Everyone I talked to said the same thing — spend as little time in Guayaquil as possible.
I considered their advice and did the opposite by purposefully spending a long weekend in Ecuador's largest (and arguably, most dangerous) city.
Despite Guayaquil's size, it's got very few hostels. I booked a hotel in the city center, a few blocks from the riverside.
The good news for tourists visiting Guayaquil, either en route to/from the Galapagos Islands or the Pacific Coast, is that there's just enough to do to keep you busy for 24 hours.
Stay longer, and it might help to have some friends in town.
Things to Do in Guayaquil
Parque Seminario (aka The Iguana Park)
It just so happened that my hotel was located adjacent to Parque Seminario, also known as Iguana Park, on account of the land iguanas that hang out there.
The idea of giant lizards hanging out in an urban park struck me as odd and piqued my curiosity.
It's as surreal in person as it sounds. Giant land iguanas mingling with pigeons. Being fed by locals and tourists alike and lounging in the grass.
During your visit, you can also take a peek inside the large gothic cathedral, Catedral de Guayaquil, at the west end of the park.
Related: Best Hostels in Guayaquil
Parque Seminario is a three-block walk to the Malecon 2000, a major urban renewal project along the old Simon Bolivar boardwalk.
The Malecon runs one and a half miles along the riverside in the city center and is best walked in the early morning or late afternoon when the sun isn't so strong.
Between both the fencing that separates it from the street and the strong showing of security guards, the Malecon is generally safe to walk both day and night.
That said, it's still best to exercise precautions and not walk alone past dark.
The southern section of the Malecon features a modern underground mall and a few restaurants.
The middle is filled with historical monuments, parks, and places for kids to play.
And at the north end, you'll find an IMAX theater and several museums.
Related: Guayaquil Travel Guide
Dinner & Drinks in Las Penas
If you choose to walk the Malecon 2000 in the early evening, start in the south, so you end up in Las Penas for happy hour.
This historic and colorful neighborhood is home to various shops, bars, lounges, and restaurants.
Walk the 400 numbered stairs to the lighthouse at the top, and you'll be treated to expansive views of the city, as well as a little exercise.
You can easily wrap up the night here, especially on the weekends, with dinner and dancing.
Las Penas, like the Malecon, is generally safe at night.
You can either call an Uber on the main street near the entrance when you're ready to call it quits.
Shopping in Guayaquil
Most visitors to Guayaquil, Ecuador, will spend their time by the riverside.
However, it's also worth noting that there are several modern shopping malls near the airport and bus terminal in the north.
These malls, including San Marino and Mall del Sol, feature department stores and plenty of smaller shops and boutiques.
The restaurants range from TGI Fridays to more upscale options, serving fresh sushi and ceviche.