white bird with blue feet on Isla de la Plata

Isla De La Plata, Ecuador: Why Visit The Poor Men’s Galapagos

Isla de la Plata also knows as the Poor Men’s Galapagos is definitely one of the highlights in Ecuador.

Isla de la Plata is a true bird island and home to blue-footed boobies and strange red frigates. La Isla de la Plata is a great alternative if you are short on money and still want to see some spectacular wildlife in Ecuador.

And after visiting the cute beach town Montanita and beautiful Playa de Los Frailes, we were really looking forward to visiting Isla de la Plata on spotting these cute and funny birds.

In this guide, we will tell you what to expect from your day tour to Isla de la Plata and why you should include it into your Ecuador itinerary.

Read to see some funny birds, humpback whales, and turtles?

two birds with blue feet in front of the brown grass on  Isla de la Plata in Ecuador
Welcome to our island

ABOUT ISLA DE LA PLATA

Isla de la Plata is a small island located just 44 km northwest from Puerto Lopez on the Pacific coast of Ecuador.

It is also known as a silver island, and there are two stories why this island has such a nickname.

The first legend says that once upon a time, British pirate/trader Sir Francis Drake hid a treasure with lots of silver on Isla de la Plata. However, the treasure was never found.

The second story makes more sense. There are many birds around, and they produce a lot of waste. And because there is so much bird poo, sometimes at night the island glows. We definitely would go for the second story as we have seen it. Yes, there is a lot of bird poo.

two black birds with blu feet standing on the brown  earth
Can you leave already?

WHY YOU SHOULD CHOOSE ISLA DE LA PLATA INSTEAD OF GALAPAGOS

Isla de la Plata is a great Galapagos alternative. We thought about it a lot if we should go or shouldn’t go to Galapagos, but we really couldn’t afford it.

It is a very expensive trip and we didn’t want to spend 1200€ per week and that wouldn’t even have included the entrance to Galapagos. Knowing that this was our budget for a whole month in South America.

When you plan your travel itinerary, you need to stick to your budget otherwise you will go home earlier or not get home at all :D.

So we were looking for some options. And here it was, Isla de la Plata. An island where you can see awesome and unique animals without paying a fortune.

We also decided to skip Galapagos as we wanted to dive with hammerhead sharks and that is also super expensive. We also didn’t want to feel bad for paying US$100 for a snorkeling tour neither.

So we said to ourselves, we will come to Galapagos one day and we will do it all and properly without being restricted, and going broke.

So, if you do not have a budget for the Galapagos tour, then this is a great alternative.

three birds with blue feet standing on a black rock with the ocean in the background on isla de la plata

HOW TO GET TO ISLA DE LA PLATA

If you are coming down from Montanita you will need to stop at Puerto Lopez. Puerto Lopez is a small beach town and the place where your boat will leave to Isla de la Plata.

If you are coming from Quito, you would need to either fly or take a bus to Guayaquil and then take form there a bus to Puerto Lopez.

From Puerto Lopez, it takes about 90 minutes to reach the island.

Isla de la Plata is protected by the Machalilla National Park and managed by the Ministry of Tourism and Fundación Natura. Los Frailes beach is also located in this national park and you definitely need to visit it.

Thus, you can only visit Isla de Plata on a guided tour as the island is a protected national park. This is to make sure to protect unique wildlife living on the island and also protecting yourself. Some birds do get aggressive especially in the breeding season. Also, rangers want to protect the island and they restricted many parts of the island, so animals can have peace.

blue footed boobie laying on the floor and protecting her eggs

And that is why you will most likely do the one-mile acantilados loop which is totally enough to see all the birds.

READ MORE: 12 BEST THINGS TO DO IN QUITO

WHAT TO SEE?

If you decide to travel to Isla de la Plata, you probably are expecting to see some wildlife. Well, you got it. And the chances that you are going to see some blue-footed boobies are 100% guaranteed. They are literally everywhere. They sometimes look so funny and you just need to laugh.

white bird with blue feet standing up on a brown dirt track on isla de la plata in Ecuador
What are you looking at? I am cute, it’s not my fault

BLUE FOOTED BOOBIES

If you look at blue-footed boobies, they seem very funny, clumsy and sometimes even stupidly confused. Seemingly, the term “Boobies” comes from the Spanish word “bobo” which means “stupid” and this is how the first European colonist felt about them.

But they are not just clumsy stupid birds. They are great divers and able to jump into the water from as high as 24 meters (80 feet), shooting down from the sky into the water like fighter jets. Their blue feet are the result of a diet that obtains carotenoid pigments that are concentrated in their feet.

FRIGATES

Accept of very famous and cute blue-footed boobies you can also see frigate birds. We have never seen anything like this before and we have to say that they are very strange birds.

During the breeding season, you will see male frigate distend their red gular sac. Their red sac can get really big and we really wondered if it actually can pop. Of course not, but we still asked our guide. He was laughing like crazy. Anyways, female frigates are black with white breast and have devilish red eyes.

black bird with red sac sitting among green trees
five black birds, one black bird flying over the green trees

On top of blue-footed boobies and frigates, you can also spot pelicans and albatrosses.

Isla de la Plata is the perfect place to spot some spectacular marine life, such as manta rays, green sea turtles, dolphins, and humpback whales.

There are no mammals living on Isla de la Plata, accept of few rats which magically swam to the island. There are not many rats as rangers are taking care of that and depleting the rat population to protect the birds.

