It´s time to travel the world with your dog!
V I A J E R O S P E R R U N O S
ECUADORIAN COAST. FIRST PART: GUAYAQUIL - PUERTO LÓPEZ AND MACHALILLA NP
The traveler needs to travel next to the Pacific to get closer to the coastal culture, full of beautiful beaches, mangroves and friendly and fun people. These lands are honoured for having housed the first civilizations in South American (more than 11,000 years ago). It is also the place where Francisco Pizarro set foot on the continent for the first time, before initiating the Inca destruction. Come and meet their friendly people, eat delicious meals (the spectacular culinary of Manabí and Esmeraldas stands out) and sunbathe on the coastal route of the Spondylus. Some places to stop on this southern part are the following (click here to see the north section):
Montañita and Olón
Puerto López and Machalilla National Park (including Isla de la Plata)
The most inhabited city in the country, and capital of the province of Guayas, it was not a stop on my itinerary (I was only in the bus terminal), but there are some interesting points, and it is on the way if you are coming to the coast from Cuenca... Enjoy its boardwalk of almost 3 km facing the Guayas River, its street markets (such as La Bahía), the views of the city Santa Ana Hill, and have fun with the “Guayaquileños”.
Small fishing community in the province of Santa Elena whose main charm is that it does not receive tourists. Everyone jumps from Guayaquil to Montañita, forgetting than there are on the way authentic towns like this one. Here you will have the opportunity to watch the locals living from fishing (both going fishing by boat and selling the products at seafood stalls on the street), as well as engaging in conversations and sharing with these nice people. The beach is full of pelicans, gulls and frigatebirds.
Montañita and Olón
The cradle of madness and crazy characters is called Montañita, a small tourist town on a beautiful beach where everyone gathers (people from all over the world!). If you are looking for meeting people, laugh and have fun this is your place. Excellent spot for surfers as well. But beware: we are faced with a trap in which many get stuck longer than they wish! Its relaxed atmosphere and, above all, your new friends/loves will probably make you want to stay longer "wandering". What a pity, right? By the way, if you are into crafts this is a good destination to settle a few weeks, as many travelers come and go so you will have a good chance to sell your works.
On the other hand, if you are looking for peace, its neighbor Olón (you can walk from Montañita) will welcome you with open arms. This charming town is just the opposite: (almost) everyone is local, and its extensive, golden beach is waiting just for you...
Puerto López and Machalilla National Park
This beautiful town (in the province of Manabí) tucked into a beautiful bay is the main base to visit the only National Park of the coastal region in Ecuador. This is the star attraction of the area, turning it into a must on the Spondylus Route, but the town itself is also fantastic, with a beautiful beach, cozy streets where delicious food is offered and very cheerful people. Perfect to relax a few days.
The Park stands out for its exotic ecosystem of dry forests, its hidden beaches of yellow sand, its “pissed off” waters in the open ocean and calm (and transparent) sea in sheltered areas, its cliffs with splendid views, and its enormous variety of fauna: pelicans, blue-footed boobies, frigates, whales (June to October), dolphins, turtles, fish of all colors (coral formations) and even howler monkeys and anteaters (jungle area). Along the coast there are scattered fishing villages.
Several sections of the Park stand out for their popularity:
Playa de los Frailes. This is a very nice excursion that starts a few kilometers north of Puerto López, continuing along a trail that crosses the dry forest, moving towards the sea, passing through some cliffs with awesome views and, finally, descending to sea level to enjoy several beaches with very few people. Camping on the beach is allowed.
Isla de la Plata. A must for lovers of nature and photography (wildlife watching very closely). The boats depart from Puerto López (several agencies operate this tour) and lasts a whole day. There is nothing for it but to pay up a “few” dollars… But believe me, the whales and dolphins following you along the way and the colonies of frigates and boobies on the rocks will make this experience worth it. To finish: a snorkel in a coral reef near the island, swimming with turtles and bright fish.