We heard a lot about the magic of Cuenca when we first journeyed through Ecuador but we never made it there on that jaunt. On the way back north, we made it a priority to stop in this city full of colonial beauty. Although Ecuador’s third-largest city, Cuenca seems worlds smaller than Quito or Guayaquil. It has a very old-fashioned, livable charm to it. The only downside was that it is the most expensive city in Ecuador, with hostels and food costing much more than in most of the country.
Montanita Ecuador, located on the central coast of Ecuador about 3 hours from Guayaquil, is the most popular tourist beach in Ecuador. It’s known for its surfing and its parties. When we asked Ecuadorians our age about Montañita, we got responses such as, “¡Hay muchas fiestas en Montañita!” and “It’s great, but only for two days.” “Like Las Vegas!” I replied to that one, hahaha.
I ended up agreeing with the two or three days idea. The funny thing is that many backpackers don’t. Our campground in Montañita was chock-full of “travelers” who came and never left. Foreigners from Canada, Argentina, Chile, Germany, everywhere roam the beach selling macrame jewelry or tacos, braiding hair, playing instruments, or doing anything else they can make to earn money for their food and $1.50/night campsite. This population creates a cool multicultural and entrepreneurial spirit in Montañita.
The beach in Montanita Ecuador is gorgeous, with soft sand and a very gradual slope from the shore into the Pacific. We didn’t have the cash for surf lessons, but we had a great time jumping in the waves and watching all the surfers.
The town itself is tiny and filled with nothing but hostels, bars, and restaurants. Vendors’ carts also line the streets and beach selling cocktails and ceviche (a raw seafood/lime juice/salsa snack). There are lots of opportunities to spend an arm and a leg on some good gringo food, but we disciplined ourselves and stuck to street food and one restaurant that offered each meal of the day for only $1.50. (Bonus–they understood vegetarianism there too, and offered me a meat-free alternative lunch, thanks to all the hippies in town!) Montañita is most definitely all about the party, not so much the relaxation, and the hectic vibe kind of got to us after a couple days. Although the easy, beach-bum life was a bit tempting, we decided to continue north to check out other beaches. Still, Montañita is definitely the place to go for color, creativity, and fun on the beach!