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Don't be surprised if you find yourself extending your stay in Montañita. This village on Ecuador's Pacific coast rolls on a distinctly hippie vibe with lazy days by the sea. At sunset the infamous 'Cocktail Alley' fills with revellers drawn by its reputation for fiestas. However, low season is Montañita's best-kept secret. In the latter half of the year, prices drop, the gentle breaks are ideal for surfing newbies and evenings are all about lingering conversations across a beach fire.
Hostels in Montañita have embraced the village's philosophy with bamboo yoga studios and a surf lodge right on the beach. You can stay in a rustic cabin beside an outdoor pool or get to know your fellow travellers over drinks on the rooftop terrace of a beach house. Food is no problem, as most Montañita hostels have restaurants on-site where you can get free breakfast in the morning too. Dorms are the standard but there are private rooms, plus you'll have a choice of comfy hammocks and beanbags in the outdoor social areas.
Montañita has three main areas. The centre is where parties happen and food and craft stalls bursting with Ecuador's best produce compete for prime position. A sandy beach runs the whole length of the village and as a general rule, the further you are from the centre the quieter the beach will be. The leafy residential neighbourhood of El Tigrillo is criss-crossed by wide peaceful lanes and sits slightly inland.
Surfing is Montañita's top activity. Pros can catch the ISA World Masters Surfing Championships in February, while beginners will find a quality surf school at the north end of the village. If you fancy exploring, take a day trip to Isla de la Plata to spot unusual wildlife: look out for the blue-footed booby, a distinctive marine bird. You can also head inland to Agua Blanca for a bath in the healing mud of a sulphur pool. Travellers regularly stick around for longer to make use of Montañita's award-winning Spanish language school.
From Aeropuerto Internacional José Joaquín De Olmedo in Guayaquil you can catch a bus to Montañita that takes 2.5 hours. Choose between a coach service with air con and the infamous local green buses known for hurtling through the mountains. The bus terminal is on the main road, close to the centre. If you'd like to explore the nearby villages or reach Agua Blanca, you'll find taxis just off the highway. Getting around town is best done on foot or bicycle though, as most the streets are pedestrianised.