26 Best Things To Do in Guayaquil, Ecuador (Includes Day Trips!)

Iguana lying in a bush
Iguana Park: One of the most obscure things to do in Guayaquil (and it's free!)

Often tossed to the side as a mere “port city,” it may not be as easy on the eye as Quito and a little rough around the edges, but there are enough cool things to do in Guayaquil if you’re exploring Ecuador, it’s the country’s second-largest city after all.

Already a nation that attracts some of the least foreign attention compared to the rest of the continent, Guayaquil is a relatively untravelled city, playing the bridesmaid to adventure-laden, Instagrammable Ecuadorian cities such as Baños.

Sitting on the Ecuadorian coast, Guayaquil is not only the country’s main port but also the gateway to one of Ecuador’s most famous regions, the Galápagos Islands. This, coupled with the nearby land border crossing to Peru makes Guayaquil an ideal centre for further exploration.

In this post, I’ll bring you what things you can do in Guayaquil, day trip options and also a handy guide to the city, a worthy addition to your South America itinerary if you’ve got time on your hands.

History of Guayaquil

The port town, and eventually city, of Guayaquil, was first founded in 1538 on the site of a former native village. It was founded by Spanish conqueror Francisco de Orellana and given the official title of Muy Noble y Muy Leal Ciudad de Santiago de Guayaquil (Most Noble and Most Loyal City of Santiago of Guayaquil).

During its time as a Spanish colonial prize, the city came under frequent attacks, and it was eventually sacked and raided by the English and its privatising pirates. This conflict was only intensified by the fact that Guayaquil was the chief Spanish shipyard in the Pacific and the centre of inter-Asian and Latin American trade.

Around 1820, Guayaquil was almost bloodlessly taken over by rebels who were fighting for the freedom of the city from its Spanish colonial rulers. 

It was at this time that Guayaquil declared independence from Spain, and became Provincia Libre de Guayaquil. Two years later, the city was the site of a meeting between revolutionaries José de San Martín and Simón Bolívar who would go on to plan the future of an independent South America. 

Throughout modern times, the city has grown into Ecuador’s most prominent commercial port, accounting for most of the city’s economy. The government now hopes to turn the city into a first-class destination for international tourism and multinational businesses, which is more than possible given the huge diversity of things to do in Guayaquil. 

Where is Guayaquil?

Guayaquil is perched at the southern end of Ecuador’s western Pacific coast. A little further inland, the city sprawls along the western banks of the Guayas River, which flows directly into the Pacific Ocean. 

As one of the largest cities in the country, it is also no surprise that Guayaquil is the capital of the local Guayas Province.

Best Time of Year To Visit Guayaquil

Sitting so close to the equator and the Pacific Ocean, Guayaquil enjoys a hot and humid tropical climate which can be divided into a short wet season and a long dry season.

The wet rainy season in Guayaquil starts around January and lasts right through until April, with the wettest time of the year taking place during the month of February. 

The much longer dry season starts in May right and ends around December time. Excluding a few days at the beginning of May and a few days at the end of December, Guayaquil will experience almost no rain during the dry season.

Enjoying your time in Guayaquil and wider Ecuador is hugely dependent on the weather, and if you’re looking to make the most of your time in this region, I’d recommend planning your trip during the dryer and less humid months; so, between May and December. 

It’s worth keeping in mind that the peak season for Guayaquil is from mid-June until early September. If you are looking for a less-crowded and reasonably cheaper shoulder-season visit to Guayaquil, coincide your trip to land on either side of these peak months.

How To Get To Guayaquil

Travelling to and around South America via air is notoriously difficult, but it’s not impossible. Here’s how to do it (and also other modes of transport) whether you already find yourself in Ecuador or abroad.

From Abroad

As one of the country’s major cities, it’s no surprise that Guayaquil has its own international airport. Flying into ‘Aeropuerto Internacional José Joaquín De Olmedo’ (GYE) is, by far, the fastest and easiest way to get into the city from abroad.

You can fly directly to Guayaquil from a number of places across the globe, most notably from New York. Those travelling from Europe and other destinations across the world may have to catch connecting flights from other major South American flight hubs such as Bogotá.

From Quito

Travelling from the Ecuadorian capital of Quito to Guayaquil is one of the most popular routes to take when traversing across the country. Both cities are home to international and domestic airports, and it takes just an hour to fly between them.

Around 15 flights leave from Quito to Guayaquil each day, evenly spaced out by two or three hours. The main airlines flying this route are Latam, Avianca and Tame, and, depending on the provider, will set you back between $100-$150. 

The cheapest and most popular way of making the journey, however, is to take a bus. Numerous buses depart throughout the day and night between Quito and Guayaquil via Ambato in the highlands or Quevedo and take around eight hours to complete the journey. A one-way journey will cost around $40 per person. 

From Banos

A much smaller town in Ecuador, catching the bus from Banos to Guayaquil will require a few changes along the way. 

First, you’ll need to jump on a bus from Banos to Ambato, which takes around an hour, before getting a direct bus from Ambato to Guayaquil, which takes around five hours. Tickets cost between $9 and $18 depending on the level of comfort you’re after and the bus provider you go for. 

From Cuenca

It’s easy enough to catch a domestic flight between Cuenca and Guayaquil, but you will need to change in Quito, which adds a few hours and pennies to your journey. In total, the two flights will take up to four hours (including transfer time) and cost around $200. 

A second option is to jump on a direct bus, which takes around five hours to complete the journey and costs between $20 and $30.

