Last Thanksgiving (2014), my friend and I took a trip to Ecuador. It was incredible, especially our visit to the Galapagos! If you missed those posts, see Galapagos: Travel Guide and Backpack the Galapagos? Yes You Can!
In addition to exploring the Galapagos, we got to explore a few parts of the mainland – mainly Montañita and Quito. Here’s how our trip went down:
We had planned to go to Baños, but as we looked at the weather about a week before leaving, Baños was predicted to have crazy thunderstorms all week, while the beach town of Montañita looked like it would have nonstop sunshine. Since we were torn between the two places anyway, we made a spontaneous decision to chance our plans and go to Montañita instead. We booked a private driver ($140 each) with Ecotravel; we were told the drive was going to be about 8 hours. This was when our first adventure of the trip began!
The drive ended up being about 13 hours, for a few reasons. One, there was an accident outside Quito. This was a huge deal because the “highway” had only 4 lanes, and there was only one main road going to and from the airport in Quito. While they are making major renovations to the airport and the surrounding area, I’d still plan for extra time to get to and from the airport. Two, we drove through Guayaquil:
The drive was not only frustrating, but a little scary, since our driver kept falling asleep, and he didn’t speak a word of English. Sara and I woke up a few times to us driving off the road. Needless to say, we were extremely relieved when we arrived in Montañita.
Our adventure did not stop there – since we arrived at about 6am, the town and our hotel was silent. We walked up the beautiful hill of our hotel – Nativa Bambu Ecolodge:
After calling out for help for a few minutes with no response, I jumped the fence and began wandering around the property. The owner started shouting at me from the street, thinking I was a thief. Turns out there was a side entrance – oops! I explained that we couldn’t get in, and that we had reservations. He said he had been waiting up for us until 3am, which was our expected arrival time, but he went to sleep when we didn’t arrive 🙁
Luckily, the owner was a very sweet man who spoke great English, served delicious breakfast, and was very accommodating in general. We recommend this place, not only because of him, but because of the gorgeous room and views, all for about $75 per night.
Montañita was a lot of fun. It wasn’t sunny at all, but we didn’t let that get us down! We walked along the beach and down the main street, shopped in the street markets, and enjoyed many cheap drinks, including ones from the drink carts lined down a main street.
In general, the prices were right on, but the food wasn’t the best tasting. One of our favorite restaurants was El Diablo – It was a Mexican/Day of the Dead themed restaurant. It had great nachos and guacamole and delicious homemade salsa.
We also liked this cute restaurant on the beach that served pretty bomb sushi, but wasn’t the cheapest:
As you probably could’ve guessed, Montañita is a fun party town, especially at night. We loved the beach bars that had sand floors and cheap drinks ($2 beers!). We also had fun at Alcatraz, a touristy bar that looks creepy:
On Monday, we left for the Galapagos. We took a 2.5 hour bus from Montañita to Guayaquil. Our hotel bought the bus tickets for us, which were $6 each; then it was a $5 cab from the bus terminal to the airport. I won’t write about the Galapagos here, so I’ll continue on to Quito.
We arrived in Quito on a Friday afternoon and went to dinner at Plaza Foch in Mariscal.
We stayed at Hostal El Arupo in Foch – it was a simple place, but for $50 a night and a private bathroom, it fit our needs.
We started our day at the market near Foch and took the hop on hop off bus for $12 from there. It’s called the Quito Tourist bus – Tour Diurno (Sightseeing Day Tour). It’s a double-decker bus, so sit on top to get better views. It stops at La Virgin de Panecillo:
We also chose to get off at La Ronda and El Teleferico. The hop on hop off bus didn’t take us directly to El Teleferico, but it took us to a stop that has a free bus ride to the cable car. You can also take a taxi directly to El Teleferico.
It was about $8 to take the cable car ride up the mountain. We recommend that you go in the morning to get the best views, but we went in the afternoon and still saw some terrific sights!
We had a great whirlwind tour of Quito; I think we did everything we wanted to do in just 1 full day. However, if I had to do it over again, here is what I’d recommend as a day plan for Quito (if you only have one day): Teleferico in the morning, Centro Historico/La Ronda to walk around, work up an appetite and go for lunch, then go to La Basilica, and finally go to the Artisanal Market. For more details on a suggested itinerary, check out our Ecuador: Travel Guide & Tips post.
After a full day of sightseeing, we almost didn’t have the energy to go out. However, we’re really glad we mustered up the energy and crawled out of bed, because Quito has a really fun night life! Going out in Foch was tons of fun.
For more nightlife suggestions, check out our other Ecuador post.
- Our final morning, we went to the equator on the way to the airport – you can’t skip the equator in Ecuador!
- The “equator” is a little confusing; there are 2 separate spots: a monument and the official equator line
- Our cab ride from Foch → equator → monument → Airport was about $60
- Note: International airline check-in didn’t start until noon for some reason, so we had to wait quite a while. This probably was related to it being a Sunday, but something to look out for.
For recommendations on traveling the mainland of Ecuador, see our post: Ecuador: Travel Guide & Tips