Although only a 30 minute bus ride from Montañita, Ayampe feels like a million miles away. Gone are the large neon signs, hundreds of backpackers, non-stop music and trashy stalls selling souvenirs and trinkets. Instead, you'll find a handful of dusty streets lined with colourful flowers, the smell of palo alto permeating beautifully constructed buildings and a dial set to peace, quiet and tranquility.
This charming setting does however come at a price. Ayampe is the least budget friendly town we visited on the coast in terms of, well, everything. From food to accommodation to a cup of coffee in Otra Ola, everything was pricier that we were used to. However, after talking to a few owners, part of this is intentional; they really do not want Ayampe to turn into another surf and party town and so set the price accordingly.
We definitely still recommend checking it out - particularly if you're a couple wanting somewhere that's a little more romantic - but your time here may have to be limited to a couple of nights if on a strict budget.
Ayampe is a small place, but there are a surprisingly large number of places to stay!
For those looking for somewhere a little nicer, we absolutely recommend staying La Tortuga. They have a number of small bungalows on the beach or fancier private suites for $50.
Casa de la Iguana is another popular resort, and whilst they do have a number of doubles for $30 they also offer dormitory style beds in low season and have an on-site kitchen.
For those more interested in the surf than having somewhere fancy to stay, look no further than La Casa. Located directly on the beach, they have rooms around $25/night as well as weekly and monthly rates and a guest kitchen.
WHAT TO DO
Spend but a few hours here and it becomes pretty clear, pretty quickly what the main attraction is in Ayampe. Well-known to surfers, this small village is home to a consistent beach break with bigger and stronger waves than Montañita.
For those not travelling with a board, Otra Ola, does rental at $15/day, with incremental discounts if taking the board for longer.
Otra Ola is also home to a beautifully constructed yoga studio that offers daily classes for $10/session before transforming into a cafe and Spanish school in the afternoon. It's a really lovely spot, which we would have taken better advantage of if everything was, well, just a little more affordable.
For those feeling a little more active, there are a number of well-trodden trails that take you straight into the jungle - simply follow the river out of town and keep your eyes peeled for monkeys!
A few weeks before we arrived in Ayampe, the village was struck by what sounds like a mini-tsunami which flooded the beach and some properties. Although the damage was pretty minimal, it transformed the beach from soft and sandy into something covered in stones and pebbles. Whilst it still remains very picturesque and uncrowded and a lovely place to take a walk under the setting sun, it unfortunately makes sunbathing a little more uncomfortable.
WHERE TO EAT
During the day, look no further than 'Los Corales', a new family-run restaurant which offers a fantastic two-course lunch with fresh fruit juice for $4. On a recommendation, we sought it out when we first arrived and ate here everyday until we left. It was that good!
In the evening, there are only a handful of places to choose from, many of which are very over-priced. The guy next to Cabañas La Tortuga, for example, should be one of the cheapest in town given it's just him, his kitchen and a few plastic chairs. He is however charging $10 for fish, rice and plantains. His cheapest dish is only $5 but it's the meal you get for lunch everywhere else in Ecuador for $2. Up on the point, at Finca Punta Ayampe, they charge around $12 for the same dish, with everything else around $10 and up. Such inflated prices are common in Ayampe but unheard of in the rest of Ecuador.
We therefore decided that, if we were going to have to spend more money than we were used to, we'd spend it on something we really wanted! 'Los Orishas' is a lovely Italian run restaurant (open from 7 p.m.) which serves delicious pasta ($7-10) and huge pizzas ($8-10). We ate here two nights in a row and were extremely satisfied. A very drinkable glass of wine to wash it all down costs $3.
And what about the cheapest option in the evening? Check out 'Espiritu de Ayampe' which has some small freshly made veggie dishes for $5.
If you choose to stay in one of the few hostels in town with a kitchen, you'll find it a little difficult to source many ingredients given that there are only two very small shops servicing the town (both of which close at 10pm, and the larger of which does not open on Sundays).
If you're going to be in Ayampe for any considerable period of time, your best bet is to take a bus to Puerto Lopez to stock up on supplies; it'll certainly save you a lot of money!
As you may have guessed, there really isn't much nightlife going on in Ayampe. The only bar in town is 'Espiritu de Ayampe' (open on Wednesdays to Saturdays from 8 p.m.) which is a cool little place to hangout with good music. Other than that, there really isn't too much on offer unless you make your own entertainment!
Set high-up, Finca Punta Ayampe is a really nice spot high-up and 10 minutes walk out of town for a sunset drink with an over-priced beer (take a torch with you for the walk back),
As with a number of small beach towns. there is no ATM here. However, our top tip if you decide to visit Ayampe, is to arrive with the mindset that you'll be spending a little more money than usual and withdraw cash prior to your arrival.
The main road is a two-minute walk from the town. Here you'll find buses regularly passing by heading to Puerto Lopez ($1.50 each, 30 minutes) in one direction and Montañita ($1.50 each, 30 minutes) in the other. It's worth noting that collectivo taxis to Puerto Lopez also pick-up from the road, charing $1 per person and taking less time. Hitch-hiking is also a decent option here.