Guayaquil, Ecuador 2020)February 17 in Ecuador ⋅ ⛅ 86 °F
I've been to Ecuador three times before and never made it to the Galapagos or Guayaquil. The first because it doubled the price of my trip and I didn't have the money. And the second because nobody ever recommended it and it was definitely considered a place you should miss.
Our Copa airlines flight took us from New Orleans to Guayaquil and from there we were going to go to Cuenca. Eventually we'd go to the Galapagos since we had a lot of time. But we thought better of it and said why not just go to the Galapagos from Guayaquil, where every plane leaves for the Galapagos even if you're from coming Quito.
We have time and things have changed a bit. Guayaquil is the largest city in Ecuador and a large port city. But most people have never heard of it because Quito takes all the glory. The city spent a fortune fixing up their Malecón, or river walk, about 20 years ago and it's a fantastic place for tourists and residents alike. Oddly, there are few foreign visits there, but many Ecuadorian ones. That actually is a bonus. I've been to so many overtouristed areas (yeah, I'm part of the problem) and to see a place that doesn't have cruise ship visitors, doesn't have large groups of Chinese, and doesn't have lots of hostels is actually quite refreshing.
Our hotel was in the middle of the downtown and just a few blocks of the Malecon. It was totally safe to walk around at night. During the day, the center is a caucophony of honking cars. People are everywhere and it's definitely a huge city. But at night, things quiet down. After a dinner of seafood and a few Pilseners (oh how I missed them!) we spent a freezing night because we couldn't regulate the AC temp and had no idea that the random switch on the wall would turn it off. Outside it was 100% humidity and 88 degrees and inside it was just like Madison in the winter.
In the morning, we got breakfast included and I tried my first Bolon, along with eggs. It's a fried ball of plantain with cheese inside. As a Gluten Senstive, I was thrilled. But it's kinda tasteless and I'm already getting tired of the plantanas. After that, we stopped at Parque Simon Bolivar to see the iguanas. This seemed too good to be true. There is a colony of them that live in a park in the middle of a city of over 2 million people. And nobody messes with them! And the don't mess with anybody, including the pigeons. That was fun and we didn't even have to go to the Galapagos to see them.
Then it was on to the Municipal building, one of the more beautiful buildings in the city. The Malecon was next. It's a gated stretch along the river and goes for about a mile and a half. There are only about 3 pedestrian entrances and it is NICE. Guayaquil is pretty ugly to be honest, but this is an oasis. Smooth pavements with no holes (I'm looking at you, Panama), nice restauarants, a couple mellow bars, pools, fountains, LOTS of security guards, underground parking, statues, gardens, vendors, an amusement park, museums (some free), etc. And they're building a gondola system in the city that stretches across the river to a suburb. There are no bridges in the center that cross the Rio Guayas, so this seems to be a cheaper way to alleviate traffic problems. They're almost done, and I"m sure it will be a cheap ride. Hell, a roller coaster ride costs $2.50 there. And they have a large ferris wheel as big as the London Eye that costs something on the order of $4 or $5 on weekends. We took that ride in London and it set us back a pretty penny, something on the order of $40.
At the north end of the Malecon is the Las Penas neighborhood. It's a quaint hood on a steep hill overlooking the city and they have done a great job of preserving the houses and they're painted in pastel colors. Restaurants here were hit or miss. Crabs are popular here but a tad out of season. All in all, I'd recommend a visit here, but 2 nights was plenty for us and we were itchin' to get to the Galapagos. Instead of booking an expensive boat-based tour, we are doing a DIY visit. We have that sweet, sweet luxury of time and are going to wing it. Tomorrow we fly on Ecuador's LATAM air on a one way ticket to Isla Cristobal and when we've had enough wildlife, we'll book another one-way flight back to Guayaquil. But we'll probably just jump right over to the humongous bus station near the airport so we can head to Cuenca.
All photos are here.