After tooling south along the coast of Ecuador, looking for a place to open shop, we came to a town called Montañita, and soon learned it’s one of the country’s many hidden gems. Relief washed over us with each wave, lapping at the foot of our hostel. When the van dropped us off and I spotted one of the cutest boys I’d ever seen, hanging over the first balcony, I knew it was the place to be.
Montañita is tiny. The main, L shaped strip is about six blocks long and packed with activity. Travelers, foolish enough to attempt driving through the strip sat still, as irreverent tourists meandered through the street.
Our first night, we ate and drank at an open-air tiki-bar, right in the thick of it. Astounded by the richness in color and life surrounding me, the burning urge to pull out my video camera was smothered by insecurity, a fear that the setting was too intimate, yet so public, a familiar fear that I would have to set aside if I was ever going to capture something that supremely awesome.
By the next day, the awkwardness passed and I was back to filming everything in sight. We were in love with Montañita.
The boys and I scrapped our initial plan of exploring the entire coast of Ecuador (searching for the perfect location to open a surf shop), because this was it. We got busy: relaxing, eating endless bowls of ceviche, observing society as it came to a halt during World Cup matches, building local connections and strolling repeatedly up and down the strip of our minuscule town. It was like… a movie set.
Local lore says it’s magical. Apparently, there are elves. And each night, for all to see, thousands of birds come to roost along the power wires in the heart of town. For about an hour as the sun sets, these birds arrive, each finding their place along the crowded line. They preen and ruffle their feathers, tweeting and chirping whatever it is birds gossip about before stuffing their little beaked faces under a wing for the night. Then, as if there’s no raging, endless party in the street below their teeny feet, they sleep.
At dawn, little white drops rain down in a real-life shit-storm (shit-shower?) as the birds flutter and wake. Each bird does it’s thing at it’s own pace, some early, others late, until by midday, when they’ve left only a trace: white speckled stripes below the power lines. Locals (yes, still partying), know to stay undercover during this time. It’s the unwitting tourists who get “blessed”.
When you visit Montañita, be sure to stay at Las Palmeras. A man named D owns the hostel we called home. He’s Ecuadorian, but lived in New York City for 25 years. In many ways a true New Yorker – he’s frank, fast and down-to-business. But D fell for the laid back life at the beach. His wife, Lady, helps him run the hostel which is currently being doubled in size.
The town is booming. While tourists discover it’s unique mystery and charm, it’s clear the secret is out about Montañita. It was developing before our eyes…
We stayed for five days, noting constant transformation. New light-posts were installed, new sidewalks and curbs, freshly paved streets.
It wasn’t just in Montañita – across Ecuador, there were hundreds of trees being planted, streets repaired, locals being put to work, together improving lives for generations to come. I later learned much of the progress is thanks to a new leader, President Correa, who has recently created taxes in Ecuador, a move that’s won him heated, understandably mixed reviews.
By the time we had to leave, we promised ourselves that we’d come back. We talked with D about our ideas, immediately deciding on a return trip for New Years. We’ll fill his entire place with our friends!
This video is from one of our last days in Montañita…