While dining at our favorite almuerzo restaurant in Canoa, a lovely, free-spirited woman from Hawaii, who traveling by herself, rolled up with her luggage alongside our table. Looking a bit frazzled, we offered to help her find a place to stay, since we had surveyed most of the hostels in town. Much to our surprise, she had visited nearly every town in Ecuador and ended up sharing an abundance of advice–including the suggestion that we stay at La Piedrero, a hostel towards the edge of town in Puerto Lopez, which promised privacy due to its remote location and allegedly offered a massive balcony over looking the ocean.
Once the bus dropped us off on the main street of Puerto Lopez, we immediately got a moto taxi (a motorcycle saddled with two additional rear wheels and an open carriage for passengers–similar to Tuk Tuks in Thailand) to take us to Punta Piedrero, which was on the southern side of the malecón, far removed from annoying traffic and blaring bar music, and directly next to the beach. Her recommendation was invaluable as we were looking for a relaxing place to spend Christmas. We negotiated a private room for $25 per night (this may seem cheap, but we had just come from Canoa where we paid $12 per night, so this was actually difficult for us to accept at first), but we had the entire place to ourselves. Our room was located on the second floor with an expansive balcony overlooking the ocean, equipped with multiple hammocks, tables and chairs. The cherry on top was our unrestricted freedom to use the large, fully-equipped kitchen on the first floor.
We occupied our time by relaxing at the beach, exploring the city, shopping at the local fish market, perusing the vegetable and fruit stores, comparing the offerings of various panaderías (bakeries), and Ryan even played in a few soccer games with the local youth.
On Christmas Eve we took a bus 20 minutes away to a national park, Los Frailles, which was home to pristine beaches and a sulphur bath. Once we hopped off the bus we had to walk about 30 minutes to reach the beach, but it was well worth the hike. We were rewarded with a long stretch of unpopulated white sand beach and crystal clear water. Before setting up camp on the beach, we hiked up a cliff for better views of the beach its surroundings, and enjoyed our lunch while staring at a dumbfounding panoramic.
We discovered a black sand beach around the bend made from fragments of volcanic rock. In the other direction, we happened upon unique caves, and climbed around taking pictures of crabs and collecting diverse seashells and rocks. We enjoyed a relaxing afternoon spent soaking up the sun and making rock formations on the beach. The sun was taking a toll on us so we decided to head back to town, but not before we took a “feliz navidad” Christmas photo with a stupendously immaculate backdrop.
That night our Canadian friends we met in Canoa stopped by the hotel and we decided to make dinner together. We went to the market to pick up ingredients for our vegetable lasagna and decided it would pair well with red wine. Claire and her husband started on dinner while Lisa Skyped with her family back home, and Ryan went on a mission for more wine (even though the group swore the town was sold out–1 liter was not sufficient according to his Christmas Eve standards). A few hours later we were sharing a delicious meal with great company over several glasses of tinto (red wine).
After dinner, we decided to go out for a few drinks and see how the locals celebrated. The city wasn’t nearly as lively as we expected, and our friend who worked at the hotel (who strongly debated breaking rules and going out with us) explained that the locals went to be with their family outside of the city. On Christmas morning we made a traditional Christiansen breakfast of bacon grease fried eggs, bacon, toast, (we added ripe avocado), orange juice and coffee. After finishing every crumb on our plates, we Skyped with our families before spending the rest of the day lounging on hammocks, reading, and freshening up our tans.