How To Get Around Guayaquil

Once you’ve made it to the city, you shouldn’t have a problem making your way to your long list of things to do in Guayaquil. Here are your options…

Public Transport

Guayaquil’s bus network is one of the most popular ways of getting around the city. It is broken down into two different services; the Metrovia and the much less modern, local bus system. The Metrovia is a rapid bus transit service and acts as underground or subways would in other world cities.

There are currently three lines running across the city, which allow you to get across Guayaquil in no time. The main routes run from North to South and East to West and one journey fare will cost you around $0.25. 

Taxis

As you explore Guayaquil, you’ll notice the many city-run taxis in the streets, marked by their New York City-like yellow taxi design. City taxis are a great way of getting across Guayaquil, but there has been some conflict between fraudulent taxis and tourists in years gone by.

This being said, as long as you make sure that your taxi is a legitimately licensed one before getting into it, you shouldn’t have a problem. 

Taxis in Ecuador are legally required to use their taxímetros (meters) by day but many may try to give you a set quote. If this is the case, ensure you have agreed on the fare quote before completing the journey, to stop you from getting into any unwanted conflict with local drivers.

Uber

If you don’t mind paying a little extra for peace of mind and better service, it’s also possible to use the Uber app in Guayaquil, one of only two cities in the country that offer this service. 

While fares may be a little higher, this app allows you to program both the pickup and drop off point, as well as provide you with a  fair quote. Using Uber is useful if you lack the Spanish skills to speak with your driver clearly, as it is rare they will speak English. 

Is Guayaquil Safe?

To be completely upfront and honest, you will need to have your wits about you while you’re travelling through Guayaquil. Admittedly, it may not be the ‘Raskol’ led crime scene seen in Papua New Guinea, Port Moresby, but Guayaquil isn’t the squeaky-clean tourist holiday destination from the back of a holiday brochure either.

This is South America, a completely different beast to travelling in Japan or enjoying a lovely meander in a nice and safe small European country.

Crime rates in the city, and the country as a whole, have improved dramatically over the last few decades. However, you need to understand that Ecuador is a poor country and opportunistic crime isn’t unheard of.

Falling foul of opportunity muggings and pickpockets are likely to be your biggest problem. So it’s worth taking precautions and making sure that your valuables are not on show and you keep an eye on where you are going, especially after sundown. 

All this being said, there’s no point in painting a picture of complete depravity and a crime-torn city, because this simply isn’t true. Being on your guard is good advice, no matter where you are going, but especially in Guayaquil. 

Aside from being a victim of crime, you need to be aware of the possibility of scams when finding things to do in Guayaquil. With the influx of tourism, the opportunistic con men and women of Guayaquil are known to try and take advantage of unsuspecting tourists with a number of scams. 

A little like I explained in my article on things to do in Quito there are two main scams doing the rounds in Ecuador at the moment:

  • Counterfeit USD. It’s all too easy to come across fake bills in Ecuador, as there are so many in circulation at the moment. Despite the government’s best efforts to get rid of them, locals will still try and pass these off to unsuspecting tourists as part of your change.
  • Stained clothes. Unfortunately, criminals will go to pretty extreme lengths to get their hands on your bags. In this scam, you might find that some kind of brightly coloured substance has been squirted on your clothes. Later in the day, a “friendly” local will come up to you and offer to help clean your clothes, all while his friend is stealing your bag from beneath your feet. 

Exercise caution in this city and don’t do anything that makes you feel uncomfortable. Check out my comprehensive guide on travel safety tips for men and women if you have extra concerns.

20 Things To Do In Guayaquil 

As Ecuador’s second biggest city, things to do in Guayaquil aren’t hard to find if you have that adventurous spark in your eye. 

From the every day to the unique and unusual, this South American city will eventually not be a shrinking violet, so long as it’s not too shy with its tourism

1. Climb 444 Steps For Great Guayaquil Views (Cerro Santa Ana)

Santa Ana Hill in the centre of Guayaquil is undeniably the epicentre of the city. A combination of a naturally formed mound, a 16th-century fortification and modern development have only added to its significance. 

To climb to the top of the hill, you’ll need to tackle the hundreds of concrete steps that wind their way to the top, just large enough for four people to walk abreast. Although it might take a little breath to make it to the top, the view makes it all the more worth it.

As you make your way to the summit, you’ll notice a number of restaurants, art galleries and tiny plazas peppered along the route. The brightly coloured buildings only add to the appeal of the climb, guiding you to the final peak of Cerro Santa Ana. 

Once you’ve made it to the top of Santa Ana Hill, you’ll be rewarded with some of the most stunning views of the city. The surrounding rolling hills and coloured homes sprawl beneath you and seem to go on forever, a just reward for climbing nearly 500 steps to the top. 

Know before you go:

  • Location – At the north end of Malecón Simón Bolívar, in the very centre of the city.
  • Cost – Free
  • Opening hours – 24 hours.
  • Time needed – Give yourself a couple of hours to make the climb and take in the views from the top.
  • Getting there – Found at the centre of the city, it’s quite possible to walk to the bottom of the hill.

2. Visit Iguana Park (Parque Seminario)

Parque Seminario, commonly known as Iguana Park, lies within the centre of Guayaquil and has long been one of the premier urban parks in the city. 

Constructed in the 17th century, the park has gone through numerous refurbishments, adding architectural designs, statues and an octagon pavilion. Statues of the South American revolutionary hero Simon Bolivar can be seen in the park as well as a number of charming green gardens.

