Puerto López is a fishing town that sits on Ecuador’s southern coast. It is considerably quieter than the neighboring town of Montañita and is a convenient place to be to access the sights in Machalilla National Park. You may read a lot of things that say this city is dirty and not worth visiting, but we found it to be a relaxing place to escape from Ecuador’s bustling cities and party scenes. Puerto López offers quiet nights by the sea, great seafood, and plenty of adventures to keep you busy.
Getting There and Away
Puerto López is most easily accessed by bus or private transport. Most buses to the area run routes to and from Guayaquil for under $10 (USD) one way. The easiest way to go about it is simply showing up at the Guayaquil station the day you want to leave and looking for one of the few companies that go to Montañita and Puerto López. We took Coop Libertad Peninsular to Montañita and a Manglaralto bus to Puerto López the next day.
To get back to Guayaquil from Puerto López, look for any passing bus on Ruta del Spondylus and ask if they go all the way back, or take one of the frequent buses to Montañita and catch another back to Guayaquil. Most buses to and from Puerto López by way of Guayaquil run every hour, but it is always best to ask about the schedule beforehand. Buses between Montañita and Puerto López run more frequently.
There are various bus companies that go to and from Quito and Manta if you come from the North. The buses from Quito are much longer and less frequent, so it may be better to book these ahead of time. Always go with a reputable company, especially for overnight trips.
Puerto López was a bit bigger than we expected, but the beach, tour companies, shops, bars, banks, and restaurants are all easily reached by walking down the street along the beach and the main road through town. But, if you aren’t in the mood for walking, there are often golf carts and tuk tuks that serve as taxis.
If you want to go to Playa Los Frailes, Montañita, or other neighboring destinations, you can do so easily by bus as mentioned above.
When to Go
There isn’t necessarily a bad time to visit Puerto López, but when you want to be there really depends on your preferences. Late June through September is typically high season, with less rain and cooler temperatures. However, prices during these times are higher because there are more tourists, and days can often be overcast.
December through May is low season and, though it is rainy season, it is often sunnier between the storms with more pleasant temperatures and less tourists. Keep in mind that February through April can get pretty hot. We went in the shoulder season of November. There were quite a few overcast days, but we had some sun, temperatures were nice, there were few tourists, and prices were a bit lower.
It is important to keep specifics in mind for an ideal trip to Puerto López. For example, if you desire to see the hundreds of humpback whales that migrate to the area, June through October is the time to go. But, if you plan to go diving a lot, December through May offers warmer waters and better visibility.
Where to Stay
Puerto López has a good mix of hostels, cabanas, and hotels. We did find it to be more expensive for accommodation than most of Peru and Bolivia. The town is pretty small, so it doesn’t particularly matter where your accommodation is located, but the ideal location is along the beachside street. There are plenty of options listed on both Hostel World and Booking.com.
- Hostal Alcazaba: double room with a shared bathroom and included breakfast
- Cabañas Playa Sur: (We stayed here) cabana with a private bathroom
- Hostería Mandála: double rooms and bungalows and included breakfast
- Casita Madame: double rooms with private bathrooms
- Monte Libano Suites: private apartment
- New Nautilus Lodge: suites and apartments and included breakfast
- Mantaraya Lodge: double room with private bathroom
Where to Eat
Many restaurants are located on the coastal street, Malecón Julio Izurieta. You’ll also find numerous options on the side streets leading to Ruta del Spondylus, which is the main road running through Puerto López. There are a few good breakfast places, such as Etnia’s café, Blanche, and the local eateries that open up in the mornings, serving a range of foods, including crepes, American-style breakfasts, traditional Ecuadorian breakfasts, waffles, and more.
There are many great deals on seafood for lunch and dinner. A few of the best deals can be found in local joints, some of which have no name. Restaurant Marinero offered a great deal that provided a large fillet of fish with salad, rice, beans, and a fried plantain for $5 (USD) a plate. Oh’ La-La was another cheap, local eatery that served up some great ceviche, fish, and paella. Most restaurants have their menus available outside for a look if you want to take a look before deciding.
For more ambiance and variety in dishes, there are plenty of other restaurants. Some great options include Moby Dick for seafood, Bell Italia for Italian food, and Patacon Pisa’o for kebabs and other cuisine (plus free Wi-Fi).
On the beach, there many tents set up that serve ceviche, smoothies, and various drinks, making this a great place to relax by the sea in the evenings. They do get busier at night as the multicolored lights come on, the music bumps, and the clubs open.
For snacks, water, and other necessities, there is a Tía grocery store located on Ruta del Spondylus. Prices are reasonable, and it has a good variety of foods as well as liquor, sunscreen, and toiletries.
Do you need to take a tour?
Tours are only required for certain activities, such as Isla de la Plata, Isla Salango, and other similar trips. These require a boat or a guide (or both), and the tour is often worth it for the price. For other activities, such as seeing Los Frailes Beach, there are tours offered, but it is not required. In fact, we thought Los Frailes was better enjoyed on our own. If you aren’t comfortable navigating on your own or want some more in depth information while exploring, a tour can be a great option.
Finding a Tour
Tour agencies can be found centrally located along Malecón Julio Izurieta and the streets between it and Ruta del Spondylus. Tour agencies will also send employees out to walk around and offer tours. Before booking, do some research online beforehand to ensure that you aren’t getting ripped off and that the company is reputable.
Beware of individuals walking the town posing as tour agency employees because they’ll take your money and you will be without a tour. This happened to a couple we met at our hotel.
Most companies take both card and cash, but some will only accept cash. Companies like Machalilla Tours will also let you book online. But, they may ask for a bank transfer beforehand, which we found a little sketchy and not feasible since we were on the road. If you have a group, it never hurts to ask for a discount!
Ecuador uses U.S. dollars. There are a couple ATMs in Puerto López, but the fees can get quite high, so we recommend bringing cash or take money out in a larger city, like Guayaquil.
Unlike some of the small towns we’ve been to in South America, more places took credit cards than we expected. However, it is always a good idea to carry cash in case paying with card isn’t an option or the ATM runs out of money (it happens more than you’d think).
We didn’t see any currency exchange houses, so your best bet would be to exchange beforehand. If not, you can ask the bank if they can exchange.
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