Los Frailes: the most beautiful beach in Ecuador?
Somebody told me that Los Frailes is the most beautiful beach in Ecuador, so of course I had to see for myself. Just down the road from the small fishing town of Puerto López, I found it hard to believe that it would be much different from the littered beach there. I jumped on a bus heading north out of town for 50 cents and after 15 minutes they dropped me off at the entrance to Machalilla National Park. There was no entrance fee but I did have to sign a form promising not to litter and some other stuff that I didn’t understand so just hoped I wasn’t signing my life away.
Rather than head straight to Los Frailes I followed a signposted route through the dry tropical forest, stopping off at a black sand beach to watch loads of crabs scuttling around. After passing another small beach I took a detour up to a mirador, giving great views over the park’s coastline. From July to September humpback whales breed in the surrounding waters. The path then descended onto Los Frailes, a long golden sand beach backed by green forest with waves crashing onto the shore. I may not have visited all the beaches in Ecuador, but this was definitely the most beautiful of those I’ve seen on the mainland. The only slight negative was the lack of shade on the sand. I sat under a small poisonous apple tree, whose leaves can apparently cause an itchy rash. Not ideal. The beach did have toilets and an ice cream seller, so I guess it did redeem itself.
Just after 4pm we were told the park was closing so we’d have to leave. It took half an hour or so to walk directly back to the entrance along the gravel road, and then a fair wait for a bus heading back to Puerto López. Just as I was starting to worry there wouldn’t be a bus, one turned up. It was full but the conductor gave me his seat next to the driver, and next to the door they left completely open! I don’t like sitting at the front where I can see Ecuadorian bus drivers’ crazy driving anyway, so having a front seat view and worrying about falling onto the road from a 60 mph bus didn’t make for the most comfortable journey back. Another passenger did take my mind off imminent death by joyfully pointing out his face on posters pasted around town advertising his comedy show.