Puerto Lopez Ecuador is a small fishing town on the central Pacific coast. It has become very popular with tourists due to it's close proximity to Machalilla National Park which contains the Poor Man's Galapagos (a.k.a. Isla de la Plata) and one of the most beautiful (and cleanest) beaches in Ecuador.
Located on a cozy cove, Puerto Lopez has done a good job of adapting to the needs of their visitors. The beach is lined with huts providing food, beer and cocktails. A nice brick boardwalk takes you along the beach and to the dock where tour boats pick up passengers. Restaurants, hotels and tour offices a found all along the road in front of the beach.
Even with the influx of tourists, Puerto Lopez Ecuador keeps it's fishing village charm with dozens of fishing boats dotting the cove. You can go down to the beach first thing in the morning and buy fresh seafood directly from the fishermen and their families or just watch as the pelicans and other birds try to steal an easy catch.
After three or four days on the coast we started to feel like the food was a bit monotonous. Yes there is seafood everywhere...and, really, that's what you want to eat on the coast, but it sometimes felt like we ate the same meal at every restaurant.
We were happy to find in Puerto Lopez a restaurant with some different options. The Moby Dick restaurant was a bit pricier than some, but prepared some amazing seafood dishes. The cerviche was great!
My sister-in-law was hoping for lobster, but we were just a few weeks too early. The legal lobster season hadn't started. Instead she got a delicious tuna steak.
Commonly referred to as the Poor Man's Galapagos, because you can see many of the same birds and animals as you can see in the Galapagos, most tours to Isla de la Plata leave from Puerto Lopez. Watch for sea lions, blue-footed boobies and sea tortoises.
The tour operators in Puerto Lopez work together to fill up tour boats especially during the low season. The price is set and should be the same at all the offices. If I remember right, it was $40 in May 2018.
The tour is an all day tour that includes a variety of hiking options around the island, opportunities to snorkel in the reefs (bring your swimsuit!) and lunch. It takes about an hour by boat from Puerto Lopez to reach Isla de la Plata. On the way you can sometimes spot humpback whales, dolphins and orcas.
We learned the hard way that you should go the day before to guarantee your spot. After trying in vain to contact a recommended tour office, we decided to go into town the morning that we wanted to do the tour only to find there was only one spot available.
A 15 minute drive from Puerto Lopez brings you to the beautiful Los Frailes beach, which is actually three beaches, the largest of which is called Los Frailes. Some claim it is the best beach in all of Ecuador.
The white sand is surrounded by towering cliffs and blue green water making for beautiful photos ops. Take a walk up to the Las Fragatas overlook for beautiful views of the beach.
The entrance is controlled, but free. Plastic containers are not allowed, which keeps the beach pristine. A more secluded beach is protected due to nesting sea turtles.
During Ecuadorian holidays the beach fills up with tourists. There are bathrooms, changing rooms and showers on site.
For lovers of community tourism and museums, check out Agua Blanca. This area is said to contain the remains of one of oldest settlements in South America.
The entrance fee gains you access to trails, a museum, a guide and a large sulfur lagoon. Locals visit mostly to relax in the cool waters of the lagoon after covering themselves in mud.
Puerto Lopez is a great place to take a whale watching tour. Humpback whales are found off the coast of Ecuador from June to September. They stop in the warm waters to breed and give birth. We were there in May and got to see a whale right by Isla Salango (just a few miles off the coast).
After we missed the boat (literally) to Isla de la Plata, we decided to do a tour of Isla Salango. Salango is just a few minutes south of Puerto Lopez Ecuador and has a cool island just off the shore. For more about Salango click here.
This is a great option if you don't have all day to do the Isla de la Plata tour (or miss the tour) because you can see some animals. We saw a sea lion and a humpback whale! There are also boobies and other birds.
Unlike Isla de la Plata, Isla Salango is hard to access. It seems to come straight up out of the water and you would need some serious climbing gear to get up on top. So there are no hiking trails. However our tour guide says that tours can be arranged for climbers.
The tour is an hour or so. The boat will take you all the way around the island. You can snorkel and see quite a few fish.
The two days we spent in the area weren't enough to see all that we wanted to see. We ended up loving our vacation rental in Salango and found it hard to pull ourselves out of the hammocks to go out and see things. I hope we can go again and check out more of what the area has to offer. I would definitely recommend checking out Puerto Lopez Ecuador and its surrounding areas!
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