The Thermal Lagoon of Agua Blanca


Agua Blanca group facial

Let’s get back to the brass tacks of how to get the most out of Montañita every day of the week – weekend daytrips. In this case we´re examining the Communa (community/village) ‘Agua Blanca.’ While the village also has a small museum and a very colorful and picturesque iglesia, it’s by far most noteworthy and radical feature is the thermally heated lagoon from which it derives its name. While there are many such lagoons and natural pools throughout Ecuador and South America, the pool in Agua Blanca is unique and overall better than the rest because it consists of 70% sulfur.

To get there from MSS take a bus approximately 45 minutes into the town of Puerto Lopez, then a car ride out of town into the communa. Because the lagoon is part of the Parque Nacional Machalilla, there is a small $5 entrance fee that goes to maintaining the park as well as providing a guide who can show you the area, better explain how the pool works, teach you some of the history of the village, and point out the many colorful birds in the area, including hummingbirds. Once inside you will find the small lagoon and have the opportunity to bathe in its high sulfur content mud.

Agua Blanca welcome sign

Sulfur is exceptionally healthy for the skin! It benefits the face through exfoliation, the process of using a subtly abrasive substance to gently remove the oldest dead skin on the outermost surface. Normally these outdated skin cells linger, creating a somewhat unhealthy and duller, dryer outer layer. Exfoliation cleanses the face entirely, leaving only the healthy and new skin cells at the surface. This effect is also considered an anti-aging technique because of its ability to prevent wrinkles from forming. Sulfur mud also acts as a disinfectant that removes bacteria and unclogs pores. It is a highly potent treatment for skin conditions such as acne, rosacea, and eczema. The medical benefits of sulfur are so well-known and effective that it is an active ingredient used in commercial skin health products and spa facials.

Agua Blanca facepainting

Other awesome day trips that we’ve mentioned include Dos Mangos, Isla de Plata, and Los Frailes. For more information hit up the intern crew on our Facebook page or at!


Combining Language Learning with Hospitality Training: Meet the Interns

This autumn we have the pleasure of working with a unique type of student. Not only are our interns here to learn Spanish, they are also all studying Tourism or Hospitality Management back at their respective homes. By working here they earn school credits which apply to their university courses. This is an excellent opportunity for them to learn how the real world of hospitality works while we can benefit from the knowledge of their different cultures. I had the distinct privilege to interview the three of them together:
35533250_1047679288717228_989044965843664896_nScott intern profile pictureJulie face picture              Julia                                                               Scott                                                          Julie


Where are you from and how will people recognize you?

Scott: I’m from the USA and I’m easily recognizable because I never stop talking, I usually have a liter of cola in my hand, and I “act like the most stereotypical American possible” – source: anonymous.

Julie: I’m from Holland, taller than Scott, and have really cool earrings.

Julia: I’m from Austria and I love sports, travelling, languages and I laugh a lot. You might recognize me as the crazy person that goes for a swim or surfing even at night.


What does your homeschool program look like and how did you end up here?

Scott: I’m partway through a Masters in Business Administration with a graduate certificate in Hospitality Management. I originally came here as a student, but the prospect of getting a full Spanish and surf education while practicing what I´ve learned at my homeschool caught my eye like a tuna to a barracuda.

Julie: I’m studying tourism management for a third year, and the Spanish language appealed to me the most. Also the informal vibe and constant interaction with the students.

Julia: I’m getting a degree in International Tourism Management and I love learning languages, that how I decided to pick a language school as placement. I speak 5 languages fluently and I am learning 2 new ones. The teaching style of the school was very professional and matched well with how I take my education seriously but also like the social activities.


If you could make up the official title that you would have here at MSS what would it be?

Scott: The Alpha Intern/Public Relations and Special Event Coordinator

Julia: The Ultimate Translator

Julie: The Creative Department Lead/The Beta Intern     source: Scott


What’s your favorite activity at MSS?

Julie: The parrillada a.k.a biweekly barbecues

Julia: Surfing, yoga, kangoo jump (an intense local cardio class unique to Montañita, see previous blog post for more info), futbol

Scott: I will never say no to beach or pool volleyball no matter what


What’s your favorite non-MSS sponsored activity in Montañita?

Scott: Never stopping talking, correcting people’s English even though I know a third as many languages as them, or pranks at the Cabañas

Julie: Eating chocolate croissants! Montañita has the best chocolate croissants even in comparison to Europe.

Julia: Meeting the locals 🙂 their culture and living style is so relaxed and fun


What’s the hardest part of your jobs?

