Playa Montañita: Ecuador’s surf and beach party town
A beachtown best known for its surf and nightlife, Montañita is the destination for those of you that want to party, meet other travellers and bask in the equator’s rays. In the following blog, we’ll give you tips on how to get from Quito to Montañita and what you should do while you’re at playa Montañita.
How to get to Montañita
You have a few options when it comes to getting to Montañita. The route you choose will depend on the other destinations you may want to see along the way. In terms of transportation, you can get to Montañita by bus or plane.
Quito to Montañita by bus:
Public transportation: To get from Quito to Montañita, you’ll need to make your way to Quito’s southernmost bus terminal, Quitumbe (“Terminal terrestre Quitumbe”). You can either take a taxi ($10-20 trip, depending on the hour ) or the trolley. It’s best to take the trolley by day, and always keep a watchful eye on your belongings.
Once in Quitumbe, there will be several options to choose from. Trans Esmeraldas or Transportes Ecuador will take you direct to Guayaquil, where you can then get on another bus to Montañita. From Quito to Guayaquil it’s take around 8 hours, and from Guayaquil to Montañita it will take you around 3 hours.
You can also take a bus to Puerto Lopez on the bus line called Reina del Camino. From Puerto Lopez, Montañita is located farther south along the coast. From Quito to Puerto Lopez, the trip will take roughly 8 hours, and from Puerto Lopez to Montañita, the trip will take you about 1 hour.
Do you want to skip the hassle (and safety issues) of public bus terminals? Consider hopping on the Wanderbus!
Wanderbus Ecuador: If you want to see the best that Ecuador has to offer in a comfortable and convenient way, check out the Wander Pass. The Wander Pass takes you to Montañita and stops through Ecuador’s top destinations on a large loop around the country.
Wanderbus provides travelers with a hassle-free experience and the best part is, it’s flexible! You can hop on and hop off the bus at any of the destinations, and if you like a place more than rest, feel free to extend your stay there. You’ll still have a spot on the next Wanderbus.
Quito to Montañita by plane
Given the distance between Quito and Montañita, you might consider taking a domestic flight to Guayaquil and then taking a shorter bus trip for the final leg of your journey. Look for flights on LATAM Airlines (more reliable than TAME) and expect to pay around $80-200, round trip.
Guayaquil to Montañita by bus
From Guayaquil, getting to Montañita is much faster.
You can either hop onto the Wanderbus heading to Montañita on the Fregata Pass or you can opt for taking a public bus from Guayaquil’s main bus terminal.
From the bus terminal, take a bus belonging to CLP (that’s the name of the company). This is a comfortable bus that will take you directly to Montañita and departs from Guayaquil several times throughout the day, starting at 4:45 am and ending at 4:45 pm.
The trip takes around 3 hours and costs $6 per person, but note that you won’t be able to reserve in advance!
Things to do in Montañita
Most people go to Montañita for one of two activities: surfing or partying. While Montañita has developed quite the reputation for these activities, you’ll find a variety of things to do in Montañita. Here are some of our favorites, starting with the obvious:
Take surfing lessons in Montañita
You can’t visit Montañita without taking at least one surf lesson.
Whether you’ll actually learn to surf or not is another question, especially since Montañita’s surf is notoriously challenging for beginner and advance surfers alike! Its waves range from 1 to 2 meters (3-6.5 ft) in height depending on the season and, because of its location along the Pacific Coast, you can expect decent waves year-round.
As its popularity has increased over the years, Montañita has become a hotspot for international surfers and even hosts an international surfing competition in February.
Once you’re in Montañita, and if you’re interested in surfing classes, you’ll have no trouble finding a selection of surf shops that provide classes for very reasonable prices.
Enjoy Montañita nightlife and party culture!
Montañita is Ecuador’s beach party destination. It attracts many travelers, young and old, because of its vibrant nightlife and party scene. People from all walks of life gather here to let loose, dance, sweat and make new friends.
That said, if you don’t like beach parties and prefer a quiet beach town, Montañita may not be the place for you! There are many other nearby beaches you might still enjoy, like Olón or Ayampé to the north.
What are the best places to party in Montañita? A few of our favorites include: Caña Grill ($3-5 cover), Nativa Bambu ($5-7 cover), Hola ola ($5 cover), and the Lost Beach Club ($5 cover).
You’ll need a valid ID to get into most places, so make sure you make a copy of your passport. Don’t carry more than enough cash for covers and drinks, and definitely don’t carry your credit card around. It’s best to leave any valuable belongings at your hostal, just in case.
Lounge on the beach in Montañita
The best type of vacation is one that involves long hours on a beach, beer and delicious seafood. Enter: Montañita.
If there’s any activity you’ll almost certainly do here it’s chill on the beach. Montañita’s beach is welcoming, soft, and there are many places where you can rent lounge chairs and umbrellas to watch comfortably as surfers tear through the waves.
Grab your book, hat, sunscreen, water, towel, bugspray – this list was supposed to be much shorter – and RELAX, you’re in Montañita.
Because Montañita attracts such a diverse crowd, it’s a great place to people watch.
