Puerto Lopez, Manabi
It's whale season, y'all! But it won't be here for long. In fact, we have just about one month left of wonderful humpback whales breaching in the attractive waters off the southern Manabitan beaches.
The city is a great place to get to know for a few reasons:
1) Puerto Lopez is the perfect jumping off point for Isla de la Plata. For those practicing "budget travel," you may have heard of the island, commonly known as the "poor man's Galapagos." As opposed to the $200/day rates for the Galapagos, not including the plane fare and entry fee, a trip to Isla de la Plata for the day (which is the only kind of trip you can have, given that there are no places to stay on the island) is usually less than $50.
2) The beaches are great. Behind the handful of stands serving local snacks and tropical juices you have a couple of miles of beautiful sand to make use of. The water is clear enough on a sunny day to see the beautiful fish that swim in the shallows, and the incline of the wet sand area is near-perfect for skim-boarding. Something for the whole family!
3) Playa los Frailes. Los Frailes is a virtually un-noticed national treasure about 9 km north of Puerto Lopez. It happens to be a beach that is inside of a national park, meaning that you can not drive up to it, and there are not restaurants or travel agencies on the beach. That's right peace-seekers - it's just you, your book, and whoever else has the motivation to walk a couple of km into one of the most pristine beaches in Ecuador. Bring food, water, sunscreen, and enjoy :)
4) Whales. From May to October you can go on whale watching adventures for $15-$20 just off the beaches of Puerto Lopez. The most talked about whaling season is July to September, due to the especially interesting activity of the whales at that time of year, though for those interested in having a fun activity at the beach, May, June and October will do just fine. Many of the whale watching adventures (sans Isla de la Plata) include a brief snorkeling period near the shore that are home to 8-10 species of colorful fish.
So hurry on down to Puerto Lopez! One more month until we all have to wait till May!