Sightseeing in Guayaquil

Guayaquil (pronounced why-a-keel) is the largest and most populated city in Ecuador with about 2.3 million inhabitants in the city and nearly 3.1 million in the metropolitan area.  The city is situated on the western bank of the Guayas River which flows into the Pacific Ocean.  Because of its location, Guayaquil is the center of Ecuador’s business and manufacturing industries, and boasts the nation’s principal port.  We observed first-hand the results of recent urban regeneration projects designed to transform Guayaquil into a first-class international tourism destination and business center for multinationals.

We arrived at the Hotel Ramada early Friday afternoon and were pleased to find our room overlooked the Malecon and the river.  Although the hotel was rated 4-star, we wisely lowered our expectations as we suspected, and it was confirmed, that hotel ratings are not universal.  A 4-star rating in Ecuador is definitely not equal to a 4-star rating in Canada.  That aside, we were very happy with the quality and amenities of this hotel.  The location was fantastic – on the north end of the Malecon within easy walking distance to all attractions.   Our room was spacious, clean, secure and air-conditioned –something we were very grateful for as temperatures each day were in the 30’s before humidex.

We began each day with a hearty breakfast buffet, included with our room rate.  This was the best breakfast so far with real coffee – believe it or not, while Ecuador grows, produces and exports coffee beans, it is not uncommon to be served a coffee-like drink instead of the real thing.  So when we get a good cup of brewed coffee such as the coffee we enjoyed each morning in Guayaquil, we really appreciate  it – ahh, sometimes it’s the simple pleasures that can make such a difference.  The buffet also included a variety of fresh fruit juices, fresh fruit, hot food (scrambled eggs, meat, pancakes), ceviche (which is usually served as an appetizer before dinner), selection of breads and pastries, yogurt and dry cereals.  It was plentiful, and varied each day.   And it held us until late afternoon too.

The pool, sauna and steam room have been a daily, refreshing delight. We managed to do some of our Spanish lessons while relaxing by the pool.  Speaking of Spanish lessons, our Spanish is deplorable.  I would have thought that by now we would be making great strides but every day is a struggle to make ourselves understood.  Our vocabulary is still so limited and it seems the words we need to communicate have not yet been learned.  Add to that, our brains are like a sieve.  Guess it must be our age or something but we will practice a phrase or two in advance when we know we’re going to be in a certain situation, and unless I write it down, good luck remembering it.  It’s hard to teach old dogs new tricks.

Over the past few days, we have strolled the Malecón 2000 many times.  This is a 2.5 km boardwalk overlooking the Guayas River.  Several of the greatest historical monuments in the history of Guayaquil can be seen along its length, as well as museums, gardens, fountains, shopping malls, restaurants, bars, food courts, the first IMAX theater in South America, as well as boarding docks where several embarkations offer both daytime and nighttime tours up and down the Guayas River. It is one of the largest works realized in Guayaquil and it is considered a model of urban regeneration by global standards, having been declared a healthy public space’ by the Pan-American Organization of Health (POH) and the World Health Organization (WHO).

The Malecon was a magnet for families and young couples, especially on the weekend.  All day long, people strolled slowly along the boardwalk, frequently enjoying ice cream cones along the way. We think eating ice cream cones must be a national past time – something Chris has heartily endorsed in his daily routine.  The sound of children playing in the parks and the sight of parents sitting on benches nearby gave a wholesome, lively feeling to the area.  I noticed a common sight amongst families with young babies.  The baby would be wrapped in a lovely blanket – pink for a girl, blue for a boy – and either the mother or father would lovingly carry the baby in their arms as they walked along the Malecon, proudly parading their new offspring for the world to see.  It always brought a smile to my face when I saw these young parents carrying their often newborn babies in this way.   The Malecon offered a lot of amusement for young children – a little train that travelled back and forth along the board walk, face painting, electric cars, and several large playgrounds to name just a few.

Police presence was strong both along the Malecon as well as throughout the downtown core, making us feel very safe even at night.  We also noticed how clean these areas were, in sharp contrast with the rest of Ecuador.  Obviously the local government was making tremendous efforts and was having success in transforming Guayaquil’s reputation from a dirty, unsafe city to a city that was safe and welcoming to tourists.   It reminded me of a similar transformation that was achieved in Manhattan in recent years.

Now in tourist mode, we visited four museums all of which were in Spanish which meant breezing through them rather quickly.  We wandered through a few churches.  We were intrigued by Parque Seminario (also known as Parque de Las Iguanas or Iguana Park) which is home to many iguanas, some of which approach 5 feet in length. Tourists and locals alike often feed the iguanas mango slices from park vendors. There is also a pond filled with colourful Japanese Tilapia and turtles. An equestrian statue of Simón Bolívar is located in the centre of the park.  As we paused to get a closer look at these pre-historic looking creatures, there was a sudden large splatter of green goop that fell from the sky right next to us, spraying each of us a little – what the hell was that?!?  We looked up to see the trees above laden with iguanas who seemed quite content to poop wherever and whenever they pleased.  Yuch!  We quickly made our way to the edge of the park, outside of the firing range of these pooping iguanas.  It was quite a sight to see hundreds of iguanas in a park in the middle of a city.  I still don’t know why they are here or where they came from.

The historic neighbourhoods of Las Peñas & Cerro Santa Ana have been refurbished into an idealized version of a quaint South American hillside village, all brightly painted homes and cobblestone alleyways. If you peek inside an open door or window, however, you realize it’s just for show as residents still live their everyday lives as they would elsewhere in the city.



The 456 steps of Cerro Santa Ana (each numbered) lead past dozens of refurbished, brightly painted homes, cafés, bars and souvenir shops, and up to the hilltop fort, Fortín del Cerro (‘Fort of the Hill’).  Cannons, which were once used to protect Guayaquil from pirates, aim over the parapet toward the river and are still fired today during celebrations. We climbed the lighthouse for a spectacular 360-degree view of the city and its rivers.



We have thoroughly enjoyed our cultural respite in Guayaquil and feel recharged, refreshed and ready for the next leg of our journey.

Category: Ecuador, South America
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2 Responses
  1. Nina and Robert Leroux says:

    Hi Chris and Christine. I have been following all your adventures since you left and want to let you know how much I have enjoyed reading each one. You are doing an awesome job, everything is so interesting, I will get to know a lot more about the world through the two of you. Glad you are feeling better Chris. We are into the fall here now, most of the leaves are gone and we have had a few days of wet, dreary weather (fall for sure). Still hoping to get a day or 2 of warm conditions, warm to get in another game or two of golf before the season is over. Connie, Yves and the kids were here for Thanksgiving, we had a really nice weekend, the kids are changing so much. I made the broccoli casserole with the turkey and I always think of you Chris (and Tim) whenever I make it as you both enjoyed it to much the first time you had it at the little house in Chelmsford.
    Take care of each other and enjoy yourselves. I look forward to your updates. Hugs Nina

    • chris says:

      Hola Nina y Robert!

      Thanks so much for your kind thoughts… we are having a blast!

      Currently, we are in the Galapagos… in a few minutes, we leave to have lunch on a yacht, on which we will cruise around the islands… life can be so hard sometimes!

      I’ve always envied you and Robert for being able to ‘winter’ in Mexico… we’re getting a taste of a similar lifestyle… it’s really nice!

      Take care, and keep enjoying the blog!

      All the best,

      Chris and Christina