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Montanita Ecuador: 7 Reasons it isn’t for the Faint of Heart

Montanita Ecuador

Yassif Garcia

From its origins as a hippie beach destination in the 1960s to its present-day reputation as a surfing hotspot, Montanita Ecuador has been luring tourists and expats to its golden shores for decades.  And with some of the country’s most lively attractions and colorful characters, it’s a place that’s guaranteed to keep even the most intrepid traveler on their toes.

With a name that means “Little Hill,” Montanita is situated on the country’s Santa Elena peninsula.  Just over two hours from the bustling port of Guayaquil, this multi-cultural mecca boasts one of the most beautiful beaches on Ecuador’s south coast.

It’s grown considerably over the past 50 years, but slowly.  It has all the modern conveniences most tourists and expats expect, including fancy restaurants and resort hotels.  However, it’s not quite as crowded as some of the country’s other beach destinations, like nearby Salinas.

But don’t be fooled.  Montanita has all the ingredients for an exciting tourist destination.  Or a really rowdy frat party.

Ranging from the riveting to the risque, here are a few facts about Montanita, Ecuador, that are sure to intrigue any visitor or would-be expat:

1.  Montanita, Ecuador, has some of Latin America’s most challenging waves.

As it turns out, those hippies were onto something when they stumbled across this sleepy little fishing village in the 60s.  They pitched their tents on the beach and took up residence (and surfing), and eventually word began to spread.

Today Montanita attracts surfers from all around the world.  It boasts strong, consistent waves that can get as high as one meter (over 3 feet) during the calmer summer months.  Likewise, during the late fall and winter, especially January through March, waves as large as 2 meters (6 ½ feet) have been recorded.

With its excellent waves and good tubes, Montanita presents a challenge for beginners while still remaining tricky enough for even the most advanced surfers.  The surfing in Montanita has earned a spot on the international surfing circuit, as well as a place in the town’s annual Carnival celebration.  An international surfing competition now holds a spot on the agenda of the February festivities.

Montanita Ecuador

Yassif Garcia

2.  Montanita is a cultural phenomenon.

A town that started with a handful of local fishermen and a few foreign hippies has evolved into a vast cultural melting pot of people from all nations and walks of life.  In addition to U.S. expats, residents of Montanita include Argentinians, Jamaicans, Russians, Australians, Canadians, Germans, and an assortment of other Europeans.

As diverse as their nationalities are the lifestyles of those who live in Montanita.  As opposed to the rest of Ecuador, which remains fairly conservative, differences are celebrated–applauded even–in Montanita.  Locals voice approval to same-sex couples who show public affection, something that would be frowned upon elsewhere in the country.

The city promotes the ideas of tolerance, acceptance, and maybe even a bit of rebellion. Peace signs adorn cars and t-shirts, as does the image of the famed Marxist revolutionary Che Guevara.

3.  “The party don’t stop” til the wee hours of the morning.

It could be said that Montanita, Ecuador, is a partying town with a surfing problem.  Its streets and shores are dotted with bars, clubs, and cabanas serving up the local brews and the local gossip.  And, man, is it juicy.

For those seeking a mellower party experience, there are open-air cafes with drink specials galore.  You can even relax on the beach in the evenings with the few other stragglers who haven’t wandered into the town to party hard.  A centrally-located cliff serves as a great barrier to separate the buzz of downtown nightlife from the more tranquil side of the village.

On the other hand, those who want to party ’til the break of dawn will not be disappointed by what awaits in Montanita.  You’ll find several dance clubs blaring techno music into the streets, and on any given night the sand usually thumps with beach parties where local DJs spin house music.  Flyers around town promote all-night raves.

4.  The weather in Montanita ranges from hot and humid to outright sauna.

Montanita is located on the coast of Ecuador, just one degree from the equator.  It has a tropical climate and no elevation to provide relief from the heat.  As weather conditions go, those in Montanita aren’t among the more bearable.

Like most tropical climates, the temperature doesn’t fluctuate much throughout the seasons.  The low rarely falls below 70, and the highs are usually in the mid 80’s.  That sounds nice, but when you factor in the humidity it often feels much hotter.

Montanita’s rainy season runs from December to May, and thankfully most of it falls during the evening and night hours.  Regardless, though, many swimmers and surfers are willing to brave a little drizzle in order to avoid any downtime in their beach-going experience.

5.  If it’s illegal in the States, it’s likely accepted in Montanita.

There are a lot of words you could use to describe Montanita.  Wholesome isn’t necessarily one of them.  While it isn’t exactly overt, drug use is common on Montanita’s beaches and streets and in its clubs.  It’s not in your face, but at the same time you don’t have to look terribly hard to find it.

While the use of illicit drugs is technically illegal in Ecuador, it seems to be openly tolerated in Montanita.  In fact, the city has earned the nickname “Little Amsterdam” for its tolerance of marijuana.  Many of the vendors who peddle their wares along the beachfront actually do so as a front for a much more lucrative enterprise.

