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Puerto Lopez, Ecuador Travel Guide
Last Updated: Nov-08-2011, Hits: 15,981, Rating: 0, Reviews: 0, Votes: 0 Bookmark and Share
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Location: South America
Geography: Beach, Jungle/Rainforest
Vacation Type: Adventure
Popularity: Off-the-Beaten Path
Costs: Budget
Attractions: Historical Sites, Scenery, Ecotourism, Fishing, Hiking, Scuba & Snorkeling

Note: This travel guide also covers the communities of Salango and Puerto Rico.

Facts and Stats:
Population: 16,000
Land Area: Unknown
Government: Constitution-based federal republic
Country Dialing Code: 593
Area Code: 5
Languages: Spanish
Electricity: 110-120V (an adapter may be required for some devices)
Currency: United States Dollar
Time Zone: UTC-5
Current Time:

Puerto Lopez is a small fishing village located on the southern Pacific coast of Ecuador. In addition to fishing, the town also subsists on tourism, specifically whale watching and other ecotourism adventure. One of the largest draws is nearby Machalilla National Park, popular for jungle tours and archaelogical sites.

Puerto Lopez is a small village on the central Pacific coast of the Manabi province of Ecuador, and is the capital of Puerto Lopez Canton (similar to a county). It is just south of the villages of Cayo and Machalilla, and just north of Salango, Puerto Rico, and Ayampe. The village is set on an arched bay with a wide, sandy beach. Puerto Lopez is the park headquarters for Machalilla National Park which is just north of town.

Brief History:
Archaeologists trace the first inhabitants of Ecuador as far back as 10,000 BC, when hunters and gatherers established settlements on the southern coast and in the central highlands.

What is now the territory of Puerto López Canton was inhabited during aboriginal times by valdivia, and later by the Machalilla culture. In the territory of Puerto López, important archaeological remains from these cultures have been found including the remains of temples in Agua Blanca and Salango.

In 1463, the Inca began their conquest of Ecuador from Peru, but met fierce restance from several tribes. After finally conquering Ecuador in 1488, The Inca indoctrinated the tribes to Quechua, the language of the Incas, which is still widely spoken today.

Spaniard Francisco Pizarro landed in Ecuador in 1532 with an armed cadre and looking for gold. With the Incan empire just recovering from civil war, they were still unstable, and the Spanish soon defeated them.

Ecuador was ruled by the Spanish for nearly 300 years, and during this time, they introduced Catholicism, colonial architecture, and the Spanish language. Independence was won in 1822, when Simon Bolivar defeated the Spanish at the Battle of Pichincha. Bolivar united Ecuador with Colombia and Venezuela, forming the state of Gran Colombia. Ecuador seceded 8 years later.

Ecuador's modern history (1860-Present) has been littered with struggles, dictatorial rule, and conflict with neighboring Peru.

Ecuador returned to democracy in 1979, and although free elections have continued since, there has been 1 coup and a recent attempt.

As for Puerto Lopez, it is still mainly a fishing village, although tourism seems to be on the rise.

Ecotourism is the main draw for visitors, and there are a number of things to see within the main attraction, Machalilla National Park. The park was established in 1979 and covers 136,000 acres. With in the park are numerous hiking trails through the forest, archaelogical sites, pristine beaches, and 2 islands. One of the islands, Isla de la Plata, is often referred to as "Poor man's Galapagos" and has colonies of endangered birds and snorkeling opportunities in the surrounding reef.

Part of the park encompasses ocean waters where humpback whales come to breed every year. The best time for whale watching is June-October.

For about $25, you can purchase a 5-day pass to the park which allows access to all parts, or you can get a pass to just the mainland portion for less. For additional activities such as a trip to Isla de la Plata or a horseback riding tour of the park, there are tour guides in town that can accomodate you. These activities will cost extra.

Food & Nightlife:
Puerto Lopez is off-the-beaten-path and there is very little in the way of international cuisine. Expect to find a lot of seafood as fish, prawns, shrimp and crabs, clams, etc are key parts of the diet. Most likely it will be very fresh from the fishing boats in town. Other common dishes are patacones (fried slices of plantain with cheese), menestras (lentils in a brown sauce), empanadas (dough stuffed with meat and/or vegetables), and ceviche.

