This is part two of my South America Mini Series. If you missed part one you can read it by clicking here.
When it comes to planning a trip to South America, the internet (which we rely too much on btw) lacks information, in all aspects. You go to plan a trip to Europe, and within minutes you already have three weeks planned because of all the information that is available to you. South America is quite different as information on the continent isn’t as easy to come by.
I hope that this post will help others while planning their travels to South America, especially Ecuador. Compared to it’s surrounding countries, Ecuador is quite small, but don’t let it’s size fool you. After spending three action packed weeks in Ecuador I left wanting to see more.
What is great about Ecuador, is that there is something for everyone to enjoy. You like laying on the beach? Ecuador has it. Love surfing? Ecuador has it. Love hiking and exploring? Ecuador has it. Crave adrenaline? Ecuador definitely provides. Do you enjoy culture? Ecuador has that as well. Such a diverse country with so much to see and do. Keep reading below to read about my three weeks in Ecuador, my favourite parts, where I stayed, transportation, and my overall reviews.
When planning my trip to Ecuador I really didn’t have anything planned. I knew where I was flying into, and I knew I needed to get to Peru after Ecuador. Everything in between was not planned. Partially due to the lack of information available, and partially due to spontaneity.
We flew into Guayaquil and spent the night at an actual hotel, since we arrived so late at night. The next day we walked around the neighbourhood of the hotel, and we quickly realized we were not in a tourist area. With more time in Guayaquil I’m sure we would have found the tourist areas, however we were more than happy to head to the bus station to grab a bus to Montañita!
With my lack (zero) of Spanish skills at the time, and it only being day 1, the bus station was quite confusing. There weren’t any signs to tell us where we had to go to buy tickets to our destination, and nobody spoke english. After aimlessly walking around for a few minutes we decided to go up the escalator. We said Montañita to a gentleman and he so kindly told us (in the very little english he knew) to go up the escalator and the ticket office for Montañita would be on the right.
Side note: all of your favourite North American fast food chains can be found in the bus station in Guayaquil.
After a two and a half hour-ish bus ride we arrived in Montañita. From the main street it looks like a pretty run down town. Truth of the matter, is that it is a run down town.
As soon as we got of the bus we were swarmed by people trying to get us to go with them and stay at their hostel. Where this was our first real stop we were kind of thrown off by this. As the weeks went on we started to learn that stuff like this was very much normal.
Fortunately for us we had made our accommodation reservations before arriving in Montañita. Thanks to the recommendation of Andrew and Emily from Along Dusty Roads we stayed at Hostal Moai during our time in Montañita.
The two workers, and the owner that were working at Hostal Moai during our stay were fantastic. So friendly, and helpful. Montañita is where we made our first friends on the trip. Including Matias and Alejandro. Alejandro was Emily’s favourite.
During our stay in Montañita, we took surf lessons from Bueno Onda Surf School. For starters, I highly recommend taking surf lessons if you are anywhere on the coast of Ecuador. It was one of my favourite memories from the trip. And secondly, if you are taking surf lessons in Montañita, please, please go to Bueno Onda. Our instructor was amazing, hilarious, and everything you’d want from a surf instructor.
Tip about the beach in Montañita: You can sit on the beach for free, however if you sit in one of the chairs, some vendors will ask you for a “rental fee” that unfortunately is normal.
Montañita was one of the more expensive places we visited, especially when it came to food. However, my favourite restaurant in Montañita was hands down Tiki Limbo their waffles were to die for. Hence why we went there twice. I also highly recommend their alcoholic beverages. I don’t remember the name of the one I had one night, but it was fruity, and tropical, and it paired well with my chocolate waffles ;)
Montañita is known for it’s party scene, however our stay in Montañita took place from Monday-Thursday, therefore we weren’t there over the weekend and we missed all the big parties. From what we noticed, people still partied on Monday and Wednesday, but Tuesday night the town was dead.
Monday night we were tired so we didn’t go out. Tuesday night we stayed up until 4am playing cards with our new friends and the hostel. Wednesday night was our last night in Montañita and we knew we had to go out. Everyone from the hostel came out that night, even the owner and the workers.
Wednesday night was karaoke night at Caña Grill so that’s where we ended up. The bar had such a cool beach vibe, with the sand floor, and cheap drinks. While they didn’t have a huge drink selection they were cheap, AND the best part? At different parts of the night one of the bartenders would go around with a bottle of tequila and pour it down your throat (if you were interested). A Tequila lover like myself took up this offer, not once, not twice, but SIX times during the night. Needless to say I was hungover on the bus the next day.
