Playa Los Frailes is considered to be one of the most beautiful beaches in Ecuador. It is a long crescent-shaped beach with crabs running over the white sand. The water is turquoise and behind the beach are hills with dry forest vegetation. There are strong currents so be careful if you go swimming. Unfortunately I couldn’t swim as I had had an operation only a week previously. There were not many people on the beach when I visited and it was very calm and quiet.
I arrived to Playa Los Frailes by walking the 3 km long trail. Along the path there were Palo Santo trees, Yellow Geiger and different bushes. I saw a snake, lizards and some butterflies. At Mirador Isolete Sucre there was a beautiful view over the coast, Isolete Sucre and Machalilla. From the viewpoint the path descended to the small quiet beach Playa Prieta, where only Ghost Crabs ran around. The next beach I came to was Playa Tortuguita. It was also beautiful and tranquil, but here I saw the first person I had seen since I started my walk. He was leaning against one of the rocks and he was smoking. It is forbidden to smoke in the park, something the park ranger had told me and he wanted me to tell that to people if I saw anyone doing it. Alone on this beach with a stranger I absolutely didn’t want to go over to him and tell him to stop smoking in the National Park. I continued my walk and came to a fork in the trail. One path was leading up to Mirador Las Frigatas and the other one to Playa Los Frailes. I walked up to the view point first, from where there was a fabulous view along the coast. At this view point there were some other people too. I walked back down and then there was just a few hundred metres left to Playa Los Frailes.
The walk along the trail, with stops to read signs and to take photos, took over an hour. When I left Playa Los Frailes I walked the dirt road back to the turnoff and it took about half an hour.
Behind the beach there is a car park, bathrooms, a few souvenir stalls and there was a woman selling drinks and ice cream.
In my guidebooks it says you must pay a high national park admission before coming here, but in July 2012 when I visited it didn’t cost anything, luckily. Playa Los Frailes is within the Machalilla National Park.
Agua Blanca is a small village situated within the Macalilla National Park. There are around 300 inhabitants in the village and there is a small museum, a church and a couple of restaurants.
When you visit you pay an admission of $5 (July 2012) at the turnoff on the main road. From there it is another 5 km to walk. The admission includes a visit to the small museum in the village and a 2h guided walk in the area around the village. The guiding is in Spanish. I arrived with bus from Puerto Lopez to the turnoff and halfway walking the road to Aga Blanca I got a lift.
I visited the museum on my own and then I went on the guided tour with two other tourists and a guide from the village. We walked passed farmland and were told that they cultivate without pesticides in Agua Blanca. We continued through typical dry forest landscape with Ceibos, Palo Santo and Barbasco trees. The trail also passes an important archaeological site of the Manteño culture. They lived here around AD 800 – 1500 and what can be seen here today are the base of several hundred buildings. Some of the artifacts found at the excavations of the area can be found in the small museum in the village. We continued to a large sulfur pool where I would have liked to take a dip but because I had done an operation a week earlier I couldn’t. On the way back to the village I saw there was a view point and I thought the guide was going to take us there. He passed the path up to the view point so I asked if we couldn’t go there. And as the other two tourists also wanted to go there we did.
Isla de La Plata is a small island situated 37 km northwest of Puerto Lopes. The island is part of Machalilla National Park, which was formed in 1979. The island is often referred to as Poor man’s Galapagos, because many of the big nesting seabirds that are present on Galapagos Islands can be seen on Isla de La Plata too. Well, it can’t be compared to Galapagos Islands (where I have also been), but Isla de La Plata is anyway a very nice place to visit and should not be missed if you visit the Ecuadorian coast.
On the island you can see Magnificent Frigatebirds, Blue-footed Boobies, Red-footed Boobies, Nazca Boobies and Waved Albatrosses (April – October). You can only visit Isla de La Plata on a tour from Puerto Lopez and when you do you have to choose which trail to take. That means you will not see all of the bird mentioned as some can only be seen along one of the trails and others along the other trail. Whichever trail you choose to take you will have spectacular views. Around the island there are some great snorkeling spots and tours normally stop for snorkeling too, but only for a short time when it is whale-watching season and more time is spent to look for Humperback Whales.
Isla de La Plata means Silver Island and there are different explanations of how the island got its name. One says it comes from the colour of the large amount of guano that covers the cliffs, another explanation says it comes from the legend that Sir Francis Drake buried a treasure here.
You can read more about the tour to Isla de La plata and see more photos on my Isla de La Plata page.
We lost ourselves in Agua Blanca, a reserve next to Puerto Lopez...
And it was very nice !!!
We had the opportunity to talk with people living in Agua Blanca and they are very sweet, nice and will smile without any bias ...
On s'est un peu perdu a Agua Blanca, une reserve pres de Puerto Lopez... Mais, on regrette pas. On n'a pu discuter avec les habitants de cette reserve, et ils etaient des plus accueillants...