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What’s that you say? Everyone else posted about Christmas over a month ago? I feel kind of proud of myself for getting this up in the first quarter of 2014. I’m just spreading out the holiday cheer, no? After crossing the border into Ecuador, we made a beeline for the coastal town Montañita.

We’d spent two weeks by the beach in Peru and weren’t quite ready to say goodbye to the sea yet. Plus, this was my first Christmas away from my family, and I knew the salty ocean was the best place to hide my tears. I am not the kind of person who feels the need to “escape” the holidays and dreams of spending them hiding away on a beach somewhere from the horrors of family, fruitcake and consumerism. I love spending Christmas, Thanksgiving, Halloween and any other excuse to celebrate stateside. But my first priority is to spend large chunks of my summers at home, and it isn’t always feasible to return again in the dead of winter. Hence, Montañita.

We spent the majority of our first day running around town looking for accommodation for the next two weeks, which would cover both Christmas and New Year’s Eve. After being laughed out of pretty much every place in town (and merely pitied by the rest), we seriously re-evaluated that plan and decided to stay in town for just five nights, at which time holiday pricing kicked in, and vacancy ran out.

We nabbed a room at , which was on the pricey side for Ecuador at $40 a night — and soared up to just-plain-ridiculous level at $100 a night after Christmas. It was a splurge, but I loved being beachfront and slightly outside the noise of the bars and clubs and town.

Montañita is first and foremost a surf town (and secondly and significantly a party town), and Anders took advantage of that reputation to take a few lessons. I was put off by the cloudy weather and somewhat chilly water and elected myself surf photographer instead.

While I wouldn’t nominate Montañita as one of the world’s most stunning beaches, it certainly was lively. The water was busy with surfers, swimmers, and kids shrieking with joy. The sand was shared by beach bums, soccer players, dog walkers, and joggers. While I can certainly appreciate the joy of a deserted beach all to oneself, I loved the festive atmosphere and the people watching — especially when I went for evening runs along the water. Normally I can’t stand jogging on the sand, but this sand was solid; perfect for a run.

Montañita is beloved by both foreign backpackers and domestic tourists, and the resulting lively atmosphere on the beach is echoed as well in town. I felt hints of Southeast Asia in the thatch-roof construction, fruit shake stands and Full Moon Party-esque nightlife. But I also sensed hints of Myrtle Beach in the tacky souvenir stands and family-fun atmosphere. It was a successful colliding of two worlds.

I loved being back in a land of fruit shakes and pancake stands. Cheap, fresh juices and shakes are two of my favorite of life’s little luxuries. They were also just one of the many things that had us continually comparing this little beach town to our beloved Southeast Asia.

Montañita comes alive after dark. While New Year’s Eve is the really legendary celebration, I think we got a good taste of what the nightlife is like in Montañita. It’s quite the party, with makeshift bar-stands lining the streets, firedancers performing in the roads and big beachside clubs pumping out dance music.

Christmas itself was a fairly low-key affair. We woke up on December 24th to beautiful weather and ran off to rent the motorcycles we had scouted out the day before. When we arrived at the shop we found it totally dark, despite strong assurances the day before that they would be open. I was irrationally devastated by this turn of events, and I think my sobs were more a reflection of how much I was missing my family and our usual Christmas routine than how much I had wanted to scooter around the coast. Thankfully, Anders knows me well enough to know how to turn my frown upside down: dessert for lunch. One Christmas-themed waffle later, the world seemed a little brighter.

For dinner, we were invited to an expat gathering at Diablos, the Mexican restaurant we made ourselves immediate regulars at upon arrival in Montañita. It was a night of great food, flowing wine and delicious conversation.

Christmas day I shook off my slight hangover to Skype with my family. When I got a little weepy I reminded myself that next year, I’ll be back to the traditional — so for now, enjoy the moment. With that attitude in mind, I slapped on my most festive red-and-green getup (sadly sans Santa hat) and we went for a stroll along the beach. We wound down the day with a quiet night of watching Christmas movies in bed, and planning our next moves through Ecuador.


While nothing tops the holidays at home, I can’t complain about our low-key Christmas by the sea.

Do you prefer to travel over the holidays, or spend them at home?

Practical Info

Where I stayed:
Where I ate: Diablos for amazing Mexican, for delicious waffles.
How I got there: We paid 90 soles ($32US) for an overnight bus from Mancora to Montanita. There was a stop at the border, and then again to switch buses in Guayaquil.
Bonus Tip: Bring cash with you! There is only one ATM in town and it has a $100 maximum withdrawal — with a $3 ATM fee. I have a card that refunds ATM fees so it wasn’t too tragic, but hitting the long line every few days was a pain.

