As the gateway to the Galapagos Islands, most visitors spend at least a day in Guayaquil, Ecuador before setting off to the volcanic archipelago. What many don’t realize is that the coastal city is actually the country’s largest metropolis, an economic hub and home to nearly three million people.
Most of the main highlights are easily walkable, so a day is typically all you need to see the main sights. From visiting an iguana-filled park to where to find the most photographic spots, here are the top things to do in Guayaquil.
Iguana Park is exactly what the name implies—a beautiful plaza overrun with huge iguanas. Also called Parque Seminario, it looks rather unassuming as you stroll through the beautiful iron gates, which open to a statue and gazebo framed by the backdrop of a beautiful cathedral located across the street.
The real fun begins once you get about halfway in, and realize there are iguanas absolutely everywhere; in the trees, on the pathway, in little ponds, on the grass…frankly you have to watch your step as there’s a good chance you could accidentally step on one of their long tails or have one brush up against your leg.
Tips for visiting Iguana Park:
- Don’t go right at noon, as the iguanas are sleeping and will be hiding in the trees.
- Do not touch the iguanas
- Look up. There are lots of iguanas hiding in the tree branches overhead, and they’ve been known to fall onto people walking below!
WATCH: Overrun by iguanas in Parque Seminario
The Malecon is the city’s pride and joy, and walking along the boardwalk is one of the best things to do in Guayaquil. Winding along the coast, the 2.5 kilometre laneway overlooks the Guayas River. Along the route you’ll find shops, restaurants, lovely gardens, an amusement park, water park, movie theatre and a number of historical monuments.
A dock about halfway through serves as the boarding point for boat rides, and visitors can take advantage of everything from a motor boat ride to a journey on a pirate ship. There are also some great lookout points which will give you a better view of the surrounding city and colourful houses tucked into the hillside.
Go for a spin on the largest ferris wheel in South America, which is one of the top attractions along Malecón 2000. “The Pearl” opened in 2015, and soars 57 metres above the city which means incredible views.
Hit the beach along Ruta del Sol
The Sun Route is a historical road that goes from Guayaquil to nearby beaches, including Playas, Salinas, Punta Blanca, Montañita, Ayampe, Ayangue, Olon, and Puerto López. Soak up the sun, or book a paragliding adventure which is popular pastime around these parts.
See dolphins in Puerto El Morro
You don’t have to go to the Galapagos to see wildlife: turns out you can see the likes of exotic birds and bottlenose dolphins just 90 minutes from Guayaquil. Puerto El Morro has plenty of natural attractions including sea lions, blue-footed boobies, even whales depending on the season. Book this five-hour tour which includes transfers and a boat ride. Click here to book
Where to stay in Guayaquil
When picking a hotel, look for one near the Malecon as this is where most of the main sites are. Oro Verde Guayaquil is a fantastic boutique option, with amenities including a large gym, pool, sauna, steam room and complimentary airport shuttle.
Modern rooms include robes, slippers, a spa-like bathroom and mini-bar, and welcome gifts like cool drinks and chocolate platters. While all that is reason enough to book, the experience that really wows is the incredible complimentary breakfast buffet with a dizzying variety of food, such as a made-to-order omelette station and freshly-carved roast beef. Click here to book
Other options include:
- Hotel Del Parque: This elegant boutique hotel is housed in a historic building, and has tropical gardens, outdoor patios and a massage area housed in a bell tower. Guests love the palatial rooms, excellent service and convenient location. Click here to book
- Wyndham Guayaquil: Perched along the Guayas River, this modern hotel has amenities including a rooftop swimming pool, spa and a fitness centre with jacuzzis, a steam bath and sauna. Click here to book
Tips for visiting Guayaquil
- How to get around: Taxis are inexpensive and most sightseeing spots are located within a few blocks of each other. That being said, the city can be dangerous and sadly tourists have been killed during armed robberies that started by hailing a cab. The best way to avoid trouble is to only get in a taxi provided by your hotel. If you’re out walking and need a ride back be sure to walk to the nearest chain hotel and they’ll be able to order one for you.
- When to go: Guayaquil has hot weather year round, so locals suggest visiting in August when it’s a little cooler. Many shops are closed on Sunday, so keep that in mind if you only have one day in Guayaquil.
- How do you pronounce Guayaquil? Guayaquil is pronounced ‘why-ah-keel.’
Book a guided tour of Guayaquil
YOU MIGHT ALSO ENJOY:
- Fun things to do in Quito, Ecuador that you won’t want to miss
- Exploring Ecuador’s Pululahua volcano, and the hotel perched on a crater
- Galapagos Islands cruise: a week with Ecoventura
- Why South America is perfect for backpackers
This article was originally published in April 2014 and updated in September 2020
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