Leaving Montañita is a little bit confusing as there is no actual bus stop (unless you’re heading to Guayaquil) which we were not. We were heading in the opposite direction. To leave the town of Montañita, simply go up to the main road, and stand on the side in the direction in which you wish to go. Depending on where you want to go, different coloured buses will take you there. Ask your hostel workers what colour bus you need to take to get to your next destination. Buses come every 20-30 minutes, and cost on average $1/hour. Sometimes a bit more depending on the bus line and the length of the trip.
After what in my opinion, was the worst bus ride of the trip we arrived in Puerto Cayo, a small small town three hours away from Montañita, and a half hour away from the popular town of Puerto Lopez.
This was the worst bus of the trip because A) I get car sick and decided I didn’t need Gravol for this trip. B) I was hungover. Hungover + car sick = not a great combination. C) The smell of this bus, is a smell I can’t even put into words. It was awful. All the above put together made for an awful bus trip.
After roughly three hours we arrived in Puerto Cayo. The bus pulled up in front of a cash station and we were left standing there with our backpacks with zero clue to as where to go. A man with a truck with the windows smashed out offered to drive us to our destination. But him, and his truck screamed out bad decision. Unfortunately for us, after waiting around for 5 minutes for a “cab” he was our only choice. (Don’t judge a book by it’s cover, he was a very nice and helpful man.)
Puerto Cayo is not at all a tourist destination. It’s not where people go, people instead go to the popular town of Puerto Lopez. However, Emily had a friend working at a restaurant in Puerto Cayo, and offered us free accommodations so we decided to go for two nights.
Emily’s friend Tom was the head chef (at the time) at Booby’s Beach Bar & Grill. Tom and his girlfriend Tamara were doing a ‘Work Away’ and were in charge of the restaurant for six months. They created the menu, the dishes, everything. It was North American food with flare is how I like to put it. With free wifi, great food, beach view and red wine, I had everything I needed to be content.
Our days two days in Puerto Cayo were spent socializing with people from back home, eating Tom’s amazing food, and swimming in the ginormous waves. There really wasn’t much else to do in this town.
Our final night there we had a fire on the beach, ate some popcorn and drank wine. It was a great night, as we got ready to say goodbye to all the great people that worked there.
Thank you Paris, Todd, Tom and Tamara, for our experience in Puerto Cayo.
Getting to Quito was an experience of it’s own. Not necessarily a good experience either. Mind you, if we would have had prior information, and if we were prepared this bus drive wouldn’t have been as awful as it was. But unfortunately for us it was quite awful.
We got up early and left Puerto Cayo at 6am to go to Puerto Lopez, to catch the bus to Quito. Once on the bus we paid $12 each for what we thought was going to be an 8 hour bus ride.
Spoiler alert: It was a 13 hour bus ride, not 8. We didn’t have breakfast that day, and we didn’t pack any food to bring with us. We were full of liquids and there was no bathroom on board.
This was our first long bus so we really didn’t know what to expect. The bus made random stops along the road to drop people off, and pick others up. But then it also stopped at other terminals as well.
Travel tip: if you have a smart phone download the app maps.me. When we were on bus trips, it helped give us an idea to as how long it would be to our destination, and it also helped us when we were in cabs. Mind you all bus trips took a few hours longer than the app suggested because a bus does not move as quickly as a car.
Finally after about 7 hours of being on the bus it made a “pit stop”, mind you with our lack of Spanish we didn’t know how long the bus was going to be staying there, or if we had time to pee or get food. We risked it, because we were both about to explode, and we were both getting quite hangry.
5-6 hours later we finally arrived in Quito. It was late, and dark and cold and we were swarmed by cab drivers offering to take us to where we needed to get. We got in a cab and a half hour later we arrived at one of the coolest hostels I have ever stayed in, El hostelito.
El hostelito, was amazing for so many reasons. For starters, everyone gets their own pods which in a hostel is great, because you don’t typically get much privacy, the pod allows for privacy.
The staff at el hostelito was amazing. The breakfast was great, and for $7 you could receive a home cooked supper, which was amazing. This is also where we met Matt and Anna! (You will learn all about them in my next post.)
Stay tuned to for my next post which will talk about our time in Quito and Mindo!