Vet student Kimberly, from Purdue University was based in Quito. She kept a great blog. Here is one posting to get you started.
Since the real Galapagos is too expensive, I opted to spend the weekend at what ecuatorianos call the poor man’s Galapagos otherwise known as Isla de la Plata. To get to Isla de la plata you have to take an 8.5 hour overnight bus ride south to the coastal town of Puerto Lopez from which you can take a boat out to the island. Puerto Lopez is a small, poor town that subsists off of fishing. Upon arrival into the town, I was less than impressed. The beach of Puerto Lopez was dirty and definitely not for sunbathers!! I don’t think it helped that it was chilly and overcast on Saturday as well. My friend and I met up with another ELI abroad volunteer stationed in Puerto Lopez and headed to Los Frailes beach about 15 minutes away from Puerto Lopez, in the protected national park Machalilla. This beach was much cleaner and prettier!
Sunday was the day we decided to tour Isla de la Plata, and thank goodness we chose Sunday because it was beautiful and sunny. Not overcast and chilly like the day before!! This is an all day excursion. The boat ride to the island is about 1.5 hours of choppy waves (which are my absolute favorite kind of boat rides!!) and you get to do some whale watching along the way. Puerto Lopez’s claim to fame is whale watching and the tour guides 100% guarantee you’ll get good whale sightings. Once you arrive to island there’s a guided 1.5 hour hike (or the longer 2.5 hour hike if you’re feeling bold and not wearing flip flops like me). We got to see tropical birds like the blue-footed boobie, turtles, Sharks, and the island’s vegetation. It’s the dry season right now so the island somewhat looked like a desert. After the hike was snorkeling! Of the percentage of the time we had to snorkel, I think I spent 30-40% of that time actually snorkeling and the rest just swimming around and enjoying the ocean
We returned to Puerto Lopez around 5:30 and had 2 hours to kill before heading to the bus station. Because I so desperately needed to shower after hiking and swimming in the ocean, I found public showers along the beachfront, which were actually just a series of showers in someone’s house where you pay 75 cents to use it. That was quite an experience…
One of the really cool parts of the coast is that they have what’s called moto-taxis. It’s like a cross between a golf cart and a rickshaw and this is how you get around via taxi. I think this is something we need to adopt in the US because it’s so cool!
So here’s the cost breakdown for this weekend. I feel like this is important to know because no one in Puerto Lopez accepts credit cards. It’s cash only so make sure you bring enough! Places in the big city of Quito barely accept credit cards. This country is basically cash only.
Hostel for one night: $10/person
Isla de la plata tour: $40
Bus ride to and from Puerto Lopez: $28
Taxi from bus station to house and from house to bus station: $10 each way
Food: $3 for breakfast, just snacked at lunch so $2, and dinner around $8-9
See all of Kimberly's blog at: https://welcomingwanderlustblog.wordpress.com/