Puerto Lopez a small fishing town located along Ecuador’s coast is located 4 hours from Guayaquil and 1 hour from Montañita. We headed there for the sole purpose of humpback whale watching. Whale watching (one of the top things to do in Puerto Lopez) season is June to September so our slow travelling worked in our favour. Unfortunately the weather was cloudy at this time of year (June) but the whales still showed up so I’ll take that any day over some sun.
The main things to do in Puerto Lopez are whale watching, visit Isla Plata, also known as poor man’s Galapagos where you can see blue footed boobies and seals, and Playa Los Frailes. The town itself is not very special with a bit of a rubbish problem but the malecon is better, well paved at least, and the place to find a smoothie or drink.
There are many tour operators offering tours to a) Isla Plata (starting from $40) which includes snorkelling, animal spotting and walking around Isla Plata, or b) whale watching tours ($20-$30) which includes snorkelling and whale watching.
Whale Watching Tour
We went with Whale Expeditions as the hostel we were staying with had their information booklet. There was about 16 people on the boat but we had enough space so it was a good number. The tour was from 11am until 2pm with about one hour watching the whales, half hour snorkelling and the rest was driving to and from the area for whales watching. On the way to the whales there was a quick break to admire some blue footed boobies hanging out on a cliff.
The whales saying hi!
For the rest of the journey we had our eyes peeled into the water for any glimpses of life. After 30 or so minutes we saw a huge tail and knew we had arrived in the right place. Our guide had said maybe we would see 1 or 2 whales so we must have been lucky when 6 showed up. It was so amazing watching these peaceful giants breach the water. They were huge and agile, disappearing and then reappearing much further than where they had been. It was some what nerve racking when they disappeared as who knew where they would turn up!? At one stage they came up so close to the boat I got a really good scare. It was brilliant!
It really was a special moment seeing these wonderful creatures
After about an hour it was time to leave the whales and head back. There was a quick 30-40 minute stop for some snorkelling and snacks (banana bread and watermelon).
Overall it was a great tour and helped us tick seeing humpback whales off the animal wish list.
Playa Los Frailes
Playa Los Frailes is a long, clean and pretty beach found in Machililia National Park. The entrance to the park is about 10 minutes by car from Puerto Lopez, making it a perfect day trip from the town.
There is no entrance fee to enter the park and it is open from 8am until 4pm. Double check times with hostel. You must register on arrival so have your passport details to hand.
Los Frailes beach
There is the option to do a long walk, Sendero Los Frailes which takes about 2 hours along a 3km trail where you visit some other beaches and miradors. The other option is walk (30-40mins) or get a tuk tuk or taxi to go directly to Los Frailes beach.
Nice mirador at Las Fragatas
If you are stuck for time, just go to Los Frailes beach and Las Fragatas mirador next to it. We didn’t find the long walk worth it but maybe if we had blue skies and less flies it would have been better.
The only beach that is safe to swim at is Los Frailes due to strong currents in the other beaches. It is possible to snorkel near the rocks in Los Frailes so bring snorkel gear.
The Los Frailes Sendero
Some tips: bring snacks, water and sun cream. There is little to no shade at Los Frailes and it may be difficult to find food. There are toilets facilities at the beach and some arty shops.
How to get to Los Frailes
Taxi (best option)
We got a taxi for $4 each way, to and from the entrance to the park. It’s a 2km boring walk with nothing to see from the entrance to the beach, tuk tuks and taxis are available for this stretch too but we walked it. This is the cheapest and most flexible option as you can spend as long as you want at the park. When we were finished we waited out on the road for a taxi to pass by and hopped in.
$20 for taxi to and from Los Frailes beach. Taxi will drop you at Los Frailes beach instead of the entrance to the park and wait for a few hours.
With this option you need to get to the bus terminal, $1.50 by tuk tuk and then get a bus that passes the entrance so a bus to Manta is a good call. Bus is approx $1 -$2.
Where we stayed
We stayed at Cabañas Playa Sur and really loved it. We had a cabin that looked out into the ocean and fell asleep listening to the waves lapping onto the beach. If we had sun it would have been even more amazing. Luis was really friendly and helpful.
Our accommodation in Puerto Lopez
Other things to do in Puerto Lopez
- Agua Blanca – archaeological site and mineral pool. Approximately $5 entrance.
- Visit some nearby fishing villages. Hop on a bus and see where you end up!
- El Rocio Trail, a privately funded eco-trail about 17km away from Puerto Lopez. Approximately $5 entrance.