Located on the western coast of Ecuador sits Machalilla National Park. It is home to some of the country’s best beaches, including a black volcanic sand beach and Los Frailes. The latter is famous for its soft sand and rolling hills, however, a large portion of it is closed off to protect the sea turtles which nest there.
Also in the park is Isla de la Plata, commonly known as the ‘Poor Man’s Galapagos’. It is home to a selection of similar wildlife to that found on the real Galapagos islands, including Blue Footed Boobies and even the mighty Albatross.
The Agua Blanca community is located within the park and also well worth a visit. Although the national park is free to enter, there is a $5USD charge per person to enter Agua Blanca. This includes a guided tour of the grounds and entrance to the archaeology museum on site. If relaxation is more your thing, there is a sulfur lagoon too – great if you’ve spent too long lazing on the beach!
- Landmass: 750.6km²
- Entrance fee: Free
- Best time to visit: July-October
How to get to Machalilla National Park
Boat trips to Isla de la Plata can be arranged from Puerto Lopez or nearby Montañita. To reach the rest of the national park, you can catch a public bus from Puerto Lopez or hail a taxi to take you there.
Places to Stay at Machalilla National Park
Most visitors to Machalilla National Park stay in the fishing village of Puerto Lopez. In recent years, the town has turned part-resort, renovating the oceanfront boardwalk to attract tourists and provide a community focal point for locals. But as long as fisherman launch boats from the beach and return with the catch to sell at the waterfront market, the town will retain its local color and feel.
Machalilla National Park Highlights
The park is an amazing collection of diverse nature and offering different experiences for visitors. There are primarily three different attractions that draw people to the park: Los Frailes, Isla de la Plata, and Agua Blanca.
Los Frailes is one of the most pristine beaches in the country. It is characterized by fine soft sand, crystal clear blue waters, and nestled amongst rolling hills. A portion of this tremendous beach is quarantined off to protect breeding and nesting sea turtles.
Isla de la Plata
This island is located off Ecuador’s shoreline, making it easier to get to than the Galapagos Islands. The easier access makes it a popular place to experience the blue-footed, red-footed, and Nazca boobies, which are typically part of the Galapagos experience.
Snorkeling and scuba diving are common ways to explore the amazing undersea world around the island. Giant sea turtles, whales, and large manta rays are all possible sightings around the island.
Visitors can also get a taste of culture and history by visiting the local Agua Blanca community inside the park. There is an archaeological museum as well as an archaeological site to witness the history. The ruins in the area give way to history, covering six different cultures that lived in the region over the years.
The community and regions reflect the heritage of the Ecuadorian cultures that created coastal communities in this magnificent coastline region.
Machalilla National Park Park Protection
Machalilla National Park was created to protect the various vegetation and habitats and the marine environment, which has been well established as breeding grounds for humpback whales and other wildlife on land and in the sea.
The park is also protecting the tropical scrub desert, which is disappearing across the country. It is also protecting the endangered tropical dry forest. Poaching, deforestation, and commercial fishing are all threats affecting the wildlife’s survival calling the area home.
The park is recognized as a Wetland of International Importance by the Ramsar Convention. It is the only known habitat of the waved albatross outside of the Galapagos Islands. We as a global community must invest in whatever we can do to help protect this vulnerable terrain.