June – September is the whale-watching season on the Ecuadorian coast. Puerto Lopez is a good place to do it from and the chance to see many whales is largest in July – August. In Puerto Lopez there are many tour agencies where you can book a whale-watching tour or a tour to Isla de La Plata with whale-watching along the way. I would recommend the tour to Isla de La Plata as that is also a place worth visiting. Some people bargain for cheap whale-watching tours with fishermen, but then it is possible that the boat is very slow and lack life west and radio. I paid $40 for a full day tour to Isla de La Plata with whale-watching along the way. It also included lunch.
Going back from Isla de La Plata we were looking for whales and following them. We were very lucky to see many and especially Humpback Whales leaping up from the water and landing on their backs with a big splash. A fantastic sight!
It is the Humpback Whales you usually see when doing a whale-watching tour from Puerto Lopez. They become around 12 – 16 metres long and weigh almost 40 tons. They are black or grey with a white underside, and they have long flippers.
The Humpback Whales feed during summer in the sea near the pools and in winter they migrate to warmer waters around the equator. They can often be seen near the coastline.
The name Humpback Whales comes from the hump they have on their back.
I booked the tour to Isla de La Plata through the hotel where I stayed, Hotel Pacifico. The full day tour was $40 (July 2012). I was picked up by someone at the hotel just after nine in the morning and we walked on to a travel agency further down the Malecón. There we waited for everyone to arrive, 16 tourists and two guides altogether, before we walked on to the boat Palo Santo.
The boat tour to Isla de La Plata usually takes one hour, but during whale season it might take longer if you see whales and make stops. On our way to Isla de La Plata we only saw one whale, but we were much luckier on the way back.
Just before arriving to Isla de La Plata we got a muffin, a banana and a water bottle. I ate the muffin and banana before we started the hike to get some energy, as we were not getting anything else to eat until we were coming back to the boat. We all hiked together up to a view point where several trails began. One group was taking the west loop which is 5 km and the other group the east loop which is 3.5 km. We all enjoyed the trail we chose. Coming back to the boat we went aboard and got our lunch there, as the boat took off.
For lunch we got two sandwiches, one with tuna and the other with cheese and ham. We also got watermelon and pineapple to eat and coca-cola to drink. There was more water on board so we could refill our water bottles.
We didn’t go very far but stopped in a small bay so that the people who wanted to could snorkel. I had recently had an operation and could not snorkel, which was a disappointment for me. Not many people were interested in snorkeling though, and if I had gone snorkeling I might have been disappointed anyway, as they only snorkeled for 20 minutes and they didn’t see very much (we were not very close to the shore and the water was several metres deep). We saw a big turtle swimming under the boat though. When it is not whale season they usually do more snorkeling during the tour, but now we were going to look for whales on the way back.
We were very lucky on the way back and saw many big Humpback Whales. The first ones we saw we saw the back or tail of, some near the boat and others further away. Closer to Puerto Lopes we saw a group of whales jumping, coming up with their nose first, turning and landing with a big splash. It was a spectacular sight. It was really impressive and I’m happy to have seen this show!
We came back to Puerto Lopes around 18.00.
This island can be reached by hirong a boat in Puerto Lopez. It means Silver Island and is sometimes referred to as the Galapagos of the poors.
The island is reputed for bird watching but it depends on the season so make sure it really worth it before going.
Once again because of this stupid accident I could not go there. You can have a look at Maillekeul's page for further information and pics.
Machalilla National Park is situated in Provincia de Manabí, just north of Puerto Lopez. It is Ecuador’s only coastal national park (mainland) and it was created in 1979 to protect the unique tropical dry forest. A long time ago most of the coast used to be covered with dry tropical forest, but now very little remain, and almost all can be found within the national park. Among other plants you will see large Candelabra Cacti, Prickly Pear cacti, Yellow Geiger, Barbasco, Palo Santo trees and Ceibos.
The park consists of almost 40 000 hectares of land with tropical dry forest and humid cloud forest and around 20 000 hectares of ocean, which includes islands like Isla de La Plata and Isla Salango.
In Machalilla National Park I have visited Isla de La Plata, a beautiful island where you can see large seabirds like Blue-footed Boobies, Nazca Boobies, Red-footed Boobies, Frigate birds and Waved Albatrosses. As I visited during the whale-watching season (June – September) we also saw lots of humpback whales on our way back to the main land.
I have also visited Playa Los Frailes, which is considered to be one of the most beautiful beaches in Ecuador. Besides Playa Los Frailes several small peaceful beaches can be found within the park.
Another place I have visited in the national park is Agua Blanca. During archaeological excavations traces of six different cultures have been found, and in the village Agua Blanca you can see some of the findings in the small museum, and in the surrounding area there is an important Manteño site, where the basement of many houses can be seen.
If I visit the area again I would definitely like to take the 4h hike to San Sebastian, which is situated more inland, at an altitude of 600 metres. In this area the surrounding vegetation is humid cloud forest.
From Puerto Lopez you can go on organized tours to the national park. To visit Isla de La Plata you must take a tour, but Playa Los Frailes and Agua Blanca I visited on my own, by taking a bus and then walking from the turnoffs.
I have got more photos and info on my Parque Nacional Machalilla page and on my Isla de La Plata page.
The main attraction of Puerto Lopez (and the reason why we went there) is the proximity with Parque Nacional Machalilla.
Numerous agencies offer tours to the park.
Unfortunately, because of a stupid accident I won't tell here, I could not go there.
Your hotel or any agency should be able to provide you with the necessary information.
You can see the fishermen coming back to the beach and unload their catch most mornings.
Many of the fishing boats are blue wooden small boats, which, together with the seabirds trying to grab the scraps, offer a nice view on the morning.
We went to see the humpback whales with one of the agencies offering a boat trip out to see them. And they were just there, a glimpse of a tail, or even a whale jumping out of the water. The trip then goes close to Isla de la Plata, the 'poor man's Galapagos' just off the coast. You can see big fish, and birds (not a bird lover but I'm sure they're birds worth seeing...) I'm not usually travel sick but this boat trip was quite choppy choppy!
There are several desert beaches close to Puerto Lopez at walkable distance. Just use your feelings and discover yours!
THe shorefront offers a good view on the beach. There are a lot of reasonably priced seafood restaurants and cafes.
On the northern part of the beach in front of the Hostería Mandala you can check the distance to your country.