Puerto Lopez Feature Article

Puerto Lopez photoArriving in Puerto Lopez, the area seems more like a town under construction than a popular whale spotting destination. The bus station is fairly crowded and is situated opposite the only ATM in the town. This road is the main street and is part of the Route del Sol, named Machalilla. It is about a 10 minute walk to the beach side road, Melecon Julio Izurieta, which runs parallel to the high street, however, if you are laden with bags, or just plain lazy like me, there are a host of eager tuc tuc drivers clamouring for your business. Puerto Lopez oozes with laid back, chilled out charm. From the dusty tracks and town roads and sleepy souvenir stands to the bevvy of hardworking fisherman sitting upon their fishing boats, bobbing amongst the seabirds swooping for scraps, Puerto Lopez feels safe and homely and is a far cry from the beach party, theme park feel of Montanita.


There is a good selection of hostels to choose from in Puerto lopez the most expensive being 'Hotel Pacifico' that charges around $10 per person depending on how many of you there are in a room. It has a nice swimming pool and hammock area and a friendly bar/restaurant. For a slightly cheaper option, Hostel Maxima offers rooms for $6-$8 and is clean and comfortable and offers a hearty breakfast for $3. Most hostels have a good breakfast and you'll notice that Puerto Lopez seems to be sponsored by toasted sandwiches; Along the beach, small grass roofed cafes display bold name signs along side a picture of a giant toasted sandwich. The people of Puerto Lopez also seem to have mastered the art of creating the perfect mix of fruit with creamy yoghurt and crunchy granola.

Peak season in Puerto Lopez is June/July when Whale watching expeditions and tourist activities ensure many of the locals earn enough during this period to take it pretty easy the rest of the year. Having visited in April, I can definitely recommend visiting Puerto Lopez outside of peak season if you have not set your heart on whale watching. The weather is fantastic and the main beach is the epicentre of local activity, whether it be playing volley ball, paddling with the children or just relaxing in a hammock, it's really refreshing to be surrounded by beautiful scenery and for it to be totally utilized by the residents as opposed to seas of bikini clad tourists. There are two main communities in Puerto Lopez; The Ecuadorian families and the intricate hierarchy amongst the stray dog community. It’s fascinating to watch the dogs stroll around, just as much a part of the neighborhood as any human, moving from shade to sun, crossing the street to greet one another and generally going about their business. Even though most seem harmless, I would suggest avoiding the smaller tracks in the heart of the town at night where this hairy community seems to gather! Eating an evening meal in Puerto Lopez will cost you around $6 and you can guarantee the sea food is fresh.

For a family run, relaxing seafood platter, Restaurant Carmita dishes up a delicious mixture of grilled, battered, fried, everyway fresh catch. If fish is not for you there is a good selection of international eateries and if you are lucky enough, as we were, befriend two local jewellery makers and you could be treated to hard bartering at the local market, fresh shrimp picking from the cool box in a back garden, and a traditional home cooked Ecuadorian rice dish in the comfort of a hammock, relaxing in the open air living room of your new found Puerto Lopez friends. The people of Puerto Lopez are exceptionally relaxed. Service is snail paced but worth waiting for and locals will go out of their way to help you (for a fee obviously but the company and hospitality far out ways the cost!) One of the most popular destinations from Puerto Lopez is Isla de la Plata, known to travelers and guide books as the poor man’s galapagos. For $25 - $30 you can book a boat tour from most agencies and hostels in town.

Puerto LopezThis pays for the 3 1/2 hour journey to the island, snorkeling equipment (diving equipment for those who wish to spend a little more) and if you choose to you can take a 3 hour guided track around the island, for which you have to pay an extra $15 national park entrance fee. There is some spectacular wildlife including a good selection of sea birds, sea lions and occasionally dolphins. For people like me on a slightly smaller budget there is a much more gritty, hand on, authentic experience involving a slightly smaller but still beautiful Island called Isla Salango Head down to the far end of the beach where if you are up early enough you can witness the fisherman bringing in their catch, which can even include hammerhead sharks, eagerly overlooked by the hundreds of Pelicans, frigate birds and vultures. Puerto Lopez is a substantial fishing village on the south coast and much of the catch is transported to many of the surrounding areas. It’s here where you can befriend a fisherman, or an enthusiastic middle man, and negotiate a price for transportation to isla Salango. It seems a fairly common place practice as initially we parted with $5 for lunch provisions and over all, for three people we payed $40. This included all our snorkeling gear, fishing bate and lines, a fantastic fresh cerviche prepared by the 'guide' with our catch, wonderful summer salsa music and incomparable company with Polo the Captain, Jonathan who appeared to come along purely for the company and ..... our guide/chef/fisherman.

Hiring a fishing boat appears to be a legitimate and safe way to see the fantastic wildlife, wonderful snorkeling and beautiful empty beaches without the agency fee or organized 'follow the leader' tour feeling. In keeping with my never ending praise for the people of Puerto Lopez, we had heard of a beach a few kilometers away, Playita, and hired Christobel, a tuc tuc driver to take us there. With four of us squeezed into the back of the tricycle, Christabelle drove us for about 10 minutes uphill where he abruptly pulled over at the side of the road. There is a small sign for the beach on the side of the road next to thick woodland. Don't be deterred, there is a slightly beaten track that takes you over the brow of the hill and down onto the deserted beach. For around $4 and the right tuc tuc driver, you can arrange a time to be collected and returned to puerto Lopez. The light track takes around 15 minutes and mosquito repellent is a must.

The final meters of the walk are through boggy mud - prime mosquito breeding ground. Although very beautiful, it is more the tranquility and desert island feel that makes this beach special; not one other person braved the track and we were alone for the entire day! The surrounding cliff tops and caves make for a good walk up and down the beach and the sea is fairly calm, take care to avoid the more rocky areas either end of the beach. Puerto Lopez is a thoroughly welcoming town where you can enjoy lazy afternoons on the beach, beautiful wildlife and great food accompanied by fantastic local company. The town exudes laid back personality and Ecuadorian hospitality accompanied by natural beauty and a host of excursion options for when you can drag yourself away from the completely relaxing beach side cafes. Buses run regularly from Puerto Lopez to Guayaquil and Quito and in both directions along the route del Sol to neighbouring coastal towns.

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