Montañita, Ecuador

Photo: David Ceballos via flickr

Your toes are finally in the water. This is a moment on which you’ve been waiting for more than a year. It took two shots, a stamped certification, plus a two-week waiting period for you to finally be able to say you’re vaccinated. You put those final two weeks to good use by searching for flights, creating an itinerary, and booking hotels. Then you were off to the south coast of Ecuador.

Yes, Ecuador. During your endless months of quarantine, you spent a lot of time—okay, way too much time—on the internet. What started as mindless scrolling morphed into careful research. Travel research. You knew you’d eventually be able to travel again. You just didn’t know when. So you pieced together possible trips, based on destinations instead of accommodations that might not reopen, and kept your sanity in tact in the process.

That’s how you discovered Ecuador’s Ruta del Sol. This is the coastline around the Gulf of Guayaquil. It’s home to small fishing villages, unspoiled beaches, and strong waves. The latter began attracting surfers and hippies in the 1960s. Despite adding music festivals and surfing competitions over the years, they’ve somehow managed to keep their hideaway relatively under the radar.

After landing in Guayaquil—a nonstop flight from JFK thanks to JetBlue—you headed west to Salinas, the Ruta del Sol’s southern tip, to begin the journey north. You didn’t get very far. In Montañita, just 37 miles away, you found one of the best beaches in the country. Playa Montañita is a four-mile stretch of golden sand. It only stops when it bumps into the Point, a hill that separates it from Olón, the neighboring town.

The beach is lined with colorful hostels, peace symbols, portraits of heroes (Che Guevara and John Lennon make a lot of appearances), blaring reggae music, and competing seafood joints. Speaking of joints, there’s an undeniable scent in the air, as well. The vibe is totally laid back—at least until you head into the water. That’s where the competition for waves, particularly from January to March, really heats up. You quickly find yourself mesmerized by the surfers’ tricks. They, just like you, are so happy to be back in the water.

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