Machala is a city in El Oro.
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 and important cities in Ecuador, crossing the Pan American Highway, Machala is a crossing point for tourist going between Ecuador and Perú, as it is the largest city near the border. Guidebooks describe it as chaotic, oppressively hot and dangerous, however in the past years, Machala has grown and has become a lot safer. The city has a beautiful port named Puerto Bolivar, there are restaurants right on the water, and Mangroves are everywhere. Machala's gastronomy is rather interesting, as it's a fusion between Ecuador's coast cuisine and Award Winner Peruvian food making Machala's food truly yet undiscovered, Machala has a few malls, interesting monuments like the Sort-Fish and the Bananero Monuments. Machala has very nice places to stay like the Hotel Oro Verde. Machala's people are welcoming and friendly, it's the perfect city to visit if you are traveling between Ecuador and Perú, has nice supermarkets as well. In December the city becomes lit by Christmas lights. Machala has a certain unique small city charm and some good places to eat.
Trips from Guayaquil take usually around 3 hours and to Cuenca 3 hours as well. More information about bus schedules and travel time can be found at [https://andestransit.com AndesTransit}.
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, if you particularly want to.
There are a few things you can do as a tourist in Machala, you should visit the Parque Urbano, it's a very nice large park. You can take a drive to the Petrified forest of Puyango. You can go to Puerto Bolivar and see the ships exporting bananas in containers while you grab a bite.
You can 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.
There are a number of places to grab a drink like bars, live music restaurants and clubs, across the city. There's a Zona Rosa, but it's not very safe specially after dark.
Hotel Oro Verde on Unioro, is the best one in the city, it's very pretty and it's a five star hotel. Hotel Brittany for the budget traveler, they have two hotels on the center and the other one near the Port. 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.
There is a tourist information office on the corner 9 de Mayo and 25 de Junio.
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)