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Puerto Lopez in Ecuador: Flying Whales and Booby Birds

Puerto Lopez in Ecuador is a small village on the Pacific coast, surrounded by the Machalilla National Park. People come here to watch whales, seabirds, and howler monkeys. Because of the abundance of wildlife, this place is often called the “Poor Men’s Galapagos”.

Where is Puerto Lopez located?

The town of Puerto Lopez is located in the Manabi province of Ecuador, in South America. It sits on the shores of the Pacific Ocean and is famous for its beaches and as a gateway to the Machalilla National Park.

How to visit Puerto Lopez in Ecuador independently

Getting there. The nearest major airport is in Guayaquil. From there, you can take a bus to Puerto Lopez – the journey takes about 4-5 hours. The road from Quito takes 9-10 hours, so it’s better to choose a night bus.

Best time to visit. The dry season lasts from June to September, and in August, there’s a chance to see humpback whales jumping out of the water. The wet season in Puerto Lopez is from December to April.

How many days to spend. It’s best to allocate several days for visiting Puerto Lopez in Ecuador – at least two or three, depending on your interests. One day can be dedicated to whale watching, the second to diving with Manta rays, and the third to hiking in the rainforest or visiting birds on the islands. There are plenty of attractions there!

Tours in Puerto Lopez. It’s best to book tours on-site. I can recommend Machalilla Tours because I worked there and went on all the excursions.

Check out another fun destination in Ecuador: Adventures in Baños! Explore Active Volcanoes, Waterfalls, and Hot Springs in Ecuador

Coolest Things to do in Puerto Lopez in Ecuador

Puerto Lopez is a real treasure for nature lovers. I spent a whole month there, working through the Workaway program at a tourist agency. Thanks to my work, I visited all the sights in the area.

A quiet seaside town was a great place to learn Spanish, too. In the morning, I would go on excursions, study Spanish with a teacher during the day, and practice the language with new friends on the beach in the evening. In a month, I improved my Spanish immensely and was able to work as a tour guide and translator!

Humpback whale watching 

Best thing to do in Puerto Lopez! 

From June to September in Ecuador, you can see humpback whales in Ecuador. Unlike most whale tours in other countries, where you only see the animal’s back and water spouts, in Ecuador, the whales put on a stunning show!

During this time, humpback whales enter their mating season. They leap high out of the water, slap their tails, and sing songs. It’s a very impressive sight.

Isle de la Plata – Poor Man’s Galapagos

The island’s name translates from Spanish as “Silver Island.” It is named either after the legend of Francis Drake’s hidden treasure or because of the color given to the rocks by bird guano.

Here blue-footed boobies nest right on the road. Nature is lush and untouched by humans. In July-August, the mating period begins for these birds (another reason to visit Puerto Lopez in Ecuador in the summer!). Blue-footed boobies perform a funny dance, raising their feet and twisting their heads, while frigates proudly inflate their red throat pouches. There are a total of 40,000 pairs of blue-footed boobies in the world, and half of them live in the real Galapagos islands.

Searching for howler monkeys in the rainforest 

The coastal rainforest of Ecuador is home to howler monkeys. Local farmers lead horseback tours into the depths of the forest. You need to leave very early because the monkeys sleep during the day. And after the walk, you will be treated to a home-cooked lunch by the farmer’s family.

This tour is my personal recommendation. There are a lot of animals there, and just riding horses through the dense, almost impassable forest is so much fun!

Diving with giant Manta rays

Diving in Puerto Lopez is fantastic. The most popular dive sites are La Plata island and Los Frailes beach.

Imagine hovering next to a giant ray, larger than a person! Besides rays, you can encounter sea turtles, various fish, and even whales in the water! You need a minimum Advance license for diving. If you want, you can take PADI courses right there in Puerto Lopez.

Snorkeling with sea turtles

Another popular activity on the Ecuadorian coast is snorkeling. You can swim with a mask and snorkel at coral reefs, where colorful fish, sea stars, and leisurely sea turtles hide. Sometimes underwater, you can hear the songs of whales, so keep your ears sharp!

Los Frailes – Ecuador’s Most Beautiful Beach

The secluded Los Frailes Park in the Machalilla National Park is stunning. Thanks to its location within the national park, it’s not marred by beach umbrellas, bars, and crowds. There, you’ll find untouched nature, calming waves, and several kilometers of hiking trails along four different beaches. In July and August, you can even spot humpback whales right from the shore, performing acrobatic tricks – but it’s better to take a tour to see them up close!

Ancient Ruins of Agua Blanca

Originally, the area of modern Puerto Lopez was inhabited by the Manteno culture, who built their settlements along the coast. They lived by fishing and agriculture. These people left behind a series of structures, the largest of which is the archaeological zone of Agua Blanca.

Nightlife in Montanita

At night, bars in Puerto Lopez are open, but they close quite early. If you love nightclubs, head to Montanita. It’s also a popular surfing spot.

Paragliding or Skydiving in Puerto Lopez in Ecuador

Another cool activity in Puerto Lopez. Compared to other countries, prices in Ecuador are very low. From above, you’ll have views of wild beaches, rainforests, and islands. Tours are organized by many agencies along the beach. If you want to book a cheap flight online, Viator is your go-to website.

What Foods to Try in Puerto Lopez in Ecuador?

  1. Encebollado at the central market. It’s located about a 15-minute walk from the town center. Ask the locals about the mercado – they’ll show you the way. There, in the first half of the day, you can eat very cheaply, deliciously, and heartily. For breakfast, Ecuadorians offer not scrambled eggs or sandwiches, but … fish soup with onions! You won’t find tastier soup in Ecuador.
  2. Ice cream in bread. Yes, that’s how ice cream is served in the Manabi province. The guy who sells ice cream from his cart scoops out a ball of delicious ice cream with a spoon and stuffs it into a fresh fluffy bun!
  3. Michelada – beer with spices. It sounds strange, but cold pilsner with lemon, hot spices, a couple of drops of Tabasco, and salt is surprisingly tasty! It’s served in every bar in Puerto Lopez.
  4. Coffee at “Fercho”. In my opinion, the only place with good coffee in the town. There’s free Wi-Fi, cozy tables, and pleasant music. In other cafes, you’ll be served instant coffee, which is strange – because Ecuador produces some of the best coffee in the world!
  5. Empanadas. At noon, an old lady comes out to the square near the church. I haven’t found empanadas better than hers anywhere in South America! One costs less than a dollar. My favorites are with cheese, and be sure to add onion dressing and hot sauce!
  6. Corviche – fish pies. This Ecuadorian delicacy is prepared at a kiosk near the football field, next to the square and the church. The queues are long and consist only of locals – this is a good sign. They make luxurious fish pies here, and of course, empanadas!

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