Scott: I’m working at a job? I thought I was here on an extended vacation

Julie: To be around with Scott in one room

Julia: The same thing that Julie said


If you have one piece of advice for students what would it be?

Julie: Eat a lot of chocolate croissants while you’re here. And Eugenio makes the best cocktails in town!

Julia: Enjoy every single moment in Montañita, it is awesome here with never a dull day

Scott: Don´t take the surf for granted here, you´ll be hard pressed to find another place with conditions as good for learners. Surf as much as you can.


Stop by the school and say hola to Scott, Julie, and Julia. Feel free to pick their minds for general Montañita advice, directions, restaurant recommendations, surf tips, or information on anything in town. If your curious about the internship opportunities available here, including the surf internship position, send us an email at

Travel Fitness in Montañita: Part III – Gyms, Yoga Studios and More

Some expats just want to watch the world burn. Calories and muscle tissue! In conclusion to our expose on why Montañita is a superior destination for travel fitness, we’re going to look at the professional options available for fitness venues and classes. Of course our school does have in-house salsa and yoga classes with our own instructors, but we like to share as many options as possible.


Yoga Montañita

There are several options for yoga in Montañita! First and foremost, MSS offers our very own yoga courses on our open-air terrace with our dedicated instructor Casey, also the instructor of the above described HIIT classes. These courses are offered both early in the morning and after our Spanish classes in the afternoon.

There are also several studios in town which offer plenty of different styles and types of yoga as well as similar classes that are directed towards the spiritual and the physical wellbeing. Some of these options include: basic yoga, vinyasa flow, strength-based vinyasa, yin/yang yoga, astanga inspired yoga, Chi Kung (meditation-based martial art), yoga with reiki (alternative medicine), meditation, and Japanese Jujitsu. These classes range across both Montañita and the lovely nearby towns of Dos Mangas and Ayampe.

Yoga Poses at on our Terrace


HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training)

Speaking of our fantastic yoga instructor, Casey also instructs a HIIT class in the mornings. The fundamental concept behind the HIIT method is to exercise your body at the optimal level of output for short bursts of time with shorter rests in between. This gets your blood flowing, heart pumping, and metabolism burning for the whole day. It’s a mix of cardio, strength, functional and agility training. It’s tailored for ALL activity levels, with student ages ranging from 20 -70. Classes are Monday, Wednesday, and Friday 10:00 – 11:25 in the morning. Yoga is also used as a warm up and cool down to complete the HIIT training.


Muscle Beach Weightlifting

I assume that some of you have just been waiting this entire three-part series of articles to get to the good stuff in life: weightlifting. There is only one public gym in Montañita, and it boasts a wide array of fitness instruments in addition to great pricing ($3/day). Safety is always an intrinsic part of weightlifting, so naturally the relevant safety equipment is included and the machines are regularly inspected for maintenance. Some of the amenities that Muscle Beach includes are a set of dumbbells ranging from 10 lbs to 65 lbs, a squat rack, leg press, Smith machine, incline, decline, and regular bench presses; a cable machine, chest press machine, shoulder press machine, calf raise machine, back row machine, and a myriad of other equipment.


Tobi shredding iron like a boss


Kangoo Classes

Something especially unique to Montañita is the Kangoo class, an intense group cardio session with a truly innovative approach. It involves exercises similar to dancing and jumping jacks but while wearing a very specialized type of shoe that has a sort of spring on the bottom allowing the user to bounce. The concept, known as Rebound Fitness, has many advantages over regular cardiovascular exercises. Unlike running and other calisthenics, it minimizes joint impact, an issue that can negatively impact many athletes especially as they age. Compared to other forms of cardio, Kangoo fitness is certainly on the higher end of the spectrum for raising your heart rate and therefore burning more fat and increasing endurance.

Kangoo class, Julie looks silly


For any further information regarding our yoga, salsa, surfing, and Spanish classes as well as even more fitness activities in the area, visit our website at or send us an email at


I’m ending this three part entry with my favorite quote of all time:

“No citizen has the right to be an amateur in the matter of physical training. What a disgrace it is to grow old without seeing the beauty and grace of which the body is capable of.”


Travel Fitness in Montañita: Part II – Local Hiking Trails

The Santa Elena province is rife with good hiking trails, both well-known and literally off the beaten path. As far as fitness goes, hiking is great for cardiovascular stamina and leg muscles. But most of all hiking is just sheer good old fashion fun. Who knows? You might even find hidden treasure or a dead body.


