10 Great Reasons Why Backpackers Should Visit Montañita
1. It's The Surf Capital Of Ecuador
Whether you’re an experienced surfer or just starting, Montanita is the perfect place to jump on a board.
The water temperature ranges from 20-25 degrees Celsius from October to May and backpackers and Ecuadorians alike flock to the beach town to enjoy the waves. The mild temperatures combined with sandy bottom beaches and long breaks make this one of the best places in South America to learn to surf.
In addition to Montanita beach, there’s the lesser-known town of Olon to the north which also has good waves. Olon is better for beginners as it tends to be quieter and there is more whitewash allowing for better practice.
Montanita is also home to incredible surf schools. If you’re looking for lessons many schools offer a variety of packages from week-long courses. Our suggestions are below:
- Learning In Olon: Kings Olon or Escuela de Surf Olon
- Learning In Montanita: Montanita Surf Aloha or Ohana Language School
A 5-day lesson package should cost around $100-150.
2. Montañita Is One Of The Best Party Beaches In South America
The party rarely stops in Montanita.
There’s never a dull moment to be had, with Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays all being popular nights and clubs playing music into the early hours.
Most nights out will begin on ‘Cocktail Alley’ which is also known as the strip. It’s a row of small vendors all selling incredibly alcoholic cocktails. Backpackers gather here in large groups to start off the night out. After a few hours getting drunk on cheap cocktails, most people then head to a club.
Ecuadorians also travel to the surf town most weekends from local cities craving a party. They are incredible people and certainly know how to have a good time. During the South American holiday months they will flock to Montanita to hit the clubs and see big name DJ’s.
‘Lost Beach Club’ is famous for holding some of the biggest nights in South America let alone Ecuador. The club is well known for electronic music hosting mainly trance, techno and house nights. Two other clubs worth checking out are Nativa Bambu Disco Bar and La Cabaña which each have signature nights during the week.
Also, if you are in Ecuador for NYE then Montanita is the place to be. Check out the video below to see how it kicks off!
For more of the best party beaches in South America, from Brazil to Chile, head to the post below:
3. The Best Spanish Schools In Ecuador Are Found Here
If you’re in South America for a while, we’d highly recommend learning some Spanish and if you’re going to do it then why not by the beach?
Learning in outdoor spaces with the fresh ocean breeze and the beach being a 10-minute walk away certainly beats learning in a stuffy classroom in Quito.
One of the best schools we recommend is Montanita Spanish School.
The location is amazing, set up in the hills behind the town with great views of the beach. The school offers both one on one and group lessons with groups no larger than six. They also offer a variety of packages, the most popular of which is a Spanish and surfing combo.
The school offers other regular activities such as yoga and salsa lessons which can be bought as a bundle or individually which enhances your overall experience. They also have weekly trips such as whale watching, surfing trips to other beaches and weekend trips to other towns popular towns like Banos.
Finally, it’s a great way to meet other backpackers. There are party nights out three times a week, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Though beware, these can make getting up for classes difficult!
There’s a welcome dinner every Monday which everyone is invited to. They also have cooking nights at the cabanas and so much more. You’ll make lifelong friends here without a doubt.
If you are planning a backpacking trip through South America, then why not check out some of the extended itineraries below to help you plan:
4. The Food Is Top Notch
There’s a real love of healthy sustainable food in Montanita.
The restaurant owners understand that backpackers are looking to fuel and recharge weary bodies that have been out in the surf all day and there’s a wealth of options to do this.
You have your standard acai bowl joints, trendy cafes with freshly brewed Ecuadorian coffee, or your classic international fares like Italian and Japanese. As Montanita is also renowned for being the party town of Ecuador, you can also find burger joints and pizzerias to get that comfort food fix and cure your raging hangover.
Here are some of my top restaurants recommendations:
- Pigro – It’s closer to the expensive end of a backpacker’s budget with meals averaging $10-12 but trust me, you won’t be disappointed. I recommend the ‘Fettuccine con Calamar’ to combine the Italian cuisine with treats of the ocean
- Tiki Limbo – this place triples up as a restaurant, café and hotel. The restaurant design is great with an open-air feel to it. Again, not the cheapest but certainly very tasty.
