Playa Los Frailes

Reputed to be the most beautiful beach in Ecuador and the star of countless posters, Los Frailes is 30 minutes North of Puerto Lopez by bus. If you wish to test that reputation but aren’t planning to visit rest of the park you can buy a cheaper beach-only day ticket for USD 10

The bus drops you off at a signed turn off. There’s a ticket booth and a house where you can store luggage and buy cokes and water. There are no refreshments available at the beach and the sun can be intense so it’s important to stock up. From there it’s a circular walk which takes 2-2.5 hrs. A 3.5-km trail winds down to the beach and leads across three separate beaches. The first two are in smaller protected bays on either side of a headland. One has black sand and one white. The third is the famous beach and deservedly so – it’s a huge white sweep of sand framed by forested cliffs. It’s sparkling clean and has been protected from any form of human construction. The big crabs rule here. From there it’s a 2.5-km walk back on an unpaved road.

Los Frailes is well worth it if the sun’s shining but the price is hard to justify on an overcast day, particularly if you bear in mind that there is a whole coastline of fabulous beaches, which cost nothing, waiting to be explored.