Happy New Year!
I spent the last week or so of December and the first few days of 2016 in Montañita, an Ecuadorian beach town that is small in size, but certainly not in reputation! Ask around or reference any guidebook and you’ll be told that Montañita is a lawless, non-stop party land. Someone even said to me ‘Montañita is the closest I have ever been to death.’ Really. They said that. So needless to say, the small beach town had a reputation that preceded it.
While I’m sure you can go there and have as reckless of a time as you so desire, I like to think my time there was on the tamer side. When one spends 11 days in a place Montañita, pacing yourself is probably crucial.
Some nights I went out and danced at the club with live music and sand for a floor. Many nights I hung out on La Calle de Los Cocteles drinking fruit daiquiris and meeting folks from different corners of our world. On most nights there is also drum circle or a fire show street performance to be entertained by. Still, on other days, like Christmas day, I just relaxed on a beach chair, tanning and reading a good 600-page novel. There are also plenty of options for day trips out of Montañita like Puerto Lopez, Ayampe, Los Frailles, etc. and each has its own vibe.
Right before I left Montañita I also made sure to take my first ever surfing lesson! It was a combination of salt water everywhere, navigating through Spanglish with my instructor, and poorly aborting my board only to end up banging my bottom on the sandy ground beneath the water. Still, I stood up a bunch of times and did something like surfing, so, yay!
It was the night of New Years Eve, however, that showed me the true wild spirit of Montañita. Just before midnight surfers paraded down La Calle de Los Cocteles with their surfboards high in the air as onlookers cheered for them in excitement. For the surfers it is tradition to surf out just before midnight and watch the fireworks from the sea.
Once midnight approached fireworks and fire lanterns were set off in different portions of the sky. Plenty of people also decided to set off fireworks in the sand as well…this was dangerous activity that led to crowds running to avoid bursting sparks. Huge bonfires were lit along the beach and people threw their viejos in, traditional dolls that represent the badness of the past year. As the dolls burned away the grievances of 2015 people began dancing in circles around the fire and singing. I watched many take daring leaps over the growing fire, another move to bring good fortune for the new year. Music, dancing, screaming. It was beautiful chaos.
So New Year’s Eve in Montañita proved to be my most eventful New Year celebration yet. In my time there I tried surfing for the first time, ate to my heart’s content, and relaxed for nearly two weeks in a place I honestly would visit again.