During our tour to Isla de la Plata, we saw on our arrival green turtles and dolphins.

READ MORE: HOW TO VISIT QUILOTOA LAKE ON A DAY TRIP FROM QUITO

WHEN TO VISIT ISLA DE LA PLATA?

The most popular time to visit Isla de la Plata is from mid of June to Septemeber as humpback whales migrate and pass the waters of Ecuador. We visited Isla de la Plata at the end of April and we haven’t seen any whales.

ISLA DE LA PLATA TOURS

There are many tour companies located in Puerto Lopez. We booked our day tour via Hostal Alcazaba. We have to say that we really enjoyed our tour, the guide was very professional and fun at the same time. The food was good too and I got a vegetarian meal.

blue boat and three birds with blue feet standing on the black rocks on isla de la plata in ecuador
We are so famous again

WHAT IS INCLUDED IN THE TOUR

  • Professional guide
  • Lunch: Definitely communicate if you are vegetarian, vegan or have any diet restrictions.
  • Snorkeling equipment
  • Humpback whale watching

PROGRAM OF THE TOUR

Our day tour to La Plata Island started at 9 AM and in total took 5 hours.

  • 1 hour getting to the island
  • 1.5 hours of walking along the island’s trails
  • 1.5 hours of snorkeling, that includes lunch
  • 1 hour: returning back to Puerto Lopez

HOW MUCH DOES THE TOUR COST?

The cost of the tour depends on the season. In high season from June to September the tour is US$46.00 and from October to June US$40.00 per person.

During holidays make sure to book your ticket in advance.

HOW WAS OUR TOUR

On our way to the island, we spotted dolphins and once we arrived at the island and we were greeted by green sea turtles. We had around 15 minuted to hang around the beach and go to the bathroom.

brown sand beach with black rock, blue ocean and green bush
Almost, like in Galapagos

HIKE

We started our hike and after 15 minutes we already spotted a few boobies. Of course, everyone was excited and took a million pictures. Our guide assured us that there will be more. He was right. After 30 minutes the group was split depending on people and how much they wanted to walk.

We got to the viewing point and had this beautiful view.

yellow flowers with a view on blue ocean and black rocks with green scenery
Beautiful view on wild Isla de la Plata

We continued swiftly to the place where we saw red frigates. After we went back to the boat smiling at more and more boobies.

SNORKELING

After our walk, we were super sweaty as it was very hot and humid so we were really looking forward to cool down in the ocean.

Some people from our tour stayed on the boat, but we were definitely curious about what we will see. We snorkeled for about 30 minutes and we saw green turtles and other bulk of fish.

You can also dive in the waters nearby Isla de la Plata and you will definitely see much more marine life.

READ MORE: HOW TO VISIT MITAD DEL MUNDO ON YOUR OWN.

IS VISITING ISLA DE LA PLATA WORTHY?

Absolutely, it is worthy. We are so happy with our decision and our bank accounts thanked us too. During our travels, we have learned that you cannot see everything, and that is okay.

There will be another day and another time. So Isla de la Plata is definitely a great option if you cannot afford to go to Galapagos Islands.

WHAT TO PACK FOR YOUR TOUR?

HAT & SUNGLASSES: It is really hot, and the hat is very important to protect you against sunburn and heatstroke.

T-SHIRT/SHORT & DRESS: It is really hot, so breathable clothes are super helpful. I was wearing a comfy dress and I was very happy with my choice.

woman sitting on the ground and two birds with blue feet, green trees and dirt road
I think they don’t like me

SUN LOTION: Make sure to apply sun location at least 45 minutes before you go to the water to protect marine life. We also use Raw Elements which are chemical-free (use Gigi10 for 10% off ).

FAST DRYING TOWEL: It can be chilly after your snorkeling when the boat is on the move, so the towel is definitely handy.

COMFY SHOES: You will be walking for only 1.5 hours, but the flip flops are not a great idea as the path is uneven with many stones around.

WATER: Definitely bring enough water to stay hydrated.

SWIMWEAR: If you would like to go snorkel or get some tan, definitely bring swimwear.

WHERE TO STAY IN PUERTO LOPEZ?

Puerto Lopez is a small beach town and there are few hotels you can choose from. We stayed in Hostal Alcazaba, and it wasn’t very luxurious, but we had our own room with a private bathroom and breakfast included. Also, the hotel organized our tour to Isla de la Plata.

CHECK ALL THE HOTELS IN PUERTO LOPEZ

We hope that you have a great time visiting Poor Men’s Galapagos and in general in Ecuador. We loved it and we were happy with our decision.

If you are visiting Isla de la Plata, make sure to pin it for later.

Gigi and Nico signature in pink

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About the author
Since I was little I always wanted to see the world. Travel to new places, get to know new cultures, see how other people live. I love beaches and I love discovering tropical destinations. That is why, together with my partner Nico, we created this blog to share with you the most beautiful beaches and stunning holiday destinations which we visited during our travels.

2 Comments

  1. OMG!! These blue feet! I´m not that familiar with South America in general. I know most countries from school and, at least, I´ve been to Colombia so far. But all these little and awesome gems in those countries, I´m not aware of. I would love to visit Isla De La Plata, even if it´s only to see these birds with the blue feet.

    1. aaaaw, I know, they look so adorable. Most of the people only come to Quito and directly to Galapagos, but there are so many off the beaten places in Ecuador which are super worthy visiting, just like Isla de la Plata.

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