About an hour up the coast from Salinas sits the small beach town of Montañita. While Salinas is more of a local vacation spot, Montañita is the opposite. Many ex-pats have established small hotels and restaurants that cater to the constant stream of foreign tourists that pass through on an annual basis. Even though I hate “tourist traps”, I love hanging out on the beach so I definitely couldn’t pass up the opportunity to explore Montañita.
Arrival to Montañita- I checked out of my hotel in Salinas at about 1030 Monday morning. Fortunately, I was staying on the main road and there was a bus passing as I was walking out of the hotel which could take me to the regional bus terminal in Santa Elena for 30 cents. I ended up choosing the wrong bus as it was not a direct bus to the terminal with the trip taking about an hour (as opposed to 25 minutes when I arrived). However, I arrived at the bus terminal just as a bus was leaving to Montañita. The ticket cost $1.75 USD. The bus almost left me as I stopped to buy an empanada but I was able to chase it down. While more crowded then other buses I have ridden on, I was still able to sit comfortably with my travel bag. The trip to Montañita took about an hour and 20 minutes with most of the ride going down the Ecuadorian coast. There was no official bus terminal in Montañita as the bus stopped on the side of the road at the town’s main entrance. From the bus stop, it was a short walk to my pre-booked accommodation. While billed as a hotel, it was really a room rented out by an American expat. I also ran into a similar issue that I ran into in Salinas where the place couldn’t take credit card for payment. However, it was such a good deal, that I ended up staying and paying cash. Specifically, the room was had an ocean view with a private balcony and was only $78 USD for the whole week. I doubt I could have found a better rate anywhere else.
Montañita Town- Despite its widespread popularity, Montañita isn’t really that big. The entire town is spread out over 10 city blocks give or take. However, it is very congested and gritty reminding me of Playa El Tunco en El Salvador. There is a nice soccer field in the middle of the town where I assume the local team holds Sunday evening matches. While there was no big supermarket, there were plenty of small tiendas that provided everything one would need for a comfortable stay. However, as with many tourist areas, the prices for commodities were pretty inflated. It was the first time in over 4 months of traveling in the region that I paid over $1 USD for a liter of water. There were plenty of restaurants to choose whether it was local seafood places or high-end foreign cuisine. Most places only took cash and those that take credit card, add 10-20% on the price. Another surprising thing was some of the expat shop owners didn’t even speak Spanish which I would have thought you at least needed a basic understanding of to start a business in Ecuador. There was a nice boardwalk that bordered the beach. While the weather wasn’t exactly the greatest, the beach seemed to be pretty desolate which was emphasized due to how large it was. In fact, it was similar to Playa Venao in Panama in that the tide dictates how far you need to walk in order to reach the water’s edge (making it seem even bigger during certain times of the day). Right next to the main tourist boulevard, there were beach chairs and umbrellas set up for one to relax. While Ecuador doesn’t exactly have a “club culture”, there are also several bars in Montañita that are open until 12 AM and play several popular English language songs.