Ecuador’s most populous city has come a long way in recent years to give tourists a reason to explore more than just the Amazon, Andes, and Galapagos Islands when they come to the northwestern corner of South America. Guayaquil, a tropical port city, has a new airport, a re-envisioned boardwalk, a historical / cultural center, and many other attractions to welcome visitors and immerse them in South America’s natural beauty and thriving culture.
The Malecon is a scenic walkway that borders the Guayas River and allows visitors to take in the warm weather as they stroll past shops, statues, and fountains. There’s an IMAX theater at one end that’s great for resting your feet, enjoying some air conditioning, and watching an educational film. Live musicians frequently perform along the boardwalk, and there are plenty of restaurants to choose from for a quick snack or a sit-down meal.
Cerro Santa Ana and Las Pen~as
Overlooking the Malecon is the Santa Ana hill, with its tall stairway leading up to a church, lighthouse, and even a small pirate exhibit. The stairs are long but worth climbing. They pass through the neighborhood of Las Pen~as, brightly painted houses and buildings with plenty of restaurants and galleries to check out on your way to the top. The lighthouse and church offer great views of the city, and the outdoor pirate exhibit features informational plaques and lifelike figures illustrating the past attacks by pirates on the Ecuadorian coast. Don’t forget your camera!
The “Historic Park” of Guayaquil features buildings made to look like old Guayaquil, with facades that match historic photos of downtown. There’s a house made of cane that you can walk through and explore, along with a section that functions like a mini-zoo with native animals such as tapirs and toucans that you can see up close. The park gives you a taste of the diversity that Ecuador has to offer.
El Mercado Artesanal
Guayaquil’s artesan market can provide hours of souvenir shopping. The rows and rows of stalls enable you to check out a variety of folkloric items, clothes, home decor, and art all in one place. Most of the vendors are open to haggling, so don’t think that you have to pay the first price they quote you.
Guayaquil is also home to many lovely churches, museums, and parks (including one that has iguanas lounging around in the trees and grass). Many restaurants serve fresh seafood and other tasty South American cuisine, and even a trip to the grocery store or bakery is a visual feast of tropical fruits and exotic pastries. There’s plenty to explore in Guayaquil no matter what your interests are, and surely this major South American city will continue to become more of a draw to outsiders in years to come.