Updated February 3rd, 2020.
Whilst this is in no way a polished coastal spot, the once rustic fishing town of Puerto Lopez still offers a welcome retreat for a backpacker escaping the city. If you’re looking for hikes, history and plenty of coastal wildlife, Puerto Lopez is certainly a spot you need to include on your Ecuador itinerary!
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Top 7 Things to do Puerto Lopez
1. Take a Boat Trip to Isla de la Plata – The ‘Poor Man’s Galapagos’
This is a must-see spot for wildlife lovers, especially those who couldn’t make their budget stretch to a trip around the Galapagos Islands! Isla de la Plata is located a 40 km boat trip away from Puerto Lopez and it is easy to arrange a tour there from the main town.
The island is completely uninhabited and offers the chance to see some of the Galapagos’ most famous residents, including the Blue-Footed Booby, Nazca Booby and even an Albatross if you’re really lucky!
Most trips include a hike of varying lengths across the island and the opportunity to snorkel where you can see manta rays, coral and giant sea turtles. Most day trips cost between $35US-$45US per person and can be arranged through many of the accommodation options or tour agencies in Puerto Lopez.
2. Los Frailles Beach – One of Ecuador’s Best Beaches!
Located 10 km north of Puerto Lopez in Machililia National Park, you can find one of Ecuador’s most beautiful beaches. Los Frailles is a fantastic day trip from Puerto Lopez and very easy to do on a budget. This beach is completely free to enter and can be reached by public transport.
You can arrange a taxi to take you directly to the beach or alternatively follow the hiking path from the road will take around two hours. En route you will pass two other beaches, one of which is a black sand volcanic beach as well as two stunning viewpoints.
Whilst the hike isn’t difficult, you’ll thank yourself for choosing closed toe shoes over flip flops! Remember to bring water and suncream as the beach is very exposed and provides little shade.
3. Go Whale Watching
Every year, Puerto Lopez draws in masses of visitors who flock to the coast to whale watch. From June to September, Humpback Whales mate and give birth in the waters along the Ecuadorian coast so sightings of them are pretty much guaranteed.
There are ten tour agencies based in Puerto Lopez who offer day trips to see the whales and these can often be combined with a trip to Isla de la Plata. A whale watching tour tends to cost between $15US-$20US. It is definitely worth bringing some seasickness medication if you have a tendency to get nauseous on a boat, the sea can be a little rough!
4. Visit Agua Blanca Community
$5US entrance fee per person will allow you to explore the Agua Blanca Community. There is a 5 km walk from the bus stop which takes you through the village of Agua Blanca or alternatively you can arrange a taxi in Puerto Lopez for around $6US.
There is an interesting museum located there as well as some archaeological ruins. Upon arriving at the museum, a staff member will guide you around the complex but be warned, tours will only be given in Spanish. At the end of the route, there is a sulphur pool for relaxing where it is possible to get a mud mask and massage.
5. Take a Trip to Isla de Salango
Salango Island located in Machililia National Park is a relaxing half day trip from Puerto Lopez. It is a great spot for bird watching and offers some of the wildlife that can be seen on Isla de la Plata. A trip to Salango costs around $20US per person.
6. Stroll Along Puerto Lopez Beach
Although there are more beautiful beaches in South America, the main coastal strip in Puerto Lopez is a pleasant way to spend an afternoon. Watch the fishing boats and the circling birds above from one of the beach cabanas with a beer.
Top 5 Places to Stay in Puerto Lopez
1. Hotel Ancora
This is without a doubt one of the most aesthetically appealing accommodation options in Puerto Lopez. Hotel Ancora is close to the Malecon but set back from the main strip so it remains quiet at night. Rooms are functional with en-suite bathrooms which include free toiletries.
There is a communal pool set inside beautiful gardens at the back of the hotel. This is located next to the on-site restaurant so it is easy to order food and drinks to enjoy next to the pool. Breakfast is included in the cost of a room. A single comes in at $25US per night and a twin/double is $50US.
Pachamama is a new and modern hostel located less than a two-minute walk from the beach. They offer both dorm beds and private rooms, all of which are colourful and spacious. There is an amazing open plan kitchen for communal use and a handful of hammocks on the top floor.
Owners Paolo & Simona are multi-lingual and can speak Italian, Spanish, German and English between them. Tours around Puerto Lopez can be organised on the reception and the owners are always keen to help! Dorm beds start from $12US per night and private singles come in at $15US per night.
Located right along the Malecon, Casa de Heidi offers some stunning views of the seafront. There is a patio upstairs which is a great area to hang out and meet other travellers.
Owner Heidi is very helpful and able to organise tours to local tourist spots. There is a communal kitchen to prepare food and the property is opposite the local fish market where cheap lunches are available. The price for a double room for two people is from $36US.
Situated fifteen minutes outside of Puerto Lopez and just three minutes from Ayampe, Viejamar Surf Hostel is a great base for exploring the coast of Ecuador. This eco-hostel boasts both private bungalows and dorm rooms. There is a swimming pool, hammocks and barbecue area.
Their beachfront location means that they are in a prime surfing spot and it is possible to arrange lessons with them directly. They have a 100% guarantee that if you don’t stand up on a board during your first lesson you will not pay – challenge accepted! Dorm beds start at just $9US per person.
Meet Ecuador’s answer to coastal glamping! Shared facilities are located including a barbecue area which is a good place to meet other travellers. There is a choice of tents or glamping domes, both of which will make you feel close to nature. Very reasonable in price, a tent for one person starts at just $8US.
Best Places to Eat in Puerto Lopez
Offering traditional Spanish cuisine for very reasonable prices, Sabor Español is a must for anyone looking for good seafood and great ambience. The owners are very helpful and will even provide tourist maps of the area. Located right on the beachfront, eating dinner to the sound of the waves is something truly special.
This organic cafe is one of the best lunch options in the area. Not only is Café Madame set in the most beautiful part of town but the food is to die for.
This is a great choice for the health conscious as they use only organic ingredients and the homemade juices are some of the best we’ve had in Ecuador! Vegetarians will particularly enjoy this spot as there are plenty of options to choose from.
Where to next?
Montañita: Located just one hour south of Puerto Lopez, Montañita is a logical follow-up destination. Love it or loathe it, Montañita guarantees a thriving party scene and some of the best waves in the country. Learn to surf here or even check out the Spanish schools in the area if you want to spend your time more productively!
Ayampe: Head to wellness hub Ayampe for a bit of surf and relaxation. This coastal spot is a great place to detox from the bustle of everyday life and enjoy a bit of yoga first thing in the morning. Much quieter than its sister town Montañita, Ayampe offers an authentic charm that is hard to find along Ecuador’s coastline.
Guayaquil: Journey down to Ecuador’s most populous city to discover colourful neighbourhoods and swanky riverfront restaurants. Guayaquil has undergone a big revamp in recent years and it is now the most developed and modern city in the whole of Ecuador.