Escape to Ecuador
Following the Ruta Del Sol…
Just when you thought all the waves in the world have become tourist attractions, along comes Ecuador. The South American paradise has miles of waves dotted on it's coastline located between Colombia and Peru in a wilderness setting that varies from tropical to dry.
With regular swells set to hit the country, we were ready to board for a girls’ trip to this cultural destination that the surf world has overlooked.
Though that probably won't last. With great waves for every level of surfer including rights, lefts, point breaks, reef breaks and beach breaks, all breaking in tropical warm water, they won't be kept secret for long.
Heading to Ecuador you will experience all the magic of Latin America just accessible into a small area: the Andes, the Galapagos Islands, Amazonia, and the extraordinary beaches of the Atlantic Coast. That means, even in flat period, you will not be disappointed! There is always something to discover in Ecuador.
First stop: Montañita, the party town
We landed at Guayaquil Airport and decided to go straight to the coast. That required a three-hour taxi or bus ride to Montañita. The colorful village boasts cute cafes, stores, and streets stands and a Latino globetrotter’s atmosphere.
It also has “La Punta”, the most famous surf spot of the country. It’s a pointbreak with beautiful rights working with the slightest swell and holding a massive wave up 6-8 feet. Local surfers never miss a big swell, and it’s obvious they know their home spot inside out. The level is really good, and sometimes you do get the sense of localism at the break. We found the best way to deal with this was to keep smiling, which really does work.
This spot is situated in the northern point of the long beach of Montañita, just down the cliff. The beach break, a bit to the south, is another alternative if the Point gets too crowded, which can happen with as little as 15 people, or if you are a beginner. Waves can be powerful here too, but there are no rocks to deal with.
Another discovery was that a surf specialty in Ecuador is surfboards made of balsa, an ultra light and very aesthetic wood. We had a crush on it, and it did not take long to find our way to the local balsa shaper, Moreno, to bring back a "little" souvenir from our trip there.
Montañita town is also, and maybe above all, famous for its big parties that rage all night long. By hitting the restaurants, bars, nightclubs, and the notable Cocktails Street, you will strengthen the bonds of friendship already made as well as create new ones along the way.
However, if you want to sleep and catch the early waves, you are better off staying near the Point. Not only the vibes are much quieter, but you can also roll out of your hammock and straight into the line-up.
- Sole Mar Hotel: on the beach facing La Punta, big rooms, hammocks and breakfast included.
- Balsa Surf Camp: on the other side of the street, a beautiful place with a lot of services: yoga, language classes, balsa board rental and restaurants all surrounded by an exotic garden.
For your meals, cheap and cheerful local restaurants offer daily menu between 3 and 4 dollars with a soup plus rice plate with chicken or meat, salad, banana chips and fresh juice. For such a crazy price the food is healthy and delicious.
The streets are lined with colorful stands where you can enjoy tons of fresh juices for US$2, with fruit salads, yogurt and granola, crepes, and other delicacies. The food also takes in the influence of various cuisines to add to the local flavors. Our favorites were;
- Tambo Sabores Peruanos: Peruvian specialties, ceviches and various fish dishes to eat with Pisco Sour of course!
- Shankha Sushi n' Thai: as it says, great sushis, seafood specialties, Asian food and tropical cider (do not expect the cider taste)!
- El Bistro: a pink French bakery if you miss cannelé and lemon pie.
After a few days in Montañita, we decided to search for some tranquility and different waves and landed by chance in Ayampe, a small town half an hour north. There were no paved roads; it’s a beach town, with a choice of hostels, little restaurants and groceries.
The life is slow, regulated by the surf, yoga or Spanish classes. When it’s time to eat, everybody gathered in the same places. After a few days you will know most of the travellers and the locals. Each day we got up early, and then had a nap during the hottest hours of the day.
The very long beach offers a variety of waves that are often compared to the ones in Hossegor. As such broken boards are common, and we found out. Luckily we had ours quickly repaired by a Californian shaper who now lives in there.
In the evening, after a sunset session, people gather on the beach to get a last taste of the sunbeams. We shared a beer, played volleyball, swung in hammocks and meet new people all enjoying the incredible atmosphere.
For the best food options we recommend;
- El Paso: for everyday lunch, cheap daily menu
- Café Cultura: super cute restaurant of vegan food, wraps, lentils steak burger, fresh juices …
- Azucar Moreno: Ecuadorian specialties in a hut built on stilts
If you are looking for accommodation, we highly recommend Almare, an intimate place made with wood that only have a few rooms, shared kitchen, swimming pool, hammocks and above all, good vibes!
Around the town, you can reach a lot of other spots by car or bus, which are still (almost) secret and also the Machallila National Park, which has white sand beaches as well as tropical forests.
Our new friends had whispered tales of a long left of San Mateo, which works on a big swell. With a six foot swell forecast, we landed after a few hours driving north into a fishing town further down a cliff. It was midday and there was a lot of wind making it hard for us to perceive the potential of the spot, and the town did not seem to have hotel. However we were lucky enough to be driven by friends who dropped us in the nearby village, Santa Marianita, which although surrounded by desert, has hostels that line the front of the ocean. It was the low season for this town, which depends on windsurf and kite surf enthusiasts, and as the season had just ended, the hostels were empty.
With no waves, we decided to wait for the next day to come back to San Mateo. In the morning, the beautiful left we had been told about was here, wrapping around the cliff with no wind. While the big swell forecasted hadn't arrived, there were three-foot waves and very few people surfing. After scrambling out there in record time and catching a few waves, we agreed to say that this was the best left we had ever surfed!
After a surf, a further exploration of San Mateo revealed that there are places to stay, but they are very hard to find. You need to ask the locals. Also nearby, you can stop in San Lorenzo, a lovely place that looks like Santa Marianita, with laid-back vibes.
- Donkey Den, pretty hostel in Santa Marianita
- To eat, it’s most of the time seafood, or chicken with rice in beach huts
Finally after two full weeks we headed back to Montañita by bus, to have a last surf, check out the carnival atmosphere that had just started, pick up a cherished new balsa board and caught the last bus to Guayaquil. Ecuador will forever remain in our hearts!
- Money is US dollars, preferably in small notes
- Be sure to pack sunscreen and mosquito repellent: the sun beats down and the mosquitoes bite strong!
- Surf season is from November to March and coincides with rain season but the lush landscapes are even prettier, and it’s hot!
- Ecuador has made sustainable development of tourism and environment protection his priority. By visiting the country, you participate to the local economy and to its mission of becoming the leader in eco-friendly tourism.
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