I finally made it back to Quito! Kim and I are both sunburnt, damp, and completely rejuvenated. The beach tends to do that to you. 🙂
We started our vacation with a 10 hour bus ride to the West Coast, arriving in time to watch the sunrise light up the coast. Our first destination was the notorious “party town” of Montañita. The town was slow to wake, and it was immediately obvious that the tourism relies heavily on the vibrant nightlife. Numerous drink booths lined the main street, and there was no shortage of bars and clubs in the area. Although the town itself isn’t very big, the tourist area took up a majority of the area. Our hostel, Hostel Iguana, fit in nicely with Montañitas personality, equipped with beer and rum available on site for those who wanted to pregame with a game of Beer Pong or Flip Cup.
That being said, Kim and I were the self proclaimed “lamest people in town.” After a hectic year of school, work, and volunteering, we were both looking forward to a ton of reading on the beach and long nights of sleep. We went to bed earlier than anyone else in the whole hostel. As a result, Montañita wasn’t quite the town for us, but I would definitely recommend it to anyone looking to enjoy some late nights with people from around the world. Hostel Iguana was the most social hostel we visited on the trip, and we met a bunch of extremely interesting people.
Our next stop was a sleepy hostel 15 minutes out from Puerto Lopez. Viajamar Surf Hostel offered guests four person cabins just minutes from the beach. You could borrow hammocks from the hostel and hang them right along the ocean, and we spent an afternoon reading and whale watching. The hostel offered complimentary breakfast, but the town of Viajamar offered little food for lunch or dinner. On the other hand, Puerto Lopez was larger than we expected, with a few blocks targeted toward tourism. We enjoyed “camaron” ceviche here one night, after our adventures at Isla de la Plata.
We embarked on our tour of the “poor mans Galápagos,” Isla de la Plata on the Fourth of July. Our tour promised whale watching and unique island birds, and delivered on both. We set off with a group of 15 on a 90 minute boat ride to the island. Kim and I were both surprised at just how far away the island was from town, at one point we were surrounded solely be ocean, with no land in sight. The rough waters were not easy on everyone, and a few of our companions were sea sick, but we arrived all in one piece at the island without problems. Isla de la Plata is a large desert rock, with hundreds of birds soaring among the trees. As promised, our three hour hike offered views of Frigates and Blue-Footed Boobies, but not much else. Still, I enjoyed the stunning cliffs and chatting with other travelers in our group. After the hike, we spent a short time snorkeling off the edge of the island before heading back. On the return trip we made multiple stops for whale sighting, watching magnificent humpback whales rise to the surface, even jumping a few times. The enormous whales were a powerful sight, and the entire day was an amazing experience.
The final destination on our beach vacation was the sleepy beach town of Canoa. This town provided the atmosphere that Kim and I had been so eager to find along the coast. The smallest town of our three stops, the main road along the beach was unpaved and un-kept. Shacks offering ceviche and drinks lined the road, along with multiple signs for surfing or parasailing excursions. We enjoyed the sun and sand in Canoa immensely, as well as the relaxed feeling the town provided. Canoa seemed to be a vacation spot for Ecuadorians and families, instead of just a backpacker stop. Our hostel here, Coco Loco, was my personal favorite of the trip as well. With a outdoor lounge area, complete with hammocks and a canopy of trees. You could see the beach across the street from within the hostel.
My favorite activity in Canoa was an early kayaking adventure to a nearby “cave.” Getting out on to the ocean was a challenge, with the waves crashing against our little boat and pushing us towards shore. After a few minutes we finally made it out to calmer waters, and enjoyed an overcast morning among the waves. Although the cave itself was rather unimpressive, I enjoyed the overall experience. I was craving some physical activity, and being out among the quiet, vast ocean was beautiful and humbling.