Not-so-shady Guayaquil

Las Peñas

Guayaquil has a somewhat notorious past and as of 1st November 2022 there was a 45 day state of emergency in place in surrounding areas. A quick Google search will reveal that Guayaquil has a high rate of crime and for tourists to be on their guard…

Visiting the Ecuadorean coastal city of Guayaquil for the last day of my recent trip to Ecuador wasn’t a very enticing or appealing prospect. However, on balance, most cities have their dodgy areas and one always has to be aware of their surroundings and this includes London my home city.

Our Explore group of 8 had said goodbye to Leo who was travelling back to Quito rather than ending the trip in Guayaquil with us. This meant a new guide to keep us on track in Guayaquil.


We arrived in sunny 31 degree Guayaquil in the early afternoon where we were met at the airport by cheerful Rosina. As we drove in the mini bus for the short distance to central Guayaquil Rosina gave us some helpful and positive information about the city. She was enthusiastic about her home town 🙂

She also confirmed our airport pick up times for our various departures the following day as she would be leaving us to fend for ourselves for our afternoon and evening in Guayaquil.

We were welcomed into the hotel Unipark with a cold fresh juice and also a voucher for a free drink in the bar. The centrally located Unipark was a smart business style hotel of a high standard and a bit of a treat for our final night.

Iguana Park

After offloading our bags into our rooms we all agreed to meet up and explore downtown Guayaquil together. Now we were on our own and without the expertise of either Leo or Rosina to guide us. In reality all 8 of us were experienced independent travellers having collectively visited most countries of the world so after nearly 2 weeks of obediently following the guidance of Leo we had to revert to our own exploring skills!

Iguana Park

Outside the front of the hotel was the Iguana Park. More iguanas! They roamed freely around the park blending in with their green grassy surroundings. We noticed the Guayaquil iguanas to be more colourful than those we had seen in the Galapagos Islands.

At this point we had misplaced Richard but suspected he had gone off on his own to explore the city and make the most from his final afternoon before his morning flight tomorrow. The remaining 7 of us continued…

Christmas market

It felt slightly odd to see a German style Christmas market in the middle of a 31 degrees Guayaquil square! However as around 95% of Ecuadorians are Roman Catholics this was not really surprising.

Malecón 2000

We continued to the Malecón 2000 which was a short 3 block walk from the Unipark Hotel. The 3 km Malecón is a boardwalk (or promenade) which runs next to the Guayas River. The Malecón was a re-development project which began in the 1990’s and was completed in October 1999.


Security is tight along the Malecón as the whole promenade is gated and is chock-full of police and security guards. Viewing platforms are located along the Malecón from which you can climb to the top for great views.

Street entertainment

We continued along the lively and popular Malecón with its food stalls, restaurants, bars, Christmas attractions and street entertainers. There is even a cinema and a botanical garden further along.

Christmas theme

Somewhere around here Bernard and Bernadette decided to return to the hotel leaving 5 of us to continue…

Las Peñas

Fiona, Sherry-Ann, Steve, Aimee and I walked as far as the ferris wheel from where we could see Las Peñas in the distance. Firstly unfortunately we didn’t have time to visit Las Peñas and secondly we had been strongly advised not to!

Over 400 years old, Las Peñas is one of the oldest neighbourhoods of Guayaquil. It is famous for its 448 steps which lead past the colourful buildings to the lighthouse. A bit more research suggests that if tourists stick to the steps and think carefully as it gets dark they should be fine. So given my flight the following day was even earlier than Richards it would be somewhere for me to visit if I ever come to Guayaquil again!

Complimentary drinks

Having booked a nearby restaurant for our final meal together all 8 of us met in the hotel bar for our complimentary pre-drink and to toast the brilliant trip we had all experienced together.

Encostrado Manaba

The seafood restaurant La Pata Gorda had been recommended to us and ever keen to try local food my final meal was called ‘Encostrado Manaba’ which was scorched rice, peanut sauce, shrimp, fried sweet plantain and creole sauce. And tasted delicious.

Grasshopper shots

For a finale to the trip we were each given a grasshopper shot to end the meal.

Aimee and I had a 6:30 am pick up the following morning so we said our goodbyes to our new friends as the trip ended.

It’s difficult to make a judgement on a city where I spent just one afternoon and one evening however I can only say good things about Guayaquil from my short glimpse and I’m glad to have experienced it.

Guayaquil had a totally different feel from Quito. Guayaquil was warm, a bit humid and with an almost tropical atmosphere, together with a modern laidback vibe. Whereas Quito was cooler, traditional and historical. Both cities had a high police presence in the tourist areas but neither felt any less safe than most cities whether European or South American. Given the choice I think I prefer small laidback towns and countryside where people are friendly and you don’t have to fiercely guard your bag or your mobile!

Iguana Park


Ecuador exceeded my expectations and I would love to visit again! Next time I would perhaps go to Cuenca and Banos (as suggested by Rosina) and I would love a trip to the Amazon. And maybe finish with a week visiting different Galapagos islands from the two I experienced this time 🙂

The itinerary was brilliant with such a variety of exciting adventures and activities each day. A lot was packed into 2 weeks but this was perfect for me. I would definitely book adventures with Explore travel in the future.

My travel mates were awesome! What an amazing group I was fortunate to spend this time with. Everyone was positive and easy going and fun 🙂 we had a lot of laughs 🙂

Our guide Leo was excellent. He did his best to give us 110% everyday to ensure we had an amazing time and left with wonderful memories. And the rest of the local guides and drivers too… they were all so informative and did their best to showcase their wonderful country.

I had just one treat left in store before I got home…

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