If you've just arrived in Latin America, you may find Puerto Lopez's run-down streets charming. On the other hand, if you've been travelling in the region for a while, you'll recognise that this is a town without too much love for itself.
Nevertheless, Puerto Lopez is a necessary hub for day-trips to the most gorgeous beach in Ecuador and the closest thing to the Galapagos that a backpacker on a strict budget can afford. It is also a convenient starting point for a number of travellers visiting the coast from inland.
There are around half a dozen hostels in Puerto Lopez, with the majority in the centre of town a street or so away from the beach (within one or two blocks of each other). Considering this is not a terribly pretty town, the hostels are a little over-priced, with a double costing around $20 - $25 per night (dorms can however be found for $8).
We stayed at Hostal Fragata, located one block away from the beach and well-signposted. Despite being one of the bigger and most popular hostels in town, it's a difficult place to recommend (the kitchen is by far the dirtiest we have ever seen!). It is however, probably on par with a number in town.
If you're looking for something more pleasant, we'd recommend you check out Viejamar Hostel, located 15 minutes outside of Puerto Lopez. With a pool, beach access and great facilities it's certainly worth the tuk-tuk fare out of town!
WHAT TO DO
The main reason to spend a couple of days here is either a day-trip to Isla de la Plata or Los Frailes - both of which are part of the Machalilla National Park and can be reached easily from Puerto Lopez.
A organised to tour to Isla de la Plata should cost between $30 - 35 per person and can easily be arranged the day before outside of public holidays.
For more information on how to reach the beautiful Los Frailes, see our guide.
Additionally, between June and October, this is a fantastic spot to spend a few hours on a whale sighting boat. Prices start at $20.
The beach in Puerto Lopez is surprisingly nice in comparison to the rest of the town and given that it forms part of a working port with large numbers of fishing boats. Nicer beaches are however not too far away (find guides on them at the bottom of this post.)
WHERE TO EAT
In the area of town where most of the hostels are, you'll find a few pizza places but little else. Along the beach front there are also a number of options.
There is a TIA supermarket in town, as well as two smaller independent stores on the main street. We however, could only find one fruit and veg shop with slightly inflated prices.
Puerto Lopez is a transport hub with buses going north, south, to Guayaquil, Quito and the highlands. You will find the bus station around a 30-minute walk out of town - we recommend you take a tuk-tuk there for $1.
Buses to Quito leave at 5 a.m., 8 a.m., 9 a.m., 10 p.m. and 11 p.m and cost $12-14.
If you're heading to Latacunga to do the Quilotoa Loop, take the 7 a.m. bus to Quevedo and change buses there.