The ‘orange’ town sounds like it might be a colourful, vibrant place. I guess it is quite lively when the shops are open – it functions mainly as a trading post on the road between Guayaquil and Machala.
If you choose to get off a bus there’s not much to see in town. A large statue of an Inca on the main street marks the end of an ancient route which you can follow downhill from Molleturo (located in the Andes on the highway to Cuenca). It’s possible to drive or cycle and you can also hire mules and trek.
Cerro de las Hayas
About 5km south of Naranjal a turn-off to the left takes you to Cerro de las Hayas. It’s clearly signposted and there is only one track leading towards the mountains. Follow it for about 2km to a sleepy hamlet. On the other side you pay a woman a $1 community charge and then pass along a track lined with banana palms for another kilometre to reach a parking area where a wild woman charged us $2 to park on her land. You could walk this far but obviously it’s easier in a vehicle. On weekend mornings you might be able to hitch a ride with other visitors.
From the parking area you follow a path into the forest, keeping right, vaguely following the river until you come to a series of waterfalls. None are that high but the good part is that to get to all seven you have to clamber over rocks and up very steep, muddy banks using ropes. It’s all unmanned and at your own risk but really good fun. You can bathe and even swim a little in the pools under the falls. See my blog entry.
Further south (not really that near Naranjal actually) is a turning to a small community of Shuar (an indigenous tribe from the south of the Amazon region) where you can relax in some pools of thermal water.
Opposite is the entrance to Hacienda Jambelí where larger groups can take a tour of the banana and cacao plantation.
Naranjal is located one hours drive south of Guayaquil on the Panamericana. About 10km north of town is the beginning of the highway east into the Andes to Cuenca. You can read about the routes here 1. Guayaquil – Machala 2. Guayaquil – Cuenca .