Montanita On a Budget
SightsGo whale watching from May until September during the whale watching season in Ecuador. You can organize a boat trip in Montanita or another good place to go whale watching is Puerto Lopez. If you are lucky you can even see them leap into the air. Some tours also offer lunch on the boats and the possibility to go snorkeling. You can also head to Valdivia, a village 20 minutes south of Montanita and check out its famous aquarium. It is a great place to visit and see animals like blue footed boobies, penguins and sea turtles. The name of the town comes from the population that lived there more than 3000 years ago and you will find a lot of their artifacts in Valdivia. On the main square, there is a statue of a woman, made in the style as their artifacts. You can also find a little museum in town where you can see some of these objects. On the way from Montanita to Valdivia you will also pass by a town called Libertad, where you can find a lot of souvenirs here from artisans, usually cheaper than in touristy Montanita.
ActivitiesIt goes without saying that people come to Montanita for the beach. However, if you're looking for more of an adventure you can find that here as well. Montanita has a couple of really good surfing spots. The beginners will find a nice easy beach break along the entire beach. Those looking for a longer more exciting wave will head to the north end of the beach. If you want to rent a board the going rate is about USD$5 an hour or USD$20 for a full day. You can also rent a bodyboard for USD$3. There are a number of places in town offering lessons as well. You can also go surfing in Ayampe, a small town about 40 minutes by bus from Montanita. The town is just some dirt roads with some hotels and a small supermarket next to a nature reserve. The beach is really quiet and the waves are really great. Because the town is so small there are usually only a few surfers in the water and some pelicans diving in the water next to you on their search for fish. A few other towns in that area with good waves are Las Tunas and Rio Chico. Just outside of town there is a zipline, where you can organise canopy tours through your hotel. The going rate is about USD$20 per person. A couple companies in town also offer tours on ATVs out in the countryside. They are valued at about USD$45-60 depending on the tour you would like to do. Horseback riding around the town of Montanita is also available. There are a couple of different rides, including one to a beautiful waterfall, which costs about USD$15. Paragliding can be done in a town just south of Montanita where there is a cliff and some thermals for a coastal ride. If the winds are in your favour, the paragliding here is supposed to be excellent and will only cost you about USD$30 for a 15 minutes ride.
Outside of Montanita, you can also venture to Isla de la Plata. This island is called the poor man's Galapagos because it is a lot cheaper to visit than the Galapagos but you can also find birds in the wild that are common in the Galapagos as well; the blue-footed boobies, red-footed booby, Nazca booby, frigatebird, and occasionally albatross. Around the island you can find a coral reef which inhabits Manta-rays, tropical fish and sea turtles. The island itself is beautiful and you will find a lot of animals in their natural habitat. The island is part of the Machalilla national park and to protect the area you are obligated to take a guided tour, so you don't just wander around the island and disturb the birds and their nests. You can combine visiting the island with whale watching tours. Another beautiful place to visit in the Machalilla national park is the beach of Los Frailes. It is a crescent shaped beach with rocks on both sides protecting it from the wind and it is often considered "the most beautiful beach of Ecuador". The water is a beautiful shade of blue-ish green and the sand is white. It is a tranquil place where you can sunbathe and go snorkeling or diving. There is a fun hiking trail to the top of the northern cliff to several look out spots where you see the whales during whale watching season. Agua Blanca is a small village just north of Puerto Lopez, where you can find a sulfur pool, get an overview of the forest and find pre-Columbian art in a nicely done museum. You will see impressive flora and fauna, especially birds, ruins, remains of temples, burial sites and local farms if you decide to take a tour in Agua Blanca. If you want to know more about local communities, visit Dos Mangas, located in a peaceful forest close to Montanita. This is a community of 950 inhabitants who live of cultivating the land and making artifacts. You can either go hiking here or take a horse riding tour into the forest. You can find numerous species of birds and plants and even some howler monkeys. In the commune you can hire a guide who will tell you all about the flora and fauna found in the forest.
Food and DiningThe food selection in Montanita is actually very good. If you enjoy good food there are lots of great restaurants, although it is a bit on the expensive side. If you are on a budget, try to prioritize the street vendors selling USD$1.50 hamburgers and empanadas. Ecuador may be a tiny country, but the regional cuisine is impressively diverse. You have to take advantage of your time on the coast for ceviche straight from the sea.
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