Dos Mangas (two branches in Spanish)

One of the more well-known local hikes, Dos Mangas has several different options. The path, following a river, diverges with two optional endpoints: a series of forested waterfalls (cascadas) or a series of natural swimming pools (pozos). Firstly you can choose to hike with a guide the approximate three hours to either destination. Rubber rain boots are provided for a small cost to help you handle the extremely wet conditions. If you’re feeling even more adventurous and not keen on as much exercise, you can also rent horses to carry you through the jungle trails.

The girlsquad at Dos Mangas

Julie, our most intrepid intern, leads the way through the river.


Tigrillo Path North

A 5-minute walk from our Cabañas, this trail is short but sweet but also aggressive and rewarding. The hike is very short as the crow flies, but it’s characterized by three hills that it traverses. Each hill is EXTREMELY steep. Only a very impressive hiker can make it to the top of each without being exhausted. They are so steep that their descents must be taken slowly and with very careful footing. Yet we still met a few madmen locals on the trail that were crazy enough to actually be running it just for exercise. The reward at the end is a viewpoint of the entirety of Olon, with a beach that literally stretches farther than the eye can see. Also, the reward is fitness, painful amounts of fitness.

Fabienne and Manuela at North Tigrillo trail


Olon Path to Cascadas Alex

Doggo at the Olan hiking trail

We found this path with the help of our yoga teacher, Casey! This one is truly off the beaten path and requires a 20 minute drive out of the nearby town Olon. Not unlike Dos Mangas, the path eventually splits in two directions with one culminating in two natural swimming pools located beneath small waterfalls and the other reaching a viewpoint overlooking mountains and local farmlands.

If you want to climb both the round trip is bout 2 ½ hours. There is a small family that owns the land, but they happily allow entrance for only $3. To demonstrate just how perilous the path can be, they have set up a rope to hold onto as a railway during your ascent.



Yoni and Scott and Olan hiking trail

In conclusion:

Dos Mangas is the path to take if you want to mix in horse riding and jungle trekking, the Tigrillo North path is the best for a quick exercise-intense constantly vertical challenge, and the Cascadas de Alex trail is perfect if you want to go somewhere with your friends where you’re unlikely to encounter any other travelers. The common denominator is that they all end with a satisfying reward. Stay keen for our final entry next week, which will examine your local options for gyms, fitness and yoga classes in Montañita. No excuses for laziness!


The only thing than a really steep path or a really muddy path is a really steep muddy path. Not pictured: us covered in mud after falling over and over.

Travel Fitness in Montañita: Part I – Surfing and Overall Fitness

There’s no shame in admitting that staying fit while travelling is difficult. Hostels don’t usually have fitness equipment, cramped buses and planes leave your joints sore and far from wanting exercise, and the unlimited supply of hangovers provide for an unlimited supply of excuses. Montañita is the exception – there are so many unique and effective outlets for fitness in our town that a fitness fanatic will feel right at home and a slacker Steve will simply run out of excuses. The following three-part entry will shed light on why our interns are in such great shape despite spending all of our time at the Calle Cocktail. First topic: surfing.



 IMG_3900One of our own students on the beach five minutes from school.

If you’ve already looked into our school you’ll know that Montañita is known for having an excellent surfing beach and that our school specializes in offering surf lesson packages. Everyone knows that surfing is the most fun activity in the world, but the sheer amount of fitness gained from the sport deserves its own recognition. Let’s break it down by part:

Paddling to get out there and keep up with an incoming wave: did you think the wave was going to just come and scoop you up? No such luck – you’ll spend a good chunk of your time paddling out to where the waves are best, then paddling to catch the momentum of the wave. Then you do it again to get to the next wave. And again. And again. And then again some more. This paddling does wonders to building and toning muscles in your back and shoulders, and you’ll feel it the next morning. The specific muscles exercised are the biceps, triceps, deltoids, trapezius, lattimus dorsi, multiple ab muscles, and literally the most important muscle ever created, the serratus anterior.


Serratus Anterior

Image taken from

The second and more difficult part of surfing is standing up and staying up on the wave. A professional surfer could discuss the finer points of this technique all day, but it doesn’t take an expert to realize which muscles these develop. Pushing hard and keeping your legs flexed the entire time works the legs, and keeping the proper leaning structure the core the entire time.

In addition to the above benefits to specific muscles, surfing pays dividends to both balance and flexibility. Two other advantages are that your heart of course gets a great cardio workout and that this sport instrinsically makes you better at another sport, swimming.

