Ecuador’s only coastal national park is a reminder of what much of the Central and South American Pacific coast once looked like. Now almost entirely disappeared, it’s one of the most threatened tropical forests in the world. The park, created in 1979, preserves a small part of the country’s rapidly vanishing coastal habitats, protecting about 50km of beach, some 400 sq km of tropical dry forest and cloud forest, and around 200 sq km of ocean (including offshore islands, of which Isla de la Plata is the most important).
Aside from rare exotic species, the park is also home to an important archaeological site that dates from the Manta period – beginning around AD 500 and lasting until the Spanish conquest. There are also remains of the much older Machalilla and Chorrera cultures, dating from about 800 BC to 500 BC, and of the Salango culture from 3000 BC.