For a Classic Surf Trip, It’s All About Location and Attitude in Ecuador

Before becoming a surfing hot spot, Montañita was a hippie destination in the ‘60s.
Before becoming a surfing hot spot, Montañita was a hippie destination in the ‘60s.John Londres

International surfers have long gravitated to Ecuador for its off-the-beaten-barrel swells—including the country’s famed central coast hub of Montañita. Far from all that wave traffic on the secluded northern coast is a hideout called Mompiche. While the rest of the world has spent the past year in a never-ending wipeout, the classic surf camp endures. It’s all about location. And attitude.

 

 

“Essentially there are two audiences for surfing in Ecuador—those looking for cheap digs and clubbing in a busy place like Montañita, and ones who appreciate perfect warm waves, fish grilled by the campfire on a quiet beach, and the pure joy of surfing in an authentic environment you rarely see anymore,” says Brian McCutcheon, founder of ROAM, whose eight-day Ecuador Surf Safari is centered in Mompiche. Ecuador’s best left-hand point break, Mompiche is ideal for people wanting to learn or improve on its user-friendly, sand-bottomed waves. “Mompiche offers such a consistent ride—over 500 yards,” McCutcheon says. “Often you can string sets from point to beach, making it nearly a kilometer.”

Casa Surf exterior
Casa Surf exterior Courtesy Image

Ecuador Essentials

Think it’s all about the Galápagos? One of South America’s least-visited countries has plenty of other places to explore.

It’s raw and rugged. But what the Ecuador coast lacks in five-star amenities, it makes up for in a laid-back attitude and lack of crowds.

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“Selecting a surf destination can be daunting. There are so many incredible ones around the globe,” says Brian McCutcheon, who traveled the world to look at plenty of spots before dropping his Casa Surf operation in Mompiche. “I look for warm waters, uncrowded breaks, and consistent swell. Staying on the beach is best, as it adds to the simplicity of surfing. It’s just you and the ocean, and away you go.”

Here’s how we like to do Ecuador.

Tres Palmas Beach Hotel
Tres Palmas Beach Hotel Courtesy Image

Where to Stay in Ecuador

Upon arrival in the capital city of Quito (population 1.8 million), Casa Surf arranges your transfer from the airport to a hotel (luxury, business, or budget, your choice). On day two, their driver picks you up for the scenic ride to Mompiche. Check-in time is predetermined, because Casa Surf has literal surfer street cred—cars can reach it only at low tide.

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On stilts 12 feet above the sand, the palm-thatch-and-bamboo beach house offers Mompiche’s sweetest oceanfront rooms, including walk-in showers and balconies with front-row Pacific views.

After your beach hang, the best way to get reacquainted with the 21st century is with a few extra days back in Quito. Party in the La Mariscal neighborhood but stay at Casa Gangotena, a restored mansion with 31 rooms in the more walkable Old Town.

You should also consider Tres Palmas Beach Hotel, situated right along “La Punta,” Montañita’s legendary point break.

Sol Funk, chef at Casa Surf
Sol Funk, chef at Casa Surf Courtesy Image

Where to Eat in Ecuador

Along with local meat, produce, and fruit, Casa Surf ’s surf instructor/chef, a local legend named Sol Funk, whips up the best fish tacos in Ecuador. Barely a mile away in town, a big lunch might set you back $3.50 at the few funky cafes and watering holes catering to surfers and stray travelers. Pescado encocado (fish with coconut sauce) is an Ecuadorian coast staple.

The capital has plenty of nightlife, but you can’t brag about seeing Quito if you don’t hit Bungalow 6, a three-floor nightclub legendary on the global traveler circuit for its DJs, dancing, darts, pool tables, outdoor patio, lots of craft beers, and Ecuador’s best burger.

Where to Go in Ecuador

Activities and day trips away from Mompiche include horseback riding, deep-sea fishing, rain forest tours, and OD’ing on dirt-cheap massages.

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Usually done as a day trip from Quito into the Andes Mountains, Quilotoa Lagoon is a turquoise lake inside a massive volcanic caldera. An outstanding 6.3-mile hike around the rim of the crater reaches elevations of more than 12,000 feet.

Health Requirements: Know Before You Go to Ecuador

American travelers to Ecuador are currently required to have a negative PCR COVID-19 test result taken no more than 10 days prior to arrival, or can be tested upon entry at the airport. Check the U.S. State Department for the latest health and travel advisories at travel.state.gov.

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