One of the best aspects of living in Ecuador is the preponderance of holidays. In the 6.5 weeks that I’ve been here, there have already been two holiday weekends. Talk about awesome. Now, when you’re a foreigner living in abroad, you’re almost obligated to aprovechar de the holiday weekends and go see more of what your beautiful adopted country has to offer. My first holiday weekend was well-spent in the Amazon (see: Journey to the Jungle). This glorious break, I took the opportunity to explore a new area, and headed to the southern Ecuadorian coast.
Traveling to the beach on a four-day weekend is not for the faint-hearted. My adventure crew and I headed to the bus terminal on Friday night, taking two extremely packed buses to the terminal around 9:30 pm catch our 11 o’clock bus to Guayaquil. We had no idea what we were getting into. Apparently, everyone else in Quito had the same idea we did. The terminal was jammed with sweaty masses of humans, their suitcases, and a surprising amount of dogs. We could hardly get to our bus between the crowds and the dozens of the buses careening around the terminal. I was sure someone was going to get hurt, but thankfully we got onto our bus unscathed and departed only 40 minutes late. Not bad for Ecua time. Then ensued 7 hours of bus-riding through the night, arrival at the even more packed Guayaquil terminal, some confusion as we realized there were no buses to our destination until 1 pm, and eventual relief as we figured out an alternate way to get to our hostel. Two more buses and four hours later, we arrived at our destination: Montañita. The hassle of getting there was well-worth it.
Montañita is a singular town, unlike any I’ve ever visited. A haven for foreigners and the surfer crowd, the vibe is laid-back and chill during the day. You can’t walk a block without seeing a gringo, some Havianas, or a tanned body in a swimsuit. This made for a pleasant break from Quito, where I can’t walk around at all (let alone in shorts!) without being stared at. We blended in well with the other vacationers and expats–a blessing for anyone who knows what it’s like to feel stares that know no shame.
Walking down the streets of Montañita is a sensory experience. The smell of fresh ceviche and other sea food hawked by street vendors assaults your nose. Rainbow-colored umbrellas and overhangs shade the rough, sand-covered streets. Cars are not welcome; flip-flopped feet are the preferred method of transportation. Surf shops, adventure tour operators, small eateries, and souvenir tiendas form the foundation of each block. Here, even the dogs are laid back. Friendly strays wander into the open-air restaurants and lay down peacefully next to your table, hoping for a morsel or a belly rub. Individuals wander the streets selling “happy brownies” at all hours of the day.
At night, Montañita comes alive. The streets are so bright that it seems almost like mid-afternoon. Clubs compete with each other, blasting electronic music, reggaeton, and salsa as promoters attempt to usher you into their joints. Wandering down the Avenida de los Cócteles is a treat in and of itself. The entirety of the avenida is lined with different carts filled with tropical fruits and booze–a winning combination. You can get a delicious, freshly-made banana or mango colado for $3.50. It’s dangerously awesome. Strolling down the beach itself just to the right of the avenida, you can find beach clubs blasting top Latin hits and people dancing pegados and bare-foot in the sand under the moonlight. You can also pull up a colorful plastic chair and post up with a Pilsener and some new friends. Everyone in Montañita is there to have a good time.
And we did nothing if not have a good time. From meeting friendly backpackers at our hostel to lounging on the beach and swimming in the warm waters, from parasailing to catching some serious waves during surf lessons, to finding tasty pizza and drinking fresh banana-rum-condensed milk cocktails, to hiking along the coastline and hanging out on a boat, I could not have asked for a better weekend.
Check out our weekend in video-format!