Puerto López is the town when it comes to marine life. Fishing boats come and go every day. And 4 months a year, Puerto López is the epicenter for whale watching. A visit to Isla de la Plata to see the blue foot boobies, the National Park Machalilla and the surrounding villages of Montañita and Machalilla are also possible from Puerto López. The coast of Ecuador is definitely worth a visit for a day or 2. What is there to do in Puerto López? And how do you get there and back?
Between June and September, about 400 humpback whales swim around the region to mate or have their young and then swim back to Antarctica. These months are therefore very suitable to join a tour to look for the humpback whales. And if you’re lucky, you’ll also get a gift show where the males want to impress the females by showing their best jumps.
There are two tour options if you want to watch whales. With the shorter tour you go out to sea and there is about 30 minutes of whale watching in the program and then look for the blue-footed boobies on the mainland. This tour lasts approximately 3 hours, from approximately 11 AM – 2 PM, and costs $25. Another option is a full day tour. On this tour you will sail to Isla de la Plata (Poors mans island, small version of the Galapagos) and look for humpback whales along the way. If you do not or hardly see them on the way there, time is set aside for the way back to view the whales. On the island of Isla de la Plata you take a walk of a few hours and you will also see the blue-footed boobies and many other birds. Then there is another moment for snorkeling where you can see manta rays, stingrays, many species of fish and sea turtles. This full-day tour is from 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM and lunch, snacks and drinks are included in this tour. Many travel agencies in Puerto López, mainly on the Malecón (boulevard) offer this tour between June and September. Everywhere the tour is the same and you pay $45. The tour organizations make a group together, so it doesn’t matter where you book.
Between June and September is the best time to do this tour, given the presence of the whales and a large number of blue-footed boobies and other birds that are giving birth at that time. The temperature on the island of Isla de la Plata is fine, but not super hot.
If you go outside the whale season, keep in mind that the month of April is very warm. Between December and February is the rainy season and Isla de la Plata is beautifully green.
Puerto López is especially a practical destination to stay if you want to go on a boat trip. The town has a nice Malecón (boulevard) along the beach with cozy bars, cafes and restaurants, but is otherwise not very special. You will also find many tour organizations (open until about 7 pm). If you want more atmosphere, you can also choose to stay in Montañita (1 hour by bus) or Machalilla (20 minutes). If you are staying in one of these villages and want to join a tour, take extra travel time in the morning into account. You can also book a tour there or in your ho(s)tel. You can also do a whale tour from Salinas, but then you cannot go to Isla de la Plata, that is too far away.
In principle, 1 day is enough in Puerto López. If you have more time, you can choose to visit the neighboring villages such as Montañita or Machalilli or go to the National Park Machalilli. The park is a large nature reserve with a number of beautiful beaches.
How do you get there and back?
You get to Puerto López with a direct bus from Quito (over 10 hours, $16). If you travel from Baños (de Agua Santa) or Cuenca, you travel via Guayaquil (during the day). There is a bus with the bus company Jipijapa from Terminal Terrestre Guayaquil about every hour. Tickets are sold at counter 26, cost $6.25 and the journey takes approximately 4 hours. It is advisable to take the bus from 2 pm or earlier so that you do not arrive too late in Puerto Lopez and can arrange a tour on time, for example. There are also night buses from Baños directly to Montañita (departure at 7:30 PM, $18). Then you will arrive in Montañita around 8 am. From there you can take the bus to Puerto Lopez (1 hour).
From Puerto López you can go in all directions. If you want to go to Cuenca or Baños (the Agua Santa) you go via Guayaquil (Terminal Terrestre de Guayaquil). There is a bus to Guayaquil with company Jipijapa about every hour, between 4:00 AM – 5:00 PM, takes about 4.5 hours and costs $6.25. There are also regular buses to Manta and Montañita.
A bus goes to Quito 5 times a day, 5.00/8.00/9.15/13:00/21:00 with 2 different bus companies. The journey takes 10 hours (but it is worth taking more time into account) and costs $16 per person.