La Playa de Puerto López
We (Emily, Carol, and I) arrived in Manta at 6 AM, took another bus to Puerto Lopez at 8 AM, and arrived at 10 AM. We took a tuk-tuk from the bus station to a hostel called Hostel Machalilla (3 beds, hot showers, communal kitchen, central location, internet, aka everything we need). We had a much-needed breakfast/lunch at a cute restaurant with a view of the ocean, freshly squeezed mora juice included, and then explored the beach. After walking for about a half hour to a turtle rehabilitation reserve on the other end of the beach, we swam, tanned, and then walked back to get ice cream bars. "Coquiteros" is an Ecuadorian popsicle brand made with the freshest fruit -- the coconut ones are indescribably refreshing. We then went under a pavilion and napped for an hour with a view of the sunny ocean. This is the life.
Puerto Lopez is a small fishing village set in the province of Manabí and surrounded by Machalilla National Park. Main industries include fishing and ecotourism. I would have guessed the population was about 2,000 but Google says it's 16,000, so that number probably includes a larger area than I was thinking... the actual town is only really 2 streets and 6 blocks, tops. Either way, the beach is perfect for what we were looking for. We went to the supermarket to get food for dinner and breakfast. We met a solo traveler from Germany named Clara who hung out with us for the rest of the night. After a simple veggie soup and coffee, we enjoyed the small slice of sunset the clouds allowed us to see and then walked around the main strip.
The beachfront is lined with small bar/restaurant shacks with colorful lights. We saw a lively bunch celebrating what looked like a wedding (we later found out it was a birthday) at one of these huts. After dark, we eventually got pulled in and drank caipirinhas by the water listening to reggaeton music. They were very sweet, very strong, and very tasty. We then went to the one and only discotecha and found ourselves enjoying the sand between our toes at this relaxed bar. After half an overly sugary mojito, we went back to the beach and hung out with a group of locals we had met earlier. We met a few people from different countries and listened to their stories, which is always interesting. One guy left New York three years ago and has been living in Ecuador ever since. Neat!
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