The Ecuadorian Pacific Coast – Part 1: Crucita and Montañita

This time my journey took me to the Pacific coast of Ecuador, to Manabí and Santa Elena Province to be precise. The capital of the Manabí Province is Portoviejo, other major cities are Montecristi and the coastal towns of Manta and Bahía de Caráquez.

In this region there are also two famous resorts towns: Montañita and Canoa. Both are very popular with Ecuadorians as well as with international tourists. Canoa is a little smaller and quieter than Montañita but both places are among the top destinations in Ecuador for surfers. Montañita used to be a traditional fishing village, but in the 1960s the place became a hippie stronghold for dropouts. Even today the town still has some of this flair. During the vacation time and on public holidays the place fills up with visitors from Guayaquil, Quito and other cities of the highland region.

Beach in Crucita

But back to my trip … I took a bus from Quito heading in the direction of Manta — though actually my first destination was a small town called Crucita, between Manta and Bahía de Caráquez. Before the bus reached Manta, I got off at a road junction in the middle of nowhere, though the buses heading to Crucita were supposed to pass through there. It was about to get dark, so I was a little worried whether it might be dangerous to wait there. Fortunately, after only 15 minutes one came by, picked me up and took me to Crucita. When I arrived in Crucita I checked in a small hotel with a pool for one night and then started to discover the town. Crucita is really small and instead of regular taxis, there are only motorcycle-taxis that take you from one end of town to the other . The “Malecon,” the beach promenade, is full of small restaurants that serve fish and other seafood dishes.

I would also definitely recommend you to check out the Mirador, the lookout point. From here, the paragliders lift off when the wind conditions are good.

At night there isn’t much going on in Crucita, so if you want to party you’re better off going to Montañita — definitely!

Mirador in Crucita

The next day my trip took me to Montañita, but first I had to go to Portoviejo because there were no direct buses from Crucita to Montañita. In Portoviejo I had to change the bus, but the one to Montañita did not come right away, so I took that as an opportunity to check out the center of Portoviejo. The city is not located directly next to the sea and doesn’t have much to see from the perspective of a traveler, but it serves as a major transportation hub for the region. The city center of Portoviejo is similar to that of many cities in Ecuadorian lowlands, a bit chaotic and quite gray. One shop joins the next. But hey…those looking for flip flops or household items, will find a huge selection here!

 

The center of Portoviejo

After a walk through the center I finally went back to the bus station and took the bus to Montañita. The trip took about four hours and it was already dark when I got there.

The moment I got off the bus, it seemed as if I were entering a different world. The small resort town was full of life, clubs and bars all over the place and lots of backpackers, as many as I’ve ever seen  in one spot in Ecuador.

I got a room in a nice little hostel right on the waterfront. From there you can hear the sound of the sea, weighing you gently to sleep at night.

View from my room in the hostel in Montañita

Like I mentioned, the nightlife of Montañita is legendary. Countless bars, clubs and discos open their doors at night and even in the small bars right on the beach people were dancing and partying everywhere. In the narrow streets, cocktails were being served in lots of stands. I ordered a Piña Colada and I was quite surprised that it was prepared with real coconut milk and fresh pineapples, and it tasted really delicious.

Montañita’s entertainment area

The next morning I decided to start my day “the Ecuadorian way” with encebollado. This is a fish soup with yuca, onions, cilantro and lime juice, which people here even eat for breakfast.

Encebollado

For lunch, I treated myself to a ceviche de pescado y camarón, which is also a kind of soup but served cold – in my case with fish and shrimp – marinated in lime. You can find good ceviche everywhere there. I had mine at one of the street stalls and it was really great, but if you have a sensitive stomach and need to be careful, you can still go to one of the many restaurants. Anyway, you definitely shouldn’t miss ceviche if you are on the coast.

The second part of my journey leads me back to the north of Manabí, Manta, Bahía de Caráquez and Canoa; but more on that in part 2, which I’ll publish next month.

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