We went to tiny little dirt-road coastal town, Puerto Lopez, in search of its beautiful nearby national park, Machalilla, where we hoped to camp on beaches for a few days. Unfortunately the local authorities had changed their laws since the Lonely Planet was written, and camping was no longer allowed, so we had to suffice with camping in a hostel garden and visiting the park as a day trip instead.
The park’s an easy tuktuk + local bus away from town, and took us on a really pretty scenic walk through dry forest, deserted coves and beaches with stunning turquoise-clear sea and soft sand. At the first little beach we came across, there were even boobies nesting on nearby headland, and given there seemed to be no-one around for miles, we took the opportunity to do some mid-morning skinny dipping, which felt amazing in the warm sea! After a fun 20 minutes splashing around, we saw a local fisherman edging over to the shore, so we quickly got our clothes back on and continued our hike!
We climbed up to a nearby mirador where we could see picturesque Los Frailes beach curving out in front of us. Los Frailes is really the main attraction of the park (and where we’d hoped to camp) – and we spent a good few hours sunbathing and lunching on the sugar-soft sand and dipping in the warm clear waters.
We’d planned on visiting a nearby indigenous village that offers mud baths, but we were rained off (the story of Ecuador!) so we spent a couple of days cooking and nesting in our hostel instead, and enjoying the little Puerto Lopez beachfront. You can also do whale watching from there (and we were in season) but at $45 each, it felt like a bit of an extravagance (especially so close to the Galapagos!) so we once again decided to reel the budget in and went without.
After a few days, we caught the bus even further down the coast to Ecuador’s second city, bustling coastal Guayaquil, from where we’d catch our flight to the Galapagos!!!