Machalilla National Park is named for the ancient people who once lived along this stretch of the Pacific Coast. The park was created to protect several unique habitats including the endangered tropical dry forest, the desert-like islands just off the coast and stunningly long stretches of beach.
Places to Stay
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.
Destinations Unlocked:Let our travel expert Stefano help you find your perfect Culture trip
Looking for an expert's perspective?Uncover my top 3 recommended places from each continent on the map.
1. GuatemalaAn express adventure for those with limited time off. Prepare yourself incredible experiences. You will hike a volcano, visit mayan temples and witness a ceremony and take in beautiful colonial Antigua.
2. BelizeA quick trip not too far away for those seeking a relaxing mini break. You will have plenty of free time to relax but also some awesome activities to experience the rainforest and the caribbean sea.
3. MexicoAn exciting mini trip exploring the lesser known colonial towns of central Mexico. This is hte perfect trip for someone with limited time off and still wants to turn on explorer mode and do something different.
1. EcuadorA remarkable 8 days adventure through the Andes and the Amazon rainforest. The best choice for adventure seekers wishing to visit the 2 most iconic areas of South America, in only 1 week and no flights.
2. PeruAn alternative itinerary to classic Peru, from Cusco to Arequipa. This itinerary is great combination of highlights Cusco and Machu Picchu with the lesser known Arequipa and Colca Canyon.
1. ItalyThe ultimate Italian experience from the vibrant streets of Naples to the breathtaking sceneries of the Amalfi Coast followed by Matera and down to Puglia with its golden beaches, intense flavours and fascinating destinations.
2. ScotlandEmbark on this great adventure starting from London all the way to Scotland with a true Scottish experience made of breathtaking sceneries, whisky tasting and ..lots of fun! Ideal for train lovers and explorers.
3. PortugalA wonderful train journey around Portugal, from the romantic city of Porto to the Douro Valley, to the beautiful Aveiro all the way to Lisbon and Sintra. The perfect trip to train, culinary and culture lovers.
1. South KoreaDiscover incredible temples, mountains and modern cities on this 10 day adventure. This trip is perfect for those seeking immersion in the cuisine, culture and natural wonders of South Korea.
2. ThailandFrom Bankgok to Angkor Wat to Ho Chi Minh City and everything in between - adventure through the heart of South-East Asia. Taste the delights, see history brought to life and unwind on a Mekong River cruise.
3. Sri LankaA fantastic adventure that showcases Sri Lanka's fantastic landscapes, wildlife and flavours. With 3 epic rail journeys, 3 UNESCO heritage sites and time to relax, this trip has loads to offer at a great price
1. MoroccoAn epic journey across Morocco: from Casablanca to Marrakech, through the blue city of Chefchaouen to the wonders of the desert and deep to the High Atlas Mountains - this trip has it all! Ideal for true explorers!
2. EgyptFrom Cairo to Aswan, this trip brings the land of the pharaohs to life. You'll visit the Pyramids, Valley of the Kings and Luxor Temple and cruise down the Nile in style. This is the perfect way to explore Egypt.
Hotel Pacifico lies near the waterfront. They have rooms with private bath, hammocks on the patio, and a communal kitchen. The hotel is clean and comfortable, with an accommodating staff.
Hostería La Terraza
Hotel La Terraza is located up on the hillside with views of the surrounding coastline. The grounds are beautifully landscaped, the pool and hot-tub are well-integrated into the overall design of the grounds, and the restaurant serves an excellent breakfast.
Things to Do
Parque Nacional Machalilla has three main attractions. Each is separated geographically. While it is possible to visit all three destinations in a single day, a minimum of two days is recommended to enjoy the park.
This gorgeous stretch of beach, with its deep blue water, golden sandstone cliffs and fine-grained sand, is popular with Ecuadorians. During the holiday season, the main beach will be packed with sunbathers. A second, well-protected beach is reserved for nesting sea turtles.
Planning a day trip is complicated by rules that prevent visitors from carrying in food items that create litter, like bags of potato chips, or accessories like surf boards and boogie boards, especially on crowded days.
Isla de la Plata
Isla de la Plata is often called the Poor Man’s Galapagos. It is the nesting ground for Blue-footed, Red-footed, and Nazca Boobies as well as the Magnificent Frigate Bird. It is possible to hike several different trails on this very dry and often hot island. The longest trail, and the only one that reaches the nesting grounds of the Red-footed Booby, requires a day time visit of at least five hours.
Snorkeling and diving are popular activities near Isla de la Plata. Divers love to visit between June and September when giant manta rays migrate between the island and the mainland. This same season is an excellent chance to spot whales. While snorkeling can be complicated by turbid water, a good day in the water means swimming beside giant sea turtles.
Tours to Isla de la Plata leave daily from Puerto Lopez.
The small community of Agua Blanca has a long history in the region and retained rights to promote community tourism within the Machalilla National park. When cars enter the ark grounds via the entrance gate to Agua Blanca, each person is required to pay a small entrance fee. That fee includes entrance to the archaeology museum and a guided tour of the grounds, including an archaeology site, the native forest and local farmland.
Tours can also be pre-arranged in Puerto Lopez.
Ancient ruins at Agua Blanca include objects found from six different cultures: Valdivia, Machalilla, Chorrera, Bahía, Guangala, and Manteña. Many of the finds – such as obsidian-knapped arrowheads, stone seats of power and figurines in animal shapes – are displayed in the small museum; the archaeology dig is a few steps away.
The dry tropical forest is home to over 270 species of birds. A favorite is the Whooping Motmot with its gorgeous turquoise blue face and black eye-mask and a long, two-pronged tail that twitches like a pendulum on a clock. Other highlight species include the Peruvian Screech Owl, the Streak-headed Woodcreeper, the striking Vermillion Flycatcher, the Golden-Olive Woodpecker and the Pale-legged Hornero.
The pre-paid guided tour will include seeing some birds, but the interest of the group partially determines how much bird watching actually takes place. If you are a birdwatcher wanting to see as many species as possible, reserve a guide before your visit.
While hiking, keep your eyes open for lizards, iguanas, armadillos and monkeys.
Many locals who visit Agua Blanca come only for the lagoon of cool, sulfury water. Visitors can plaster themselves with mud before diving into this deep highly reflective pool. This is a popular activity after a day at the beach as the soothing mud and brisk water help take away the sting of sunburn.
There are showers and changing rooms on site. Bring a pair of shower shoes or sandals as the ground is gravel covered and uncomfortable for bare feet. The ladders and access points are very slippery.
Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip
meet our Local Insider
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?
I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.