What really makes this park stand out, and give it its other name, is the huge population of iguanas that call it home. With over 350 iguanas found in the park, everywhere you turn, you will find one of these South American lizards scuttling about, sometimes nervously, often gracefully. 

This combination of a pretty little city park, stunning architecture and a wildlife treat of hundreds of iguanas makes visiting a park with iguanas as the local inhabitants is a quirky experience and one of the more unusual things to do in Guayaquil.

Know before you go:

  • Location – Iguana Park is located off the Chimborazo road, a few streets back from the riverbank.
  • Cost – Free.
  • Opening hours – 9 am – 7:30 pm.
  • Time needed – Around forty minutes will be enough to explore the small park and get a good look at the cold-blooded residents.
  • Getting there – Take a bus to the Catedral bus stop, which is only a hop, skip and a jump from the park.

3. Meander The Malecon 2000

Straddling the great Guayas River, Guayaquil’s riverfront is more akin to any seafront you would find in a coastal city. Guayaquil’s Malecón 2000 is a long riverfront boardwalk and one of the most enjoyable spots to explore in the city. 

With the flowing river on one side, the Malecón 2000 boardwalk is home to a collection of restaurants, shops, monuments and various recreational sports on the other. Spending a couple of hours meandering along the boardwalk is a fantastic way to soak up the atmosphere of the city.

Malecon 2000 is divided into different sections, each one colour-coded and offering something a little different at every step. The food court is divided into a fast-food establishment and the Resaca restaurant bar. There is also the exercise area; a place where many locals and visitors meet for a jog along the riverfront as well as a spot for aerobics and outdoor exercises.

With so much to see and do, it is no surprise that the Malecon 2000 has become one of the city’s most popular attractions and the centre of tourist and economic revival in Guayaquil. Even if you decide not to enter the numerous establishments along the riverfront, a simple meander along its promenade is a few hours well spent.

Know before you go:

  • Location – The Malecon 2000 is located on Avenida Simón Bolívar, at the foot of the Guayas River.
  • Cost – Free to walk down.
  • Opening hours – 8 am – 8 pm.
  • Time needed – At least two hours to take the whole riverfront in and stop at a few attractions.
  • Getting there – Take the bus to the Central Market, which is a couple of minutes’ walk from Malecon 2000.

4. Ride La Perla 

Many of us may be well aware of huge Ferris wheels such as the London Eye, Singapore Flyer and the High Roller in Las Vegas. One that is less well known is La Perla in Guayaquil, which was the largest Ferris wheel in all of South America until Brazil recently dethroned it.

Known as The Pearl in English, La Perla stands at 56 meters and has a diameter of 27 metres, making it a formidable Ferris wheel by any standards.

Taking a ride on the La Perla Ferris wheel is not only a lively experience to share with the locals; it also provides stunning and unparalleled views of the city and the winding river below. 

Turning at a mere 10km an hour, the slow-moving Ferris wheel gives you plenty of time to take in the breathtaking views. 

Lasting around 12 minutes, you can ride the wheel during the day to see far into the city distance, or during the evening when the wheel and city are both lit up – providing a dazzling and colourful view of Guayaquil and beyond.

Know before you go:

  • Location – La Perla is located at the very north of Malecón Simón Bolívar, along the riverbanks.
  • Cost – $3.50 Tuesday to Friday and $5 on the weekends.
  • Opening hours – Tuesday to Sunday 10 am to 10 pm.
  • Time needed – Give yourself around half an hour to queue and ride the Ferris wheel.
  • Getting there – The wheel stands just opposite the E04 Cuatro Mosqueteros bus stop.

5. Visit Las Penas Barrio

The neighbourhood of Las Peñas is arguably one of the most famous regions in the whole city. Sprawling along the banks of the Guayas River, Las Peñas is a hub of old colonial architecture and energy that the city is so famous for.

As one of the oldest regions of the city, Las Peñas has remained relatively untouched by the changes of time and was one of the few places to be affected by a city-gutting fire in the late 18th century. 

Today, many of the Las Peñas neighbourhood’s buildings are painted in rich colours, only adding to the appealing aesthetic of the place.

A fine balance between heritage and tourism, Las Peñas is an unmissable place to visit when looking for things to do in Guayaquil. Aside from wandering through the picturesque neighbourhood, Las Peñas is also home to a number of cafes and bars, ideal for stopping off for a little refreshment while exploring Las Peñas.

Know before you go:

  • Location – Las Penas is found in the Tarqui district, in the centre of Guayaquil and close to the river banks. 
  • Cost – Free to explore.
  • Opening hours – 24 hours.
  • Time needed – Set aside an hour or so to slowly explore the neighbourhood.
  • Getting there – Taking a short taxi journey from the centre of the city is the best way of getting to Las Peñas. 

6. Parque Centenario 

Another of the city’s most popular green spaces is Parque Centenario or, in English, Centennial Park. Covering around 49 acres, it is one of the largest parks in the entire city and is home to a green space full of plants, flowers, pathways, and park benches. 

First opened in 1920, the park was dedicated to one hundred years of Guayaquil’s independence from colonial rule, giving it its name, Parque Centenario.

The park centres around a statue and memorial, commemorating the heroes who liberated the city on October 9, 1820. Visiting the Parque Centenario is not only a great thing to do in Guayaquil for its historical value but also for the relaxing nature of the park, making it the perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of a modern city.

