Poor Guayaquil. The consensus we got from fellow travelers is that it was no more than a pitstop to change buses or hop flights to the Galapagos. As Ecuador’s second largest city, we assumed it would be a good bet for some errands we needed to run and planned a two day stopover — a two day stopover that turned into a three days one due to the guidebook’s lies regarding the bus schedule.
Unfortunately, this wasn’t one of those hidden gem situations where we fell madly in love with a city travelers love to loathe. But we did have a pretty pleasant time — and yes, Tourism Board of Guayaquil, you may feel free to publish that quote in your promotional materials.
I think a big part of what we liked about our time in Guayaquil was the cute downtown hostel we stayed at, RE Bed and Breakfast. It had a super convenient location and felt very homey, like you were crashing at a stylish friend’s apartment. The owners were super helpful, even calling a photographer friend to try to help me figure out where I could buy a lens cap.
Depressing answer: literally nowhere in Ecuador. Which means that ever since I lost that $5 piece of plastic, I’ve been using a sock to protect my lens and watching as the most expensive piece of glass I own gets consistently more marred. In fact, pretty much all of our goals for Guayaquil were big fat fails. Haircut? It was the worst one I’ve ever had in my life. Pick up a new SIM card? It didn’t work in my phone. Hit up a pharmacy? Three didn’t have what I needed. Mail some things home? Okay, this I actually achieved, though I almost fainted at the price. But hey, we did get to cook our own dinner (RE Bed and Breakfast was the only place we stayed in all of Ecuador with kitchen access) and watch a movie on the big screen TV and that all felt deliciously normal.
Anders had one must-do while we were in the city — see the land iguanas in Parque Bolivar. I’ve seen land iguanas aplenty in my life (they were practically considered pests in the Cayman Islands) so I went along expecting to stand by looking jaded while Anders shrieked with excitement. And that’s pretty much what happened.
Just kidding. I mean, Anders was pretty riled up, but even I had to admit it was darn cool to see so many wild iguanas hanging out in the middle of a major metropolis.
I tried to find more information about how the iguanas got there and what keeps them in the park’s borders (I’m guessing it’s probably, like, I don’t know, the fear of becoming roadkill) but the story remains a mystery. All I know is that there’s a surefire place to spot exotic wild reptiles in the middle of downtown Guayaquil.
Later, we made our way to the colorful neighborhood of Las Penas, a historic neighborhood that’s been given a colorful facelift. It’s a charming area to stroll through and though we were giving the guidebook some serious side-eye at this point, we decided to heed its suggestion that we hike up to see the views from the lighthouse at the top of the hill.
It was worth the grotesque amount of sweat we produced on the way up (Guayaquil is hot and humid, y’all). The top of the hill featured a quaint lighthouse, a charming church, and views of the ocean and the colorful barrios beyond.
On our way back we were in serious need of air-conditioning, so I suggested a stop at MAAC, Guayaquil’s oceanfront modern art museum. While our visit started out innocently enough, it soon took a turn for the weird.
We had stumbled upon not just any ol’ exhibit, but a bold and quite graphic erotic art show. Seriously, I would blush to post most of those works on this blog. Anders was somewhat traumatized.
“I am seriously bored. I hate everything about this place,” were actually his exact words. So I promised to take him out for ice cream.
By the time our final evening in Guayaquil rolled around, we had seriously exhausted the area’s entertainment options — with one exception. We set off to stroll along the Malencon, which Lonely Planet calls “one of the most extensive urban-renewal projects in South America.” Here, playgrounds, restaurants, gardens, and carefully-screened vendors create a peaceful and modern space to enjoy the waterfront. The results are impressive — a perfect place to people watch.
While I wouldn’t suggest anyone add Guayaquil to the top of their bucket lists, we did discover a few worthwhile ways to spend an afternoon between buses.
Where I stayed: RE Bed and Breakfast
Where I ate: Nowhere notable
How I got there: We paid $6US for a bus from Montañita to Guayaquil. If you are arriving by bus and plan to leave the same way, buy your ticket before you leave the station. Our hostel didn’t sell bus tickets and appearantly neither do travel agencies, which meant we had to make a special trip back to the bus terminal the morning of our departure to make sure we had seats.