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Beyond Salango, the coast road cuts across the brow of a hill and down to PUERTO LÓPEZ, a small fishing town strung along a wide, crescent-shaped bay. Enjoying an undeniably picturesque setting, the town’s golden sands are set off by the turquoise waters of the ocean and the green hills rising on either side.

At close quarters Puerto López is a rather untidy place with potholed streets, crumbling buildings and a far-from-spotless beach. Still, the town itself is improving all the time, and the surge of morning activity from busy fishermen and the swarm of children playing in the breakers after school give the place a spirited atmosphere.

Most visitors come to explore the surrounding beaches and forests and the Isla de la Plata, all part of the nearby Parque Nacional Machalilla; its headquarters and information centre are based here at García Moreno and Eloy Alfaro. Puerto López is also one of the country’s main centres for whale-watching (June–Sept), when hundreds of humpbacks arrive off the coast and tour operators fight over the hundreds of visitors who come to see them.

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