Puerto Lopez is For the Birds

Puerto Lopez, Ecuador is a place that is dominated by fish and birds. This small fishing village has a very genuine feel to it – instead of piles of surfing tourists, you’re more likely run into fishermen carrying out the day’s work as you stroll along the beach. There’s a nice new boardwalk that carries you along the shoreline, past little shops and eateries and tour companies, and that’s where we spent most of our time.

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If you head just a block or two behind that, you reach the residential Puerto Lopez, defined by dirt roads and canal walkways. People sit in front of their houses on the hot evenings, playing cards and watching children running around being adorable. Our hostel was in a residential corner, and it was nice to see how life was really lived in this village.

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Our favorite part of Puerto Lopez by far was dinner at a little restaurant called Bell Italia. You follow curious little signs throughout town that promise you’ll get there soon, only you’re not quite sure where there is, or what waits for you when you arrive. As it turns out, Bell Italia is a restaurant in the beautifully gardened patio of an older Italian couple, who play delightful music in their kitchen and serve you with incredibly sumptuous handmade pasta dishes. It’s pricey for Ecuador but absolutely worth it. If I could have gotten married in that garden and served tiramisu for dessert I would have done it on the spot. Highly recommended.

Like most tourists, though, we had come to Puerto Lopez mostly as a base to get other places. The first was Playa de los Frailes, a supposedly gorgeous beach in Machalilla National Park. I had hoped to take a half-day hike through the park along several beaches, but gross weather meant we did a short slog through mud and had to end our hike after the first overlook to get out before the park closed. I’m sure it would have been three times as awesome on a clear day!

While my dreams of a beautiful day on Los Frailes were dashed due to rain and miscommunications, we did get an incredibly memorable trip to Isla de la Plata, or the poor man’s Galapagos. That’s where you go to hang out with crabs and birds and beautiful views – we were there just days after babies had been born, which meant we saw Blue-Footed Boobies in every stage of life.

The day trips to Isla de la Plata are pretty standard – I think we paid less than $30 each for the whole trip, which included boat rides there and back, really tasty snacks, a wonderfully long time snorkeling with gear provided, and a guided tour on the island. Absolutely worth it.

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Our time on and around Isla de la Plata was definitely one of the highlights of the vacation. Though I should say: snorkeling  was more terrifying than I expected. It’s so hard to convince yourself to breathe underwater! Once I got the hang of it, though, I was giddy and could not be stopped. Such a great experience, and I’m glad it was built into the tour.

Also, the cheese in Ecuador is amazing. Even the snack sandwiches of just cheese and marmalade were to die for.

Anyway, we’re almost to the end of the trip… just a quick recap of Mindo and we’re back to the United States. It’s amazing how fast time can move when you’re caught up in life.

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