Playa Los Frailes Ecuador: Ultimate Guide to Los Frailes Beach

Playa Los Frailes Ecuador is regarded by the locals as the most beautiful beach in the country. After visiting this beach I would agree with that statement. Los Frailes Beach and it’s surrounding areas are undoubtedly must-see destinations on your trip to Ecuador. I’ve created an in-depth guide that covers everything you need to know about visiting Playa Los Frailes.

Nice beach with cliffs behind it.
Playa Los Frailes Ecuador

Table of Contents

Where is Playa Los Frailes Ecuador Located?

Playa Los Frailes Ecuador is located in the province of Manabi on the Southwest coast of Ecuador. Los Frailes Beach is within the Machalilla National Park and is the only protected beach in Ecuador. If you’re traveling along the Ecuadorian coast this is a must-see beach and national park. Playa De Los Frailes Ecuador is undoubtedly a perfect addition to any Ecuador itinerary.

How to Get to Machalilla National Park?

If you’re a tourist you’ll most likely be visiting Los Frailes Beach Ecuador from either Montañita, Puerto Lopez or Guayaquil. Below I’ll explain how to reach Machalilla National Park from all of these destinations.

Playa Los Frailes From Montanita:

If you’re staying in the party crazy, tourist town of Montanita then you’re in luck! Montañita is one of the best areas to visit Playa Los Frailes Ecuador from. Not only is it close, but there are many tours offered. You can ask around town and you’ll be able to arrange a day tour with ease!

Beautiful sunset on a tropical beach.
Montanita Beach Sunset

If tours aren’t your thing it’s also easy to visit Los Frailes Beach via the local bus. You can head to the main highway in Montañita and hail any bus going North up the coast. Double check with the driver as to if it’s stopping at Machalilla National park. This bus will take just 1h06min (35mi/55km) and only costs $1USD.

The bus will drop you off on the highway and it’s just a short walk from there to enter the park. If you have your own vehicle or a rental you can drive all the way into the park to the main parking lot near Playa Los Frailes Ecuador. However, parking is $2USD.

Best Montanita Hostels

Is Montanita Ecuador Safe?

Yes, of course! Montañita is one of the main tourist towns in Ecuador. You’ll be perfectly fine as long as you use your common sense. It’s a great town to have fun and meet other travelers.

Los Frailes Beach From Puerto Lopez:

Buildings surrounded by tropical mountains.
Puerto Lopez, Ecuador

Puerto Lopez is the closest tourist town to Playa De Los Frailes Ecuador. Likewise to Montanita, you can take any bus heading North up the coast. The ride is only 7-minutes away! To guarantee a seat on the bus, we took a tuk-tuk to the main bus station on the North end of town to catch a bus from there. The bus will cost $1USD per person.

There are also tours available from Puerto López if you want to join with another group. Being so close, it’s not necessary to take a tour.

Best Puerto Lopez Hostels

Is Puerto Lopez Safe?

Absolutely! Puerto Lopez is more of a vacation spot for locals than tourists. This means there will be far less commotion and scammers than other major tourist areas. As with Montanita, use your common sense and you’ll be fine.

Playa Los Frailes Ecuador From Guayaquil:

Getting to Playa Los Frailes Ecuador is a little bit more of a challenge from Guayaquil in comparison to Montanita. This is because it’s much further being a 3h14min drive and 118mi/191km in each direction.

There are busses that will bring you all the way for around $10USD but they’ll likely take upwards of 4 hours because of the extra stops on the way. Unless you’re planning to spend a night or two in the area, I would not recommend visiting Los Frailes Beach from Guayaquil on a day trip.

Cheapest Bus From Guayaquil to Quito

Best Guayaquil Hostels

View of a far away beach from a cliff.
View of Machalilla National Park

How do you Get to Los Frailes Beach?

Getting to Los Frailes Beach Ecuador is fairly simple from the park entrance. If you took the bus there you can walk directly down the main road for 1.6mi/2.6km. Instead, if you don’t want to walk you can hire a tuk-tuk to bring you for a couple of bucks. If you drove to the park you can drive all the way to the main parking lot directly at Los Frailes Beach Ecuador.

Hiking to Los Frailes Beach Ecuador

View of the ocean from the top of a cliff.
View of Playa Prieta from the trail

For the best experience, Parque Nacional Machalilla also has a trail system that runs along the coast. This trail goes from the main entrance up and along the Northern coast of the park and ends at Playa Los Frailes Ecuador. This hike will take approx. 2-hours to reach Los Frailes Beach, but it’s definitely worth it.

From the check-in booth at the main entrance, walk down the main road for 4-minutes and you’ll see a trail with signage on your right. That’s the trail that will take you to the other beautiful beaches in the park and also Playa Los Frailes.

Playa Tortuguita

White sand beach with an island offshore.
Playa Tortuguita

From the trailhead it’s a 33-minute hike (1.5mi/2.4km) to the first accessible beach, Playa Tortuguita. On the way you’ll climb up and down the rolling hills along the cliffs edge. You’ll soon pass by the inaccessible Playa Prieta and have stunning views of the Ecuadorian coastline.

Playa Tortuguita is a nice sandy beach backed with cliffs and vegetation. It’s a good beach to relax without the crowds and catch a tan.

