Known as the gateway to the Galapagos Islands and Pacific Beaches in Ecuador, Guayaquil is a large port city located on the banks of the Guaya River that attracts a variety of visitors year-round. There are many enticing things to do and see in Guayaquil, Ecuador, including a scenic esplanade walk, museums, churches, parks, nature reserves, historic areas, and nearby beaches and resorts. Whether you're looking to experience Ecuadorian food and culture or you'd rather relax on some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, you're sure to enjoy your trip to Guayaquil any time of year.
Walk Along the Malecón 2000
One of the most prominent and popular destinations in Guayaquil since it was constructed in the mid-1800s, Malecón 2000 is the name for the waterside boardwalk where locals and visitors alike spend their evenings enjoying the cool breezes of the river, strolling through the parks, and admiring its many sculptures.
Malecón 2000 stretches one and a half miles from the Mercado Sur in the south to Cerro Santa Ana and Las Peñas in the north. Along the way, you'll find a number of sculptures and monuments including the semicircular La Rotonda, which honors the historic meeting of Simón Bolívar and José de San Martín, who together shaped the revolutionary movements of Ecuador's fight for independence from Spain.
Visit Las Peñas Neighborhood
With over 400 years of history, Las Peñas is one of the oldest residential areas in the country. Located on Santa Ana Hill in Guayaquil, the neighborhood is full of beautifully-restored and brightly painted houses placed along cobblestone streets.
Stroll along Numa Pompilio Liona Street to the Plaza Colon, where cannons overlooking the river are a reminder of earlier defenses against pirates attacking the city's original inhabitants. Alternatively, stop by boutique shops and local restaurants where you can sample Ecuadorian chocolates and other tasty treats of the city.
Explore the City's Museums
As one of the major cultural centers of Ecuador, Guayaquil is home to several of the best museums in the country, which explore topics from art and science to history and culture in the region. Visitors can spend their entire trips visiting all of the anthropological and archaeological museums in the city, but some of the highlights include:
- Museo Municipal: Located in the center of town, this museum holds a collection of pre-Columbian artifacts and religious art from the Colonial Period as well as exhibits explaining the history of Ecuador, Guayaquil, and the surrounding region.
- Museo Antropológico y de Arte Contemporáneo: The Museum of Anthropology and Modern Art (MAAC) has an extensive collection of local tribal artwork and ancient pottery as well as a variety of temporary exhibits of visiting artists.
- Museo del Bombero Ecuatoriano: This museum is dedicated to the firefighters of Ecuador and around the world and contains an extensive collection of antique firefighting gear, equipment, and machinery.
- Museo Naval Contemporáneo: Dedicated to the naval and military history of the country, which is centered around its largest port in Guayaquil, this modern museum is a must-see for history buffs.
Learn About Local Customs at Guayaquil Historical Park
Located in northeastern Guayaquil across the Daule River in the La Puntilla parish of Samborondón, the Guayaquil Historical Park is a multi-purpose public park that's separated into three main sections: The Wildlife Zone, the Urban Architectural Zone, and the Traditions Zone.
Touring the Guayaquil Historical Park is a great way to spend the day getting to know some of the city's history and a little of the coastal region's culture. The wildlife zone recreates the habitats of over 50 native species of Ecuador and allows guests to explore it via elevated paths. The Architectural Zone, on the other hand, recreates early 1900s life in the region, when the cocoa boom brought business and developments to the city. Meanwhile, the Traditions Zone teaches guests about the cultural development of the city, its inhabitants, and their life on the cocoa farms through a variety of historical displays and recreations.
Spend the Day at Other Parks
Whether you're in the mood for a picnic or you want to get some exercise, Guayaquil has a number of expansive parks that are free for visitors and locals alike to enjoy.
Parque Bolivar—also known as Iguana Park for the large iguanas who like to rest on tree branches there—is a small park located in the Chimborazo neighborhood and centered around an octagonal pavilion surrounded by sculptures. The city's largest park, Parque Centenario, is a showcase for many monuments including the Columna a los próceres del 9 de Octubre, which is dedicated to the heroes of Ecuador declaring its independence from Spain in the city in 1820. For something completely different, head out to Isla Santay. Located in the middle of the Guayas River just west of Guayaquil, this small island is home to a number of museums, monuments, and even residences for over 50 families that have lived there since the 1950s.
Pay Respects at the Churches of Guayaquil
Roman Catholicism and Christianity have both played an important role in the history of Guayaquil. As a result, a number of historic churches dating back as early as the 1500s still remain in the city today. The modern Iglesia Episcopal del Ecuador cathedral and the impressive San Francisco church, both restored after a devastating fire in 1896, are among the most-visited churches in the country. Also stop by the vibrant white and gold Santo Domingo, also known as the Church of Saint Vincent, which was the first church built in the city in 1548.
No matter where you come from in the world, you have to pass through mainland Ecuador before visiting the Galapagos Islands. In fact, flights and cruises to the Galapagos used to be the main reason visitors went to Guayaquil. The quickest way from Guayaquil to the Galapagos is by booking a flight directly from the city, but there are also a number of charter boat services and cruises that run to the islands.
Orchids, water, fountains, and thousands of plants offer a welcome respite from the bustling city of Guayaquil at the Botanical Garden. Located in the northern Pascuales parish of the city on Francisco de Orellana Avenue, the Botanical Garden is home to five hectares of wildlife native to the region. There are approximately 324 plant species, 73 bird species, and dozens of mammal and fish species that call the Botanic Garden home. Open Mondays through Sundays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. year-round, this unique collection of wildlife is a must-see for nature enthusiasts visiting the city.
From Guayaquil, the Ruta del Sol (Sun Route) takes you to great beaches at Playas, Salinas, Punta Blanca, Montañita, Ayampe, Ayangue, Olon, and Puerto López—among many others. Embark on a minivan or bus tour departing from Guayaquil and spend the full day exploring the many attractions along this historical road. Services run between Salinas and Guayaquil every hour between 6 a.m. and 8 p.m. daily throughout the year, and you can pay a little extra to be dropped directly outside your hotel.
Despite being bordered by Guayaquil’s almost three million inhabitants, the protected forest of Bosque Protector Cerro Blanco harbors populations of jaguar, ocelot, agouti, peccary, and other mammal species. Cerro Blanco is a great day-trip outside the city of Guayaquil. Easily accessible by bus, visitors can take advantage of a self-guided tour along their two trails or request a trained guide for a more educational experience.
Discover Guayaquil on a guided tour of the city which will take you to see all the must-see places as well as some amazing surrounding scenery, tropical plants, wildlife, and cultural establishments. A number of different tour companies offer services around Guayaquil, but the Guayaquil City Tour offers three hours of sightseeing and education about the many facets of city life.
Take an Excursion to Salinas Beach With Lunch
Get away from the city and take a tour to Salinas beach where you can choose to relax all day or something a little more active—fish! See some amazing scenery and interesting wildlife, including the stunning Pink Flamingo, or just spend the day lazily lounging on the sand. Salinas is easily accessible by bus, minivan tour service, or rental car, but is located about 88 miles west of Guayaquil on Via a la Costa.