Book! Pack! Go Travel! by Robbie Mamo

Montanita, Ecuador

Montanita, Ecuador

When I decided it was time to move onward to the next beach town of Montanita, I just walked up to the main road and stood there waiting for the next bus heading South to roll through. I only waited 10 minutes before I was picked up and on my way to my next destination. This costed $1 and took about 25 minutes give or take.

 

 

Where to stay…

Once reaching Montanita I was quickly reminded that this was the most popular beach town in Ecuador.  There were a lot more people here and plenty of action including both travellers and locals. I walked around for a few blocks and found a room above one of the nicer restaurants in town. Almost all the hotels have restaurants on the main floor and the one I chose was called Hostal Papaya. My private room was $10 per night with hot water but no AC.

I could see the waves breaking from my top floor balcony which was 3 stories up and it worked out great that I found a decent room in a good location so quickly. I also had the corner room which was very private and secure. Adding to security you had to go past the security desk to access all of the rooms and show your room key to be allowed up the stairs leading to each floor.

The hotel and restaurant is owned by a lady who relocated to Montanita from Quebec, Canada at the age of 18 with her mother. They had travelled here in the early 80’s and instantly fell in love with the area. She was a great host and it’s always nice to see fellow Canadians operating a business abroad. It’s also inspiring to hear about someone visiting somewhere on holiday and deciding to relocate!

My room at Hostal Papaya.

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The view of Montanita town from my room at Hostal Papaya just a short walk from the beach.

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The town…

Montanita is definitely the most touristy and built up beach town in Ecuador. They have the most hotels, the most restaurants, the most stores etc. This being said it is also the cheapest because there is so much competition for your money. The streets here are lined with businesses hoping to cash in on the tourists. Montanita is also a stop on the professional surfing circuit here in South America and that brings surfers and spectators from all over.

The many hotels that line the coast and reach up high despite being built of concrete and bamboo.

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The busy streets of Montanita.

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Some of the many offerings from street vendors. Many of the street vendors in these countries are travellers that pay for their holidays by trading and selling jewellery and other rare artifacts.

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The beach…

The beach in Montanita is what you would expect from a place this touristy. Of course it’s nice otherwise it wouldn’t have become so popular but at the same time don’t be surprised if it isn’t quite as clean as other more tranquil options. The beach however stretches as far as the eye can see and is made up of fine sand. I used to start every day with a long beach walk of at least an hour. This was a great way to start the day and walk off the last nights party.

Closer to town the beach has lounge chairs and umbrellas set up to rent as well as a few cantinas to buy drinks and small food items. Like most beaches down south there are people walking around offering you anything you could imagine from cold drinks, snack food, sweets, ice cream and frozen treats.

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Things to do…

I didn’t score any surf in Montanita and to be honest most days I was in Ecuador the waves weren’t happening. Sometimes with surfing you hit it and other times you don’t. I had decent surf in Ayampe and with all the action going on in Montanita and so many people all around, I could have been in a worse place to not get any surfing in. During the day I was eating good food, drinking beer and hanging out on the beach.

Nightlife was usually just hopping from bar to bar and restaurant to restaurant with friends I met randomly throughout my stay there. It wasn’t like most beach towns where everyone goes to the one main bar, which can get a bit old. I liked the variety and each night it seemed that a different place was busy.

Where to eat…

The restaurant at Hostal Papaya served a daily complimentary breakfast of eggs, toast, fruit and fresh juice included in the room fee. They also had a full menu with a good variety of choices. I didn’t eat here other than breakfast because there were so many other food options and I was eager to mix things up.

Once I arrived in Montanita I got cleaned up and went to the restaurant next door for lunch which is called Tiki Limbo. I ordered the Hawaiian Burger which was topped with ham, grilled pineapple, lettuce and tomato. The beef was nicely seasoned and of better quality than most burgers I’ve had down South. The beef in South America is usually much better quality than in Mexico and Central America. Brazil and Argentina are known for their high quality beef and these countries supply most of the continent with their beef.  This meal was $6.50 with fries on the side.

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After eating I went for a walk around town and it is the liveliest beach town I’ve been to so far since arriving in Ecuador. There are lots of options for restaurants and street food here. Everywhere you look there are food stands lining the streets. Most sold ceviche but there are also hot sandwiches, empanadas and hamburgers for sale.

One guy with a ceviche stand had a crowd of locals wanting to check out this huge oyster he was shucking. I’ve never seen one this big and from the impression I got from the locals crowding around and taking photos neither had they!

A typical ceviche stand.

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A not so typical oyster!

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One night I had rice with squid, octopus and shrimp from a restaurant that simply had a sign saying ‘Surf Food’ on a sandwich board in front of the open entrance.  It was empty when I sat down but quickly filled up and was busy most other times I ate there. This costed $7 and was a heaping portion which was packed with fresh seafood.

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On another occasion I had Calamari strips which I usually prefer to rings.  This was $4 and it was often difficult to explain that you just want a portion of something and not a meal with rice, salad etc. This took some getting used to and I eventually learnt how to get this point across in Spanish and it was a very helpful thing to know. Most restaurants don’t offer much of a discount for not getting the meal and some none at all. Appetizers aren’t very common in this part of the world as many people don’t have the luxury of ordering multiple plates of food.

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Having enjoyed the eating econcado in Canoa I ate this quite a bit while I was in Ecuador. There are a few varieties but my favourite remained the coconut sauce with fish and mixed seafood. I didn’t have a bad encodado the whole trip and this one costed $6.50.

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Grilled chicken is one of those meals you can count on being pretty consistent no matter where you go. This meal was just under $4 and really hit the spot.

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The empanadas in Ecuador were really good too. This stand sold ham and cheese filled empanadas as well as cheese only. These were $1 each and made a good snack, especially after a few drinks.

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I don’t usually eat street burgers but this seemed to be a big thing here in Montanita with burger stand every where you looked. In the spirit of Ecuadorian food there was no shortage of sauce going on these burgers either. They like to put ketchup, mayonnaise and mustard on just about everything here and the burgers were no exception. If you aren’t a big fan of sauce you need to make this clear as they will put it on every layer of the burger. This wasn’t the best burger I’ve had in my life but it was far from the worst and it was something I couldn’t pass on trying to get a feel for the tastes of the locals.

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One thing about restaurants in these countries is if you can avoid paying for anything using anything less than a $20 bill then you are often going to save yourself time. Getting change in these countries is sometimes quite an ordeal. I’ve seen people run down the road with my money, hop on a bicycle of flag down a taxi to make change. Usually they will give you what they can back and then you wait 10 minutes for the rest. If I’m ever on a schedule I like to pay ahead of time or mid way through my meal just in case there is a long wait to get change. Even easier I try to carry lots of small bills and change handy so that I can pay the exact amount and be on my way.

For someone wanting a chilled out beach town that is relaxing and quiet should probably think twice about Montanita. For people who like a mix of beach, food options, parties and waves then it is a perfect choice. Another plus is that if you want to find an empty beach Ayampe is only 25 minutes by bus and if you drove it would be only 15 minutes away. I liked to bounce back and forth between these two spots while I was in this region and that gave me all the options I needed depending on my mood.

Gone on a whim…