Parque Nacional Machalilla is one of the truly unique places in Ecuador that are quickly disappearing. The strangely wonderful coastal habitats of dry tropical forests along Pacific Ecuador beaches like the Parque are among those places.
These forests once grew along most of the Ecuador beaches but have been decimated by human beings. Thankfully,Machalilla is a well-managed park that is preserving this unique part of the world for visitors to enjoy.
Machalilla is the only coastal national park in Ecuador. It covers 138,000 acres that includes Ecuador beaches and coastline, cloud forests, tropical dry forests, ancient ruins and a number of nearby islands like Isla de la Plata.
There is an entrance fee and you will need several days to experience the variety that this Ecuador park’s tropical forest has to offer. The pass you receive entitles you to leave the park and then re-enter for several days.
A surreal landscape greets the visitor who ventures inland. Dangerous-looking trees with protective spikes on their bottle-shaped trunks dot the dry terrain. The weather is very hot, sunny and rainy half of the year from December until May. The rest of the year is cooler and cloudy.
The cloud forests higher up are wet and densely populated with ceibas (kapok trees), laurel and palo santo trees as well as a variety of cactuses. Over 200 bird species live within their branches and coexist with monkeys, anteaters, lizards, iguanas and deer.
Within the park is Los Frailes Beach. A long but rewarding trek through the dry scrub brings you to the beautiful and secluded beach.
Along the way you will encounter tidal pools and the beach affords good snorkeling. Los Frailes Beach is about 10 kilometers north of Puerto Lopez. Look for blue-footed boobies and other seabirds.