Many Galapagos itineraries include a stopover in Guayaquil, the so-called Pearl of the Pacific. Follow these tips to make the most out of your time in Ecuador's largest city.
Visit the Parque de las Iguanas
Although it's officially called Parque Seminario, this small plaza is known as the Iguana Park to locals and tourists alike. And with good reason. While most parks around the world have to make do with pigeons, ducks or squirrels, this place is a little different. A large breeding population of land iguanas has called the park home for as long as anyone can remember. The iguanas sit on benches, eat bread and fruit from the hands of visitors and occasionally even rest on the park's benches. South America is a continent full of surprises, but even seasoned lovers of LatAm will find this a pretty surreal experience...
The Malecón 2000 is the pedestrianized section of the Malecón Simón Bolívar – the road which skirts the western bank of the immense Río Guayas which gives Guayaquil its name. It’s the place to see and be seen, and it’s also one of the safest spots in town. It features a large, paved esplanade filled with trees, botanical gardens, contemporary sculpture and architecture, shopping malls and restaurants. Highlights include the imposing statue of José de San Martín and Simón Bolívar shaking hands against a backdrop of South American flags, and the sumptuous series of botanical gardens which are all themed around different historical periods or Ecuadorian habitats.
At the northern edge of the Malecón is Las Peñas: a gorgeous, crumbling insight into a bygone era. It's a tiny neighborhood featuring colorful wooden houses, uneven cobbled streets and a few art galleries.
Rising above Las Penas is Cerro Santa Ana, once one of the most dangerous parts of the city but now a tourist hotspot. To experience Cerro Santa Ana, you'll have to ascend the 444 numbered steps on foot.
Fortunately the souvenir shops, restaurants and bars en route make it well worth it. Not to mention the views from the top.