Though a green and pleasant space during the day, it’s not wise to be hanging around the park after dark. It, and the surrounding area, are known as being a hotspot for muggings in the city, so be sure to be out before the sunsets.

Know before you go:

  • Location – Parque Centenario is located at Av 9 de Octubre, in the centre of the city and between the two rivers. 
  • Cost – Free.
  • Opening hours – 8 am – 7 pm.
  • Time needed – Around 40 minutes should be enough to explore and relax in the park.
  • Getting there – It’s easy to take a bus to the nearby E01 Parque Centenario bus stop.

7. Check Out The Wildlife at Guayaquil Historical Park

The Guayaquil Historical Park lies upon a peninsula in the Guayas River and was established by the Central Bank of Ecuador to preserve the culture, customs, and history of Guayaquil and the Ecuadorian coast. 

Covering an area of twenty acres, this historical park is divided into a number of different sections. These include the Urban Architecture Zone, which preserves historical turn-of-the-century and colonial buildings and the Traditions Zone, which celebrates the cocoa-producing culture in this region of Ecuador.

The third and final area is the wildlife zone, which comprises ten acres dedicated to preserving over 50 species of Ecuadorian animals, many of which are considered endangered. 

Those with a love of animals will feel in their element here, with so many species to spot and enjoy. Guayaquil Historical Park is home to species such as parrots, the harpy eagle, toucans, maria and masked ducks. There are also a number of mammals like sloths, ocelots, deer, spider monkeys, tapirs and collared sainos along with reptiles including the crocodile from the coast and spectacled caimans.

With so many different types of animals to see in just one park, a visit to Guayaquil Historical Park is time well spent for anyone wishing to visit the South American continent for its plethora of wildlife.

Know before you go:

  • Location – Guayaquil Historical Park is located in the Samborondón area of the city, to its north. 
  • Cost – $5
  • Opening hours – Wednesday to Sunday 10 am – 5 pm.
  • Time needed – Set aside a good few hours to get there and explore the park.
  • Getting there – As it’s a little outside the city’s centre, with few buses heading this way, catching a quick taxi/Uber to the park is the easiest way to get there.

8. Catedral Metropolitana 

The Catedral Metropolitana, known officially as the Cathedral of Saint Peter, was constructed between 1924 and 1937 to replace the former wooden church that stood there from the founding of the city. The vast church is built in the Gothic style and is a breath-taking piece of catholic architecture.

On entering the cathedral, the stunning visuals continue, with three large naves complete with awesome stained glass windows and religious iconography. Seeing such a building really brings home to you the part that the Catholic Church has played in the development and remodelling of South American cities such as Guayaquil. 

Aside from its historical and cultural significance, the mere sight of the building, its design and atmosphere makes it a fantastic place to visit when looking for things to do in Guayaquil for those who are more artsy.

Know before you go:

  • Location – Catedral Metropolitana is located in the centre of the city, just to the east of the Parque Seminario.
  • Cost – Free.
  • Opening hours – 9 am – 7 pm.
  • Time needed – A brief half an hour should be enough to explore the church.
  • Getting there – Take a public bus to Correos bus stop, a stone’s throw from Catedral Metropolitana.

9. Tour Ruta Del Sol

Certain roads and routes across the globe seem to grab the attention of travellers, whether it be Route 66 in the USA, The Great Ocean Road on an Australian road trip, or even Ecuador’s neighbours down South; The Bolivia Death Road of Yungas.

Named the Route of Sun, it is no surprise that a tour of the Ruta Del Sol stretches along Ecuador’s western coast. This route runs from the coastal town of Salinas in the south, all the way to the northern town of Muisne in the northern section of the nation’s coast. 

Travelling along this coastal trail will enlighten you to numerous spots along the way. Taking in the sheer beauty of the sunny coast, the several idyllic town and fishing villages, the wildlife the adventurous nature of the journey itself.

Admittedly this is a slightly naughty addition and should be in the day-trip section, as you will need to get up early to do this full route and get back before it’s too dark. Also, the earthquake in 2014 hammered quite a lot of the road, a lot of it is fixed but this is still something to be privvy about.

Know before you go:

  • Location – The huge route runs from  Salinas in the south, all the way to the northern town of Muisne.
  • Cost – Motorbike rentals cost around $30 a day.
  • Opening hours – 24 hours.
  • Time needed –  You should take at least a day to complete the route.
  • Getting there – Rent a moped or motorbike from Guayaquil to complete the journey.

10. Parroquia de Santo Domingo de Guzmán (Oldest and Coolest Church in Guayaquil)

When it comes to the Catholic Church and South America, there is little dividing the development of the culture and society with the church itself. Although there are many churches in the city of Guayaquil to illustrate this, it is the Parroquia de Santo Domingo de Guzmán that really marks this out.

Located in the region of Santo Domingo in the northern and oldest section of the city, the church is a fine example of European influence over the whole South American continent. Dominican monks originally built the church in 1548 but due to conflict and constant upheaval in the city, the church was reconstructed more than four or five times. 

When exploring the church, it is still possible to see the five-century old, original walls. If nothing else, a visit to this historical church is a stop-gap for quiet contemplation. I’m not religious myself but I am always visiting local places of worship as they are often relaxed and separated from the chaos of the outside world.

Know before you go:

  • Location – The church is located in the very north of the city, close to the river banks. 
  • Cost – Free.
  • Opening hours – 8 am – 6 pm.
  • Time needed –  Around an hour should be enough to see the church. 
  • Getting there – Take a bus to the nearby Montecristi bus stop.

