The first time I stepped foot into the city of Guayaquil, I was a little bit frazzled to say the least. After having just been robbed in Mancora, Peru and almost having been turned away at the border at 3 in the morning while trying to get to Ecuador, I was just happy to finally get off the bus. Guayaquil wasn’t exactly what I was expecting though.
The best way I can describe Guayaquil is to say it’s a “real” city. So many cities have developed these little worlds of tourism in their centers where it is completely normal to see a dozen or so foreigners walking around with guide books. Guayaquil, on the other hand, feels like a city built 100% for locals but it is still plenty welcoming to visitors.
Guayaquil is Ecuador’s largest city and the country’s main port. The vast majority of the city’s visitors are actually people coming for business trips or conferences. But don’t worry; with its hot, humid weather and port location, the city has an almost Caribbean vibe.
As a city, Guayaquil has seen the benefits of attracting more tourists. A lot of Galapagos tours leave from here and the city have undertaken one of the largest urban renewal projects in South America in an effort to keep those tourists from leaving as soon as their flight lands back in the city. Some of the main highlights of the city are:
Lining the Rio Guayas for a few miles, this modern boardwalk attracts crowds every weekend and most weekdays. It is one of the safest areas of town and features a mall, food stalls, and IMAX theater, modern and historic monuments, gardens, and even a indie film theater at the end of the boardwalk. The whole area seems to appeal to locals a bit more than tourists but it makes for a nice afternoon stroll.
Las Peñas and Cerro Santa Ana
At the end of the Malecon 2000, you will run right into the Las Peñas neighborhood. This restored historic district features brightly colored homes, quaint little streets, and some of the city’s best art galleries. For a great view of Guayaquil, head up the stairs of the Cerro Santa Ana. At the top, you can visit the fort and lighthouse which once helped protect the city’s port from surprise pirate attacks.
The people of Guayaquil love outdoor spaces, probably due to the sometimes unbearable heat and humidity. There are a number of parks in the city that you should check out for people watching, great street food stands, and to see some of the city’s most interesting historic monuments. The biggest park is Parque Centenario but the most interesting is probably the Parque de Las Iguanas.
Couple Travel Tips
- While Guayaquil has cleaned up its streets, it is still known for being pretty dangerous. Stick to the above areas and you should be fine. Never walk around alone at night!
- If you are planning on leaving the city on a weekend, buy your ticket early. Guayaquil residents love getting out of town on the weekends and the bus station can get ridiculously busy.
- If you want to try a different Galapagos experience, you can sometimes find room on a cargo ship leaving Guayaquil for the islands. The trip is 3-4 days in open ocean so it’s best not to try it if you or your partner are seasick prone.