Whale Watching in Puerto Lopez: Isla de la Plata Tour

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Build a Custom Tour

Looking for something a little different? At Impactful Travel, we specialize in crafting custom itineraries tailored to your unique travel desires and ethical values.

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  • Duration7 Hours
  • Group size 1 - 16 pax
  • Bookings At least 3 days in advance
  • All year But: June - October for the humpback whales!
  • Starting point Usually; your hotel in Puerto López. (Check FAQ section)

Embark on a unique Isla de la Plata Tour from the coastal region of Ecuador that will deliver a Galapagos-esqe adventure right to your doorstep. As Gregory Kaufman, President and Founder of the Pacific Whale Foundation, once said, “Ecuador is one of the most impressive and incredible destinations for whale watching.”

Commence your journey in Puerto López, boarding your boat and setting sail towards the island – a trip that takes around 1.5 hours. En route, keep your eyes peeled for playful dolphins, majestic whales (15 Jun – 15 Oct), or if you are particularly fortunate, even orcas. Rest assured, our experienced captain will slow down the engine to allow ample time for observation and appreciation of these marine marvels.

Upon reaching the island, disembark and begin your hike along the trails. Your English-speaking guide will provide insightful information about the diverse bird species inhabiting the island, including boobies, albatross (only in breeding season Mar-Dic), and frigatebirds.

After the hike, return to the boat for a boxed lunch before navigating to the snorkeling site. Here, you may encounter marine turtles, giant rays, seahorses, vibrant schools of fish, and with a little luck, even sea lions.

Humpback Whales of Machalilla National Park

From June to October, humpback whales make an awe-inspiring migration of more than 7,000 kilometers from Antarctica to the Machalilla National Park, an area off Puerto López renowned for being a mating and breeding ground for these colossal creatures. Humpback whales, measuring up to 15 meters and weighing 30 tons, are considered the fifth largest animal in the world.

During the tour and in these months, we’ll have the opportunity to spot active groups of whales. We might see males courting females, possibly mothers and calves, or groups of whales traveling together near the coast.

Our Puerto Lopez Isla de la Plata Tour offers an unparalleled experience that combines wildlife observation, hiking, and snorkeling in one unforgettable package.

Please note that the itinerary is subject to changes due to weather conditions and operational decisions.


Discover more Puerto López Tours & Activities

Puerto Lopez is an enchanting destination that provides a range of tours and activities to explore. Want to actively participate in conservation efforts? Why not try our unique experience: “Las Tunas Sea Turtle Beach Center: A Day Like a Volunteer.” Or perhaps you’re seeking to unwind and immerse yourself in the captivating aroma of Palo Santo while witnessing how commercial profit can coexist with responsible practices. Join us for the “Sustainable Palo Santo Factory Tour: Ecuador’s Sacred Wood.”


Puerto López Travel Guide

Looking for more ways to explore the vibrant city of Puerto López? Dive into our comprehensive Travel Guide to Puerto López! Packed with local insights and sustainable travel tips, this guide is your passport to an authentic and impactful journey. Discover hidden gems, get a taste of local flavors, and connect with the heart and soul of Puerto López in a way that respects the environment and supports local communities. Let’s make your trip to Puerto López not just a vacation, but a transformative experience.

The entire team of Impactful Travel Peru in 2019

With this tour, we aim to promote the coast of Ecuador as a sustainable alternative to the Galapagos. The area offers impactful experiences, with its natural beauty and blend of cultures. It’s not as tourist-heavy, making it a hidden gem compared to the Galapagos, which can often be overwhelmed by visitors.

The Impactful Travel team
Small version of transparent round logo of Impactful Travel Peru

What makes this experience Impactful?

The Machalilla National Park and Isla de la Plata are both more accessible than the Galapagos, containing some of the same fauna. On Isla de la Plata, you can hike and snorkel, encountering a wealth of marine life. Moreover, by visiting these areas, you support scientific research.

Based in Hawaii, the Pacific Whale Foundation has funded research projects in Puerto Lopez, Ecuador since 2001. These donations have facilitated decades of research. The company provides logistical support for this research. By taking this Isla de la Plata Tour, you’re helping researchers travel for free on our vessels, collecting more information about whales to develop conservation programs in Puerto Lopez. This initiative supports over 25 families in Puerto Lopez and other communities employed by the company.

