The Split Personality of... Montanita (Part 2)
Now that you've read part 1, we're here to offer you a glimpse into the surf, the hostels and the truth behind the crime in spectacular Montanita!
The surf: Yes, there is fantastic surf for the beginner-intermediates surfer nearly every day of the year (see the "off-season" benefits in Part 1). Is this unique? Not entirely. It will never be enough for the seasoned surfer who is longing to be barreled in the Samoas, but, it is something special in that you don't need to check a surf-report or ask a local what the surf's like today. Every day is prime, for the budding surfer, and the water temp varies from about 1 degree below perfect to 1 above all year. The thing to remember is, Montanita's part of a 2.5 hour drive up the gorgeous Ecuadorian coast known as Ruta del Sol, "The Route of the Sun." There are countless gorgeous beaches with impeccable, private, waves to surf year-round. The most impressive thing that this beach, and most of "The Route" will offer, is the sunset. You're at one of the edges of the world here, and the sun DOES NOT disappoint. So, if you want to surf during the daylight and party throughout the night, then Montanita is one of the best destinations you can possibly choose.
Lost Beach: Yes, it is THE club in town, at this time of writing. It's where the whole town seems to end up at some point between midnight and 4 am and stay until long after sunrise. It will be an all-night dance party with "famous" DJs and lines to enter and drinks and drugs and bodies and more. Entry for about 10 to 30 bucks (if you're lucky), although I've heard from my female friends, that ladies will sometimes be let in free, but for the guys, this is unlikely. That being said, the truth behind this place is basically two things, largely rumor. One, they have a license to keep the party going after 4 am. And two, they purchased the latest speakers and amplifiers that DJs across the continent are dying to use (Funktion One), and they're the only ones who have it. True or not, this doesn't matter at 2 in the morning. At the end of the day, it's a late-night club in an impressively fun alcohol-infused city. That alone should tell you what your night there will be like. Legendary for some, regrettable for others. Know your style, and your desires, and choose wisely when the crowd starts heading that way.
Crime: Ecuador is not the safest place I've ever been (Korea still holds first, with Bali a close second), but it is not nearly as dangerous as any big city in the US or Europe, Phuket, Moscow, hell, even safe places like Cape Town and Toronto are more dangerous than the Ecuadorian coast. The bottom line, Montanita's quite safe. I do online work outside almost every day. I worked at bars, on the beach, in hostels, everywhere they have WiFi and I do it on my bright, white 15" laptop without any fear of anything. My girlfriend walks around at night alone, goes shopping, drinks and lives without the fear of people hassling her or worse. We have lived in our house for three months and never once locked the front door. It is truly wonderful.
That being said, with all the good comes a little of the bad too. I've been to cities on five continents, in well over 30 countries, and I've even backpacked around India for 2 months, and in over 30 years of traveling the world, I had never been robbed, but we were pick-pocketed here. So, the lesson in my experience? Use your head, because if you wander around most places leaving your phone on a table or your wallet hanging out of your back pocket, you have a good chance of losing it. But more importantly, remember this: Montanita and all of "The Route" are safe. The locals are kind and protective and no one wants to take advantage of you or have any "outsiders" spoil your Ecuadorian experience. In this case, it's people from the cities. People from outside this town will come in on busy days and do their thing. We got pick-pocketed at 12:02 am on January 1st. There were well over 30,000 people packed onto the beach, dancing and burning piñatas and lighting lanterns and celebrating and drinking, and even though I felt it the moment it happened, I couldn't have guessed who grabbed the phone out of the 200 people pressed tightly against us, nor could I have noticed the person moving deftly through the crowd, on a mission, stealing phones and wallets from likely 10% or more of the people out that night. Robbing people is good business on a night like that, and in retrospect, we should've known and left our valuables at home. Obviously, bad things can happen anywhere, but if you're reading a bunch of blogs about how dangerous this city is, you're being done a disservice. Travelers come to this town for 24~72 hours on average. If you get robbed or something bad happens in that time, unfortunately that's all you'll remember. And if you happen to be a blogger, that'll be your takeaway. Forgetting that it isn't Montanita that did it, but rather some garbage person who has no connection to the town and no concern for it or your well-being. Those are the stories of the garbage people written by the good people they hurt. We lived here for 3 months and that was the ONLY bad thing to ever happen to us. Have your own experience here. Don't trust us. Come. Walk around. Talk to people. Feel the good vibes and judge for yourself.
Hostels: There are literally hundreds. They're all, relatively, great. But there are a few things to keep in mind. Some days, like New Year's Eve, Christmas, Carnaval, etc, everyone is ready to party. And anyone you've met may be coming to Montanita for the party. For these days, BOOK AHEAD. Most hostels are on Booking.com and similar sites and will let you to reserve in advance…and you should! On those days, the whole town, the whole area, everything is full. And whoever has space, can, should and will charge you obscenely for the rooms that usually rent for $5~$10. This New Year's Eve I heard of people paying $50 for rooms I've stayed in for $7 on regular days. And people gladly pay, so you won't be able to negotiate. I've stayed in about 10 hostels in Montanita and I can honestly only recommend one. Hostal Arrels became my go-to before we rented the house, and is always my first and only recommendation. Quiet, but not silent, rustic but not dirty, big rooms, a kitchen, en suite bathrooms and the best internet access in the entire town (as someone who works solely online, I've tested them all). The owner, Omar, is one of the most relaxed, laid back hosts with a happy, friendly vibe 24/7. You can book through Booking.com or just ask us for contact info and tell him you're coming. Always the same price, (on the regular days). I have had a regrettable experience at many hostels nearby, maybe because they want extra fees or charge me for things I didn't use, ask me to be quiet, or wake me up at odd hours of the morning. Whatever it is, everywhere else has felt like a forgotten backpacker drop-spot except Arrels. So, do yourself a favor, and try them first. Unless you really just want to get drunk all night and laugh about it through the morning, then honestly, stay where your newest friends are staying, the people are always what make it amazing!
After reading parts 1 and 2, you've now got our 50 cents on the wonderful town we called home for 3 months and will be returning to any chance we get. Ask us questions in the comments or shoot us a message. And for a bonus, here are our honest (no money, no link-backs, no nothing, just the places we love) choices for the best of the best not yet mentioned:
Special nod to my favorite back-up workspace, Casa Quebecua (also the only place on the coast to get some poutine).
~Keep RoKing the world my friends!~
Editor: Ruby Stone