When traveling up the coast of Ecuador, it’s hard to miss Puerto López. Even though this fishing village has a humble population of 16,000, it’s one of the most visited areas of the country. This is due to the staggering amount of activities and attractions that can be indulged in. From spotting humpback whales to touring the neighboring islands, beaches and Machalilla National Park, Puerto López has something for everyone. This town comes to life every night with a series of beachside bars, which is an open invitation for the world to experience its beauty.

Even though the future looks bright, Puerto López boasts an equally intriguing past. From the years 3,500 BC to 700 AD, this area was inhabited by a series of native cultures. The Machalilla, Valdivia Chorrera, Bahía, Guangula, Manteña and Engoroy cultures were just a few of the civilizations that called this beach their home. It wasn’t until 1810 that the area was discovered by the Spanish explorer José González and the Chileno Juan Carpite. From 1820 to 1840, the area was inhabited by a mixture of nomadic fishermen and affluent local families.

Today, Puerto López embodies the charm of Ecuador’s tourism industry. Despite mostly flying under the international radar, this area is a hit amoungst South American tourists. Once you visit, it’s easy to see why so many visitors flock to this laidback coastline. To showcase what’s available, we compiled a list of the best things to do in Puerto López. This town is filled with attractions, so don’t miss it on your next trip to Ecuador!

Top Things to Do in Puerto López

Activity #1: Visit Los Frailes – For those who want access to a clean beach with plenty of privacy, this area can’t be beaten. Los Frailes is part of the National Park of Machalilla, so its entryway is heavily regulated. For many visitors, this is a double-edged sword. Even though their level of restrictions borders on being hysterical, there’s no denying it’s effectiveness. Unlike many beaches in Ecuador, no potential trash is allowed. This means visitors can’t bring snacks and candies with plastic wrappers that will eventually get tossed on the beach. There are no ambulantes, marijuaneros or stray dogs. While these factors make the beach appear empty, removing these classic South American staples does have its virtues.

It’s a gorgeous beach, and they go to great lengths to keep it that way. This area is also the last stop of a two-hour hike that crosses through Playita Negra and La Tortuguita Beach. It boasts a gorgeous mirador, which makes the effort well-worth it. The beach is also home to plenty of wild crabs that range from dark black to bright red. These crabs pinch hard, so only trap them if you dare!

Activity #2: Visit Isla Salango – Even though Isla de La Plata steals the show, this often-overlooked island offers more activities. Located off the shores of the southern Manabi Province, Salango is the buffer zone of the Machalilla National Park. Its communal roots go back 5,000 years, which perfectly compliment the neighboring natural attractions. Visitors can snorkel in its gorgeous waters, visit prestine beaches and spot patas azules. This area was a blast to tour, just make sure to wear sunscreen!