Getting Our Guayaquil On
I’ve added another option to Tuesday’s giveaway (it’s to like my new Facebook page!) so head back and add a few more entries if you’re interested!
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.
You’ll hear all about these paper mache figures in my Banos posts!
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.
You don’t want to know what those are
“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.
Yay, you stayed at RE B&B! That was one of my best hostel experiences in South America, and was definitely a nice surprise in a city as seemingly unattractive as Guayaquil. We kinda enjoyed the city, though. I mean, who doesn’t love a park full of iguanas roaming around?!
The park was cool! I think one thing that made me sad was the lack of cool/charming eateries. We did go to one nice sandwich place but other than that weren’t impressed. I need yummy food to really love a place 🙂
Absolutely! I feel just the same; if there’s nothing to catch my eye on terms of food, I probably won’t end up loving a place. Guayaquil sadly failed in this respect. Even finding a cool cafe was tricky.
“giving the guidebook some serious side-eye” — HA! Alex you crack me up. Thanks for keeping it real as always.
LOVE a park full of wild lizards (have you seen the monitor lizards in bangkok??).
Hm, I don’t know if I ever have seen monitor lizards in Bangkok! I’ve seen so many weird reptiles around the world it’s tricky to keep them all straight!
As a camera assistanf i genuinely cannot bear the thought of your lens without a cap. What lens is it? Tell me the diameter and a postal address and im going to send you one. I love your blog and pics. What camera/lenses do you use?xxxx
Ha, believe me I can’t stand it either! I’m using a sock! I would have loved to have ordered one online but between our unpredictable schedule (where would I ship it?!) and the rumored holdups at customs it was a no-go on the road. I already ordered one and had it shipped to my sister’s place New Orleans, my first stop in the US 🙂 Oh, and you can see all my camera gear and lenses under my “Gear and Products” page!
Oh and I don’t know how I forgot to say this… THANK YOU for your incredibly sweet offer! You made my day!
Haha, my boyfriend has uttered this “I am seriously bored. I hate everything about this place,” pretty much every time I take (drag) him to modern art galleries!
And now you have said “You don’t want to know what those are”….I REALLY wanna know!
They are certain private lady parts 🙂
Teehee! That certainly explains Anders’ facial expression in the second pic!
It’s amazing how quickly you can adapt to a place and how traveling longterm can raise your standards—having never been to South America, I thought Guayaquil looked really cute and charming! It’s so different from anything we’ve seen in Asia over the last 18 months, so that’s probably part of it… sometimes things being different is enough to get me excited! (That lizard park does look legitimately cool, though. I don’t know if I’d go out of my way to visit, but at least you made the most of your time there.)
The funny thing is when I was putting this post together, Anders said, “Guayaquil looks way nicer in these photos than it actually was.” And I agree! I almost feel like I’m lying by posting this because it is nowhere near this charming overall — this is the nice 1% of otherwise concrete blahness. And as someone commented on Twitter, “You managed to make even Guayaquil look good….”
While we didn’t go up that cute little neighborhood’s hill, we did walk along the Malecon the one day we were in Guayaquil…and yeah, I’m not really in a hurry to go back. Love your photos like always!
The only way I’m ever going back is on a flight to Galapagos 🙂
The photos do make the city look nicer than it sounds! When you have 2 photos side by side, how do you make the border connecting them “invisible”? I use piccassa and I have to choose a color background when I make a collage- which I hate doing!
Hey Rachel, I do that using photoshop and save the file as a .png instead of a .jpeg. It is a pain in the butt! And also it makes the files huge, which slows site loading time. My site redesign (which I REALLY hope to debut soon!) features a white background for this very reason!
The iguanas were “trapped” in the area that is now the park when the city started growing around that area. Iguana1: let’s go north! Iguana2: there’s people there, look at that house! Iguana1: South? Iguana2: Same I1: East? I3 and I4: we just came form there, freaking crowded, and look at those fellas’ coming from the west I1: well… shotgun on that branch. True story.
Guayaquil is not an easy city at all, but it has its gems. Next time (if it ever comes) try the cemetery, it’s pretty interesting and has beautiful sculptures. Foodwise, sorry you couldn’t find the great spots. From what I see, you only circled around downtown, there are more interesting spots on other nearby areas.
Nice photos though, you do make it look nicer that what it is. Any night life experience? You know, when the heat is lower
Ha, I definitively enjoy that explanation! Didn’t experience any of the nightlife, but maybe when I return someday, hopefully, to get on a Galapagos cruise!
Hi Alex, I’m from GYE and I have to agree with you, my city is not the great thing =( I’ve travelled to NYC, Pittsburgh and Miami, those cities are really amazing, but I prefer live in Guayaquil, well is not exactly the best place on earth, but making a comparison between NYC, PITT and Miami I feel good living here, I fell in love with Pittsburgh because has some resemblance with Guayaquil, but Pittsburgh made me feel sad, NYC made me mad and Miami.. Miami is great!! =) but too expensive.. If you are trying to be back you will be very welcome, even if you’re searching for a ticket to Galápagos Islands.. was hillarious what Anders said at the art gallery.. haha… best wishes.. =)
Thanks for the kind offer, Allan 🙂 I’m sure I will be back in Ecuador again someday — I’ve got to get to the Galapagos! Glad you enjoyed exploring the US and I enjoyed reading your comparisons between Guayaquil and the cities you visited! I’ve never been to Pittsburgh, but I agree on Miami!