“A simple life is good with me. I don’t need a whole lot. For me, a T-shirt, a pair of shorts, barefoot on a beach and I’m happy.” (Yanni)
Playa de Los Frailes, part of Machalilla National Park, is located about 12 kilometers north of Puerto Lopez and is easily reached by bus or taxi. We took a bus to the park entrance and walked to the beach, but you can hire a moto-taxi at the entrance to take you right to the water.
It’s a beautiful, pristine beach, with an observation deck perched high on a bluff at the north end. From this gazebo, you can see 360 degrees – all of Los Frailes beach to the south, dry forest to the east, Isla de la Plata to the west, and other beaches to the north, close to the town of Machalilla – check out the video at the end of this post.
At the information center we received instructions – in Spanish – from a park attendant concerning the trail through the dry forest to the beach. With our limited Spanish, we understood only part of what he said – caminando…sendero…serpentes – something about walking on the trail and snakes.
As we started to walk down the beach trail, a couple from Argentina, who were walking behind us, yelled to us saying not to take the trail. Apparently, the attendant warned us not to walk this trail because poisonous snakes are present during the rainy season – and there is no antidote at the park office. Another good reason to learn Spanish!
So, we walked to the beach on the road, which took us about 45 minutes – watching for snakes the entire time…we didn’t see any. We met a couple from the Netherlands along the way, who were spending 6 months traveling all of South America. They noticed our Nova Scotian accents but thought we were from Texas…
We also met seven young women from Argentina who were spending some time in the party town of Montanita before heading to Banos to see the erupting Tungurahua volcano. Everyone we met from abroad spoke English!
After walking south to the end of the beach, we went for a swim and ate our lunch in the shade of an overhanging cliff. Next, we headed north to the other end of the beach and took a trail leading to the viewpoint high above – along the way, we saw lots of lizards scurrying away to hide, and many cactus plants.
Palo Santo trees grow in the dry forest along the coast of Ecuador. When burned, the wood is a natural mosquito repellent with a very pleasant aroma – you can smell it as you walk through many of the beach towns. It’s also said to rid your house of evil spirits and is a cure for arthritis, flu, asthma, and allergies. There’s a store in Puerto Lopez where you can buy pieces of Palo Santo for burning, along with soap, shampoo, oils, incense sticks, and other products. You can arrange for a tour of their factory in town.
It was a great day, not too hot on the beach, and we got our exercise for the day hiking up to the top of the bluff. We took a moto-taxi back to the highway and flagged down a bus to take us home to Puerto Lopez.
Los Frailes Beach is a must visit while you’re in the Puerto Lopez area. Plan to spend the whole day – go swimming and hiking, bring a lunch and lots of water. Plan to visit other parts of Machalilla National Park too, especially Isla de la Plata, the “Poor Man’s Galapagos”, with its blue-footed boobies – it’s next on our list!