Guayaquil, Ecuador is a bustling city with an endless array of things to do and experience for both tourists and locals alike. If you only have a short time in the city, I would stick to the downtown areas.
The city of Guayaquil was founded by Spanish Conquistadors in 1538. The city gained independence from Spain in a mostly peaceful revolt on October 9, 1820, helping lead to Ecuador’s complete independence two years later.
The rich history of the city has lead to an abundance of tourist and historical attractions around the city. In some areas it is the oldest buildings that hold the newest art galleries.
The Firefighter museum (Museo del Bombero): In 1896 the city of Guayaquil burned in a major fire. A group of Guayaquileans formed what would become the Benemérito Cuerpo de Bomberos Guayaquil. The original firehouse turned-museum houses a collection of fire trucks and rescued equipment dating back to 1774. You can see how technological advancements and safety has evolved within the context of the history of the city. It is a great place to keep the children amazed while providing some great historical information. The museum is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 10:00AM to 5:00PM with an entry cost of $0.75/adult and $0.25/child.
La Paleta Tasca Bar is a funky restaurant bar located smack dab in the middle of Las Peñas. It is a wonderful place to end your evening downtown. You can enjoy a nice meal and/or drinks in this lively atmosphere. They often feature live music and have magicians walking around to entertain each table. La Paleta does fill up on the weekends, so if you want to guarantee a table head there near opening time, or make a reservation by calling 604-5099 or 099-783-5037. The bar is only open on the weekend evenings, Wednesday-Thursday from 8:00 pm to 12:00 am and Friday-Saturday from 8:00 pm to 2:00 am.
Cerro Santa Ana is the cities original neighborhood, dating back to the 1540’s From top to bottom it has 440 numbered stairs, passing dozens of local restaurants and handcraft stores. The stairs end at Mirador del Faro, a white a blue striped lighthouse, with a beautiful panoramic view of the city and port. It also features a boat shaped restaurant on the top of the hill.
Las Peñas is the other side of the hill from Cerro Santana. It features colorfully restored buildings, many of which house a variety of artists. Due to its direct proximity and overlap with Cerro Santa Ana, they are both often referred to just as Las Peñas.
At the foot of Las Peñas is, El Fortín de la Planchada, built in 1647 to protect the city from pirates looting. It poses a great photo opportunity with two original cannons and while it has gone under extensive renovations and restorations, it still includes many original stones. From here you can tell how drastically the city has changed and expanded over its long history.
Walking down down from Las Peñas you can enjoy a walk down the riverside. There is an IMAX® and a miniature museum, if that interests you. I personally would not travel all the way to Ecuador to watch an IMAX movie.
Malecón 2000 is a boardwalk along the Rio Guayas starting with a garden featuring many of Ecuador’s iconic flora and fauna. Lining the boardwalk is many statues and busts of historical figures associated with Guayaquil and Ecuador. La Rotonda statue, to Simon Bolivar and San Martin, is the icon of the city. There is also a small park for children and a place sit in shade. It also features the Torre Morisca (a clock tower) one of the cities most famous monuments. The boardwalk passes in front of both the municipal and state government buildings, with beautiful facades. Located along the walk is a train car where you can get more info about train tours in Ecuador. You can also take a ride on a replica schooner of the pirate ship belonging to Sir Henry Morgan, of which the Captain Morgan brand is named.
Isla Santay is a relatively new addition to the list, thanks to a new walking bridge connecting Guayaquil to the island, completed in the spring of 2014. It features miles or wooden walkways though the islands natural habitat and vast array of mangroves. At the end of the trail is my personal highlight, crocodiles. It does get hot in the sun, so make sure to bring water and a hat for this trip. There is also a small community of 56 families who live in eco-friendly homes, who sell small concessions. You can rent a bike to get around the island faster, but get there early as they run out of rentals by early afternoon. The island opens daily at 6AM and entry stops at 5PM, while it closes at 6PM.
Parque de las Iguana/Seminario is a must see, there are often more iguanas than people, even on the busiest of days. To view the iguanas is reason enough to stop by this downtown park.
Plaza del Centenario is a historical park full of gardens and statues in remembrance of the October 9, 1820 independence, inaugurated on 100th anniversary.
Safety in Guayaquil:
As with anywhere, be aware of your personal items and surroundings. Keep watches, jewelry, electronics and brand name clothing to a minimum. Pickpockets often work in groups to distract obvious tourists, while robbing them. I would never suggest walking alone in an empty road with your cell phone in your hand, it is just asking for trouble.
Guayaquil is known for its kidnap express, either illegitimate taxicabs or armed men tapping on your car window. These take place at any time during the day or night. Do not pick up a taxi on the street, ask the front desk at your hotel or hostel to call a trusted cab for you. If you are out and want a cab, find a nearby hotel to ask the front desk.
At night, many areas of Guayaquil are less than savory. If you want to see the city’s nightlife, I suggest sticking to Las Peñas or other areas with a noticeable police presence.
Please share your favorite spot in Guayaquil that is missing from this list in the comments. Or, let us know your favorite place off the beaten track in your own city, so we can make sure to visit if we travel there!