11. Cerro Blanco Forest

At the very western edges of Guayaquil is the Cerro Blanco Forest, a stretch of six thousand hectares of dry tropical forest and wonder right on the doorstep of the city. 

The forest has four guided trails, each with a different length and level of difficulty, perfect for all ages and fitness levels. Aside from seeing the huge biodiversity of plant life and beautiful Ecuadorian landscapes, Cerro Blanco Forest is also home to a huge plethora of wildlife.

While you’re hiking through the Cerro Blanco Forest, you’ll have the chance to catch sight of bird species such as the Guayaquil parrot, the grey-dorsal hawk, wind-winged pigeon, saffron goldfinch, and so many more fascinating species. 

Aside from birds, Cerro Blanco Forest is home to animals such as jaguar, ocelot, mantled howler monkey, kinkajou, agouti, collared peccary, and crab-eating raccoon, among other species.

As one of the most accessible protected areas in Ecuador and is located directly off the coastal highway from Guayaquil to Salinas, making it an easy thing to see while based in Guayaquil. 

Know before you go:

  • Location – Cerro Blanco Forest can be found just under 11 miles west of the city centre, along the highway from Guayaquil to Salinas.
  • Cost – $4 entry fee
  • Opening hours – 8 am – 4 pm.
  • Time needed – It’s best to spend half a day here, time enough to travel and hike around the forest.
  • Getting there – Take the bus from the central bus station heading along the Guayaquil-Salinas route ($3). Ask the bus driver to stop at the park entrance.

12. Grab Some Grub Guayarte & See a Show

Considered to be the central social hub of the city, Guayaquil’s Plaza Guayarte is the place to be during the evening in Ecuador’s second city. 

Not only is the plaza a place of bars where you can have an evening out on the town, but it is also a place of numerous restaurants and food courts. This huge selection of dining options means you can try an array of Ecuadorian and international food all in one handy place. 

Adding to the atmosphere of the Plaza Guayarte are the huge art installations and open-air theatre. During certain evenings, the Plaza Guayarte becomes a place where you can eat, drink, see a show and have a generally entertaining evening.

Know before you go:

  • Location – Plaza Guayarte is located on Carlos Julio Arosemena Avenue, where the road bends with the river.
  • Cost – You will find various prices, depending on the bar, restaurant and theatre show.
  • Opening hours – 12pm – 11:45 pm.
  • Time needed – Give yourself a few hours to wine, dine and watch a show.
  • Getting there – Grabbing a taxi to get across the city during the evening is arguably your best bet.

13. Teatro Sanchez Aguilar

To get your real fix of Ecuadorian performing arts, why not trade the pop-up theatre of the Plaza Guayarte for the full-blown professional Guataquil theatre of Teatro Sanchez Aguilar. First opened in 2010, Teatro Sanchez Aguilar was built to enhance the cultural significance of the city and its dedication to the arts.

Boasting a capacity of over 1,000 audience members, Teatro Sanchez Aguilar has put on more than 1,400 functions, and over 260 national and 125 international companies have passed through the stage. To enjoy a real cultural experience while in Guayaquil, head down to the Teatro Sanchez Aguilar and catch one of their many performances.

With both home-grown theatre companies and international companies staging shows here, there’s a widely cast net to what you can experience in Teatro Sanchez Aguilar. Be sure to check ahead to see what is on show at the theatre during your time in Guayaquil.

Know before you go:

  • Location – Teatro Sanchez Aguilar sits on Rio Esmeraldas Avenue, in the Camino Real area of the city.
  • Cost – Prices depend on the show, ranging from a few dollars to $15.
  • Opening hours – 6 pm – 12 pm.
  • Time needed – Shows will usually last around a couple of hours.
  • Getting there – Found a little outside the city, it’s best to catch a quick taxi over to the theatre.

14. Take a Photo With Juan Pueblo

Juan Pueblo is an iconic cartoon character who has gone on to define the people and culture of Guayaquil. The cartoon was originally created in 1918, by illustrator Virgilio Jaime Salinas for the column Kaleidoscope which was published by El Telegrafo Newspaper. Through this cartoon, he was able to channel the worries and complaints about Guayaquil society and would go on to represent the common citizen of the city.

During the early 1990s, Juan Pueblo became an icon of the new city, dressed in his white guayabera shirt, his blue pants and his October star Cap. In 2011, leaders proposed a sculpture of the city-defining character and the bronze sculpture of Juan Pueblo be created. The sculpture is made of bronze and appears seated on a bench, creating the perfect photo opportunity for both locals and visitors in Guayaquil.

Know before you go:

  • Location – The Juan Pueblo bronze sculpture is located on the riverfront, a short walk south of the Simon Bolivar monument.
  • Cost – Free
  • Opening hours – 24 hours.
  • Time needed – You’ll only need a few minutes to grab a photo with the sculpture.
  • Getting there – Take a bus to the Colon Y Chile bus stop, which is just a short walk away.

15. Eat at Amaranto

As South American cuisine goes, you’ll often be confronted with a lot of meat-heavy dishes. So it may come as a pleasant surprise that the Ecuadorian second city of Guayaquil is home to one of the best vegetarian restaurants in the country, Amaranto, which means “amaranth.” 

The super grain, originating in Peru was a staple in the diet of the Aztecs of Mexico and you’ll see it make a feature in a couple of Ecuadorian meals (easily mistaken for quinoa). 

