to slow down :)

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