  • Shaun
    February 3 2014

    Great tips & a good location to stay for that price. I’ve never had Xmas abroad but I bet there are worse places than a hoppin beach town. I’m a big fan of fruit shakes and fresh juices too, I really miss having them in that part of the world.

    In contrast to the weather, you had a nice chill christmas!
    Shaun recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      February 3 2014

      There are definitely worse places to spend the holidays than this. I pretty much insisted if it wasn’t Christmas at home, it was Christmas at the beach 🙂

  • Shaz
    February 3 2014

    Loving all the pictures! I’ve spent Christmas away from home for 5 years now, I can’t believe it! I say every year that I’m going to make it home, but alas… maybe next year? I’m headed to Montanita in March to stay for a while, hopefully the town won’t be so jam-packed!
    Shaz recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      February 3 2014

      I’m sure it will be much calmer then, but it wouldn’t hurt to reserve a room ahead of time!

  • Andi
    February 3 2014

    What absolutely stunning photos! If it makes you feel any better I’m just now posting about a trip that took place in November!!!
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    • Meihoukai
      February 4 2014

      That does make me feel better 🙂 Late posters unite!

  • Emily
    February 4 2014

    My first Christmas away from my family definitely felt odd, but now after 4 years living on the other side of the country (I can’t convince myself to shell out $$ for flights at that time of year – across Canada flights are ridiculous) we’ve sort of developed our own new traditions.
    Emily recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      February 4 2014

      I can’t believe how expensive domestic flights in the US have become. If Canada is worse, I don’t blame you!

  • Rachel of Hippie in Heels
    February 4 2014

    Bummer about wishing you were home for Christmas, I felt the same way! It just isn’t the same. But I have a feeling I won’ be home for Christmas for a long time 🙁 At least you were somewhere beautiful!
    Rachel of Hippie in Heels recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      February 4 2014

      Maybe you can convince your family to come to you 🙂 That’s what I did when I was in Thailand!

  • Ron
    February 4 2014

    A reference to Myrtle beach got my attention! I love that beach, and the coast there. I spent many a weekend at Nags Head and Myrtle Beach during my college days (80’s).

    Funny that you must have also ended up there!

    • Meihoukai
      February 4 2014

      I used to go almost every summer with my best friend’s family. I love it there! I’m always campaigning for us to go back.

  • Bridget @ A Traveling B
    February 4 2014

    Beautiful photos! You have done a great job to capture the colors of Montañita, it seems so vivid. And your Christmas waffle looks divine!!
    Bridget @ A Traveling B recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      February 5 2014

      I think I can still taste them now! 🙂

  • Pamela
    February 5 2014

    I especially love the sunset photos, i wonder how not to fall in love with such place. 🙂 I understand how it feels to be away from a holiday filled with traditions close to your heart. But since you have made the decision to be away, don’t waste the chance you have thinking about being elsewhere. Live for the moment!

    At least you got a different taste of Christmas too and start counting down to the next one. 😀
    Pamela recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      February 5 2014

      And I know I will appreciate it all the more because of it!

  • TammyOnTheMove
    February 5 2014

    I have left Germany about 10 years ago, so I always have to alternate between the UK (where Chris is from) and Germany. When we moved to Cambodia we didn’t spend Christmas at home for 2 years, but we actually both missed the festive atmosphere at home, especially the mulled wine, the snow etc. We used to organize an orphan’s dinner with all the other expats, which always cheered everybody up actually.

    • Meihoukai
      February 6 2014

      The orphan dinner sounds lovely 🙂 My friends and I did similar things on Koh Tao for the holidays. If you can’t be with your biological family, a chosen one is a good next option!

  • Camels & Chocolate
    February 5 2014

    Ahhhh the SAS ship was near here (in Manta) at the same time! And as someone who prefers blogging chronologically, I totally get covering things a month or two after they happened 😉
    Camels & Chocolate recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      February 6 2014

      Ha, that would have been funny if I ran into an SAS ship AGAIN! 🙂 And yes, I hate breaking chronology! And I just have too much to blog about sometimes!

  • Gina Tarnacki
    February 9 2014

    Wow, looks like an amazing Christmas!

    • Meihoukai
      February 10 2014

      I can’t complain, though I am looking forward to a white one next year!

  • Michele
    January 16 2016

    Hi Meihoukai, I just sent you an email via your ? I wanted to talk to you about some of these images. Thank you.

    • Meihoukai
      January 17 2016

      Hey Michele, sorry, my inbox is a mess right now! I’ll be working my way through it this week!

  • Anni & Chris
    September 1 2018

    September 2018 update on a couple of the things in this post: The only scooter rental place in town closed down about two years ago. But there are two ATMs at least (Banco Bolivariano, Banco Pichincha) and they have far more than a $100 limit now. Tiki Limbo is still here, still serving waffles. 🙂