Be careful swimming at Playa Tortuguita as the waves and rip tide are extremely strong. When we were there the waves were over 6ft tall! After you’re done checking out Playa Tortuguita head to the South end of the beach and the trail will continue.

Mirador Las Frigates

A tall cliff overlooking a beach.
View of Los Frailes Beach from the lookout

From the South end of Playa Tortuguita I’d suggest following the trail and detouring to the right to check out the Mirador Las Frigates. It’s an epic little hut on the cliffs edge that overlooks the entire national park. You can see Playa De Los Frailes Ecuador in the distance. From Playa Tortuguita it’s approx. 0.25mi/400m to the viewpoint.

After you catch your breath at the Mirador Las Frigates and take some photos, it’s time for the last leg of the hike to the main beach – Los Frailes Beach. This section will be relatively easy as it’s all downhill. From the lookout it’s 0.27mi/435m until Playa Los Frailes Ecuador.

What to Expect at Playa Los Frailes Ecuador

Calm water with mountains.
Playa Los Frailes Ecuador

Los Frailes Beach Ecuador is described as the most beautiful beach in Ecuador. I would agree with that statement although I have never been to the Galapagos Islands. This is a beautiful white sand beach with turquoise blue waters. The ocean here is calm so swimming is a necessity! You’ll need to take a dip if you hiked to Playa Los Frailes Ecuador.

Los Frailes Beach is absolutely massive at 1mi/1.6km long so you’ll surely be able to find a good spot to post up. If it’s busy I’d suggest you head to the Southern end of Playa Los Frailes as most people can’t be bothered to walk that far. This will give you some solitude. This is easily one of the best beaches I’ve been to in all of South America.

Two people standing on the beach.
Hanging out at the beach

There is no entrance fee to visit Los Frailes Beach Ecuador. There is a $2 parking fee if you drive your own car. Be sure to bring a form of ID such as your drivers license or passport as it will be required to check in at the park entrance.

We visited Playa Los Frailes Ecuador from Puerto Lopez. We took the local bus to get there and hiked to Los Frailes Beach via the scenic trail. After chilling at the beach for a while, we went to the main car park area and took a tuk-tuk back to the highway to catch the bus. All in all it was a full day adventure that I would highly recommend.

Rules & Regulations at Playa Los Frailes Ecuador

Since it’s a protected National Park, Playa Los Frailes Ecuador has a few rules you’ll have to abide by:

  • No Camping in the park
  • No fires of any kind
  • Not pets allowed
  • No littering
  • No Smoking
  • No alcohol or drugs
Beach with cliffs behind it.
South end of Los Frailes Beach

Best Time to Visit Los Frailes Beach

The best time to visit Playa Los Frailes and Ecuador in general is during the dry season. This season runs from November to May and when the ocean is the warmest and your chances of rain are slim. Check the weather forecast here. I visited in January and the weather was great!

Park Operating Hours

When I visited the Machalilla National Park it was open from 9am to 3pm from Tuesday to Sunday. I would double check with the locals as to an updated schedule as I’m not sure if they change it regularly.

Nearby Sights & Tourist Spots

The Devils Nose train winding through the mountains.
Nariz Del Diablo

If you’re looking for a unique experience, head to the town of Alausi and take a ride on the Nariz Del Diablo Train! It’s a wild train ride that winds throughout the Andes mountains and I would highly recommend it! Alausi on it’s own was undeniably a great experience as the true Ecuadorian culture really shined through. Check out the full guide.

The coast of Ecuador is filled with many amazing tourist destinations. My favorite beach towns overall are Montanita and Mompiche. They’re laid back backpacker towns with great surf, great beaches and lots of other things to do.

Tall waterfall with stairs underneath.
The Palion Del Diablo Waterfall

If you’re sick of all of the epic Ecuadorian beaches and want to visit some amazing waterfalls, then look no further. I’d suggest you head to Baños and visit the Palion Del Diablo Waterfall and the countless other waterfalls in the area.

Tips & Suggestions for Los Frailes Beach

  • Pack Accordingly: Ecuador’s weather is very unpredictable even in the dry season. This is because it’s a mountain country so the weather patterns change frequently. A rain jacket and warm clothes are necessary.
  • Bring Snacks: You never know when you’ll end up in the middle of nowhere without any food. So come prepared and pack a few snacks and some water in your bag.
  • Ask for Help: The locals are very helpful and generally can answer all of your questions, so don’t be shy!
  • Get a Sim Card: Sim cards are a necessity on any trip. In Ecuador, like most other Latin American countries the dominant company is Claro and that’s what I’d recommend. You can get a sim card with a few gigs of data for less than $10.
  • Use Maps.Me: Having offline maps is beneficial because if you’re in remote areas without cell service you’ll still be able to see where you are and have access to all of your pins. Maps.me is the #1 offline maps app.
  • Learn Spanish: Ecuador is a relatively less-traveled country. So the locals aren’t as used to having to deal with English tourists as other destinations. Learning some basic phrases will go a long way here.

Ecuador Packing List

Final Thoughts on Playa Los Frailes Ecuador

Playa Los Frailes Ecuador is one of the best beaches in the entire region. I had a great time visiting this location so I hope this guide will help you have a great time as well! If you have any questions about Ecuador drop me a comment below and I’d be happy to help.

Check out my latest posts for info on more off the beaten path destinations and lastly if you found value in this posts please share it!

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