Their team consists entirely of local community members, biologists, researchers, and volunteers from various countries.

We advise visitors to respect local wildlife by maintaining the recommended distances. Use your camera’s zoom for great shots without disturbing the animals. Avoid participating in swim-with-whale or swim-with-dolphin tours, as these activities cause stress to the animals.

We also encourage sustainable practices. Use mineral-based sunblock, avoid chemical sunscreens that harm coral reef environments, and travel with reusable items such as water bottles, bags, coffee mugs, and refillable toiletries containers.


Price Includes

  • FoodSnack (cake) & Boxed lunch (tuna sandwich, jam&cheese sandwich, fruit)
  • DrinksSoft drinks, tea, water
  • English-speaking Naturalist guide
  • Snorkeling & Safety GearLifejacket, mask and snorkel. (Do not hesitate to bring your own gear if you prefer.)
  • Entrance feesTo the Machalilla National Park and Isla de la Plata
  • Pickup at your hotel in the center of Puerto LopezPlease check the FAQ section for more information

Price Excludes

What to Bring

Frequently Asked Questions

About the Whale Watching in Puerto Lopez: Isla de la Plata Tour

Will you pick me up at my hotel?

Well; if you are in a hotel within the town of Puerto López, like Víctor Hugo, Nautilus or Mandala, you will indeed be picked up. But if you are staying outside of the town, like in the Mantaraya, you will have to come to the following address yourself:

Malecón Julio Izurieta, y, Puerto López (the Palo Santo agency).

Click here for the location on Google Maps.

If you are traveling in a group larger than 6 people, you can also be picked up from a location a bit out of town; let us know your pickup location in the booking process!

Is this tour physically demanding?

Not so much. The hike takes about 2.5 hours. You will also spend around three hours on the boat. The boat ride can be tough for those that are sensitive to sea sickness.

Should we be aware of sharks while snorkeling?

So far, no such encounters have been reported.

What is the probability to spot humpback whales during this tour?

During the mating/breeding season (from 15 June – 15 October) the chances to spot humpback whales are 80%!

For how long will we be on board the boat?

For about 3 hours, depending on conditions at the sea and the presence of animals.

How long will the walk be?

The hike takes around 2.5 hours. 

Do you have a first aid kit on board?

Yes, and trained guides that know how to make use of it.

Is this a private excursion or will I share the experience with other travelers?

This is a shared excursion with up to 16 other tourists. On the boat, scientists and other people related to the non-profit organisations might also be coming along.

What kind of weather should we expect during this route?

On the coast, the wet season from December to May brings warm temperatures and tropical showers, typically in the afternoon. During this period, daytime temperatures range from 25-31°C (77-88°F), falling to a comfortable 20-24°C (68-75°F) at night. From July to November, the ‘garua’ season brings cooler temperatures and cloudy skies, with occasional drizzle.

Find more info about climates in Ecuador in our blog “Best Time to Travel to Ecuador“.

What should I pack for this tour?

Please refer to our article What to Pack for your Trip to Ecuador for all your questions about packing for your Ecuador trip. Whether you’re going to the jungle or the mountains, you’ll find the answers you need. 

General questions

For questions about booking a tour, prices, preparation for your trip, health and safety or other themes, please check our Frequently Asked Questions page. If you can’t find your question & answer, email us and we’ll add it!

Your Travel Designer
Dr. Cristina Castro is the owner of Palo Santo Travel; the agency in Puerto López that organizes scientific expeditions and Isla de la Plata Tours at the coast of Ecuador. At Impactful Travel, we are proud to collaborate with her!

Dr. Cristina Castro

She has been doing field studies on humpback whales at Machalilla National Park since 2001. This work began as part of her dissertation research on population monitoring and has grown to investigate conservation threats such as bycatch and entanglement in fishing gear.

Along with her life partner she started the operation of tours for marine wildlife watching, in a way to support her research.

She’s an active member of the scientific community, serving on the Scientific Committee of the International Whaling Commission and as a member of Sociedad Latino Americana de Mamíferos Acuáticos (SOLAMAC). Dr. Castro’s work is driven by a deep commitment to the protection and conservation of marine life.

Dr. Castro also advises various bodies, including the Ecuadorian National Assembly and the Environmental Ministry, as well as Machalilla National Park, on the impact of human activities on cetaceans.