Over the years Guayaquil, Ecuador, has played host to a myriad of travelers. Ernest Hemingway walked its streets, as did Che Guevara. The Spanish Conquistador Francisco de Orellana founded the city we know today on July 25, 1538. Pirates stormed the port on many occasions creating havoc, and scores of important historic meetings have taken place here. In fact, it was in Guayaquil city that liberators Simon Bolivar and San Martin held their famous meeting, to decide the future of South America once the colonial Spanish were defeated.
Today the largest city in Ecuador is a stopover for those going to the Galapagos Islands and beyond. The good news is there is no shrotage of things to do in Guayaquil. Colorful historic neighborhoods, sweeping views from hilltop vistas, riverfront promenades alive with hip nightlife, and a park in the historic district where iguanas roam free. This is an urban adventure that puts you in the center of the history and present-day culture of the country.
Keep reading for everything you need to know about Guayaquil Ecuador. All of our top picks for things to do in Guayaquil, and places to see. Plus recommendations for Guayaquil restaurants, cafes, bars and vibrant nightlife.
Las Peñas Historic Neighborhood
Las Peñas is the oldest neighborhood in Guayaquil, with colorful houses adding character to the hillside cobblestone streets. Eclectic bars and restaurants, art galleries, museums, shops, and romantic views over the city make exploring the alleyways an active way to spend a few hours. Climb the 444 steps up Santa Ana Hill to discover this barrios charms, in a place where the history and romance of old Guayaquil are palatable.
El Faro (The Lighthouse)
Located atop Santa Ana Hill (Las Peñas área), El Faro is a lighthouse that represents the original lighthouse of the city constructed in1841 at the exit of the Gulf of Guayaquil. The outpost was a crucial beacon during times when ships came and went from other parts of South America and the Galapagos Islands. The view from the top of the hill is outstanding, giving a 360-degree overview of the city.
One of the undisputed top things to do in Guayaquil is to stroll the Malecon 2000. This is the name for the modern boardwalk that overlooks the Guayas River in Guayaquil city. It is a place for family strolls whilst enjoying the passing breeze that rolls off the sea, and especially enjoyable in the evening.
Along the 2.5km stretch of Malecon 2000, you will find restaurants, bars, shops, and an IMAX movie theater amid the ponds, water fountains, historic landmarks and playgrounds. Particular highlights include:
La Perla Ferris Wheel (the highest in South America) where the views from the enclosed cars after dark capture the lights of the city on one side and river views on the other.
The Rotonda Monument marking the famous conference meeting between Simon Bolivar & San Jose back in 1822.
Parque Historico Guayaquil (Historic Park)
The Parque Historico is a great option to escape the hustle and bustle of the city for half a day. You’ll need to catch a cab to get there, but at the site everything is walkable. The park has three areas to explore:
Malecon del Salado
Malecon del Salado is a renovated boardwalk on the Salado estuary, and part of an innovative, urban renewal project on a site of a former seaside resort. A safari theme park with carnival rides, a theater, a water fountain, and eateries are a few of the attractions that bring people from all over the city both day and night.
Rowboats are available for rent to explore on the water.
Parque Seminario (commonly known as Iguana Park)
Located close to the waterfront and flanked on one side by the Guayaquil Metropolitan Cathedral, Parque Seminario holds a unique place for visitors and locals alike. The park is home to hundreds of land iguanas that roam the grass and walkways. Vendors in the park sell lettuce to feed the reptiles, who grow more than three feet long.
Cerro del Carmen
Cerro del Carmen is a hill with 200 steps to the top, where visitors will find an impressive statue of Jesus overlooking the city and the Cementerio General de Guayaquil.
Located in the trendy Samborondón neighborhood, Plaza Lagos is a complex of eateries ranging from sandwich shops and tapas to high-end restaurants. Boutique stores surround an artificial lake and palm trees. This is the place to sit outside and relax while taking in live music on weekends and people watching.
The White City (Cementerio General de Guayaquil)
In the 1920s, sculptors from Italy arrived in Guayaquil to undertake projects around the city including the Cementerio General de Guayaquil, considered one of the most beautiful cemeteries in South America. Many of Ecuador’s famous leaders, writers and musicians are buried here in elaborate marble mausoleums. Located at the base of Carmen Hill close to the historic neighborhood of Las Penas, it is one of the historic highlights of the port city.
True to its namesake Guayaquil’s pedestrian bridge zigs and zags across the Salado Estuary connecting the pier of the University of Guayaquil with the Linear Park in front of the Catholic University. The park encompasses an area of 21,720,45 square meters. Trails wind through mangroves and past ponds, making exploring here a different kind of city adventure. Close by on the university side is the Urdesa neighborhood, which has a great collection of restaurants with outdoor seating for people watching.
No blog of the best things to do in Guayaquil would be complete without mentioning the lively nightlife. Restaurants serve fresh and delicious seafood, while beer flows at a lively pace in the numerous city bars. One of the best places to head for an informal vibe is to Las Peñas district - the various alleyways (callejones) from the lower area of the main stairway (escalon) are packed with informal holes in the wall. For more formal entertainment try these recommendations out:
La Pata Gorda
For seafood, La Pata Gorda is the place to find fresh crab, marlin, shrimp, and different types of ceviche. The crab dishes are local favorites here but all plates are tasty including the seafood risotto. Lunch and dinner can get busy as the restaurant is a local’s favorite.
Cdla. Miraflores Av. Principal 116 | Calle Segunda
Cafe de Tere
For an Ecuadorian spin on breakfast, head to Café de Tere. Bolones are a specialty as is tigrillo. Bolones are plantain dumplings stuffed with cheese and fried. Café de Tere has an ample menu with different options for adding ingredients with a robust list that includes bacon and a variety of combinations to choose from. Tigrillo is a typical dish made with mashed plantain, cheese, and eggs. Other ingredients like chicharrón or fried pork rinds are often added.
Todos Los Santos 103a and V.E. Estrada Urdesa
Cevicheria Guayaca serves five different kinds of ceviche with options for shrimp, crab, and octopus as well as mixed dishes.
Cholo and Peruvian ceviches are on the menu, as are Criollo and Manabe dishes that are more typical of Ecuador.
Víctor Emilio Estrada 201 y Bálsamos
Aside from those places listed above like the Malecon, Las Penas, and the Urdesa neighborhood, all of which have many lively nightlife options- stylish Sociedad Anonima is a great spot to enjoy the evening before setting off to parts unknown. Trendy and hip, the rooftop space offers a tapas menu, creative cocktails, and an outdoor terrace where lounging underneath the stars finds you far away from the hustle and bustle of Guayaquil.
In conclusion, Guayaquil is a city deserving of your attention. Like chalk and cheese compared to the city of Quito in the highlands, no visit to Ecuador would be complete without experiencing both. As you have seen, there is a diverse list of things to do in Guayaquil, as well as a vibrant culture of dancing and dining. If you happen to be flying in or out of Guayaquil airport, then do yourself a favor - stay an extra day to sample the Creole culture of Ecuador's coast.