La Ruta del Sol, or the route of the sun, runs down the coast of Ecuador and includes a beach for everyone – big, modern cities like Salinas, Manta, and Bahia de Caraquez, or tiny dirt-road hideaways like Mompiche, and the party city of Montanita. The most popular among tourists is by far, Montanita, with Canoa being perhaps second on the list. They say Canoa is like Montanita 10 years ago.
Here is how they stacked up in my experience….
Montanita – Cocktails, party, and international restaurants
Montanita had a huge number of international tourists. It seemed, that international tourists outnumbered the Ecuadorean tourists, and the residents alike. The beach was warm and balmy. Durign the day, people tan out in rent-by-the-day lounge chairs. When evening comes, the center is a madhouse of cute trendy international restaurants, everything from steak, pizza, salad and seafood. I ate delicious peanut-curried fish.
At night, the city projects movies on an inflatable screen. But the real action is the party. Go down to cocktail alley and you can get the best mango- papaya- pineapple- mojitos/daiquairis/pina coladas/martinis, all made with blended fresh fruit and costing around $4 each. Salsa, cumbia, and reggaeton music pour out of every one of the little drink stands, and nearby dance clubs, making this party-central. For a more chill experience, the hippies sit on the beach and smoke, or walk around the town center playing drum beats.
Staying away from the town center is good if you want to sleep. I stayed at the Montanita cabanas, nice rustic cabins with a private bathroom, and a pool, at the somewhat steep price of $45 per night. Accommodation did seem significantly more expensive here than in Canoa, for similar quality of rooms.
Canoa – Beach sunsets and sandy beach shack seafood
Canoa had much fewer tourists overall. It was overall, less developed, but with enough tourist infrastructure (hostels, restaurants, minimarkets) to make it comfortable. I stayed at the beautiful Hostel Canoamar, which had ocean-view rooms for only $25, mosquito net included of course!
My favorite thing about Canoa was the beach – it was long, sandy, and with gentle rolling waves, good for recreational /beginning surfers, and people who just like to swim around like me. I stayed in for two hours, during the entire sunset and watched the water turn from blue to burnt orange, to black. I did not get the slightest bit cold. (Montanita had somewhat colder water, still quite nice but I would not stay in so long without a wet suit). The restaurants were overall less varied, less trendy, and cheaper than in Montanita. Many of them were set up right on the beach, serving delicious cheap seafood (Saboreame was my favorite), out of plastic chairs or even hammocks. In town, the Surf Shak served up delicious sandwiches on homemade bread and french press coffee, where I went to avoid seafood overdose (if such a thing is possible!).
The party scene was the same beachside seafood shacks, which turned into makeshift bars at night, playing tropical music with a couple people dancing around in the sand and enjoying cocktails.
My favorite was Canoa. If you want maximum party, go to Montanita, no doubt. If you want more chill beach experience, with a little nightlife, go to Canoa. If you have the time, go to them both!None found.