To summarize: total body muscle workout + flexibility + balance + cardio + swimming + fun = surfing.

Lastly please remember that like all other sports, it is critical to warm up and stretch properly before exercising. Note that all specific warm-ups and techniques should be learned from a qualified surf instructor. Next in this entry will be a look into the best way to explore the region while getting fit – hiking in Montañita.


Surf class Montañita Spanish SchoolMiscellaneous surf exercise: lifting up and carrying your surf instructor.

Student Spotlight: Lea Grönefeld

Like many students, Lea Grönefeld first arrived here in Montañita with the aim of learning Spanish to aid her in her future Latin American travels. Lea went all in by staying with us for 12 weeks, starting at the most basic level and rising to the highest level of grammatical fluency. Lea’s time spent here, her constant enthusiasm for social events, and her adventurous spirit have truly made her a treasured part of the MSS family that will be sincerely missed.

lea picture

To share some insight on what it’s like to be a long-term student here as well as to give Lea a proper sendoff, we interviewed her on her time here:


Lea where are you from and what made you decide to come to Montañita?

I’m from Hanover, Germany. After secondary school I wanted to travel, and I like learning new languages. I already know a bit of French, but I wanted to learn Spanish because it’s just audibly pleasing – I like how it sounds.


When is the next time you think you’ll use Spanish, at home or on your travels?

Colombia is very high on my list of travel destinations. I’m not sure that it’s next, Australia and New Zealand might be right after Ecuador for me, but it won’t be long before I’m back in a Spanish speaking country. Spanish is the second most spoken language in the world after all.


You opted for group classes and staying at a homestay. What made you choose these options?

It’s just more fun to learn with others, it always ends up with quite a bit of laughing too. The homestay was for the immersion, I knew with it I would get the most out my classes at the same time. It was also nice that I could still go to the Cabanas whenever I wanted, hang out on a hammock, work on homework, drink and play games with other students, use the pool etc.


What’s the family like in the homestay?

There are two grandparents, a mother, and a little brother of 7 years old. Because I started with no Spanish at all, it was hard to communicate at first and it took a couple weeks to really warm up. After that it felt like I was part of a real family.


Is there a single favorite thing you’ve done while you were here?

There are two day trips, one of which is a boat trip with whale watching that takes you to Isla de Plata. The other is a hike called Dos Mangos, where I rode on horseback up a trail ending with waterfalls. Both of these trips take a full day and are great to do on weekends. I like going out on Friday and Saturday nights, but it’s cool to take a night off sometimes, wake up early, and go on a day trip exploring the local area.
Favorite routine thing you do here? Eatery, bar, cocktail stand etc.

I love breakfast alley. It’s a small street with half a dozen breakfast stands serving crepes, sandwiches, omelets etc. I would go there all the time. I also liked Caña Grill, the night club, because of its dance floor made of sand. My routine go-to cocktail is the Maracuya mojito at calle de cocteles (Spanish for cocktail street). For activities set up by the school, I loved the cooking classes and the beach cleanup.




Lea will be missed by the entire staff, all of her fellow students, and of course her homestay family. We all wish her a bright future in her travels across the world and hope that her Spanish skills help her in every way possible!

Lea picture 2

Montañita Spanish School Opportunity – Surf Intern position opening

Montañita Spanish School Opportunity – Surf Intern Position Opening

Blog surf picture

You’re looking for a great getaway without spending too much money, while earning valuable work skills, surfing great waves, and learning Spanish in a pumping little surf town? You’ll find all that right here in Montañita, Ecuador, as a surf intern at the Montañita Spanish School.

As a surf intern you will be assisting with two two-hour lessons per day, looking after the surf gear, and helping run a surf trip up the coast every second weekend between roughly 9am and 5pm. There are dozens of quality beaches and points in the area around Montañita that, with the right swell, can produce some world-class waves. The water hovers around the mid-twenties meaning you can save that wettie for the colder waters of Peru and Chile.

During the evenings you will also socialize with the students at the school, take them out for dinners, drinks, and parties, all while getting to know the world-famous Montañita nightlife.  Your work here will be compensated with an enviable set of perks. You will be provided free accommodation in the form of a private cabana shared with another intern, free salsa and yoga classes, and 15-20 hours of private Spanish classes. All costs for the triweekly social events will be covered, including but not limited to: welcome dinners, barbecues, cinema nights, cooking classes, pool tournaments, local sports etc.

We look forward to seeing you on the waves with us! For more information email us at mSS family picture