For those of you that are unsure, Montañita and Olon are neighboring towns in the coastal part of Ecuador. Although close in location, the two towns could not be more different. Montañita is known for its surf breaks and cool hippy vibe and as soon as you walk into the town, you can tell that it’s a place that was built up by backpackers. Lots of handmade jewelry and crafts, street food vendors selling cheap meals, and an overall awesome vibe.
With that being said, Montañita is very busy. The streets are lively, there is music constantly blaring, and the beach is often full. While we love Montañita for this particularly lively vibe, here are a few things that will make you want to hop on a $0.50 bus heading to Olon.
Go to the Beach in Montañita….but find peace in the beaches of Olon
Not that I would ever complain about a beach (I’m just happy to be in the water!) but going to the beach is just much better in Olon than in Montañita. The beach in Montañita is often crowded with lots of people. People renting out chairs and umbrellas, vendors selling trinkets or food, with music coming from every angle.
Although this can be fun at times, for those of you that want a peaceful day at the beach, head to Olon. The beach in Olon stretches out for miles and is often peaceful and empty. The central area has a few tents and chairs however if you walk to either side, you will find the perfect place for a tranquil get away. Park your beach mat, take a nap under the palm trees, and swim to your heart’s content with no one bothering you.
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Learn Spanish in Montañita…but gain a family in Olon
When we first arrived in Montañita, we walked around for a couple of hours trying to find a Spanish school that we liked. Much to our dismay, a lot of the Spanish schools in Montañita felt like….well, schools. Fair enough as that is what they were, however, we were in Ecuador! We didn’t want to make learning Spanish seem like a chore! All of the schools there were in rather small noisy spaces which didn’t exactly create the perfect learning atmosphere.
As soon as we went to Olon, we found the prefect Spanish school for us. Outdoor Ecuador had exactly the right laid back calm vibe that we were looking for. During the duration of our course, Ivonne and Luis have become our good friends who definitely made our time in Ecuador better. We would have Spanish lessons, go on surf trips, and go on fun night outs in Montañita. The Spanish classes took place in the shaded roof of their small hut, but I’ve also seen them take their students for walks to the beach as part of the learning experience.
Read: Learning Spanish in Olon
Go Surfing in Montañita….but avoid the crowded line up in Olon
Don’t get me wrong. Surfing in Montañita is fun. The waves there are well known all over Ecuador but often times, Tom and I find the line up there crowded. The water is full of swimmers, there are surfers lined up all waiting for a wave.
Read: Guide to Surfing in Olon, Ecuador
If you want a little space when learning how to surf, head on over to Olon. The breaks are wide spread and there is lots of room for you to learn. In the entire month that we had been there, we have never seen the line-up crowded. No one cutting each other or dropping into each other’s waves-ideal for learning really. While the waves in Montañita are faster and barrelling at times, the waves in Olon are often rolling and gentle. Head on over to Outdoor Ecuador for the best deals on surfboard rentals in Olon.
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Sleep in Montañita if you want to party every night…but stay in Olon if you want to rest and relax
Now I know sleeping doesn’t exactly qualify as an activity…but it does to me! Before finding our home sweet home in Olon, we stayed in Montañita for a couple of nights. During the weekdays, it isn’t too bad, however during the weekends, you hear music from your room blaring until the wee hours of the morning. Drunk people would often stumble in the streets making all sorts of noise.
It was fine if you were out there to party, but if you were recovering from a 30hr flight, all you wanted was a little bit of peace and quiet. If you want to go out, naturally, staying in Montañita would be a better option. However, if you want to get a full night’s sleep, head over to Olon where you can find lots of other accommodation options. We rented a room in Pacho’s House for a whole month and couldn’t be happier. Our room has four large windows that open up to the ocean. We get to use their kitchen and other facilities, and have found our location to be very convenient. Not only that, but Pacho and his family are all so lovely that if we ever do get the chance to go back, we wouldn’t hesitate to stay there again.
However, with all that being said, there are a few things that we love doing in Montañita that you can’t do in Olon. In Montañita, you can party to your heart’s content, beginning from the legendary cocktail alley street before hitting up the clubs.
Partying aside, there are also more street food options in Montañita. You have small stalls serving burgers for as low as $2.50, stalls selling empanadas for $1 all the way to our favorite Rasta Pan pizzas for $3. If you’re looking for cool handmade jewelry and clothes, Montañita is also the place for you. For us however, Olon has captured our hearts for so many reasons and will always be a place that we would love to go back to!
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Have you been to Olon? What’s your experience in Montañita? We would love to hear your opinion!