From the Quilotoa Loop we started west to the Ecuadorian coast, for the wedding our good friends, Rob and Mariela. It’s hard to express what it was like to see the landscape shift from Andean grasslands and mountaintop views into jungle forests awash with tropical fruit stands and bamboo, and finally to coastal beaches, all in a day’s drive.

Getting there: We took Rt. 30, Via Sigchos Quilotoa, through Reserva Ecologica Los Ilinizas national park, then through the city of Quevado, to our first coastal stop, Montecristi. Our #1 reason for this stop, the quintessential straw hat: the Panama hat.

The Montecristi Panama hat secret: Panama hats actually originated in Ecuador. I know, mike drop, right?? No, seriously though, Ecuadorians, the Montecristi set, in particular, are very proud, and rightfully so, of being the true architects of these fine quality chapeaus. These hats are made from toquilla straw, hand-split into strands and woven so finely that they resemble linen. In Montecristi you can see shops where the hats are made, and buy them at very affordable prices. We made the stop exclusively for the opportunity to pick up a hat or two from Montecristi itself. We also checked out their church, of course. Who’s surprised? No one? I have an obsession.

The most interesting fact about the Basílica de Santísima Virgen de Monserrat is that miracles are often attributed to the statue of the Virgin here. Here’s a NY Times article talking about her survival in the 2016 earthquake: Virgen de Monserrat.

A woman praying in front of the statue.

Continuing down the coast after our Montecristi hat-purchase, we traveled south on E15, Ruta de Spondylus along the coast. On this route we drove through the Parque National Machalilla, and includes beach, tropical dry forest, cloud forest, and ocean. Not long thereafter we reached our wedding destination, Olón.

How to describe Olón? For us it meant peaceful sunsets, beach combing, swinging hammocks, and dinners of fresh seafood and fruity drinks. Our days were spent playing in the ocean, bird- and crab-watching, and starfish spying.

If too much relaxation makes you feel antsy, the busy, nightlife-filled Montañita is just a 10 minute drive away. We visited the town, ate breakfast, and walked the beach. It is a really fun town, and definitely worth some time.

Boats along the beach.
This building in Montañita had a really cool roof.
Montañita beach.
Surf rental ready.

And the wedding! What a spot for a wedding! Olón did not disappoint- we enjoyed perfect weather, a splendid sunset, and an elegant celebration. Congratulations and best wishes to the bride and groom- you put on one great soiree.