This modest fishing village is developing rapidly in two contrasting ways—ideal surfing conditions, a beautiful beach, and a few decent hostels are helping to create a small backpackers’ hub (think Canoa five years ago), while the completion of the multimillion-dollar Royal Decameron Hotel eight kilometers south of town has become the in place for the wealthy of Quito and Guayaquil.
Mompiche seems to have developed into a microcosm of Ecuadorian society: The extravagant hotel on the hill caters to the upper classes, while the villagers below scratch out a living and wonder when they will finally get the water supply the hotel and the government promised them.
There’s no doubt, however, that the new hotel has also had benefits for the town, with improved electric, telephone, TV, and Internet connections along with jobs for some of the locals, but the feeling of two different worlds living side by side prevails.
Mompiche’s setting is certainly impressive, with thickly forested hills dropping down to a wide beach backed by palm trees. To the north, the wide bay stretches for kilometers up to Punta Galera, and beyond that the mangroves around Muisne are visible in the distance. At the time of this writing, a small malecón walkway is being constructed. In the town itself, there’s not a lot to do beyond surfing and sunbathing.
For experienced surfers, Mompiche offers one of the biggest left point breaks in South America and attracts surfers from around the world in the high season (Dec.–Apr.). On good days, the surf can become the stuff of dreams.
Inland, the scenery is equally dramatic in the forests that border the Mache Chindul Reserve. These can be explored on tours from Hotel Gabeal (tel. 9/969-6543). Horseback riding costs $10 per hour, and hiking and snorkeling tours to Isla Jupiter cost $15 pp.
Getting to Mompiche
Getting to Mompiche is the biggest hassle. There are a few buses daily from Esmeraldas via Atacames (3 hours, $3), but it’s often a long wait. If you miss the direct bus, take a bus to Muisne and change at El Salto, and then take any bus heading south and ask to be dropped off at the entrance to Mompiche.
From there, you can hitch a ride, or it’s a tough 40-minute hike up a dusty, bumpy road. From Canoa, take a bus to Pedernales, another to Chamanga, and then a bus heading north to Esmeraldas, and ask to be dropped off.
© Ben Westwood and Avalon Travel from Moon Ecuador & the Galápagos Islands, 5th Edition