Oh Mompiche - what can we say? You are the place we came back to, and still the place we wished we had never left. For those looking for that picture postcard fishing village that seems to have all but disappeared with the growing tourist trade - this is it.
Mompiche is the place you go to to relax, watch the fishermen catch your dinner, enjoy a quiet beer under the setting sun and then while the evening away playing cards or reading a well-thumbed paperback. It also happens to be our budget backpacker pick for the coast!
For a relatively small place, there is actually a really good variety of accommodation available. Whilst there are a couple of larger hotels on the front aimed at wealthier Ecuadorian's, the rest are perfect for backpackers.
Depending on whether you want en-suite or shared bathroom, you can get a double for anywhere between $15 and $25 - with discounts available for longer term stays.
The most social hostel definitely seemed to be DMCA which came equipped with kitchen and outdoor hammock area but we loved our time at Casa Kiwi. Run and staffed by a local family it is ideally located near the beach with basic doubles for $15, a kitchen, wi-fi and a great restaurant. We highly recommend it (but make sure to ask them to clean the kitchen every once and a while)!
WHAT TO DO
Quite frankly, not very much. But this is a good thing! Mompiche is the perfect place to disconnect and just, well, hang out. Make friends in the town, have great seafood, catch-up on your reading or be a beach bum - isn't that what we go on holiday for?
There are a few places where you can rent surf boards for between $10-15 per day, but as it is a point break, it's not a great place for beginners. Playa Negra and Playa Portete are also easy enough to reach with a mototaxi for a change in beach scenery.
Mompiche can be a very different place depending on the time of day you visit. Head to the beach at high tide and all you'll find is a large expanse of water lapping at fishing boats at the very limits of the sand. However, at low-tide, the sea retreats and reveals a long, pristine sand beach stretching to the edges of the rainforest. Definitely check out the tidal reports during your stay to get an idea of when to go sun-bathing and when to stay in town with a beer.
As the beach is covered for large parts of the day, you will find very little 'perfect' soft sand, but look beyond this and you will discover a beautifully tranquil spot to lie and back stare at the waves. There are no hawkers, very few visitors and pretty much just you, yourself and the beach to contend with. The water is also the calmest and warmest we encountered along the coast - perfect for a dip (just don't get complacent - there is an issue with beach thefts in Mompiche if you leave your stuff unattended).
Top tip: Head beyond the line of rocks that separates the beach into two, near the animal rescue centre. You will experience less foot traffic and can buy an ice-cold coconut for $1!
WHERE TO EAT
Mompiche is the town where we really fell for the nation's almuerzo. For between $2.50 and $3, you will get a fantastic seafood soup, a main plate of shrimp, fish or chicken and a fresh juice. We're pretty sure you can't cook anything nearly as good for the same price! During our three weeks there we pretty much tried every restaurant in town, and developed a number of favourites. The ones you simply must try are:
- Tu Regresso - these guys sell the best almuerzo in town, by far. Especially the shrimp soup and the camarones empanados.
- Comedor Doña Gloria - you'll usually get a great lunch here, with an occasionally excellent soup. They also serve meriendas - a set dinner - for $3
- Comedor Dalia - the cheapest almuerzo in the village at $2.50, but some of the most inventive lunch time meals and the only place you'll get encocado for this price on the right day!
- Casa Kiwi - hands-down the best restaurant in Mompiche. A little more expensive than elsewhere (lunch is $3.50 and dinners cost around $8) but superb quality and large portion sizes. We especially recommend the encocado, which is a dish local to Mompiche and you'll struggle to find elsewhere on the coast.
Thankfully, these places are all within 2-minutes of each other, so you can check out what fare each is offering at the same time.
If you fancy something other than seafood, our top tip would be Suly's, a lovely little Italian restaurant where you can get a pasta dish for $7 or a large pizza for $12.
Lastly, be sure to have a cake and coffee at a very cool ramshackle coffee shop - La Chocolata. Argentinean run, it has lovely fresh-baked cakes, pies and vegetarian offerings.
There are two larger stores in town where you can buy essentials and basic ingredients to make a tasty dinner but don't expect to find imported favourites or anything to fancy. They do sell vegetables and fruit but depending on the day, they're frequently not very fresh. Your best bet if you're going to be there for a few days is to find out when the vegetable van is in town - the produce is much fresher and cheaper!
One word of warning, double check the prices before paying in these shops as there were a number of mistakes made at the till. We'll give them the benefit of the doubt and say they were unintentional but we overpaid a couple of times.
It's also possible to buy some seafood from one of the fishermen on the beach. Shrimp seemed rather elusive (although we were quoted $5/pound) but you can get enough fish to feed three people for around $3-4.
Sorry to disappoint some of you, but there really isn't any here. In fact, the entire town pretty much shuts down after 9 p.m. For those of you determined to try, La Jungla sometimes serves beers after dark but it seemed fairly inconsistent. There is a pool hall opposite Casa Kiwi which despite having only a handful of customers each night provides a musical backdrop until around 12 p.m. Other than that, your best bet is being in a hostel with a few other travellers, some cards and a $4 bottle of rum.
There are no ATMs in Mompiche. If you need to get cash, your only option is a round-trip to Atacames. Be sure to bring a passport along with you though as some of our friends making a cash run were taken off the bus by the police and had to bribe them $20 as they didn't have any documents with them.
If you're doing the cash run, it also makes sense to stock up on some groceries whilst in town.
If coming from Atacames, Mompiche is relatively easy to reach, but you have two options to make the trip.The simplest by far is to get on a bus that terminates in Mompiche. This should take around two hours and cost between $2 - 2.75, however, these buses are not that frequent.
If you don't fancy waiting one of those, simply hop on any bus heading to Chamanga, which will drop you off at the turning for Mompiche. From here you will either need to hitch-hike the remaining 10km or take one of the many collectivo taxis into the village. Occasionally you will need to wait for the car to fill up, but usually they will set off straight away. The cost is $1 per person.