Isla de la Plata, one of the hidden places in Ecuador, is a small island off the coast northwest of Puerto Lopez. Although currently known as the poor man’s Galapagos, it has long been called “Silver Island.”
Some say the name derived from the fact that Sir Francis Drake buried his treasure there centuries ago. Others say the silver refers to the large amounts of guano, or bird droppings, that shine in the sun!
The island can be reached by boat from the Puerto Lopez area. Puerto Lopez is a small town located on the north coast of Ecuador in Manabi province. The trip can be choppy and usually takes more than an hour. It’s best to have motion-sickness medication handy—just in case!
You can book a tour by a licensed company that uses boats with outboard motors and supplies life jackets and toilets. Other agencies offer tours on fishing boats at a cheaper price, but these are very slow and getting seasick is practically guaranteed. They may not charge you the park-entry fee because theymay not actually stop at the island, so these tours are best avoided.
Once on the island, the visitor can enjoy many species similar to those found in the Galapagos — blue- and red-footed boobies, pelicans, petrals, frigatebirds, terns and albatrosses.
The tours usually provide lunch, a guided hike and time for a little snorkeling.
One of the main attractions of this special place in Ecuador is the humpback whales. They mate near the island from the middle of June until October. We’ve been told that it is not uncommon to see groups of up to ten whales at one time, frolicking in the ocean. Dolphins are plentiful and there are good coral reefs for snorkeling.
There is no shade on the small island and the trails are rough, so good shoes, wind or rain gear are important items to have along and a hat is a necessity unless you want a burned scalp. Isla de la Plata is one of those places in Ecuador where you can lose yourself in a landscape uniquely different from any other on earth.