As a major beach destination along South America’s Pacific Coast, you’ll find people from all over the continent and the world. Montañita is especially popular among Argentinians, U.S. citizens, Germans and many more nationalities that have chosen to live in or around the town. For the same reason, English is widely used and you’ll hear many other languages and accents while there.
Everyone here adds to the laid-back, inviting Montañita vibe. As you walk through town, you can buy some artesanal, handmade jewelry from South American backpackers, or tip the street performer playing funky tunes.
Along with the street performers, there are a number of local characters that you’ll get a kick out of watching. It’s very likely they’re getting a kick out of watching you too!
Adrenaline sports and outdoor activities
If surfing isn’t adrenaline-pumping enough, make sure to check out paragliding, ziplining, windsurfing and scuba diving activities in and around Montañita. You’ll likely see them advertised in town, but a quick search online will result in a few good options.
You can also horseback ride and hike in the hills surrounding Montañita, where you’ll be able to spot bird life and take a dip in the Dos Mangas waterfall.
Visit the surrounding areas
While Montañita may keep you occupied for many days, there are also many nearby places worth visiting while you’re in the area.
Just a 30 minute drive away is Ayampe, a sleepy surf town ideal for those that need a break from the party. While you’re there, check out Jimmy’s, a local seafood restaurant.
About an hour’s drive away is Puerto López, best known s a whale watching destination between June and October. Puerto Lopez gives you a much more authentic glimpse into Ecuadorian life on the coast.
Just past Puerto López is Machalilla National Park where you can access Los Frailes, one of Ecuador’s most pristine beaches, and the mud baths at Agua Santa.
If you’re visit to Ecuador doesn’t include a trip to the Galapagos, you can always visit la Isla de la Plata, also known as the “poor man’s Galapagos”.
Want to learn more about Puerto Lopez and its surroundings? Read this blog.
Take Spanish lessons
They say that one of the best ways to learn a new language is by dating a local, but if that doesn’t appeal to you, you can always just take Spanish classes.
Around town, you’ll see many places advertising Spanish classes. Most places encourage you to buy a full course (~20 hours), but if you’re not ready for that level of investment, you can take pay as you go at some locations.
Where to stay in Montañita
Given the influx of tourists in Montañita, there is a wide selection of hostels and accommodations to choose from, but knowing which one offers the best value while still providing a good night’s rest is key.
A few of our favorites include:
- Hostal Moai – Best known for its warm and friendly staff, Hostal Moai offers guests clean rooms in a quiet sector of town. They also provide guests with a tasty breakfast to start the day.
- Balsa Surf Camp – A quirky, family-friendly place where you can enjoy a peaceful holiday while still experiencing the fun of Montañita. Highly recommended!
- Casa del Sol – This is a basic hostel in town that offers visitors access to many activities, like Spanish lessons, yoga classes, surf lessons and bicycle rental. Hot showers and hammocks are included, and the hostel is a 20 minute walk from the beach.
When to go to Montañita
If you’re planning to visit Montañita, you’re probably not looking for a tourist-free tranquil beach. In fact, the more the merrier, right? High season in Montañita is between December and February. By June, many of the tourists have left and Montañita remains relatively quiet.
If you’re looking for an awesome party, head to Montañita during Carnaval, in February, or New Year’s.
In terms of weather, Montañita remains warm throughout the year, at around 28C (82F). Rainy season occurs from December to May, which is (contrary to what you might think) also the time of the sunniest weather. May to November are overcast and suffer from the grey garua sea mist that blankets the coast due to the El Niño currents.
Staying safe in Montañita
Like any beach party town in the world, you have to be watchful! Party drug and alcohol are an active ingredient to all party life here, and there can be risks associated with that.
Over the last few years, Montañita has developed somewhat of a reputation due to violent incidents that occurred there among young travelers. While these incidents have not marred the town’s reputation completely, they represent some of the risks associated with visiting party towns generally.
Certain precautions should be taken while you travel through South America, and Montañita is no exception. For instance, always keep an eye on your personal belongings and try to hold onto your drink at all times. When you first arrive to Montañita, try to befriend a few people that you can join on a night out.
If you’re traveling to Montañita on the Wanderbus, one advantage is that you’ll likely already have a small group of friends or acquaintances to go out with.
Are you a solo woman traveler? Read this blog about staying safe in Ecuador.
Is Montañita family-friendly?
Montañita is a family-friendly place that offers many satisfactory options for dining and accommodation. However, you can’t overlook the fact that Montañita has a reputation for being a surf and party town. As a result, the environment there caters more toward people with these interests and may not be suitable for all families.
For instance, as you walk through the town, you’ll get whiffs of marihuana and will likely notice that people start (or continue) drinking early in the day. In fact, Montañita is sometimes referred to as “Little Amsterdam”. On most nights, you’ll hear music coming from one of the many bars until the early hours of the morning.
If you’re traveling to Montañita with your family, consider staying at a hostel outside of the town center, like the Balsa Surf Camp, where the nightlife won’t keep you up at night.
Alternatively, nearby beaches like Olón, Manglaralto (walking distance), Salinas and Ayampe might be more suitable for some families.