Generally speaking Ecuadorians don’t think highly of Guayaquil, although it’s the largest city and the commercial engine of the country. It’s dangerous and there’s nothing to see, was the general consensus. Based on their feedback, I had only planned to stay overnight and move on to the coast.
In my hotel, I wanted to see the Malecón, a recently renovated boardwalk along the ocean. I asked the hotel owner for directions, and asked if it was safe to walk. “Absolutely,” he said.
“Even if I return after dark, around 9:00 or 10:00 at night?” I asked.
“Yes, it’s very safe, no problem.”
I was skeptical, but started out on foot. I was about 10 blocks from the Malecón, and along the way I saw a couple of KFCs, MacDonalds, huge electronics stores, etc. The streets were crowded, everyone bustling about, but it felt very safe. Crossing the street was the most dangerous part. I saw one young woman start at a slow jog while eyeballing the oncoming bus, and increasing her pace to try to beat it. I took a more leisurely approach, not ever having desired to be a pancake.
The Malecón was absolutely beautiful with manicured parks, ponds, and even small amusement parks for children on one side, on the other side the ocean and rooftop cafes for a bite in the ocean breeze. It was about a mile long, and quite often you saw security guards or policemen. Children played, couples walked hand in hand, it was tranquil and serene.
At the far end of the Malecón I saw two hills covered with brightly painted houses, one with a lighthouse on top. These two hills are old neighborhoods famous in Guayaquil. I walked up the 448 steps to the lighthouse, and climbed to the top for a spectacular view of the city at night.
I walked back to my hotel around 10:00 pm, and there were still lots of people out, women walking alone or with the toddlers, and so I decided it must be safe.
Another afternoon I took a walk to “Iguana Park”, which is maybe the only major city park in the world that has Iguanas living in it. I entered the gates, looking for some kind of structure that they must be kept in for viewing. In my peripheral vision I saw unexpected movement, close to the ground. Right next to me, on the sidewalk, was a large Iguana. They aren’t in cages, they are just hanging out in the park! There was a little pond with clear water that had a pile of turtles, and several of the Iguanas were sunbathing there as well. It was one of the favorite parks I’ve been to.
I spent 4 days in Guayaquil, partly because I really liked it, and partly because I had great cable TV in my room, and the Cowboys were playing on Thanksgiving Thursday (turns out they didn’t show up to the game, but I got to watch and be miserable as has been my custom this season).
Photos of Guayaquil and a few on the road to there are here.