Once considered the “hidden paradise” of Ecuador, Montañita is now a favourite tourist destination for thousands of young people from Europe, the United States, and Latin America. If you Google the town then you’ll read about all-night fiestas, cheap eats, consistent, surfable waves, readily available drugs, and the famous ‘Cocktail Alley’ where the music never stops ringing. It’s also home to the 52nd best club in the world! Now there’s a claim to fame.
Sadly, you’ll also read about the two Argentinian tourists who were murdered on the beach in 2016. To say we were a little apprehensive about spending a month there – especially as I was signed up for a Yoga Teacher Training course – was an understatement.
But, it wasn’t all bad.
For starters, we weren’t in the centre of town but 15 minutes walk down the beach where there’s a cute little gathering of hostels and restaurants. It’s instantly calmer and more bohemian than the main town and to use the most common phrase in South America: es muy tranquilo. We were staying at Casa del Sol, also the venue for the teacher training, and it was fantastic. The stellar reviews online don’t lie. It’s a real “good-vibes” hostel, constructed out of stone and bamboo in a funky layout, the staff are friendly, and the food is delicious. Oh, the food! Alison, the in-house chef throughout the training, was so fantastic she has a post all to herself. There was also Tommy from Venezuela who makes the most incredible empanadas every Tuesday night.
Completing the teacher training is one of the best decisions I’ve made; I absolutely loved it. It’s hard to believe how much we learned in just one month. It helped that there was a relatively small group of us and we had an incredible teacher, Cheryl. I’ve heard that some teacher training have up to 40 people in a class, which seems absurd to me now as with fewer people, the more time we had to practice teach. We were teaching each other on day 4!
The other girls and guys on the training were all incredible and unique in their own ways. There were people from the U.S., Canada, Germany, Austria, France, and Finland so we had a real mix of people, cultures, and languages. We all got along really well and, I hope, will stay in touch for years to come.
Tamara, who owns the hostel and facilitated the training was great. She’s a down-to-earth, sassy, Canadian, who made us all feel at ease during the training. It was like having a big sister on the course with you; she completed her training with Cheryl many years ago so knew exactly what we were going to be learning and what was expected of us, so we could always turn to her for advice and guidance. Her life is pretty sweet, running a successful business and living in Ecuador, taking three months off a year to travel the world while Jackson (a fellow Canadian) mans the fort. I’ll admit it, she’s my idol.
So, you’re probably wondering what Tim was doing all this time I was yoga-ing it up. Besides being busy winning ‘boyfriend of the year’ award, waiting patiently for me for an entire month, he was completing his TEFL course online and getting some surfing in. Montañita has consistent waves all year round so it’s a hotspot for the surfer/hippy types. However, he avoided these crowds and bussed it up to Ayampe every other day to surf with Alex. It’s a godsend Alex and Izzy were in the area for three weeks as I worry that the cabin fever that set in towards the end could have been a whole lot worse.
Tim didn’t love Montañita but he made the most of it and kept his humour up, thankfully. He coined a new tagline: “Montañita…you’re never too far from a turd.” Due to the many stray dogs in town we were always dodging poo on the beach, something that’s not so fun when you’re walking home from town in the dark. You can’t have it all though right, at least it was rubbish free and, despite the poo and when the sun is shining, it’s a pretty beautiful beach.
There were some other pros too. He loved the cheap food, making a daily trip to the bakery to buy cheesy bread, croissants and yuka balls all for under a couple of bucks. Ezzio’s pizza was a hit ($3 personal or $7 for a medium) – not really sure of the logic there but we didn’t argue – and Caña Grill had amazing burgers for $3.50.
Despite me being on a yoga course (I thought it was going to be a month of detoxing) we probably drank more in that month than we have the entire trip! It’s hard when the happy hour prices are so enticing and there are always people around who want to go out. We had a good night in Caña Grill (yep, it turns into a club later on) with all the Yoga students, celebrating Alison’s birthday and another night we attended a slightly bizarre pub quiz at Bar Rustica.
One night walking home we saw something incredible on the beach! After dancing amongst some stray dogs in a club, as you do in Montañita, we saw a giant sea turtle laying eggs on the beach, very near our hostel. Only in Ecuador! We’d had some drinks so at the time we didn’t really register how rare it was what we’d seen. The next morning we went to see if the eggs were still there, and to check we hadn’t imagined it in our drunken state, but sadly the dogs or seabirds must have got to them when the mother left the nest. And she’ll never know if they survived…so sad.
We actually swam with sea turtles in Isla del Plata. A few of us from the training decided to get out of Montañita for the day and escape to an island. We took a boat for a couple of hours out to a remote island where you can see Blue Footed Boobies nesting, swim with seals and turtles and spot countless species of birds. It was such a fun day and a nice break from the training, even if we were chanting yoga sutras the whole way there and back.
November was a productive month for us both; Tim is now TEFL certified and I’m a certified Yoga Teacher! Energised and ready to teach, it felt quite strange to be packing the backpacks again knowing the travels haven’t ended. There’s no reason why we can’t put it into practice while we’re on the move though.
We had one more week left on our Ecuadorean tourist visa so we headed to the Galapagos Islands.