Amaranto is a modern Ecuadorian restaurant, playing host to some of the most delicious vegetarian meals available, all within a pleasant and clean setting. 

Amaranto often takes South American and Ecuadorian staples and puts a simple twist on them, keeping everything people love about these cultural dishes with the added luxury of being vegetarian and sometimes even vegan.

While you will pay a little more to eat here compared to elsewhere in the city, finding such a modern and classy establishment is a godsend for those who enjoy vegetarian and vegan cuisine yet don’t want to sway away for foreign or non-South American dishes.

Know before you go:

  • Location – Amaranto is located in the north-central part of the city, along the road known as Víctor Emilio Estrada.
  • Cost – Dishes start from $5
  • Opening hours – 12 pm – 9:30 pm.
  • Time needed – Set aside a couple of hours to enjoy a sit-down meal here.
  • Getting there – Either take a quick taxi or catch the bus to the nearby Calle 9 No (Av. Victor Emilio Estrada) E Ilanes bus stop.

16. Walk The Cerro del Carmen (Jesus Statue)

Sitting in the south centre of the city, the Cerro del Carmen is a huge natural hill rising up above the landscape of Guayaquil. Home to many residential and private buildings, the natural hill has become a firm part of the city. 

One of the most rewarding things to do in Guayaquil is to climb to the top of this hill. Far from the scramble you would expect for such a hill, climbing up the Cerro del Carmen requires you to climb up the  Vía Crucis, nearly 200 sloping steps and with 15 stops that recall Christian tradition and passion.

Aside from the fun of the climb and stunning views across the city, the Cerro del Carme is also home to the Sagrado Corazón de Jesús statue. This twenty-six-meter high statue of Jesus has stood at the top of the hill since the early 1970s and puts you in mind of Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro Brazil, with a far more modest pose.

Although much has been put in place for the safety of locals and visitors, climbing up to the Sagrado Corazón de Jesús statue after nightfall isn’t recommended, as it can become a hotbed for petty crime and muggings.

Know before you go:

  • Location – The Cerro del Carmen is located in the La Fuerza Aérea Ecuatoriana area of the city.
  • Cost – Free.
  • Opening hours – 24 hours.
  • Time needed – A couple of hours is needed to comfortably climb to the top and enjoy the statue and views.
  • Getting there – A bus to the Calle No 12 bus stop will take you to the base of the hill.

17. The White City (Cementerio General de Guayaquil)

When we think of city cemeteries around the world, they aren’t the first thing that jumps to mind when you’re looking for landmarks or tourist attractions. And yet, the Cementerio General de Guayaquil makes the list.

Much like Highgate Cemetery in London and Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, Cementerio General de Guayaquil is the resting place of many of Ecuador’s most famous politicians, leaders, writers and musicians.

Known as the White City, this modern cemetery covers 42 acres of the centre of the city. The sheer scale of the architectural design is what will really captivate you when visiting Cementerio General de Guayaquil. A mismatch of Renaissance influence, Greco-Roman, neoclassical, gothic and baroque all can be seen here, giving the cemetery an unbelievably artistic air.

Aside from the impressive architectural layout of the “city”, Cementerio General de Guayaquil is also recognised as one of the best cemeteries in South America and was named a World Heritage national cultural site.

Know before you go:

  • Location – The cemetery is located on the street known as Pedro Menéndez Gilbert Avenue.
  • Cost – Free.
  • Opening hours – 24 hours.
  • Time needed – Give yourself at least an hour to explore Cementerio General de Guayaquil.
  • Getting there – It is quite walkable from the centre of the city, or you can take a bus to the Jose Julian Coronel Y Lorenzo de Garaycoa bus stop nearby.

18. Walk The ZigZag Bridge

As far as unusual things to do in Guayaquil go, this city is no prude. Straddling the estuary river of Estero Salado is what is known in English as the ZigZag Bridge. 

Rather than opting for your traditional wooden, suspension or stone bridge, the ZigZag Bridge does as exactly as you would expect from the name and crosses the water in a zigzag shape.

The bridge was first opened on July 1st, 2012, by Guayaquil’s Mayor Jaime Nebot, one of many building projects that were designed and proposed for the urban regeneration of the city. At 220 meters long, this metal pedestrian bridge links the Pier of the University of Guayaquil with the Linear Park in front of the Catholic University.

Walking across the bridge is a fantastic way to spend a few moments in the city. Not only is it the draw of such a unique bridge that makes the walk so enjoyable, but the numerous planters, viewpoints and eight roundabouts that make up the bridge are also great places to take in the views of the surrounding river and city.

Know before you go:

  • Location – The bridge is located on Kennedy Avenue, near the Urdesa Bridge.
  • Cost – Free.
  • Opening hours – 24 hours.
  • Time needed – It will only take around 5-10 minutes to cross the bridge and take in the views.
  • Getting there – Take a bus to the Fortunato Safadi bus stop to cross the bridge from the south.

19. Bike to Santay Island 

To the southeast of the city, in between the two banks and in the centre of the river, is a blissfully green island of Santay. The five and a half thousand-acre island has been declared a Ramsar site, meaning it is a wetland that is protected from building infrastructure or exploitation under law.

The island has only been home to a mere 47 families that have lived there since the early 20th century. Aside from the greenery and sparsely populated homes, Santay Island is also home to several species of birds, reptiles and mammals, making it a great place for spotting South American wildlife, so close to the city.

One of the best ways of visiting the island, and keeping the ecovillage-like nature of the island is to cycle there. The Puente Peatonal y Ciclovía Guayaquil swing bridge that connects Santay island with the city mainland is set aside only for walkers and cyclists, making it the perfect way of getting over the river.