- Papillion – if you can’t decide whether you fancy sweet or savoury, why choose? Head to papillon and have a savoury pancake followed by a sweet one. If you’ve been surfing that day you can justify your choice.
For more backpacker friendly cheap eats, many of the local places offer the menu del dia (menu of the day) for around $5-7 if you’re looking to stick to a budget.
However, my best recommendation is to head to juice street. This is the best place to get a fruit and vegetable smoothie and attempt to restore your bodies energy reserves following a big night out or day of surfing – or both.
For a great café, head to The Wave. With lots of comfortable places to sit, this is a great place to get some work done or relax and read a book whilst enjoying a coffee.
5. You Have Easy Access To Great Wildlife Experiences
The coast of Ecuador is teeming with wildlife. The most famous place to see this wildlife, probably in all of South America is, of course, the Galapagos Islands.
Whilst this is an incredible experience that I’d recommend to backpackers, I understand you may not have the time or budget to visit. If you can’t fit the Galapagos Islands into your plans that shouldn’t mean you have to miss out on seeing the incredible wildlife Ecuador has to offer.
Luckily, there’s a second option for backpackers that can be found right off the coast of Montanita known as Isla del Plata.
The island of Isla del Plata, unfortunately named ‘the poor man’s Galapagos‘ is the perfect wildlife watching spot for budget travellers. Don’t let the name put you off though, the island shares much of the same wildlife with the enchanted Galapagos Islands and is still an incredible trip in itself at a fraction of the price.
On a trip to the island, you’ll see the beautiful but clumsy blue-footed boobies and swim with turtles and tropical fish. Best of all, humpback whales migrate through this area during the months June to September, so you’ll most likely see them if visiting at this time of year.
How To Visit Isla Del Plata
The best way to visit Isla Del Plata is by booking a guided tour. The best company we’ve researched is ‘Go Montanita’
The tour costs around $50 per person. They pick you up in Montanita at 09:00 AM and provide transport to Puerto Lopez, the boat ride, snorkelling equipment as well as a basic lunch and some snacks. You’ll return to Montanita between 16:00 – 17:00 PM.
The drive to Puerto Lopez takes 1 hour and the boat ride is 90 minutes. There’s a small hike on the island as well as the chance for snorkelling. So be sure to pack suitable shoes as well as a swimming costume.
If you are in Montanita from mid-June to October, you can also go whale watching from Puerto Lopez. This is a separate tour sold separately for around $20 if that’s what you’d prefer
If the poor man’s Galapagos isn’t enough for you and you want to experience the real thing, then we have all the guides you need, all focused around how to do it on a backpackers budget.
6. Playa De Los Frailes
Los Frailes beache is regarded as one of the best beaches in Ecuador.
White sand beaches, crystal blue water and rocky cliffs make for a dramatic scene. Even though it is a national park, there is no entrance fee. And the best part is, if you head there on a weekday you can often find it secluded and have the whole thing to yourself.
Los Frailes is located inside the Parque Nacional Machalilla and is a bit off the beaten path. I haven’t visited there myself but its close to Puerto Lopez so it will take a full day if you are visiting from Montanita.
7. Montanita Is Also A Yoga Paradise
If surf and party aren’t your thing then don’t worry, Montanita has something for every type of backpacker. During the week, the pace slows down and travellers can indulge in massage therapy schools or practice yoga.
If you’re an avid surfer and you haven’t already tried yoga, now is the time. Yoga is great for increasing flexibility in areas like the shoulders and hips which improves any surfers form – and what better setting to do it in, with the sound of the ocean and watching the sunset over the Pacific.
Head to Yoga Montanita (YMS) where you can try a class for $10 or you can buy a package of 5 for $40.
They also have week-long retreats with accommodation, food and surf classes if that’s something you are looking for. Their standard package for the week is $735.
8. The Scuba Diving Off The Coast Is Great
The waters of Ecuador’s coast are rich with wildlife and there are many dive shops offering courses in town.
Similar to the Galapagos Islands, the wildlife under the sea is rare and exciting. You should be able to see tropical fish, sea lions, turtles and maybe even sharks if you are lucky.
