Many cruise passengers heading to Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands connect through Guayaquil, often staying overnight for the best flight connections. Those who stay in the area for a day or two find that Guayaquil has much to offer. Guayaquil is Ecuador’s largest city and the gateway to the country’s sunny Pacific coast, an area that includes splendid beach towns and enchanting eco-destinations.
Here are eight popular attractions and places to explore while visiting Guayaquil:
1. Malecón 2000
This beautifully restored pedestrian walkway along the Guayas River is a must-see for visitors to Guayaquil. Stretching over 1.5 miles along the water, the Malecón 2000 consists of parks and recreation areas, monuments, fountains, museums, an IMAX theater, shopping areas, restaurants and much more. Allow plenty of time for a relaxing stroll and don’t miss the La Rotunda monument, the massive Moorish clock tower, and the neoclassical Palacio Municipal located right across from the malecón. Beginning where Malecón 2000 ends, the newer Malecón del Salado is one of the best places to view a sunset.
2. Cerro Santa Ana
In the mood for a workout while you’re sightseeing? The 465 steps up to the top of Guayaquil’s Cerro Santa Ana (Santa Ana Hill) are waiting for you. Climb to the top for a spectacular view and you’ll find the chapel of Santa Ana and a picturesque lighthouse there as well. Most of the buildings on Cerro Santa Ana are painted in bright colors, giving the area a festive feel. Stop along the way up (or down) the steps to peruse the area’s many shops, bars, restaurants, cafés, and art galleries. The Fortin del Cerro (Fort of the Hill) is located along the way as well.
3. Las Peñas
For those who don’t want to climb Cerro Santa Ana, or who are simply seeking even more exposure to Guayaquil’s beautiful neighborhoods, stroll through Las Peñas. Located along the river at the base of Cerro Santa Ana, this beautifully restored old area consists of cobblestone streets, art galleries, restaurants, and residential buildings.
4. Parque Seminario
Residents and visitors alike love this shady park, as do many of the city’s leaf-eating reptiles. Often referred to as “Iguana Park,” Parque Seminario is home to a large population of green iguanas that can commonly be found in the trees or on the grounds. Another popular park, Parque Centenario, can be found in the middle of the city.
5. Parque Histórico Guayaquil
Popular with Ecuadorian families, this park provides an excellent overview of the history of Guayaquil. Visitors can go back in time and see what life was like in earlier centuries in this city.
6. Botanical Gardens
Guayaquil’s botanical gardens are located a short ride from the city’s center, but they’re well worth seeing. Visitors will walk along a series of pedestrian paths and can view many hundreds of species of tropical plants here. These gardens are also a paradise for bird and butterfly lovers as well.
7. Captain Morgan Yacht
Sailing along the Guayas River is one of the most relaxing ways to experience Guayaquil. Take a one-hour cruise in a replica of a pirate boat with the crew of the Captain Morgan and enjoy spectacular views of the city, Las Peñas, colorful Cerro Santa Ana, and the Malecón 2000. Drinks and snacks are available for purchase.
8. Mercado Artesanal
This is one of the best places to buy local handicrafts in Guayaquil. This main artisans’ market contains over 150 stalls. Common items include tagua nut carvings, handmade jewelry, ceramics, textiles and Panama hats.
Nancy Schretter is the Managing Editor of the Family Travel Network.