Santiago de Guayaquil (or in English, St. James of Guayaquil) is the largest and the most populous city in Ecuador, with around 2.69 million people in the metropolitan area, as well as the nation's main port. The city is the capital of the Ecuadorian province of Guayas. Guayaquil is located on the western bank of the Guayas River, which flows into the Pacific Ocean at the Gulf of Guayaquil.
A fusion of high-rise buildings and shanty towns, this city is the gateway to the Galapagos islands, but is an attraction in itself, and not to be missed on your travels. There are lots of amazing things to do in Guayaquil, such as wandering the famous historical street of Numa Pompilio Llona and visiting its quaint art galleries, or passing some time in the incredible Parque Historico Guayaquil. Climb the 465 steps to reach the top of Santa Ana Hill for panoramic city views, or stroll through the colourful streets of Las Peñas. Below is our Guayaquil travel guide with information on all the best things to do, places to go and what not to miss.
MALECON 2000 – Located in the city of Guayaquil, along the Guayas River, is a project of urban regeneration of the old Malecon Simon Bolivar. Here you can enjoy the great monuments of the history of Guayaquil such as the Chamber Rotunda, museums, gardens, fountains, a shopping centre, restaurants, bars, food courts, and the first IMAX theatre in South America. There are also piers where you can board boats for both day and night trips by the Guayas River, and view some amazing attractions.
PARQUE HISTORICO GUAYAQUIL – Colonial history meets the zoo at this large sight across the Puente Rafael Mendoza Aviles Bridge, east of Río Daule. The park is divided into three zones: the Endangered Wildlife Zone, where the popular animals are the parrots and sloths in a semi-natural habitat; the Urban Architecture Zone, which has a restaurant and showcases the development of early 20th century architecture in Guayaquil; and the Traditions Zone, which focuses on local traditions, with an emphasis on rural customs, crafts, and agriculture.
ACUARIO – The biggest aquarium in South America. Here you can see many sharks and fish from the Ecuadorian Ocean, even the ones from the Galapagos and also other types from around the world.
NUMA POMPILIO LLONA – This historic street, named after the well-known Guayaquileño poet, begins at the northern end of the Malecon, to the right of the stairs that head up the hill called Cerro Santa Ana. This narrow, winding street has several unobtrusive plaques set into the walls of some of its houses, indicating the simple residences of past presidents. The colonial wooden architecture has been allowed to age elegantly, albeit with a gloss of paint.
MUSEUM OF ANTHROPOLOGY AND CONTEMPORARY ART – This place hosts a superb permanent collection of pre-Colombian pieces and videos showing artistic techniques of early people. MAAC also has a modern 350-seat theatre for plays, concerts, and films.
*** WHAT NOT TO MISS ***
The Parque Historico Guayaquil.
The Nama Pompilio Llona.
You can find typical restaurants, as well as international and specialized cuisines. One of the main culinary areas of the city is the Urdesa neighbourhood where you can find local food and foreign restaurants. Don’t miss out on trying fresh prawns!
For great Ecuadorian seafood, go to Marrecife Marisqueria (Avenida Miguel H. Alcivar y Francisco de Orellana) – here you can sample the local specialities. Quick service, an extensive menu, and excellent, fresh ingredients. Another good choice is La Canoa (Chile y 10 de Agosto), which also serves coastal cuisine.
El Café de Tere (Av. Hno. Miguel Solar) is the place to go for a typical Ecuadorian breakfast: expect green banana balls filled cheese and fried pork, and meat with rice. The coffee and juices here are also very good.
One of the great attractions that this city has is its tempting nightlife. Due to the cultural diversity that Guayaquil has, you may find places that allow public expression of each type of culture. There are pubs, dance schools, clubs and other night clubs that provide the best entertainment to its audience. The Zona Rosa (pink zone) is very popular and is located in the centre of the city. Another popular area where you will find clubs is Urdesa.
Head to Pool Club Urdesa (Victor Emilio Estrada 1214) with friends for a fun night – here you’ll find tasty pub food and drinks, accompanied with live music. For rock’n’roll, check out Rock and Rolla (Victor Emilio Estrada & Laureles) – here you’ll enjoy the great atmosphere and live bands.
The best season to visit this city are the coldest and less humid months of the dry season, between May and December. Daytime temperatures have little variation throughout the year, staying at around 30 degrees, and by night it is 20 degrees. January has the highest average temperature of 28 degrees Celsius, and July has the coolest mean temperature of 23 degrees.
Buses arrive and depart from the centre of the city. A taxi to go to the main hostels/hotels is $3 or $4. Always call a safe taxi, Easy Taxi is a popular service here!
If you are coming from Peru the closest Peruvian city to Ecuador is Tumbes. It’s around 6 hours from Tumbes by bus. They will take you to the immigration office and wait for you until all the passengers finish the visa process. If you’re coming from Mancora (Peru), it’s around 8 hours to Guayaquil.
Staying in the downtown area (close to the Malecon) or in the northern suburbs are the best options, as you will have easy access to the bus terminal and to the airport.
One place to check out is Hostal Macaw (Manzana 11), a family-run B&B which is located close to the airport. The rooms are clean and comfy, and the owners are very kind and hospitable. Another option is RE Bed and Breakfast (Junin 428 y Cordova) – this place has a homely-feel, with very helpful owners, a tasty breakfast, and cozy rooms which have great views of the city.
Guayaquil is the best place to take the bus to start the Sun Route around the Ecuadorian beaches.
If you travel around Ecuador by bus, keep your valuables safe. The best way to do this is to keep a small bag on your lap, rather than by your feet.