Once there, you can explore all the island has to offer, whether this is simply taking in the sights, spotting a range of wildlife or stopping for a bite to eat at one of the island’s restaurants and street food stalls.

Know before you go:

  • Location – Santay island is located southwest of the city and over the river.
  • Cost – Free to explore.
  • Opening hours – 24 hours.
  • Time needed – It is best to set aside at least half of the day to get the most out of your visit to the island.
  • Getting there – Hire a bicycle and cross to the island along the Puente Peatonal y Ciclovía Guayaquil swing bridge at the Armada area of the city.

20. Ride The Pirate Ship

As I mentioned in my introduction to Guayaquil, this major Ecuadorian port spent much of its early centuries as a target for pirates and privateers, and linking the city to piracy history makes sense. 

Though the pirates are long gone (at least in this part of the world), there is still one way to feel connected to its swashbuckling past, and that is a ride on the Captain Morgan pirate ship.

Named after the 17th-century Welsh pirate Sir Henry Morgan, this replica schooner ship was built in 2003 and was designed to promote the history and culture of historic Guayaquil. Today, the ship carries out touristic and cultural tours through the Guayas River, which give the passengers a different perspective of the city.

When you join a tour on the Captain Morgan Pirate ship, you can explore the waterways of Guayaquil in a wholly unique way. Harking back over the centuries, you can imagine what it must have been like riding the waves centuries ago.   

Know before you go:

  • Location – By joining the Captain Morgan Pirate ship tour, you will be collected from your accommodation. 
  • Cost – $7 per person.
  • Opening hours – Tours usually run from around 9 am to 5 pm, sometimes with a lunch break in the middle. 
  • Time needed – The boat ride and tour will last around two to three hours.
  • Getting there – Most tours will collect you directly from your accommodation. 

7 Day Trips From Guayaquil

Guayaquil’s location is perfectly situated for countrywide exploration. When you have finished exploring all of the things to do in Guayaquil, you can set your sights on trips further outside the city and surrounding areas. 

Using Guayaquil as a base, you can venture out on day trips; whether this is to see far more wild and natural parts of western Ecuador or day trips to other built-up areas, you have choices. 

Let’s take a look at six of the best day trips from Guayaquil, perfectly placed to explore one a day for a whole week – if you have the stamina!    

1. See Dolphins in Puerto El Morro

Sixty-five miles southwest of Guayaquil is the small village of Puerto El Morro, surrounded by a quiet mangrove area of wetlands. As well as a whole load of native wildlife, the mangroves are most famous for their pods of bottlenose dolphins, known locally as ‘bufeo,’ aka ‘boto,’ ‘pink river dolphin and ‘Amazon River Dolphin.’

Heading out on a day trip from ​​the city streets of Guayaquil to the blissful wetlands of coastal Ecuador is a fantastic way to escape the hustle and bustle.

Visiting as part of a tour is probably the best way to visit Puerto El Morro and see the dolphins of the mangroves. This unique vantage point from the boat allows you to get up close and personal with dolphins, who are known to swim pretty near to shore and the boats. 

A well-known intelligent and curious animal, it is not unheard of for dolphins to swim quite close to the boat and even interact with the passengers, only adding to the magic of the day trip. 

Know before you go:

  • Location – The mangroves of Puerto El Morro are located 65 miles southwest of Guayaquil.
  • Cost – Around $60-$80, depending on the tour operator you use.
  • Opening hours – Tours start out from around 8 am and last about six hours.
  • Time needed –  Set aside a whole day to make the trip and experience the dolphins.
  • Getting there – As part of the organised tour, you will be collected and dropped off at your accommodation.

2. Sunset at Salinas Beach

Although a port city close to the coast, the city of Guayaquil is set inland and around estuary banks. That means beach life doesn’t fall at your feet here. 

However, a couple of hours’ drive will take you from the city westward and to the sandy coasts of western Ecuador. The one beach that shines out amongst them all is Salinas Beach, jutting out into the blue seas of the Pacific Ocean.

It is no surprise that Salinas Beach and surrounding town have become the resort town of Ecuador and although this tourist hotspot has built up touristic-centric infrastructure, it has done little to take away the stunning natural beauty of the town and coast. 

This beach is perfect for simply lying back and sunbathing on white sands, taking a dip in the blue waters or a gentle walk along the coast. Sitting directly on the western horizon, Salinas Beach is also a fantastic place to watch the sun go down.

Salinas Beach is not only a great place to relax and take in the stunning beach views, but it’s also a fine place to get a glimpse of Ecuador’s coastal wildlife. Keep an eye for blue-footed boobies and the magnificent frigatebird. Salinas is also home to a tiny parrot, the Pacific parrotlet and is even known for being a spot for migrating Chilean flamingos.

Know before you go:

  • Location – Salinas Beach is located 88 miles west of Guayaquil.
  • Cost – Buses to the beach will set you back around $3.50 one-way.
  • Opening hours – 24 hours.
  • Time needed – It’s best to set aside the whole day to get the best out of your day on the beach. 
  • Getting there – Buses regularly leave Guayaquil’s main bus terminal for Salinas between 3 am and 11 pm every day.

3. Montañita

If you are planning to travel around Ecuador there is every bit of chance that you will spend time in Montañita separately, it also features in the aforementioned road trip. However, if you are short on time, you could easily get up early and squeeze it in as a day trip from Guayaquil.

