“Where you from, friend?”
An earnest looking chap called to me from his stall, one of countless lining the road between the beach and the town centre. It was filled with trinkets, but cunningly had an incredibly cute cat asleep in the midst of the trinkets.
“England”, I replied, tickling the cats ears. “Vera’s from Germany.”
“England, eh! Nice. I can sort you out with some weed. Any amount. Lots of weed in fact.” The cat woke up, and knocked a great pile of trinkets onto the floor as she stretched.
“Oh, gosh, thanks. Tell me, do you know a cafe with wifi round here?”
An arm was extended to indicate the building opposite, and we parted ways amicably. The cat went back to sleep. The owner started picking up trinkets, a task I felt he might have undertaken many times before.
So went my introduction to Montanita, the surf town on Ecuador’s coast which is known for being the home of amazing surf and lots of party people. Like, lots and lots of party people.
Even in November, the off season, the place was fairly buzzing. I could hardly imagine what it would be like in peak season, December – March, when the world and their dog appear here, craving parties, sun and the perfect wave.
It’s not hard to see the allure, to be honest. English is widely spoken. The streets are narrow and car free. You can buy, as far as I could tell, literally anything to get your party on. There’s a long stretch of lovely beach, with food and drinks for sale all over the place.
We didn’t stay in Montanita, though. We stayed in a tiny town half an hour’s walk down the beach, called Manglaralto, in a five room guesthouse called Tagua Lodge. I happened across it as a result of some random internet searching, and after exchanging telephone calls with the owner Luis, we booked in for a week. Because spending some time in hammocks with sand underfoot was pretty much my first plan of action when arriving in Ecuador.
After a three hour bus ride from Guayaquil, we were standing on the side of the road in Manglaralto. Luis had said we could ask for directions from anyone in town, so we did. The first shop we found, I asked for Tagua Lodge, and the lady smiled, said “Luis?”, and showed us the way.
And how pleased I was to have stumbled across this spot! Gorgeous rooms, all individually decorated, often by previous inhabitants with an artistic flair. A candle lit hammock area. Two large outdoor seating areas, and even an entirely outdoor kitchen.
It felt like home as soon as we walked in the door, made even more so by Luis, the welcoming owner, who lives on site and clearly loves this place, opening it to friends from around the world.
Manglaralto seemed to be like that; a homey place, about as far from Montanita as would seem possible, at least, when we visited.
In the evening, there was a lady selling rice and beans by the side of the road, with a choice of bbq’d beef or chicken from the charcoal grill set in a sliced open oil drum. Volleyball nets were strung across the streets by kids. People introduced themselves because they seemed genuinely interested to say hello, and didn’t seem to want to sell me weed.
Not that I have anything against party towns. Quite the contrary. I just like being able to dip in and out, with a half hour stroll along the beach all that lies between me and my party, or me and my bed. And who wouldn’t want a stroll along the beach before bed? Manglaralto is the perfect place to get away from it all, and at the time of our visit, Tagua Lodge didn’t even have wifi. An island of calm in a world of connectivity.
For reference, we’re not getting anything for writing this post, and we paid our own way on this one. We can recommend Tagua Lodge for those looking for something a little bit different and maybe a bit more peaceful, just down the road from Ecuador’s beach party central, where you are guaranteed a warm welcome.
Wifi was installed shortly after we left, and generally up to date prices can be found on their website, although it’s best to ring or e-mail to check. Note that it’s not on the beach (a couple of blocks back), the road next to it can be noisy sometimes, and if the sound of dogs barking upsets you, bring earplugs!
Finally, if you’d like a beach town that’s a bit less party focused, then Canoa is also a great choice when in Ecuador.