Guayaquil prides itself on its cosmopolitan offerings: a boardwalk which has become a principal node for tourism and commerce, revitalization projects in the city’s historic urban sectors, and beautification of public spaces, including wide, busy avenues lined with shops, restaurants, and other city accoutrements.
As the economic capital of Ecuador, Guayaquil also features an efficient mass transit system, a huge shipping port, and a diverse and dense population numbering 2.5 million residents. While the Andean cities of Quito and Cuenca treasure the past, Guayaquil is focused on the future, fostering a forward-looking attitude which adds to the city’s distinctive flair and makes it a must see on an Ecuador vacation.
Located on the shores of the Guayas River, which empties out into the Pacific Ocean, Guayaquil has a long history as a bustling port city. But probably the best expression of the city’s modern energy is the revitalized river boardwalk, Malecón 2000. As the social heart of this tropical metropolis, the malecón is the place to go to see and be seen as it functions as a kind of plaza or town square for the 21st century. Travelers will also find gardens, museums, fountains, historical monuments, restaurants, and bars, as well as boats that offer day and night tours along the Guayas River.
Las Peñas is one of Guayaquil’s historic barrios, an old bohemian neighborhood located at the northern end of the Malecón which has recently undergone renewal. It is said that Che Guevara volunteered as a pediatrician in Las Peñas during his tour of South America in the 1953. Today, as part of a Guayaquil tour, travelers can walk the cobblestone streets, admire the colorful houses, and drop by cafés and artisan workshops. At night, the adjacent Cerro Santa Ana comes to life with pubs, bars, and clubs attracting spirited crowds ready to dance the night away.
Guayaquil’s parks are also attractions in themselves. Located in the middle of downtown, Parque Seminario is one of the city’s historic plazas, where visitors will be treated to the sight of land iguanas! The Guayaquil Cathedral stands on one edge of the park and is a photogenic sight during the day and at night.
Parque Histórico Guayaquil is located 20 minutes from the center of downtown. This park comprises 3 areas: a Wildlife Zone with native flora and fauna, including mangrove swamps; an Urban Architectural Zone with examples of buildings from Ecuador’s “golden age;” and a Traditional Zone with exhibits on life in rural, agricultural Ecuador. Boasting musical shows and samples of local cuisine, this park provides first time visitors to Ecuador a great introduction to the country’s customs, culture, and natural features.
If you are planning a Galapagos cruise, all flights to the magical archipelago depart from either Quito or Guayaquil, making them a perfect stop before heading out on your exploration! Look through our Galapagos travel guide and contact our team to create a fully customized Ecuador travel package with tours to Cuenca, Quito, and other destinations.
Anabel has been exploring the length and width of South America since 2010. Ditching preconceptions, settling into the local pace, and embracing the unexpected are the tenets of her philosophy of travel – and life.