A Month in Ayampe, Ecuador isn’t long enough. Ayampe is one of those places you vow to come back to. However long you spend here will never be long enough. It has this effortless charm. It might be the brilliant hibiscus and bougainvillea lining every dirt road. Or the colorful rocks on the beach.things to do in ayampe ecuador flower trail

Just a 30 minute drive north of Montañita, Ayampe has none of the dingy aspects of its party-town neighbor. Ayampe lacks the heckling drug dealers, thumping discotecas and kiosks hawking their ubiquitous neon t-shirts and puka shells.

The local community is working hard to prevent Ayampe from suffering the same fate as Montañita. Ayampe is decidedly more expensive than other beach towns in Ecuador. This is intentional. The locals hope to maintain their small town atmosphere, attracting only people who are willing to pay a little more for somewhere truly special. Budget accommodation ranges from $10 to $15 for a room. Although there is no camping allowed on the beach, you can camp at La Iguana for $8 a night.

Things to do in Ayampe, Ecuador

Breath of Bliss Ceremony at Otra Ola

I didn’t really know what to expect signing up for this. We heard that the 3 hour breathing ceremony had got pretty wild the year before. Rumor has it that one guy came to the ceremony with his girlfriend, but started fondling his girlfriend and the other girl sitting next to him during the intense breathing part. Another girl passed out. I was curious.

At 3 in the afternoon on the last day of 2016, our instructor told our group of 12 that we’d be letting go off the past year’s baggage. We started out with simple exercises that were designed to make you feel slightly uncomfortable. Spend 3 minutes touching a stranger, stare into someone else’s eyes – all the while practicing deep breathing, in and out through the mouth.

things to do in ayampe ecuador flag

We took a break and reconvened for the “breath work.” Lying on the wooden floor of Ota Ola’s palapa, Andreita had us breathe heavily, in and out through the mouth. As the music intensified, our breathing sped up too. I can’t describe what happened to me, for fear of sounding like the lady in the crystal tent at festivals. I will say that it was the most intense experience I’ve had during our 6 months on the Pan-American highway. You have to try it for yourself to truly understand. And I highly recommend doing this if you can.

It’s incredible how little time we spend alone with our thoughts. There’s always something there—a book, a film, conversation. This ceremony lets you check in with your inner self. Someone you may find that you rarely talk to.

Cost: $15 per person on New Year’s Eve.

To arrange a session on another date, contact Andreita at La Buena Vida Hotel.things to do in ayampe ecuador trail to the beach surf surfers wave

Morning Yoga at Otra Ola

Otra Ola hosts daily yoga classes in their open air palapa. Ladina, the resident yoga instructor while we were there, was truly incredible. If you get one of Otra Ola’s bliss balls and a fruit shake afterwards, you’re stoked.

Cost. $10 per person

Time. 9 A.M. daily. Classes are an hour and a half.

things to do in ayampe ecuador watch the sunset

Hike the Colibri Trail

The Colibri Trail is a 12 km dirt path that cuts through a protected forest in the mountains above Ayampe. Most people set out before the sun rises to try and catch a glimpse of the monkeys. But most people usually just see a ton of birds. Colibri means hummingbird in Spanish. You’ll almost definitely see a rare, indigenous species of hummingbird, the Esmeraldas Woodstar.

The route. Follow the highway parallel to town and turn right at the wide, dirt road where a sign marks the beginning of the trail. The Colibri follows the river and is well marked and maintained, that is until you a reach a crossing where it just sort of ends. No signage. Nothing that congratulates you and tells you to head on back. However, you can keep trucking by following a narrow, overgrown trail that shrimp fishermen use to access the river. Here the forest becomes denser, but quite lovely, offering ample wildlife scoping. This smaller trail may be infinite, so at some point you’ll just feel like turning around.

Cost. Free

things to do in ayampe ecuador hike the hummingbird trail

things to do in ayampe ecuador hike the hummingbird trail blue-tailed lizard

Where to Surf in Ayampe, Ecuador

Ayampe’s Beach Break

Walk 5 minutes westward, and you’ll come upon a beautiful, expansive beach with endless peaks. Ayampe gets pretty consistent swell from December to March, but with variable wind. The locals say that if Pipeline gets a big swell, they usually expect solid surf about a week later.  The jury’s out on where the best sandbars usually form, but we’ve been told that the river mouth north of town and south near the punta are safe bets. Hit it early morning for glassy conditions.

And the best part? Unlike busy Montañita and Salinas, you can often surf a peak to yourself if conditions aren’t all-time.

Cost. If you aren’t traveling with boards, Otra Ola can rent you a board for $15 a day.

things to do in ayampe ecuador surf the beach break

Río Chico

Rio Chico is a rocky left-point that works best when there’s some south in the water. It’s usually fairly uncrowded and fun on a lower tide. Apparently, there’s piqueros or blue footed boobies about, but we were unsuccessful in scoping these babies.

Getting there. If you drive north on the main road, you’ll see an awkward statue of a man surfing. Take a left and drive all the way to the end of the dirt road. No need to enter the gate of the hostel at the end (they’ll charge you). Most people just park on the side of the road and walk the rest of the way to the beach.

Where to Stay in Ayampe, Ecuador

El Paso

They have a great palapa with two beds and a shower, overlooking the soccer field. It stays super cool at night.

Cost. $12.50 per person.

La Iguana

This the cheapest place in town so it’s usually pretty full. They have a communal kitchen which also allowed us to save money. They claim to be the first accommodation options in Ayampe, but a lot of people seem to be saying that.

Cost. $10 per person for camping. $15 per person for a dorm room.

Where to Eat in Ayampe, Ecuador

Casa de Corviche

I’ll admit, when we saw the signs for Corviche, Dylan and I thought we knew what it was – ceviche made with corvina fish. When we ordered 3 corviches, we were given 3 things that looked like round corn dogs. It turns out that Corviche is actually deep-fried dough stuffed with peanut sauce and fish, shrimp or calamari. If they are well made, the outside crust almost tastes like San Franciscan sour dough bread. Make sure to try it in Ecaudor, we haven’t seen any corviche in Peru or Colombia.

Cost. About $1.50 USD for a corviche. 

things to do in ayampe ecuador eat corviche

Getting there. If you walk north of town and across the bridge, you’ll see a shack on the right hand side of the street.

Azucar Moreno

There are a few things that are great about this place. One. The restaurant slash bar looks out over the water. Two. This guy makes the most amazing fish burgers. They come with these rosemary potato slices and a mysterious dipping sauce that is equally amazing.

Cost. $6 for the fish burger with sautéed potato slices.

Finca

Most people come here for the $5 breakfast. It’s a great deal. You get a fresh fruit bowl, eggs, fresh fruit juice, coffee or tea and a slice of toast.

Cost. $5 for breakfast

El Paso

I would say El Paso has the best ceviche in town. The fish is perfectly tender and never overcooked. They make each dish to order so everything is super fresh

Cost. $6 for the fish ceviche.

Otra Ola

This place is the best spot in town for a coffee, muffin, and homemade ice cream. They even have kombucha!

Cost. $1 for a scoop of ice cream. $1.50 for a muffin. $2.50 for a giant french press of coffee.