Puerto López lies at the Pacific Coast of Ecuador. A fishing village, it is now also becoming a tourism hotspot and is most famous for being the departure point for visits to Isla de la Plata.
Once a haven for budget travellers going to Isla de la Plata, the town has become much more developed with a beach promenade, a pier for tours to the nearby islands, and lots of restaurants and hotels.
Puerto López has a new bus terminal that is not really in a walking distance from the beach.
- From Santa Elena buses leave many times a day, passing by Montañita.
- From Montañita there are frequent buses ($2.50, 1 hr). Some of the buses don't have storage underneath, be prepared to put your pack in the front of the bus or on your lap.
- To Guayaquil buses go via Jipijapa at 07:00, 09:00, 13:00, 16:00 ($4, 4 hr).
- From Quito Reina del Camino and Carlos Aray provide direct service from the Quitumbe Terminal ($13) Reina del Camino also leaves from the center (18 de Septiembre and Manuel Larrea) as of 2011.
Everything but the bus terminal is in a walking distance. Taximotos should not cost more than $1 to get around town.
- Each morning (the time depends of the time of the year) the day's fishing catch is brought in the beach. A mad rush ensues with best catches being bought and carted away quite quickly. You can see sharks, swordfish, wahoo (from the tuna family), and more. Apart from fish, you will see at least frigate birds and pelicans trying to get their share of the catch.
- Isla de la Plata (Poor Man's Galapagos). Several tour agents organise trips (1½ hour boat ride, lunch included). On the island you will be able to see plenty of blue and red footed boobies, frigate birds, colorful fishes, sea turtles, and if you're lucky, sea lions. The tour is combined with snorkeling and whale watching trips, if it's the right season. The humpbackwhale season is from June to September. Diving is also possible. You'll pay $1 extra for the use of the pier. The trips to the island are heavily regulated by the local authorities so it does not seem to be possible to hire a local fisherman to take you to the island. $35-45.
- Isla de Salango (Poor Man's Isla de la Plata). Several tour agents organise trips (30-min boat ride). You will be able to see boobies on the way to the island. The boats drop you off at a beach on the island where you will be able to see frigate birds, and if you're lucky, sea lions. The tour is combined with snorkeling trips which are nice but not too spectacular. You'll pay $1 extra for the use of the pier. You can also go to Salango from the town Salango a $0.50 bus ride south, the prices there are however very similar. $10-15.
- Machalilla Park. The national park has several entrances and "themes". One of them is the Frailes which is free, there is a nice path that goes through miradors and beaches and end in the Frailes beach where you can swim and snorkel. Another is the Agua Blanca ($5pp) where you'll have a guided visit of the (small) archeological museum, a visit of the lands and finally a bath in sulfur water. You can go to either by taking any bus going north for 50¢. free for Frailes, $5 for Agua Blanca.
- Horseback riding. You can join a horse (or mule) tour in the nature park. Most of the agencies in town should offer these tours when asked. $40 for a full day.
Cheap cuisine can be purchased from food carts a few blocks east of the shore -- 50¢ empanadas, for example. The shoreline is lined with restaurants which mostly serve seafood and range in price from $3.50-10. There are also three Italian restaurants in town. Finally, one can purchase ceviche and sometimes sandwiches from the cabañas on the shore.
- Etnias Cafe, main street near the malecon (next door to fire station). 08:00-19:00. Lovely little cafe run by a French couple -- offers waffles, crepes, espresso, cappuccino, and great cakes and deserts. Very nice people that run the shop, who speak English and Spanish as well as French. Free wifi. $1-4.
- Pizza, Corner Montalvo / Cordova. very good pizza stand, one block from the Sol Inn $1/slice.
- Restaurant Russo, corner of main street near the Malecon (cross the road from Etnias Cafe and you'll see the sign of Russo). 09:00-00:00. Real Russian and European cuisine. Decent small European-style restaurant with real steak blood, Russian pelmeny and wareniky. Works till 00:00 which is extremely rare here. Run by a very friendly Ukrainian couple who speak Spanish and Russian. $2.50-8.
- Whalé Café. Offers delicious pizzas made with homemade bread along with dishes from all over the world. $5-10.
You can sit outside at one of the restaurants and drink, or you can go to one of the cabañas, which blast salsa music and reggae throughout the evenings. Fruity drinks cost between $3 and $5, while the local beer of choice, Pilsener, goes for $1.50 for 600 ml.
- Hostal Albatros, Corner Montalvo / Lascano. Family hotel/hostal next to the Sol Inn, good internet, very nice owners (they were very helful during the earthquake of April 2016). $16 for double with private bathroom.
- Hostal Itapoa, on the north end of the Malecon. Offers nice clean cabanas with hot water. Rooms have fans and mosquito nets. WiFi is only available in the front. A private room with a private bathroom is $10 a person. If there is no hot water, ask the owner Maria (speaks English/Spanish/Portuguese) to turn it on. Price includes a nice breakfast (eggs, croissants, fruit juice/coffee/tea) in the cabana overlooking the ocean. For anything else a menu for breakfast is available. Tours to Las Isla de la Plata can be booked through her at no extra cost.
- Hosteria Mandála (In the north end of the beach), ☎ , . Check-out: 12:00. Quite a special hostel with a big garden and very large cabins for rooms. The Italian owner is strongly influenced by the Finnish designer Tapio Wirkkala and you can see this by the abundance of plywood art. The hostel also has hammocks by the beach, a nice restaurant, plenty of board games and an extensive book exchange. From $30.
- Machalilla Hostal, Juan Montalvo y Lascano (one block from the beach on the north end), ☎ . Check-out: 12:00. Nice bright rooms with private bathrooms, high ceilings, ceiling fans, mosquito nets and TVs. Also has a nice central courtyard with hammocks and a patio up top with several tables with sun umbrellas. $7.
- Playa Sur, North end of the beach (Follow the road along the beach north.). Check-out: 12. Super friendly hosts, very clean well maintained rooms with good mosquito nets, For $8 you get your own bathroom with hot water and fan, for $5 you get your own room with a common bathroom with cold water. Across the road is the beach and its a 5-minute walk or 50 cent taxi to the town centre. $5-8.
- Sol Inn, Juan Montalval near Elroy Alfaro. Check-out: 11:00. Offers nicely decorated rooms in bamboo structures. Rooms have fan and mosquito nets. It has outdoor kitchen with common area. Gorgeous gardens and hammocks make for a great atmosphere. Hot showers depend on the electricity supply in the village. Free WiFi. Double with/without bathroom $10/$8 p.p. during high season.
- Puerto López is the closest village to Parque Nacional Machalilla. The park headquarter is one block behind the plaza in Puerto López and also features a small museum. The entrance is free of charge.
- The serene Playa Los Frailes is located 10 km north of Puerto Lopez inside Machalilla National Park. You can take the northbound bus (50 cents one way) and drop off in the entrance and walk 3 km to the park (there is a few viewpoints in the path, and you'll see two solitary beaches of the park) o you can take a mototaxi from the entrance to Los Frailes for $1 per person. Another options is taking a mototaxi from Puerto Lopez for around $6 round-trip. The entrance is free.
- Agua Blanca is a small village and archaeological site of the Manteño people. It's named after a pre-incan sulphur-water pool in the village.
- Salango Museum Pre-Columbian Archaeological Museum Salango Commune has an extraordinary collection of original and authentic pottery, shell spondyllus, reflecting the worldview, social structure, and the pottery of the prehistoric people of Ecuador.