Published on December 13th, 2016 | by Mark Chesnut
Iguanas, Chocolate & Gravestones: Top 10 Things To Do in Guayaquil, Ecuador
Sure, there may be more famous tourism destinations in Ecuador (ever heard of Quito, the Galapagos Islands, Cuenca or the Amazon jungle?). But that doesn’t mean that you can’t find lots of interesting things to do in Ecuador‘s largest city, Guayaquil.
During my recent trip to Ecuador to cover and host a panel at SAHIC, the South American Hotel & Tourism Investment Conference (check out my insider’s report from SAHIC about the three cheapest places for hotels in South America), I had time to reconnect with Guayaquil (it had been years since my last visit) and check out some of the best things to do. Here are my top recommendations.
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1. Malecón 2000: One of the most impressive urban renewal undertakings in Ecuador, this waterfront promenade makes for a scenic stroll, with lots of places to stop for photos and activities. You’ll find restaurants, an anthropology and art museum, lots of historic landmarks and La Perla, a brand-new observation wheel that opened this year, soaring 57 meters above the water.
2. Las Peñas: This historic neighborhood, located at one end of Malecón 2000, is perfect for strolling. It’s quiet, narrow streets criss-cross the hilly landscape, which is dotted with historic architecture and a variety of small shops, galleries and restaurants. While most of Guayaquil is a sprawling metropolis that’s not particularly great for strolling, this area is perfect.
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3. Cerro Santa Ana: If you’re already in Las Peñas, you need to fully explore Santa Ana hill, which rises alongside the Guayas River. A total of 456 stairs that lead to the top, where you’re rewarded with a lovely view of the entire city and the expansive river. Climb the lighthouse for an even better view.
4. Parque de las Iguanas: It may officially be called Parque Seminario or Parque Bolivar, but this centrally located public park is more commonly known by its most descriptive nickname: Park of the Iguanas. Dozens of these large, slow-moving creatures make their home here — making this a prime attraction for photo buffs and families with kids (it’s also a handy way to see some rather large-scale wildlife if you can’t make it to the Galapagos). Buy bananas or plants from the park’s vendors and you can even give the resident creatures some lunch.
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5. Catedral Metropolitana de Guayaquil: The city’s metropolitan cathedral is actually a replacement of the original, which sat on Santa Ana hill and was destroyed by fire in 1692. Today’s cathedral, built in net-gothic style between 1924 and 1937, is an attractive landmark in the city center.
6. Parque Historico: This pleasant, open-air park features a variety of attractions — including a zoo, classic 19th-century architecture and restaurants. It’s also now home to a new cacao/chocolate museum, as well as Hotel del Parque, the city’s most luxurious boutique hotel, which is set in a historic former nursing home.
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7. El Pantanal: Guayaquil’s zoo is home to a variety of species from around the globe, including zebras, monkeys, pumas, camels and crocodiles. Guided tours are available.
8. Cementario Patrimonial de Guayaquil: This historic cemetery is dotted with sculptures and impressive crypts — something like an open-air museum, documenting the lives of the city’s rich and famous.
9. Salinas Beach: Not far from Guayaquil is Ecuador’s largest beach is especially popular during high season, from December to April. Everything from jet skiing to sunbathing to swimming and parasailing are among the activities here.
10. Day tours: In addition to Salinas Beach, a variety of day trips and overnight tours provide additional activities in the coastal area surrounding Guayaquil. Agro tours — which focus on nature, agriculture and food — can connect you with some interesting outdoor activities, including visits to cacao and dairy farms and beautiful, sprawling plantations that offer an array of outdoor excitement. Find the exciting details in my post about 5 agro tours in Guayaquil that connect you with nature.