Montañita is a hidden gem of a destination that wasn't even on the map just a few years ago. A combination of perfect waves, golden sand, perfect weather and beautiful, tropical vegetation have combined to solidify Montañita's reputation as a vacation paradise.
Montañita started out as a small fishing village that just happened to have a beautiful beach that had perfect waves for surfing. Initially surfers had to bring tents if they wanted shelter and a little privacy because there were no hotels. Montañita has grown, and now there are vacation homes, hotels, rustic restaurants, bars and open air cafès.
Most of the amenities in Montañita were built by people seeking to escape the frantic lifestyle of Guayaquil, Ecuador's largest city and main seaport. Montañita also has its fair share of foreigners who visited, fell in love with the place and stayed. Permanent residents of Montañita now include Argentineans, Americans, Australians, Canadians, Germans, Jamaicans, and Russians, as well as smatterings of people from all over Europe.
Montañita's numerous and varied collection of street vendors, artisans, activities and party nightlife provide a multicultural atmosphere that attracts the same variety in its visitors. The layout of Montañita is a grid of small streets crowded with shops and restaurants. North of Montañita is a small mountain often called "The Point" that separates its beach from neighboring Olon.
Montañita has become known as Little Amsterdam for its tolerance of marijuana. Although possession and use of marijuana is illegal in Ecuador, it's common practice for people to use smoke pot in the streets and on beach in Montañita.
Montañita's economy is based in tourism, with most locals employed in food service, surfing, and craft sales. There are still not too many hotels in the city, and most of the accommodation that is available are small mom and pop operations. The locals rent out rooms as well, and there are homes and cottages being built or purchased by Ecuadorians to rent to tourists.
High season for tourism peaks in January, with its low being in June. Every February Carnival is held in Montañita.
Water sports that draw tourists and locals to Montañita include body-boarding, surfing, scuba diving, and windsurfing. The commune is one of the very few beaches in Ecuador where women frequently go topless, especially European tourists.
The main means of transportation in Montañita are bicycles, pedicabs and the occasional truck. Streets are mostly used by pedestrians who will usually walk in the middle of the streets.
Barter or exchange is accepted as a means of payment by some artisans and businesses in Montañita. It is common to hear reggae music on one street corner, and local music on the next as you walk along the street checking out what the numerous sidewalk vendors and shops have to offer.
Being one of the most liberal places in Ecuador, it is common for same-sex couples to walk along the streets of Montañita holding hands. Same sex couples are not only tolerated, but receive support from the locals. This differs greatly from the rest of Ecuador where the conservative, predominantly Roman Catholic population is not as tolerant.
The streets of Montañita are filled with bars, restaurants, and cafés. During the peak season, there are many music festivals on the beach that carry on far into the night. In every city in Ecuador visitors can expect evenings to be more noisy than North American or European cities, but Montañita during the high season takes nightlife revelry to a whole new limit. However, few visitors to Montañita seem to mind, which is probably because most visitors to the city are 18 to 35 years old and are there for the party atmosphere as much as they are for the sun, surf and sand.