And, hey–like at any good frat party–when the alcohol gets to flowing, the inhibitions start to disappear.  Montanita is no exception to this rule.  At least one of its beaches is known as a place where many women sunbathe topless.

Montanita Ecuador

Nicolas Pena

6.  Montanita is a place for adventure seekers.

While you’re more than welcome to sit back, relax, and enjoy some bird-watching, or just people-watching, Montanita is best suited for those with a thirst for adventure.  In addition to its world-class surfing, it’s also a great spot for scuba diving, fishing, or even land exploration.

A small mountain to the north (called “The Point”) separates Montanita from the more peaceful beaches of neighboring Olon.  A hike up to its peak offers some incredible views of the ocean and beaches.  The southern end of Montanita borders Manglaralto. With a name that literally means “high mangrove,” its estuaries offer great opportunities for fishing and exploring.

The lush hills that surround Montanita can be explored on bike or horseback, as well as on foot.  Many travelers hike or bike the few miles to the waterfalls at Two Sleeves and Olon.  Wildlife, such as exotic birds and turtles, can also be seen at the Valdivia Aquarium and nearby Machalilla National Park.

However, if your idea of travel or retirement doesn’t involve exercise, Montanita also offers much in the way of amenities and modern conveniences.  It’s home to several top-notch hotels, restaurants to suit any taste and budget, and shopping from a variety of stores and vendors.

7.  With its low cost of living, you might just end up extending your trip to Montanita, Ecuador.

A lot of things to do around Montanita are really cheap, some free in fact.  Like surfing or swimming.  Restaurants offer meals for reasonable prices, like a nice dinner for $8 or a hamburger from a street vendor for $1.50.  Bars and cabanas offer 2-for-1 tropical drinks during happy hour.  Hostels can be rented for $20 per night, and even the nicer hotels are reasonably priced.

Travel to and from Guayaquil is reliable and inexpensive.  And, should you decide to stay indefinitely, you can even rent a cozy two-bedroom place on the beach for as little as $600 per month.  And, since Ecuador has one of the lowest costs of living in Latin America, you could expect to spend no more than $1200 each month (including rent), depending on your lifestyle.

So, maybe you’re looking for a place with a great vibe, where you can party with people from all over the globe.  Or perhaps you prefer a destination where you can do some undisturbed people-watching from your lounge chair while sipping on a $2 daiquiri and soaking up some rays.

Come to Montanita, Ecuador, where you can do both.

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18 thoughts on “Montanita Ecuador: 7 Reasons it isn’t for the Faint of Heart

  1. 1

    Good description of montanita, minus the fact that its almost 5 hours from guyaquil, no where near the stated “1 hour”.

  2. 3

    My boyfriends and I are moving to Montanita in March, it sounds like a great place to hang out for a while! I didn’t realize there were so many other things to do nearby other than surfing and partying so I’m very excited 🙂 I heard you can get apartments for as low as $350, is this still true?

    • 4

      Oh my good for you, I’m thinking of moving back there also. I was born in Ecuador but raised in Canada. I’ve been there over 4 times and am looking to go back in April. I love it my kinds love it too. You can purchase a condo at Playa Blanca 5 min drive to montanita.

  3. 5

    Montanita is great and you can still get some cheap surf bungalows for as little as $10 a night, and it’s a great place – lots of hippies, rasta’s and surfers! It has a great 70’s vibe about it, especially with all the weed. The one thing that is not good at all and very sad are all the stray street dogs – Montanita has a major problem with strays, most in such a bad condition it will bring you to tears……

    Please read this article below:

    The Stray Dogs of Montanita: Your Chance to Help Man’s Best Friend

    Anybody who has lived in or traveled through developing countries before will be familiar with the sight of stray dogs. They are so heartbreaking to see so underfed, diseased and suffering. These poor stray dogs are not properly cared for, or neutered, and are left free to roam the streets, multiplying rapidly in the process. There is never enough food to go around and the dogs often end up dying of starvation or from diseases or injuries.

    Here in Ecuador’s most famous surf town, Montanita, stray dogs are Everywhere. I’ve noticed them everyday on our way to the beach to give surf lessons, constantly swerving the truck to avoid running over the dozens of dogs lying in the middle of the road in a suicidal manner, too tired to move.

    They don’t look too healthy and although they may look rough, they really just want to be loved. Just a simple pat on the head and these dogs will collapse in joy. But at the end of the day, nobody looks after them, there is not enough food to go around, and many of them will catch diseases and suffer painful deaths. So what can we do to help alleviate some of the suffering of these innocent creatures?

    Barak Epshtein first arrived in Montanita nine months ago and set up “Café del Mar” on one of the main streets in town. Everyday Barak sees the dogs around the town and he is sick of seeing their suffering. “Nobody cares about the dogs here, nobody is doing anything to help them,” he says. But he has an idea. Barak is appealing to a veterinarian from around the world to come and live in Montanita for a month, or longer, and work in a clinic neutering and treating the town’s stray dogs for diseases.