The conditions are similar to the Galapagos without the strong currents, so it’s a great training spot if you are planning to go on and dive in the Galapagos islands.
There are a few dive shops to check out:
However, we recommend visiting the shops first to meet them in person, view the equipment and ask questions. This is the most important way to feel happy and comfortable before booking diving with a school.
Open water courses cost around $450. This will likely be the cheapest place to learn to dive in South America if you are interested in doing advanced dive courses.
It’s also possible to do fun dives as well. Be sure to ask for prices as well as discounts in-store. Some popular dive sites in the area are; El Pelado, Los Arhorcados and Copei.
9. The Hostels Are A Backpackers Dream
Montanita has a host of options for every backpacker but the best hostels here are the ones that can be found right on the beach.
Here are some of our top picks:
- Kamala Surf and Backpacker Hostel – This hostel is a 20-minute walk from the main town. Whilst this is a tiny bit out of the way, it’s well worth staying here as you get private access to the beach and you can take a two minute taxi to town centre for $1.5 anytime. The staff are helpful and knowledgeable staff and will go out of their way to organise unforgettable experiences for you. Also, Kamala has a reputation for throwing the best Sunday pool parties.
- Casa del Sol – This is a uniquely designed hostel made from stone and bamboo. This is a great place to stay if you are looking for nice rooms and a comfy space. They also have an on-site bamboo yoga studio with a schedule of different movement classes weekly.
- Selina – this hostel chain tends to cater to digital nomads but in Montanita they also know how to host a good party. The hostel is located downtown, right on one of the central streets just where everything happens. They offer daily activities, surf lessons, yoga classes, tours, shuttles and many other features to make you feel like you found your home away from home. They also have high-end dorm rooms, dedicated co-working spaces, and a big pool.
- Las Cabanas – Finally, if you are planning on learning Spanish at Montanita Spanish School, you can stay at their cabanas. The majority of the students stay here which is great as it becomes a sociable place with classmates chilling by the pool, cooking together or sitting around and having a drink. The cabanas have a kitchen area, large social area, a pool, jacuzzi and lots of hammocks to rest in. There are dorms and private rooms available.
10. It’s Super Cheap, So Perfect For Backpackers On An Extended Trip
Ecuador is a great country to visit for backpackers. It’s a lot cheaper to travel than it’s neighbours Peru and Colombia – so your money goes a long way.
Montanita is no different and you can live on a budget of around $30 a day whilst still enjoying lots of activities such as surfing.
Food shouldn’t cost more than $10 a day if you are eating in the right places. Drinking and partying are cheap too – the trick is to just stick cocktail alley and $2 cocktails.
Whilst the Spanish and surf schools will likely cost you the most money, the prices are reasonable in comparison to the rest of South America. And the best part is, because they all come as package deals with accommodation usually included, once you’ve paid you only have to worry about food.
The fact that your dollar goes a long way in Ecuador is one of the many reasons why it’s one of our favourite countries to visit in South America. For more great reasons why you should visit Ecuador, head to the post below:
How Long Should You Spend In Montanita?
Two or three days in Montanita is the perfect amount of time if you are just looking to come to party and surf.
If you want to visit Isla Del Plata and some of the surrounding areas like Olon and Puerto Lopez, then I would recommend five days in Montanita.
If you decide to stay to learn to surf or to start learning Spanish, I’d recommend a minimum of two weeks to get the most out of the school you are in, make friends and soak up the laidback Montanita lifestyle.
How To Get To Montanita
Getting to Montanita is easiest from the city Guayaquil, with buses taking approximately 2.5 hours and costing around $7.
Buses depart from the ‘Guayaquil Bus Terminal’ which is in the northern part of the city next to the river. The address is Avenue de Las Americas, Guayaquil 090513, Ecuador. Buses are frequent with one every half an hour until 17:30 and then every hour with the last bus at 19:30. However, timetables are not fixed in Ecuador and things change frequently, so make sure you check before.
There’s one main street through Montanita which is where you’ll be dropped off, right in the centre of town.
If you need to travel to the bus station in Guayaquil be sure to take an uber. It’s not the most pleasant city you’ll visit, and locals kept reminding us that it’s the most dangerous place in Ecuador, so keep your wits about you and be safe.
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