Machala is one of the largest cities in Ecuador and is a part of the Coastal Lowlands of Ecuador. Machala is known as the 'banana capital of the world' because of its central role in exporting Ecuador's bananas. It's recognized as one of the most modern cities in Ecuador. Being on the Pan American Highway, Machala is a crossing point for tourists going between Ecuador and Perú, as it is the largest city near the Peruvian border.
Machala has expanded and become a lot safer. The city features a nice harbour called Puerto Bolivar, there are restaurants right on the water. Machala's cuisine is unique in that it is a blend of Ecuadorian coast cuisine and authentic Peruvian cuisine, making Machala's cuisine truly undiscovered.
Machala also features a few malls and noteworthy monuments such as the Sword-Fish near the elevated flyover and the monument to the Bananero which is on a roundabout near La Piazza. Machala's people are kind and welcoming, making it an ideal stopover if you're travelling between Ecuador and Peru. Machala has a distinct small-town feel and some excellent lunch and dining options, including fantastic seafood, and barbecue restaurants. In December, the city is illuminated by Christmas lights and decorations.
You can take a provincial bus from most cities in Ecuador to the brand new Machala Bus Terminal, which has a small mall inside where you can shop for any essential items you may need for your trip when you arrive or before you depart Machala. There is a pharmacy, a grocery store, a sports store where you can get comfortable clothes if needed, and a food court with KFC and local fast food restaurants.
Trips from Guayaquil take about 3 hours, and trips from Cuenca take about 3 hours. AndesTransit has further information on bus schedules and trip times.
- Santa Rosa International Airport (ETR IATA). Latam Ecuador is the only airline that operates from Quito.
In Machala, you can walk around within town in about an hour. During the day, it is a safe option but during the night might be a different story
Buses are $0.25 everywhere, and there are numerous bus lines that connect Puerto Bolivar to El Cambio and El Shopping. For example, the number one bus does this.
Taxis are $1 within town, $3 to the port (Puerto Bolivar), $2.50 to El Shopping, and $1.50 after midnight. Unlike many other regions, taxis may seek to overcharge North Americans; the simplest approach to avoid this is to not ask for the price before entering. Instead, hail a cab to your desired location, pay the driver $3, and exit the taxi.
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.
Parque Juan Montalvo (during the day): it is a popular park located in the center of Machala and is home to a nice water fountain
Machala Cathedral is the city's main catholic church and is the biggest church in the city. It is located in the heart of Machala in Parque Juan Montalvo.
- 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).
- El Paseo Shopping Machala: the only mall that is in the city
- La Piazza: a local shopping plaza
- Oro Plaza: beside El Paseo Shopping Machala is Oro Plaza which is another local plaza that has some shops where you can get clothes, fast food and restaurants
- Naturissimo has two branches one on Rocafuerte between 9 de Mayo and Juan Montalvo, the other in the Shopping. They make delicious fresh yogurt and pan de yuca (cheese bread that is worth a try).
- El Monito is a popular snack and drink place among locals.
- Chifa restaurants that serve Ecuadorian/Peruvian Chinese cuisine are popular and tasty.
- Paseo Shopping Machala has fast food favourites like Kfc, Subway, Mayflower (a Ecuadorian Chinese fast food chain), Pizza Hut, Le Crepes & Waffles, Naturissimo, Pinguino (a local ice cream place that sells ice cream cones), Carls Jr (the American fast food chain sells Signature favourites in the food court), La Tablita del Tártaro (a local barbecue place in the food court where you can get a chicken or beef platter that comes with rice and bean stew called arroz con menestra con carne or pollo)
- Oro Plaza: has Chesco Pizzeria, El Carbon De Freddy (a local BBQ staple that includes beef, chicken, local moricilla, beef and pork sausages)
- Chesco Pizzera is a popular pizzeria in the city that is worth a try if you enjoy pizza and want to taste how they make it in South America.
- Chili's this American restaurant chain is inside the Paseo Shopping Machala. You can get favourites like steak, chicken wings, hamburgers, drinks and alcoholic beverages.
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.
- Hotel Oro Verde is a popular hotel outside the city center. This 5-star hotel is elegant, has a big pool for guests to swim in and has a fancy cafe where you can get some local brewed coffee and some torta de tres leches which is delicious.
- Hotel Vexour is a hotel in the city center of Machala close to Parque Juan Montalvo where there is a nice park and the Machala Cathedral which is beautiful.
Puerto Bolivar is normally not a safe area to walk on the boardwalk at night, therefore if you must go, it is best to travel by car rather than walking.
Zona Rosa is not a safe place usually because of all the bars and nightclubs around the area
Don't walk with any valuable belongings at any time while in the city: it is not safe to do so and you could be followed for it and robbed. Leave anything expensive where you are staying. If you do bring anything with you make sure it's not too valuable.
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)
CIFA Internacional goes to Peru, with a through bus over the border. Buses go to Mancora twice a day, or change in Tumbes, Peru.