Country Ecuador | Dates July 10-12 | Accommodation Toto Hostel
What to Do for 24 Hours in Guayaquil
Our bus brought us to Guayaquil, the largest city in Ecuador (yes, it’s larger than Quito). Guayaquil isn’t really a tourist destination, and people only started visiting in recent years due to some Galapagos tours originating in the city. I would personally NOT recommend it. I don’t love all cities in general, but this one was worse. The only reason we stopped was because our bus arrived here, and after 30 hours onboard we absolutely could not deal with immediate transit out…and really needed to use our legs.
Guayaquil has some interesting sights, but is also apparently quite dangerous (more so than Quito, says the Internet upon further research), due to the recent influx of visitors, income disparity, and prevalent misconception that all tourists are highly wealthy and worth robbing. We had no idea, but found out within five minutes of arrival when we walked onto the street at 8pm. It was weirdly quiet, there were about 45 police in a 3-block radius, and we experienced more harassment than we had in the previous month combined.
Catedral Metropolitana de Guayaquil & Parque Seminario (Parque de las Iguanas)
We started our day at the Catedral Metropolitana de Guayaquil. We’ve seen about a million churches at this point, but I’d say this is probably one of the most beautiful. Inside there is a sign to deter texting that says “Jesus is talking to you, but not on that cell phone.” Let’s be honest, this sign is probably why I liked the church so much.
Across the street is Parque Seminario, commonly known as Parque de las Iguanas. It lives up to its name and we saw no less than 30 iguanas walking, lounging, and weirdly sitting among pigeons (pigeons on their bodies). Two police officers seemed to be following us. They eventually talked to us and told us we could touch the iguanas if we liked, despite numerous large signs stating DO NOT TOUCH THE IGUANAS! We did not touch the iguanas.
Described somewhere as Guayaquil’s “pride and joy” (we kept joking about this), the boardwalk is new and well-maintained and lit — and patrolled by police. It stretches along the water (obviously) and boasts a variety of not-so-exciting sights: an artisan market (pretty lame); a mall selling counterfeit clothing with American logos, the omnipresent sweatshirt with SUPREME printed on it, and multitudes of obscene crop-tops; a cinema; a small ferris wheel without a view; an arcade; a playground; an overpriced restaurant (or 5); a pirate ship attraction; a normal statue; a creepy statue; a museum; lookout towers; and a views of the [dirty] river. We walked the length in less than an hour to reach our main point of interest, Las Peñas, at the end.
Las Peñas & Cerro Santa Ana
A neighborhood at the end of the malecon, this was atop our list as it was described as having cute, colorful houses built up the mountain, places to eat and drink with a view, plus a faro (lighthouse) at the top with views of the city. The neighborhood starts at the bottom of Cerro Santa Ana with some winding cobblestone streets. You ascend via a staircase of 444 concrete stone stairs labeled with numbers so you can track your progress. The stairs climb Cerro Santa Ana past the houses, bars/restaurants, and minimarts. At the top, you’re “rewarded” with a blue and white striped lighthouse and a lookout point. It’s a pretty quick and non-strenuous walk. But we went too early at 1pm and most places were closed! We ate at one spot (see below), but not the meal with a view we’d envisioned. The lighthouse was anticlimactic, too. You can go up for free but it’s very small. “It’s kind of ugly,” Sarah said taking in the view. “Yes, I don’t like it.” I replied. Sums up our feelings on Guayaquil. After this we became deranged from the high heat (90 degrees) and nearly passed out in the road.
Los Arcos Neighborhood
After a quick nap we awoke and hastily took an uber ($2USD) to a fancier area of town, Los Arcos, which felt like another world. Lined with palm trees, mansions, pristine stucco buildings, and fancy cars, it was drastically different. We visited a large park, Parque Histórico de Guayaquil, which was an unexpected surprise with exotic animals (sad in small cages) and plants plus well-preserved colonial buildings located smack dab in the middle of the city. We then headed over to a brewery located on the side of an upscale mall, Republica de la Cerveza, for some drinks (detailed below) before heading back to our hostel prior to nightfall. At our hostel, a strange yoga class was occurring on the rooftop terrace for 2+ hours.
Eating & Drinking
Unknown Breakfast Spot | We were introduced to the bolognes, or balls of yucca with cheese and something else inside, at a small local spot by our hostel. A fried egg was placed atop this, and it was served with a dark red juice, jugo de mora (blackberry). Delicious and all for $1.5USD.
Comidas Tipicas Paradero | Located on Cerro Santa Ana around step 235 (not really sure which step honestly, but sounds right), we ate at one of the only restaurants open. It was filled with workers when we stopped on our way up, a good sign it’s tasty and cheap, but also meant no seats. We came back on our way down. The tablecloth was yellow, fake satin, and stained. The world cup played on a grainy TV. The back of the restaurant opened to the owner’s house. There were 7 dishes, and we choose a local one (trying desperately to remember the name) and ordered 2 beers. We were told this cost $4 for the meal (we were sharing the huge portion) and $1.50 each for the beer. When we went to pay, suddenly the price increased to $9. When we argued, the lady made up some lie about “light beer being more.” Meanwhile, the locals sitting beside us paid a mere $6 for their meal and 3 drinks. We were not happy, given we asked the price to ensure we stayed in budget and lunch was available most places for about $3. Plus we were swindled.
Republica De La Cerveza | We were expecting a brewery and got a brewpub, but seeing as we’d paid for an Uber we stayed and drank a local selection. Overpriced for what it was ($8 a beer, although the beer was huge and strong), we enjoyed free wi-fi and a nice outdoor seat. Plus an entertaining view of a work function going on at the bar during which time a lady fell onto a table.
Budget & Practicalities
My recommendation is don’t go to Guayaquil unless it’s necessary in-transit. There is nothing standout to see or do and it’s moderately sketchy.
Money | Ecuador uses the United States dollar, which is very odd. They made the switch several years ago. There are additional 50 cent coins we don’t have in the US (or we do have, but are very rarely used), and the Sacajawea $1 coin is very prevalent. Overall, a bit more expensive than we expected after the bargains in Peru. We found it pricier than other Ecuadorian cities.
Taxi | $5 from bus terminal to downtown. Around town would be cheaper (we did not go anywhere else, though).
Eating | Lots of local spots with Ecuador’s version of the menu at breakfast and lunch. Breakfast meals (juice + food combo) $1-$3, lunch menu (soup + entrée + juice) average of $3. Spots along the malecon pricier. Dinner prices city-wide way higher. If you’re on a budget, eat breakfast and a big late lunch as your main meal (what we always do).