There isn't much in the way of nightlife here, but plenty of places to grab a beer or drink along the malecon where most of the activity occurs.

Money & Costs:
In 2000, Ecuador adopted the U.S. dollar. If you are arriving from any country that doesn't use the U.S. dollar, it is advised that you convert your money before arriving in Ecuador as it can sometimes be problematic to exchange currencies. There is 1 ATM in town near the bus station.

If you are coming from the U.S., Europe, or similar economy, you will find Puerto Lopez to be VERY inexpensive. Lodging will run as much as a hostel or less. Food is the same with dinner typically costing less than $10.

Tipping in restaurants is typically 10%, however, in larger restaurants, they may automatically add a 10% service charge. Check the bill. Cab drivers and bartenders are not typically tipped.

Getting There & Around:
No matter how you plan to get to Puerto Lopez, you will be spending some time in a bus or car. If taking a bus, make sure you pack lightly as there is often not enough storage space for everybody's luggage.

The nearest airport with regular service is in Manta about 76 miles north. Aerogal and Icaro airlines both offer flights from major cities such as Quito or Guayaquil, but will cost around $100 (round trip). Once at the Manta airport, you will need to catch a cab to the bus station. The bus ride will take up to 3 hours and cost about $4. They depart just about every hour during the day.

If you are coming from Quito, you can catch a bus with Cooperativo Carlos Aray (02-2283-080 in Quito - 05-2300-178 in Puerto López) or Reina del Camino (02-2572-673 in Quito - 05-2300-207 in Puerto López). At the time of this writing (3/10/11), Reina del Camino may not be operating due to suspension as the result of a crash last year that killed 39 people. The trip takes about 11 hours and costs approximately $12 each way. The bus from Quito is a red-eye trip and the return from Puerto Lopez leaves early in the morning.

If you are coming from Guayaquil, they have a newer bus station called Terminal Terrestre Guayaquil located next to the airport. You will probably need to take a very short cab ride to get there. From here, catch a Jipiyapa bus directly to Puerto Lopez via the town of Jipijapa (4 hrs and approx $5). These busses do not run often, so you may want to also consider catching a Libertad Peninsular bus to Montanita (3 hrs), then in Montanita catch a Manglaralto bus to Puerto Lopez (1-1.5 hrs).

Once you have finally arrived, getting around town is easy. The village is very small and walkable. If you want to take a taxi in town, the fare should be around $1. To get to Machalilla National Park, you can take a taxi for about $6. Bus service can also take you there.

The best weather in Puerto Lopez occurs between June and November. Not only is it slightly cooler, but there is less rain, clouds, and humidity. Below is the current forecast:

Below are the monthly temperature and precipitation averages for Puerto Lopez:

Month Avg High Avg Low Average Rainfall
January 83 74 3.5"
February 83 75 4.5"
March 84 75 4.2"
April 84 74 2.4"
May 83 73 1.0"
June 82 72 0.8"
July 81 71 0.4"
August 81 70 0.1"
September 81 70 0.2"
October 81 71 0.1"
November 82 71 0.2"
December 82 73 0.6"

Tips & Additional Information
  • Puerto Lopez is fairly safe from violent crime, however, this is a poor country and robberies do happen. It is also being reported that crime is on the rise in the Manabi province.
  • Leave your valuables at home including even fake jewelry. You don't need any of that here anyway.
  • Renting a car and driving to Puerto Lopez is not recommended. It is one more valuable you might have stolen.
  • It is not recommended to walk on the beach at night.
  • Do not accept drinks from strangers or leave your drink unattended in a bar.
  • Do not drink the tap water! Bottled water only.
  • All beaches in Ecuador are public.
  • Nude sunbathing is NOT allowed.
  • Do not forget suntan lotion and mosquito repellent.
  • Most of the locals do not speak English, however, many of the hotel owners are expats and can help.

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