It was surfing that originally put Montañita on the map, drawing in keen surfers from across the globe – and if that’s your thing, be sure to hire a board and catch some waves.

During the weekdays, the laid back feel of the town, complete with yoga retreats, fruit smoothies and massage therapies, gives the town a real self-help vibe. When the weekend comes, however, Montañita becomes the party capital for both locals and backpackers alike. If that’s not your cup of tea, you have been warned.

Much like travelling in Thailand provides you Koh Phangan, or living in Cambodia has Sihanoukville, Ecuador has given birth to Montañita for its hippy haven beach party destination.

Know before you go:

  • Location – Montañita is located 100 miles northwest of Guayaquil. 
  • Cost –  The bus to Montañita will cost around $6 one-way
  • Opening hours – 24 hours.
  • Time needed – At least a day, yet for the distance, you may wish to stay for a couple of nights too.
  • Getting there – The CLP (Coop Libertad Peninsular) bus company runs a direct, daily service between Guayaquil and Montanita which takes just under three hours.

4. Agua Blanca Community

The Agua Blanca Community is one of the oldest archaeology sites in all of South America. Located in the heart of the Machalilla National Park and 129 miles northwest of Guayaquil, Agua Blanca is a site with the remains of the Manteño culture’s pre-Columbian period. The finds here included archaeological items and skulls dating from around 1500 BCE.

The community is made up of a church and museum at the centre of the village. Here you can learn about the long history of pre-Columbian tribes and their way of life. 

A natural sulfur lagoon can also be found on the site, which makes for a relaxing swimming spot. A combination of national park exploration, historical sites and a beautiful natural landscape makes a day trip visit to the Agua Blanca Community extremely worth it.

Know before you go:

  • Location – 129 miles northwest of Guayaquil, inside the Machalilla National Park.
  • Cost – $5 entrance fee.
  • Opening hours – 7 am – 7 pm.
  • Time needed – Set aside the whole day to travel and see the site.
  • Getting there – Take a bus to the town of Puerto Lopez and then a taxi from here to the Agua Blanca Community.

5. Sail The The Gulf Of Guayaquil 

Sitting at the river estuary and perched on the edge of the Pacific Ocean, one of the most peaceful things to do in Guayaquil is to get out on the open water. The Gulf of Guayaquil, the body of water that surrounds the western shores of Ecuador and northwestern shores of Peru, are some of the most pristine and beautiful in the entire area.

By joining a sailing tour from the port of Guayaquil, you can really experience the Gulf of Guayaquil in all its glory. The boat trip will take you out onto the water, allowing you to experience the blue open water and coastal views that are simply stunning. 

Passing out from the city port, you will pass and maybe stop by the lovely little fishing village of Posorja before heading out to the open water. Aside from the quaint villages and beautiful sea views, a Gulf of Guayaquil boat trip will also allow you to get up close and personal with Ecuador’s marine life. This can include bottlenose dolphins and a variety of birds such as blue-footed boobies, pelicans, cormorants, ibises, herons, and egrets.

Know before you go:

  • Location –The Gulf of Guayaquil is the body of water that surrounds the port and coasts.
  • Cost – You’ll find various quotes for a boat tour, depending on the company and length of the tour. Prices start from around $110. 
  • Opening hours – 9 am onwards.
  • Time needed – You’ll need a full day for the tour.
  • Getting there – Tour operators will pick you up from the most centrally located accommodation. 

6. Ingapirca

The small town of Ingapirca sits 111 miles southeast of Guayaquil and would be an unassuming place forgotten to history if it wasn’t for its hallmark as being the home of the largest archaeological Inca complex in all of Ecuador. 

The castle complex stretches over the landscape, an impressive sight when you first make it to the town. Here you can see how ancient civilisations made this place home and, being understated and less visited than other major historical sites in South America, it has not suffered from over-tourism.

Ingapirca is 3200 meters above sea level, a high position even for the high altitudes of Ecuador. This being said, it’s best to have acclimatised to the altitude before setting off to visit this iconic place. 

Know before you go:

  • Location – Ingapirca is located 111 miles southeast of Guayaquil.
  • Cost – $2 entrance fee.
  • Opening hours – 9 am – 4 pm.
  • Time needed – Because of the huge distances, it’s best to set aside a whole day to see the site.
  • Getting there – Take a bus to the town of Canar and a short taxi ride to Ingapirca. 

Is Guayaquil Worth Visiting? 

Guayaquil is definitely worth a chance should you be travelling through Ecuador. I avoid saying things or places are a “must do,” (although I have my exceptions for me personally) and for what it’s worth I preferred Guayaquil to Quito.

I started this long South American road trip from Santa Marta, which had a very similar vibe to Guayaquil. albeut Guayaquil felt a lot bigger and busier. The city has s nice mixture of sea, sand and city so you can choose your day and activities based on your mood

The cool things to do in Guayaquil are very concentrated and there’s enough to keep you busy, excited and happy while exploring a lesser-explored South American city and the big bonus is it’s a perfect stopover city for those of you who are lucky enough to visit The Galapagos Islands.

Anthony Middleton

A former loser who took a risk. I now live in Chiang Mai, Thailand after visiting over 100 countries. Stay tuned for the next challenge against that clock!
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Hi, I'm Anthony!

In November of 2010, I took on a mammoth challenge against the clock in a quest to upgrade my miserable life. I went out of my comfort zone and turned it all around. Ten years later, I’m completely location independent…

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