    His plan is in accordance with the advice of many animal rights organisations. All too often governments think purely in a short-term economic manner, ignoring the suffering of the animals and killing them in inhumane ways.

    Obviously the best way to help the dogs is by giving them homes and registering them. However in places with large stray populations, like Montanita, neutering the dogs and treating them for common diseases is a great first step.

    Barak will provide a suitable clinic for the treatment of the animals, and other people and businesses in town, such as Montanita Spanish School, will be providing the materials needed. Many others will be volunteering their time to assist with the program in other areas.

    In return, the suitable applicant will have a comfortable apartment to stay in and all food provided for their time in Montanita.

    So if you, or anybody you know, is interested in helping the dogs of Montanita, and have a background as a veterinarian and/or in neutering and caring for animals, then please email the school at this address: [email protected] and we can put you in touch with Barak. Start dates and time frames are all flexible.

    Warm Regards,
    Michael
    http://montanita-spanish-school.blogspot.com/2013/11/the-stray-dogs-of-montanita-your-chance

    • 6

      There is a stray dog problem all over Ecuador not just Montanita. In fact when I was last time I was in Otavolo the dog problem was more pronounced than that of our dearly loved Montanita. Seems sometimes these governments are trying to bring the humans out of poverty rather than working on the stray dog issues. Not that I feel its not important to care for these loving hounds, its just it is more realistic to keep in mind the challenges of the Ecuadorian government who has been doing a decent job in the last few years at bringing more opportunity to its people. The problems are many and the resources are short…. go figure.

  4. Warren Hulme
    7

    I am 70 years old. Living in a good latin american country has been on my mind for a couple of years. I am fluent in spanish. My greatest concern for living in Ecuador is the fact that I have a large Rottie who I love more than people. If dogs are treated so badly in Ecuador, then I feel sure that a worthless old person like myself would probably be treated badly. Those who do not respect dogs, cats and other animals, most likely are a little bit on the back side of civilizations

    • 8

      Warren, I understand your desire to keep your animal safe. Actually, there are several non-profit animal shelters and animal volunteers do exist in various towns and cites in Ecuador. Maybe you can reach out to those individuals to help ease your fears about taking your pet to Ecuador.

    • 9

      Dogs are only treated poorly if they are stray, it is unfortunate. With that being said owned dogs are not treated poorly at all and people here do respect elderly people, often more so than young people.

  5. 10

    Dear viva, Any doctors, hospitals,pharmacies, in town or nearby. I need blood pressure meds and pain meds .Thanks.

  6. 11

    How’s the internet services?

  7. 13

    GoMontanita brings all the action for your travels in and around Montanita. We take you too top destinations Like Cusco and Galapagos. our Offices we do Daily Aquatic and Nature tours that involve Snorkeling, Scuba Diving and Kayaking, trekking, biking, horse backriding, bird watching,Dos Mangas Waterfall, and In the June through August you can come out with us on boat to whale watch. We also do Package tours too Cusco(Machu Picchu)and Galapagos Islands, so contact us about all and any info about these 2 top destinations.Besides tours we also rent Bikes, Surf boards, boogie boards, fins, goggles, boats, life vests. If you need lodging and transportation we book and reserve air and bus for individuals, couples, and groups. finally if you are not an experienced swimmer or surfer, Montanita is a great place to learn, and GoMontanita has excellent multi-lingual teachers for a daily class, school, or road trips we specially design to catch the current break.

    href=”https://www.google.com/maps/place/Go+Montanita/@-1.826886,-80.752173,17z/data=!4m2!3m1!1s0x0:0x5a34a4ff936c2d1e”>Google maps Go Montanita

    Facebook Go Montanita

  8. 14

    Hi Viva,

    Great article! I was wondering how the sun exposure was in July? I am planning on going there to study Spanish for a month or so and was wondering if during that month – besides the temperature being relatively high for EU standards – I would actually be able to get some sun or just a cloudy month?

    Thanks!

    J.

  9. Thayron Murillo
    15

    Fyi……. the dog problem has been fixed there’s still a few running around in town thigs have gotten better the beach town is growing and if u need medication just bring enough from home or drive up to the near big city of Guayaquil.

  10. 16

    Visiting in Feb. and March—can’t wait to see Ecuador and the beaches—-How is the women situation in Montanita and Olon we are single guys—-Tom

  11. 17

    Can someone please recommend a hotel to stay? we are going in early may… i have to young adults.. one wants the all day party, the other one does not… I want to stay in a nice quiet place (that is good quality ) ??? most appreciate it. Olga

  12. 18

    I was there when it was just a dirt road to the ocean and a few hippies selling hemp jewelry and other things on the road. Nice to see it growing but too bad it is getting a ‘party-hardy’ reputation. Not good if they are trying to attract ex-pats.

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