Machala is known as the 'banana capital of the world' because of its central role in exporting Ecuador's bananas. It's hardly a tourist destination (guidebooks describe it as chaotic, oppressively hot and dangerous) but for those travellers who do find themselves here it has a certain charm and some good places to eat.
You can walk just about anywhere within town in Machala within about half an hour. This is safe during the daytime, but less so at night.
Buses cost $0.25 anywhere, and loads of bus lines go between Puerto Bolivar and El Cambio and El Shopping. Number 1 bus does this for example.
Taxis cost $1 within town, $3 to the port (Puerto Bolivar), $2.50 to El Shopping and $1.50 after midnight. Taxis will try to charge gringos more - in contrast to many places the best way to avoid this is NOT to ask the price before getting in. Instead, take the taxi wherever you want, hand the taxi driver a dollar and get out.
Puerto Bolivar is Machala's port, about 20 minutes away by bus ($0.25) or 15 minutes by taxi ($3). You can see big ships being loaded with bananas and there are a lot of seafood restaurants, bars and some shopping.
Plaza Colon is a nice park with a huge model of the Niña, Pinta and Santa Maria that you can climb into.
Talk to Machalenos. That's about it!
You can also go to Jambeli beach. From Puerto Bolivar, take a boat ($3) for half an hour to Jambeli. Whether it's worth the trip or not is debatable - although Jambeli is popular with Ecuadoreans its a narrow, quite dirty, very busy beach (especially at the weekend).
There is one (overpriced) shopping centre called (amusingly) El Shoping. Not sure where the other 'p' went. It's out of town towards El Cambio.
There is a wonderful pizza place on Manuel Estomba and Buenavista run by an Italian Machaleno called Claudio. Proper Italian pizzas - not cheap cheap, but very good value (about $5-7 per person plus drinks).
Naturissimo has two branches one on Rocafuerte between 9 de Mayo and Juan Montalvo, the other in the Shopping. They make delicious fresh yoghury and pan de yuca. It has to be tried to be believed! About $3 per person.
Chifa restaurants that serve Ecuadorian/Peruvian Chinese cuisine are popular and tasty.
There's a Zona Rosa, a place with many bars, but it's not very safe for non-Ecuadoreans after dark (or for Ecuadoreans for that matter).
Hotel San Francisco, on Tarqui between Sucre and Olmedo, is clean, modern and friendly. Rooms start at around $14 per person, more for air-con.
Buses to Guayaquil take 3 hours, and run every half an hour during the day and evening. Rutas Orenses on Tarqui and Bolivar are recommended (they cost $6 but are reasonably safe - the route from Machala to Guayaquil is known to be a bit dodgy).
Loja Internacional goes to Loja and takes 6 hours. Buses about every hour.
TAC and Pinas go to Zaruma (3 hours, $3)