This cute little disheveled town right on the wild Pacific coast is a great destination and definitely deserves to be a busier…
But, actually, we quite liked having the place to ourselves!
We spent an incredibly relaxed few days enjoying the enormous beach, watching the fishing boats bob in the bay and getting to know a number of (super-friendly) Ecuadorians.
Being almost spot-on the equator you expect Puerto Lopez to be stiflingly hot, but actually, there was always a cooling sea breeze which meant vivid blue skies, burning sunshine and perfect temperatures!
Unfortunately, we weren’t lucky enough to be passing through in whale watching season (July and August) so we felt the day boat trips that ran regardless, offering the chance to see lots of birds and maybe some sea life, weren’t really worth the expense.
Instead we passed the days playing ‘try to avoid the cheese pastry’ for breakfast from the tiny hole-in-the-wall bakery, playing games on the vast beach, occasional dips in the (slightly murky) sea, walking along the shoreline and always, always fresh juices from one of the many beach hut/bars that bordered the beach.
Each hut had their own area of deck chairs and hammocks which we took full advantage of each afternoon. If nothing else in this post makes you want to pay Puerto Lopez a visit then go for the fresh juices alone; for about a $1 you can pick from dozens of flavours (our faves included lime and strawberry – pictured above) which are whizzed up with lots of ice to create a delish smoothie juicy blend!
Overall, the main agenda in Puerto Lopez is to chill, enjoy the beach, explore the weird and wonderful shops in town and eat plenty of pizza for dinner!
Confused about the pizza? See below…
Where to stay;
Not a great deal of choice but…
Hostel del Mar
A funny little place with odd facilities (tiny, often messy kitchen and a pond-size pool) but with some outdoor seating, a great giant hammock and its unbeatable location we wouldn’t have wanted to be anywhere else.
Where to eat and drink;
Who knew that Puerto Lopez, Ecuador would have the most incredible pizza!
Casa Vecchia – A great little Italian place that had me thinking we were in Rome. We feasted on focaccia, super garlicky spinach and delicious, topping-heavy pizza two nights in a row outside in the small garden.
What’s more, right by the hostel, a young local guy has setup a little outdoor pizza place – he makes giant pizzas and then sells of each slice for $1 – get in quick though as when the pizza comes out of the oven he suddenly attracts a lot more business! We did have a little issue trying to communicate when I asked whether he could do a bit without the obligatory ham topping, which, eventually, he understood! Delicious, super cheap and the guy who runs it is so friendly (but doesn’t speak a word of English!)
Super fresh ceviche for lunch on the beach (on the far left side as you look out to sea) watching the fishing boats come and go.
A funny little place next door to the hostel (which I didn’t get the name of) that we went to late one night – its specialty is (not great) Colombian food but it had a sweet little garden. Perhaps we would have been better off trying the hostels restaurant… though i’m not that sure after seeing the kitchen!
What to see and do;
The beach – you have it to yourself so make the most of it!
Nature trips – whale watching or to a small offshore island
Whilst it’s a little bit shabby and we were virtually the only other tourists in town (again, we were there out of season) Puerto Lopez has so much charm and was a really nice contrast to Mancora in Peru, had we spent these four days in Montanita I think we would have been very cheap cocktails, surfers paradise, fake Ray-bans and overpriced accomodation-ed-out!
Why we didn’t get to explore the rest of Ecuador as we had hoped….
Even though the size of Ecuador (as the crow flies) is relatively tiny compared with other South American countries, you cannot underestimate the disruption to travel that mountains and jungle present. Ecuador’s poor bus system and our tight time and budget situation mean that unfortunately it made much more sense to us to sacrifice criss-crossing the rest of the country and instead to catch a flight to our 3rd country; Colombia.
P.s. If you ever find yourself in Guayquil airport at 4am after no sleep and a day of travel ahead – treat yourself to a Cinnbon (a warm cinnamon bun) it will make your day a whole lot better, I promise!
Where we would have liked to get to see;
Banos – an Andean adventure town full of opportunites to hike, bike, and explore.
Otovalo – a small Andean town with a huge Andean market
The Amazon – all over South America you can organise trips into the wild of the Amazon, however we never managed to go for a number of reasons
- We never passed through an ‘Amazon entry point’ town where the trips ran from
- It was the start of our trip and we felt we had to protect our time and our money otherwise the 2nd half of the trip could be tricky!
The Galapagos – Our budget and time scale didn’t stretch to a trip to the islands but it truly does sound like the experience is second to none. Later, friends we met from Holland told us how they managed to get the best deal on their trip
- They had flexible dates
- They booked last minute and got places on a luxury cruiser with about 2 days notice (for about half the original RRP)
- They were flexible on the type of trip (they ended up on a cruise for ‘an older customer’ but the trip is focused on wildlife watching, diving and swimming with iguanas so it didn’t matter who their companions were.
- They were (kind of) on their honeymoon so they ‘casually’ dropped it into conversation when booking and got an upgrade, you never know…
Whilst it may have seemed like we missed out on these experiences at the time we did think carefully about what we would be doing later in the trip. For example, although we didn’t make it to Banos we still hiked up to waterfalls in Costa Rica and went trekking in the Panamanian mountain jungle. Also, we went on to see hundreds of small markets and in Guatemala went to an enormous Mayan market in Chichicastanengo.
In all we loved our flying visit to Ecuador and Puerto Lopez really was a hidden gem, but soon it was time to head off and continue our adventure as we made our way to Colombia…