North of Parque Nacional Machalilla

is a small fishing village just north of Los Frailes beach. Neither the town nor its beach are particularly attractive. North from Machalilla is
Puerto Cayo
. The beach here is also dirty, but improves a bit as you walk away from town. Puerto Cayo promotes itself as a whale-watching destination, but it can be hard to organize a trip outside July and August. The town is completely dead outside these two months.

The road forks at Puerto Cayo, one branch turns inland for Jipijapa and the other continues northwest along the coast to Manta. The inland road climbs over humid hills to descend to the dry scrub around
(population 47,000, altitude 300 m) an important centre for the region's trade in cotton, cocoa, coffee and kapok. The
paja toquilla
from which Panama hats are made is also grown in the surrounding hills. At
La Pila
, due north of Jipijapa, a road forks east for Portoviejo. The village's main industry is fake pre-Columbian pottery, with a thriving sideline in erotic ceramics. Eleven kilometres northwest from La Pila is
, famous for weaving Panama hats .

The coast road goes northwest from Puerto Cayo travelling slightly away from the beach through wooded hills. In 17 km is a turn-off for the undeveloped beach of
San José
. Another
12 km further north, by the village of
Santa Rosa
where there are food stalls serving seafood, the road returns to the seashore and follows a beautiful stretch of beach 6 km to
San Lorenzo
, by the cape of the same name . North of San Lorenzo the road again goes inland to an area of forested hills known as
Bosque de Pacoche
, before reaching Manta.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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