In this summary we are going to speak about 3 towns we visited on the Ecuadorian coast: Machalilla, Puerto Lopez & Montañita.
What is there to say about this place? The town itself is pretty unspectacular and we are sure not many tourist have stayed here before. But Machalilla is home to the Machalilla national park, which is a natural reserve. Inside the park are several beautiful beaches. The most famous one is the „Los Frailes“ beach. Locals will most probably tell you that „Los Frailes“ is in the top 10 of the most beautiful beaches worldwide. Not sure about you, but we normally don’t trust rankings, especially as beauty depends on your personal preferences. Anyhow, los Frailes is an amazing beach, it is worth visiting and it might be one of the nicest beach spots in Ecuador. We also loved the other beaches in the park, if you visit before midday you might be lucky to have them for yourself. We have been to the national park in December and we have to say it was in general never crowded with the temperature being around 25-30 degrees (celsius).
There are different hiking tracks inside the park, the longest track takes approx. 2 hours and ends at Los Frailes. Be sure to do this before midday or you’ll most probably get burned by the sun.
In order to visit the park and beaches it is not necessary to stay in Machalilla, most tourists stay in fact in Puerto Lopez which is 30 to 40mins tuk-tuk ride away. A ride shouldn’t cost you more than 2$. As we already said the town of Machalilla is pretty unspectacular, in total there are 2 hostels. A private room costs max. 20$ a night. There are no supermarkets, no ATMs and only 3 restaurants. It is the right spot if you want to disconnect for real. If that sounds too dead or sleepy for you than Puerto Lopez is the better choice.
Puerto Lopez has a large beach with several awesome beach bars, way more hostels, restaurants, supermarkets and therefore you’ll find more backpackers and tourists to hangout with. From Puerto Lopez and Machalilla you can organize also a couple of boat trips, if you happen to be there in the right season you can try whale watching. June to September is supposed to be the best time to spot humpback whales. Apparently tours are offered throughout the whole year though. We didn’t try it in December, but Rubén’s parents did in October 2019 and were lucky to see a couple of whales pretty close to their boat. You should be able to pay less than 20$ for the trip, as a tour lasts only an hour.
If you didn’t manage to visit the Galapagos islands then you could consider visiting Isla de la Plata. The so called „Galapagos island for the poor“. It is just a small island and there is no possibility to stay there over night. We did not try this tour either, but we know that the island is inhabited by blue footed Boobies, turtles, sea lions and iguanas. That means you should be able to get a taste of Galapagos as these are the same animals you find on the famous islands. You can also snorkel or dive. Visiting Isla de la Plata will cost more or less 25$. It is even combinable with the whale watching for less around 40$.
If Puerto Lopez was still too quite for you and you feel like a party for a change than a roughly one hour bus ride further south lies Montañita. We paid 2.50$ for the bus, a bus should pass by Machalilla and Puerto Lopez every hour, but don’t expect the buses to be on time.
We stayed in a hostel a bit outside of the town centre, directly at the beach. The hostel was still under construction and therefore we only paid 15$ per night for a private room. It was a 20 minutes walk from the center, which is fine as you can walk along the beautiful beach. Hostels in the town centre are definitely more expensive, expect to pay min. 20$ for a room, probably more.
Montañita itself is really mostly about partying. The biggest club in town is called „Lost Beach“, when we went there they played mainly old school electro/techno. There is a party nearly every day in Montañita, but only during the weekend, when also young locals head to the town, it get’s really crowded. Montañita is supposed to be also a good surfing spot, during our two days stay we were unlucky though as the waves were very low and therefore surfing didn’t make any sense.