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Things to do in Puerto Lopez, Ecuador

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Caves of Ecuador coast

Puerto Lopez is a vibrant fishing community on Ecuador’s Pacific coast. It lies at the heart of  Machalilla National park.

The scenery, vegetation and wildlife of the area are exceptional and there are plenty of opportunities to get out of town and explore the area fully.

Puerto Lopez itself, although not pretty, can offer excellent fresh fish and sea food, cold beers or cocktails on the beach, and a wonderful opportunity to sit back and relax. The small town is a good base for exploring the surrounding area and has a variety of accommodation to suit all tastes.

Although Puerto Lopez is a long way from Quito, nearly 500 kms, it’s well worth spending 4 or 5 days of your Ecuador holiday on the country’s Pacific coast.

Hammocks on the beach Puerto Lopez, Ecuador

Beach in Puerto Lopez

 

How to get to Puerto Lopez

If you have a hire car, to drive from Quito, you could break up the journey and take a couple of days to get there. Another option is to fly from Quito to Manta or Guayaquil and from there take a hire car, taxi or local bus the rest of the way to Puerto Lopez.

As you drive from the Andes down to the coast you pass through cloud forest and tropical dry forests of scrub and weird looking ceibo trees, of massive bloated trunks and contorted limbs.  The forests are home to armadillos, monkeys and almost 300 bird species. The Pacific ocean here is a breeding ground for humpback whales. Five species of turtles are found in Ecuador and there is a good chance to see them from a boat trip.

 

 

Things to do from Puerto Lopez

 

Whale watching

From June to September this is one of the best places along the Pacific coast to see the magnificent Humpback whale. The whales migrate from Antarctica to Machalilla in groups of ten or so, to mate and give birth in the warm waters along this part of the Ecuadorian coast. Sightings are pretty much guaranteed, so much so that many boat operators will offer your money back if you don’t see the whales.

 

Take a boat trip to Isla de la Plata.

This is the must do day trip from Puerto Lopez. An exhilarating 90 minutes on a fast speed boat brings you to this dry scrub covered island, 40 km off shore. Turtles swim around the boats as you approach the beach where the guided visit starts. There are a number of trails on the island from 20 mins to 3 hours, and local guides ensure everyone stays together and doesn’t get too close to the wildlife. There are plenty of Blue footed boobies, frigate birds and Nazca boobies and nesting Waved albatross, plus mockingbirds. After a hot walk you have the chance to jump in the sea to snorkel amongst the turtles and masses of tropical fish.    The water is warm so wet suits are not required and most boats have a stock of decent snorkel equipment to lend. There are dive trips to the island also.

Boat trip to Isla de la Plata, Ecuador

Heading to the boat for Isla de la Plata

Play in the surf, sunbathe, wander along the beach.

The beach of Puerto Lopez is good for a wander, a game of football, some sunbathing and excellent surf. The water is warm all year round and inviting. Jump in for some great fun playing in the surf.

Coconuts on the beach, Ecuador

Coconuts on the beach

 

Watch the Puerto Lopez fishing boats come in.

Get up early and walk along the southern end of the beach to watch the fishermen hauling up their catches. The beach becomes a fish market, and a fascinating array of sea food is cleaned, sold and driven off. Noisy flock of pelicans, frigates, gulls and cormorants fly in to fight over the scraps.

Puerto Lopez fishing boats, Ecuador

Fishing boats

 

Bird watching tours in Ayampe

For keen birders there is a you can book a morning bird watching tour on the Colibri Nature Trail in the nearby Ayampe Reserve, just 15 km / 15 minutes away by taxi. Ayampe is home to the 2nd smallest bird in the world, the Esmeraldas woodstar, which is about the size of a bee. Other species you might see here include the Grey-backed hawk, Grey-cheeked parakeet, Guayaquil woodpecker, Little woodstar, Slaty becard, Ochraceous attila, Henna-hooded foliage-gleaner and the Ghost bat.

Blue Footed Booby, Isla de la Plata, Ecuador

Blue Footed Booby

 

Los Frailes

This is justifiably considered one of the most beautiful beaches in Ecuador. It is just a few minutes by taxi from Puerto Lopez and then a 2.5 km walk along a hot dusty track to reach the beach (or you can take a moto taxi).   The first beach you come to is Playita Negra, a black sand beach with strong currents, next is La Tortuguita beach, and then you reach the broad sweep of golden sands of Los Frailes.  Check for opening times. There are basic facilities at the beach, toilets and changing rooms.

 

Puerto Lopez itself

Puerto Lopez is not a beautiful town although there have been improvements over the years with some surfacing of roads and the development of a promenade. A new harbour is being built at the south end of town so the fishing boats will have a new home and be moved off the beach.

Puerto Lopez beach, Ecuador

Beach in Puerto Lopez

The town has banks, a range of shops, a supermarket, and ATM machines. You can get your laundry done, enjoy fresh coconut milk straight from the coconut, eat delicious sea-food, and relax with a chilled beer on the beach as the sun goes down.

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