Great surfing and magnificent sunsets are not the only reason to travel Ecuador´s central Pacific Coast. Beyond the beach, you will find a surprising diversity of coastal forests: dry, humid, cloud and mangrove. Wildlife varies from howler monkeys and toucans in the canopy, humpback whales and sea turtles in the Pacific Ocean, Blue and Red footed boobies on Isla de la Plata.
This program combines half day hikes with whale watching (June – September), snorkeling, kayaking and beach time. It is organized in cooperation with communities that banned hunting and logging to protect their forest habitat. Responsible, small-scale tourism is an important support for them. You will hike with local guides, share traditional meals and learn about their efforts to protect natural resources.
Because of the tropical climate, the hiking times in this program are not too long: average 2 – 4 hours. The trails vary from easy to moderate. Be prepared for muddy trails and river crossings in the humid forest (rubber boots will be provided). Bring adequate sun protection (sun block, sun glasses and hat), especially for Isla de la Plata and Los Frailes where there is no shade.
After each hike there will be time to relax and enjoy the beach near the accommodation.
At 8.30 a.m. our driver will pick you up in Guayaquil for a 2,5 hour ride to Manabi province. We head to a rural community hidden in the evergreen forest. Our local guide will invite you on a hike of about 2 hours in their edible garden. It is full of tropical fruit trees like bananas, plantains and grapefruits, medicinal herbs, coffee plants and cacao trees. Long before the concept of food forest became popular, the local communities knew the benefits of agroforestry. During the hike, look out for colorful butterflies, hummingbirds, woodpeckers, tanagers and other birds.
You will be invited into a traditional farmhouse for the tonga, a tasteful dish of chicken, plantain and peanut sauce served in banana leaves. After lunch, learn about the artisanal coffee production, from the harvesting to the roasting and brewing.
Late afternoon, we continue by car for 2 hours to the Pacific Ocean. Arrive in the fishing town of Puerto Lopez and spend the night in cozy cabins near the beach.
We set out early for a 4-hour hike in the humid tropical forest of Machalilla National Park. Rising to 400 – 800 m. / 1312 – 2624 ft. above sea level, the cool and moist forest is part of the Chongon-Colonche cordillera, the only mountain range west of the Andes. A muddy trail crossing many times a small meandering stream ascends to the cloud forest, where huge trees are covered with bromeliads and orchids. The canopy is home to black howler monkeys and capuchin monkeys, so keep your ears and eyes open! You may spot also toucans, flycatchers and hummingbirds.
After lunch in the guide´s house we drive to Playa Los Frailes. Part of the Machalilla National Park, this is a beautiful sandy beach with turquoise waters. The short hiking trail includes two smaller beaches that are nesting areas of sea turtles. After some time for swimming and relaxing, return to Puerto Lopez late afternoon.
Today´s destination is Isla de la Plata, the highlight of Machalilla National Park. In the whale mating and breeding season (June – September) the boat trip to this uninhabited island is an experience in itself. You will have the opportunity to witness spectacular sights and sounds of the humpback whales, breaching and singing.
The 3-hour hike around Isla de la Plata follows a dirt trail in dry tropical forest with Palo Santo trees and spiny shrubs. Soon you will see the first of numerous Blue footed boobies. You can spot them from nearby as they perform their funny mating dance. Other birds living on and along the trails are Red footed boobies, Nazca boobies, Frigate birds, Red billed tropicbirds. The lookout point at the high part of the island offers superb views of the cliffs and untouched small beaches.
Back at the boat it is time to snorkel and explore the Pacific marine life with coral reefs, tropical fish, sea turtles and if lucky, manta rays. Late afternoon, short transfer to another beach side lodge with magnificent views.
Early transfer to a community a few miles inland. We start a 3-hour hike in the lush forest with a crystal clear river and beautiful waterfalls to cool off. The trail is slightly muddy and hilly, with some river crossings. If you didn´t spot the howler monkeys on day 2, today you will have another opportunity. The guide will point out two palm trees that are of huge importance to the community. The toquilla palm provides the fibers used to weave the famous Panama hats (that actually are Ecuadorian hats). Next is the tagua palm or vegetable ivory. The tagua nuts are the raw material for precious jewelry and other crafts. Back in the village we visit a workshop to see how these materials are processed.
After a seaside lunch we continue south to a community protected mangrove forest for a combined hiking & kayaking trip. The mangrove swamps are home to herons, kingfishers, flamingos and other aquatic bird species. A local guide will tell you about the huge importance of the mangrove ecosystem.
In the late afternoon return to Guayaquil.