This park protects one of the last areas of dry tropical forest in Ecuador and a section of the Pacific Ocean which is very rich in marine life. It’s fairly big (55,000 ha) but the majority of the things you might want to see can be accessed from Puerto López. The park office is located there, although you can also buy a ticket at the entrance to the sites.
|It costs $2 for Ecuadorian and foreign visitors to enter the park. Under 16’s and over 65’s pay 50 cents. Children under 2 years old don’t have to pay.
||0700 – 1800
||0900 – 1700
||0800 – 1800
(with additional $3 charge for guided tour)
This is a beautiful beach 11km north of Puerto Lopez. Access is from the main road, so you can take any bus travelling the route. The entrance is only 1km south of the village of Machalilla which has nothing to recommend it. A rough track leads through the scrub to the long bay. It’s a 30 minute walk if you can’t find anyone to give you a lift from the gate. The beach is quite narrow but you’re likely to have a lot of space to yourself. It’s totally unspoilt (no cold Pilsener here) and unmanned so be careful of the undertow in the sea. At the north end of the beach is a trail which leads up to a great viewpoint. You can continue along the trail to Machalilla if you’ve had enough of the beach.
This is a small village and archaeological site with a museum. The entrance is on the main road 5km north of Puerto Lopez. You must then travel another 5km inland following a dry river bed. You pay $3 for an interesting guided tour (in Spanish) of the village, ruins and museum, ending with a dip in the sulphur lake. The whole tour lasts between 2-3 hours and involves some walking, though it’s not too strenuous unless it is very hot. The museum contains many artefacts which have been found at the site.
Agua Blanca by moto taxi
From Agua Blanca you can continue 9km up to San Sebastián hill at 800m. You enter tropical moist forest and can see birds, monkeys and orchids. This is part of the park and it is administered by Agua Blanca which means you must go with one of their guides. You can hire horses and camp or stay with a family. The tour is a minimum of two days and costs $20 per day.
Isla de la Plata
This island has been nicknamed the poor man’s Galapagos because of the diversity of marine and bird life which you can see here. It is reached by a 90 minute boat trip from Puerto Lopez. On the way you can see whales between July and September, and you can also go snorkelling and scuba diving (check with the tour operator). When you get to the island a trail leads up onto a plateau of dry forest where you can see several types of seabird including frigates and blue-footed boobies.