Machalilla National Park

Ecuador South America icon South America

Machalilla National Park is located along the coast in the far western side of Ecuador.  The park covers an area of 289.8 square miles (750.59 sq km).

The national park is comprised of forest diversity that includes both dry forest and fog forest.  Additionally, the park covers the shoreline and beaches, a handful of islands, and some ocean waterways off the coast.

The scrub desert vegetation includes Opuntia cactus, algaroba trees, kapok trees, and palo santo trees.  The varied habitats of the scrub desert, dry forests, fog forests, coastal islands, and the marine waterways give way to various wildlife that calls the park home.

Birdwatching is one of the park's common attractions, with over 270 species of birds migrating or nesting in the dry forest.  The Peruvian screech owl, toucan, Golden-olive woodpecker, green macaw, and the whooping motmot are some of the coveted sightings.

Younger visitors often like to see the armadillos, iguanas, and monkeys scattered across the area.  Although, they are often most excited if they get to see humpback whales splashing in the ocean. Although difficult to see because of their elusive behaviors, jaguars are in the area and a wishful wildlife sighting.

Machalilla 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

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.

Agua Blanca

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.

Trails in Machalilla National Park

Hiking on the beach, the islands, and around the area is a popular activity.  The area is more known for its beach activities, including snorkeling and scuba diving.  However, hiking is a welcomed and enjoyable activity.

Monkey Trail: This is an excursion into the Pacoche Forest, where you will traverse through the jungle for about two hours.  During the journey, there is a good chance of seeing and hearing monkeys scampering amongst the trees.

Frigates Trail: This trail is located on the Isla de la Plata and is rated easy.  It is mostly an out and back trail, although part of it is a loop.  The covers a distance of 2.7 miles (4.34 km) while ascending 446 feet (135.9 m).  Although the hike provides panoramic views out over the ocean, which is rather nice, this endeavor's primary focus is birdwatching.

Isla de la Plata Trail: This is a loop trail that traverses around a large portion of the island.  It is rated easy and features a 790 foot (240.8 m) elevation gain while covering 4 miles (6.43 km).  It provides several panoramic views of the island and surrounding ocean with chances to see wildflowers and wildlife while keeping your eyes open for the abundant bird sighting opportunities.

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.

Machalilla Highlights

  • Los Frailes
  • Isla de la Plata
  • Agua Blanca

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