This interesting and rich national park is located in continental Ecuador, in the coastal province of Manabi between the counties of Puerto Lopez and Jipijapa.
It has an extension of 55,000 hectares and includes the islands of La Plata and Salango, besides islets, rocks, cliffs, bays and beaches; these, together with its beautiful views and untouched areas constitute the major attraction of the park.
The most important beaches are Los Frailes, Salaite, La Playita, Los Balsamos, La Tortuguita, etc. Among the islets and rocks we have Pedernales, La Viuda, Sucre, Horno de Pan, Punta Mala, etc. De la Plata Island has an extension of 12km2 and a maximum of 167meters above sea level, and is located 22 nautical miles to the northwest of Puerto Lopez. Its main features are rocky cliffs, beaches, bays, and rocks.
The land area features the only primary tropical dry forest along the Ecuadorian coast, with an important transition towards tropical humid forest in the San Sebastian area. The land area counts with many archaeological sites, due to settlements during the Ecuadorian prehistoric era, starting from the Machalilla to the Manteño-Huancavilca cultures. The most significant cultural resource is found in the Buena Vista River Valley, and includes the Agua Blanca ruins, besides other places with ceramics. The outstanding feature of the Manteña culture is the "U" shaped chair that meant power.
In ancient times De la Plata Island was a center for religious worship of the Ecuadorian prehistoric cultures.
It is further believed that many years later the island was used as refuge for pirates, among them the famous Sir Francis Drake, who brought terror with his visits to the Spanish colonies from the years 1570 to 1596. Legends say that Drake captured a Spanish galley full of silver from Peru and that he buried it in the island; thus the name of De la Plata Island.
The abundant vegetation of the land area includes species such as Algarrobo, Palo Santo, Ceibo (Kapok), Muyuyo, Tuna, Barbasco, Fernan Sanchez, Matapalo, Guayacan, Balsa, Laurel, among others. De la Plata Island has flora similar to that of the continent. The great fauna bio-diversity from the coast to the highest part of the island includes deer, guantas, guatusas (a kind of agouti), howler monkeys, squirrels, ant bears, land iguanas, snakes, parakeets, Umbrella Birds, parrots, sparrows, swallows, cocubes, humming birds, land pigeons, sparrow hawks, pelicans, etc.
The land area is considered one of the most important sites for bird watching in the world. De la Plata Island is important for eco-tourism as it counts with marine birds such as Blue, Red Footed and Masked Boobies, Frigate Birds, Pelicans, Tropical birds and Albatross.
Puerto Lopez, a fisher-man's village within the Machalilla Natural Park, is the starting point of tourist operations in the area. Here begins the unique adventure of observing the marine-land eco-system offered by the pacific coast of Ecuador.