Parque Nacional Machalilla

The park extends over 55,000 ha, including Isla de la Plata and Isla Salango offshore. The continental portion of the park is divided into three sections which are separated by private land, including the town of Machalilla. It preserves marine ecosystems as well as dry tropical forest and archaeological sites on shore. It is very scenic and recommended for birdwatching, especially in the cloud forest of Cerro San Sebastián. There are also several species of mammals and reptiles.

Isla de la Plata

On this island, 24 km offshore, there
are nesting colonies of waved albatross (April-
November), frigates and three different booby species. A small colony of sea lions also makes its home here and whales can be seen from mid-June to September. As in Galápagos, it is easy to see the birdlife - you will walk just by their nests. It is also a pre-Columbian site with substantial pottery finds, and there is good diving and snorkelling (most tour agencies provide snorkelling equipment).

The island must be visited in a day trip, staying overnight is not permitted. There are two walks, of three hours each (take water); the national park controls access to these and you will probably be taken along only one of the two loops. Take dry clothes, water, and precautions against sun and seasickness.

Los Frailes

This stunning beach, one of the nicest on the entire coast, is 11 km north of Puerto López and and 1 km south of the town of Machalilla. At the north end of the beach is a trail through the forest leading to a lookout with great views. You can continue along this trail to the town of Machalilla, but don't take valuables. Bathing at Los Frailes is best at the ends of the bay; in the centre there is a strong undertow. There are
trees (poisonwood) by the beach which can cause a skin reaction, do not shelter from the sun under them.
Camping is only permitted by the ranger's house where you can get some water, US$5 per tent. The park gates close at 1700.

Agua Blanca

About 5 km north of Puerto López, at Buena Vista, on the road to Machalilla, there is a dirt road to the east signed to Agua Blanca. Here, 5 km from the main road, amid hot, arid scrub in the national park, is a small village and a fine, small
archaeological museum
containing some fascinating ceramics from the Manteño civilization.

San Sebastián

A recommended trip is to San Sebastián, 9 km from Agua Blanca up in tropical moist forest (altitude 800 m), for sightings of orchids, birds and possibly howler monkeys. This is the best nature hike in the park, going through successively more humid forests until reaching true cloud forest at Cerro San Sebastián. A five-hour trip on foot or by horse from Agua Blanca, San Sebastián can also be reached from Río Blanco, along a road southeast from Puerto López to Guale. Although part of the national park, this area is administered by the
of Agua Blanca, which charges its own fees in addition to the park entrance . You are not allowed to go without one of their guides.

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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