As you arrive in Guayaquil, the tropics take over… Guayaquil greets you forcefully with gusts of heavy air. It’s hot and humid here, all year long. And the defining feature, the true monument of Ecuador’s largest city, has long been the spectacular tropical nature that lies within and around its urban enclave.
These are ten natural emblems of Guayaquil that await those who seek the evergreen splendor of the tropics… Most of which are either in the city or less than an hour away from the center, and will make your stay in the city all that more special.
The River Guayas
The largest river delta this side of the Pacific Ocean is born from the rivers Daule and Babahoyo, which form the languid waters of the Guayas, a spectacular mass of brownish water that edges past the city’s main boardwalk, or Malecón… always a spectacle to behold.
An island of green sits just across the Guayas River and for years was looked upon like a long-lost forest. Today, you can walk across a bridge over the open river into the beautiful realm of this enigmatic island.
A jewel of a park and an endemic species rehabilitation center of sorts that showcases the history, culture and nature of the region.
Guayaquil’s mangrove-laden estuaries are full of allure, with herons, egrets, iguanas, mangroves, cowbirds, tanagers, nestled smack-in-the-middle of the city.
Massive centenary ceiba trees and a beautiful creek that if you get there early in the morning, can treat you to spotting a deer drinking from its water. Howler monkeys, countless bird species… they say even jaguars roam these forests only 20 minutes from downtown Guayaquil.
An estuary located just outside the city, across the way from Cerro Blanco, offers a place for the locals to bathe in a small pool facility that faces a hangout for elegant ibises, spoonbills, herons, fascinating birds you can spot on a canoe ride.
Parque El Lago
This is a massive water reservoir, which extends before you some distance away from the lookout point, park-style installations and parking area. The scenery is dramatic, calling one to set out and discover the spectacular tropical jungle mirrored between marsh and water. Kayak and sailing are common activities in the area.
One of coastal Ecuador’s most emblematic reserves, which offers boat rides in mangrove forests and trails, but is also one of the best places in the country to see the very special Horned Screamer, a unique bird with a horn!
Manglares de El Morro
Guayaquil is located on the coast, but its beach is separated from the city by mangroves and estuaries that slowly delta into the ocean. One of the very last mangrove beds is accessed from the beach town of Playas Villamil at Puerto El Morro, where you can take boat rides to discover the spectacular river/sea species that include dolphins that feed and roam the area’s brackish water.
A final frontier, and a unique site to visit and stand in awe at the greatness of the Pacific Ocean awaits on Isla Puná, the last island of the Guayaquil river delta, which, on its westernmost side, faces directly to the horizon with not a single piece of land in sight, with a very small population, offering a one-on-one experience with the very small, local populations who live in wood huts and offer a simple, one-of-a-kind overnight.
Guayaquil is home to a lively nightlife. Dancing, strolling along the river, discovering the picturesque old town neighborhoods or eating crab are among the highlights… There is certainly plenty to choose from.
The Malecón 2000, also called Malecón Simón Bolívar, opens late, and even families walk about, play and make an evening of it past sundown… it is actually the best time to feel the Guayaquil breeze!
What to do
Take the pirate boat and tour the river, admire the Guayaquil skyline and relive one of the main Colonial means of transportation. It’s one of Guayaquil’s quintessential tourist experiences.
If you’re with kids, don’t miss the playgrounds and the small amusement park.
Check out the showtimes at the Malecón cinema, or if there are events taking place at the Eiffel-designed Mercado.
Just walk and explore the spectacular tropical gardens and the beautifully-lit Torre Morisca, the city’s clock tower.
And of course, don’t miss a ride on La Perla, the city’s very own “London Eye” ride on the riverfront.
The obvious segue from Malecón is to walk up Las Peñas, the traditional neighborhood where the city was first founded, which you can visit via a picturesque 400+ stairway (each stair is numbered) that takes you to the city’s best panoramic view at the Farolito (little lighthouse). At the base of the hill, find what is probably Guayaquil’s quaintest, most romantic street, (Calle Nuna Pompillo Llona) with galleries, stores, and trendy places to grab a drink, which takes you to Puerto Santa Ana, a nice spot to catch the view of the river rolling sleepily by.
Just two blocks in from Malecón’s northern border, along Calle Montalvo, find Guayaquil’s entertainment district, chock full of bars, night clubs, cafés and lounges including salsa-dancing dive Cali Salsoteca, and a good after hour’s eating joint at La Culata (with great ceviches and coconut-based seafood dishes).
Malecón del Salado
At the end of Guayaquil’s main artery, Calle 9 de Octubre, we reach the beautiful linear park known as Malecón El Salado, an urban regeneration project that blends into the mangroves with restaurants, walkways, an amusement park and a colorful guitar-shaped fountain that “plays” music… you’ve got to see it to believe it!
One of the most attractive sectors of modern Guayaquil straddles Calle Victor Emilio Estrada, where restaurants of all kinds usually offer outdoor seating to feel the breeze and buzz of the busy streets, which on weekends can remain trafficked way past rush hour. For street dives galore, check out the nearby neighborhood of Miraflores.
For crab lovers
A favorite local nightly pastime in Guayaquil is to eat crab. Everyone is served a woodblock with a wooden hammer to break open the shell of the unique Guayaquil red crab species that roams the nearby mangroves. A true delicacy of the country, accompanied in tasty sauces, including garlic and coconut, and a savoir-faire that makes the meat juicy and tender… One of the most popular restaurants is La Pata Gorda (Av. Principal 116 y la calle Segunda) in Miraflores… (Miraflores is also home to other sites like Manny’s or Pepín) or Red Crab (Calle Víctor E. Estrada and Laureles) in Urdesa.