Playa Los Frailes in Machalilla National Park, Ecuador
Playa Los Frailes (The Friars Beach in English) – is one of the most popular day excursions from Puerto Lopez in Southern Ecuador. It is a lovely moon-shaped beach backed by rocky cliffs and vegetation on the outskirts dotted with wild flowers.
There are a few spots to tuck under for a bit of shade on one of the blistering hot days during summer (December to March) but you may want to ‘do as the Ecuadorians do’ and bring a tent to protect yourself from the sun if spending a full-day at the beach. Or at the very least an umbrella!
Playa Los Frailes is part of the approximate 136,000 acre Parque Nacional Machalilla – a protected coastal nature reserve. There is no entrance fee and the park is open from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. The water at Playa Los Frailes is clear for the most part, a welcome change from the murky (and often filled with floating trash) beach break that fronts Puerto Lopez: Photos & Video – Fish Market and Beach at Puerto Lopez.
You can drive from the entrance off the highway to the beach, or walk along two trails; one is on the pothole-filled, dirt road (50 minute or so easy walk) and the other an ‘off-road’ trail that winds through Machalilla National Park (1 hour or so). You can take a bus from Puerto Lopez to the entrance off the highway – around 20 minutes, 50 cents. Then you can take a tuk tuk for $1 USD or walk. Note: Prices current as of May, 2012.
Facing the water there is another beach to the right, but it is not safe for swimming. There is a path connecting the two beaches, about a 5 minute walk. Behind both beaches is a lookout point you can hike to (around 20 minutes) – Las Fragatas Mirador (Frigate Birds Lookout in English).
To see the beach up close and personal from the entrance at the parking lot (just 2 minute walk) view this YouTube video: Walking to Los Frailes Beach.
There is also a small artisan stand (can see in video) and an ice cream/cold drinks vendor. No snacks or cold beer are on sale – send President Correa a letter of complaint.
Please pick-up and take all your trash when you leave – that includes cigarette butts. There are bathrooms and shower facilities. No camping is allowed, you will see tents on the beach that folks bring to provide shade from the sun, not to sleep in.
Photographs & video by Molly McHugh, all rights reserved.