Puerto López, Ecuador

Man, life has been busy lately!

February and March were quiet, but then it was a month and a half of going nearly non-stop! My mom & cousin visited for three weeks; there was a week-long conference in Tena that Shane (and, therefore, I) participated in; we had some friends (and co-lab members) in Tena for a few days; and then we hit the road for butterfly collecting!

It’s also a bit sad because this was likely my last butterfly collecting trip, potentially ever, since we will move back to Germany towards the end of the year. But that’s not the point of this post. Instead, I’m here to tell you all about my adventures with my mom, starting with our trip to Puerto López!

As you may have deduced from the whale tail statue, Puerto López is a small town located on the coast, approximately two hours south of the larger city of Manta.

So, on mom’s first day, I had her up and at ’em at 4 am to catch our 6 am flight to the beach. It’s good she loves the beach because otherwise, she might have killed me because she doesn’t love 4 am. 😂

All smiles at 5 am!


The beach!


Oddly enough, we didn’t actually swim here, but you definitely can, and many people did. Instead, we spent more time walking the malecón (boardwalk), which has plenty of beach bars and ends with a pier. I can highly recommend sunset on the beach with a cocktail.

Puerto López is primarily a fishing village. So, I also highly recommend walking on the beach in the morning when the fishermen bring in their catch. The pelicans and frigates were INSANE. I’ve never seen a pelican that close-up before. Then the poor fishermen were constantly fighting off the birds trying to steal their fish!

There was also quite a large and busy patio de comidas (food court) directly on the beach that was only active in the morning. So, if you’re looking for a local experience, I’d recommend going there!

La Playa de los Frailes

This beach, located in Parque Nacional Machalilla, about 20 minutes north of Puerto López, is known as one of Ecuador’s most beautiful beaches. It’s a popular attraction in the area, so finding a taxi willing to take you is easy. You can also arrange a tour, which we did, and it essentially meant we had a dedicated taxi driver for the day.

Fun fact. We never actually saw Los Frailes beach… 🤦‍♀️

Ok, so hear me out. Take a look at this map. What’s your impression?

Do you also see an out-and-back trail?? Because that’s what we thought.

Public Service Announcement #1

It’s not an out-and-back trail. What this map doesn’t show you is the road leading to the parking lot at the end of the trail, where our driver was waiting for us.

Public Service Announcement #2

If you’re going to walk the trail and not take a taxi straight to Los Frailes beach, don’t wear sandals! It’s an easy to moderate hike, but the trail is uneven. It would have been much easier with closed-toe shoes…

So, what did we do? We walked for about an hour to Playa Prieta, the black sand beach at the halfway point (which was beautiful too, by the way). Then, since my mom had foot surgery 6 months earlier, we wore the wrong shoes, and we thought we had another two-hour walk back from the end of the trail, we turned around and walked back to the beginning.

And that, my friends, is how we missed the beach we came there to see!

We did pass a really beautiful lookout and had the black sand beach to ourselves, though. So, it was still worth the trip!

Agua Blanca

Agua Blanca is a small community and archeological site in Machalilla National Park, the same one that houses Los Frailes Beach. For $5, you’ll be guided through a small museum (the tour is in Spanish only, but they speak slowly), taken to the nearby archeological site, then pointed in the direction of the sulfur lagoon ($1), which most people come for.

The lagoon at Agua Blanca smells. Bad. But all that sulfur and whatnot in the mud and water is supposed to be medicinal and make your skin all soft and young. And they give you a small cup of mud to rub all over yourself in the name of youth! So, I guess you win some, ya lose some?

Once Shane realized he was 100% absolutely not getting out of rubbing mud all over his face, he wasn’t pleased. He also never quite adjusted to the smell (he’s a super smeller, ya know 😆), so he might advise skipping the lagoon, but Mom and I had a great time!

What do you think? Do we look younger?!

La Isla de la Plata

Also known as the Poor Man’s Galapagos.

It’s beautiful and worthy of a post of its own. So, I’ll leave you with this picture until then!


Getting there:

From Quito, I recommend flying to Manta and then taking a bus from the Terminal Terrestre (i.e., the main bus station, ~2 hours, ~$4 per person) to the Terminal Terreste in Puerto López. From there, you’ll need to take a tuk-tuk into the town (~5 min, $2). A taxi from the airport is also an option, though (~1.5 hours, ~$40). You could also opt for a bus from Quito, but you’re looking at at least 9 hours of travel time to Manta instead of 45 minutes.

Where to stay:

We stayed at the Victor Hugo Hotel, which was more expensive. However, the hotel was nice and in a quiet part of town walkable to the melacón. Plus, our sea view rooms were worth it!

Finding tours:

Do it once you get there! We arranged our tours through the hotel, but the tour companies are plentiful on the melacón. You can expect ~$20-25 per person for an all-day tour to Los Frailes and Agua Blanca and ~$40 per person for the Isla de la Plata tour.

Cheap eats:

Of course, you’ll find plenty of food and drink options on the melacón, but they’re expensive for Ecuador! For something more local, I recommend encebollado (the national dish, by the way!) at Encebollados de Rita, which was also a cab-driver-approved location. $3 will get you a bowl of encebollado and a drink.

Until next time, Puerto López!

Nos vemos,



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