Guayaquil is Ecuador's largest city and seaport. From a tourist perspective, the city acts primarily as a transportation gateway to the country and the Galapagos Islands. While the city can be skipped altogether, should you have a free day to spend here, there are a few noteworthy things to do, as well as some terrific dining and nightlife options.
Guayaquil continues to bear the reputation as Ecuador's most dangerous city and should be approached cautiously. Whenever possible, use private taxis services which often use black SUVs with tinted windows.
Have your hostel or hotel call for you, and get a business card from the driver so you can contact them on your own as needed. The prices are higher at night. However, you're at less risk for being robbed than if you hail the yellow taxis on the street.
Getting There & Away
The new Jose Joaquin de Olmedo International Airport (GYE) is one of the best in South America, and as nice as any U.S. airport. If you're entering the country through Guayaquil, the Immigration and Customs process is organized and efficient. Flights are available to/from a variety of major cities throughout North and South America.
The airport is located in the northeast part of the city, adjacent the new international bus terminal. Taxis to the northern suburbs, or the hotels near the Malecon, cost $3 – 5.
Guayaquil's new bus station is located next to the airport and is very well-organized, and easy to get around. Ticket booths for the buses are located on the first floor, along with a mall. Departures occur on the 2nd and 3rd floors.
Buses leave for cities around the country day and night. The bigger the city, the more frequent the departures.
Buses to/from Quito and Cuenca depart hourly. A direct bus to Cuenca is $8.25 and takes about 3.5 hours. A direct bus to Montanita is $6 and takes about 2.5 hours.
Getting Around Guayaquil
While Guayaquil is a major urban center, the relatively few points of interest for tourists are all within walking distance in the downtown area. You're generally safe to walk within (the fenced part of) the Malecon day and night, as there are plenty of security guards present. Avoid walking around elsewhere at night.
Taxis are relatively inexpensive and should be taken at night if you need to go more than a few blocks. Taxis are not metered. Get an estimate from a local, and negotiate before entering the cab.
Whenever possible, use a private taxi service. Ask your hostel or hotel to call. Unfortunately, yellow taxis are much more prone to robberies, many of which involve taking the victims to an ATM where they're forced to withdraw the largest amount allowed.
- $4 – daytime ride between bus terminal or airport and hotels near Malecon.
- $8 – late night ride in a private taxi (SUV) from bars and clubs in northern suburbs to hotels around Malecon.
The Metrovia is a modern bus system which can help you get around the city for much less than the taxis. The main routes run North-South and East-West. Single rides cost $0.25.
The local bus system is another option, with single rides costing about 25 cents as well.
Where to Stay
Guayaquil's lack of tourist attractions mean there are far fewer hostels catering to budget travelers and backpackers than in Quito and Cuenca.
The two ideal places to stay are in the downtown area, within a few blocks of the Malecon, or in the northern suburbs, where you'll have easy access to the bus terminal, airport, and Western-style shopping malls. Regardless of which neighborhood you choose, you can always hop in a taxis to get to the other.
- Hotel Plaza St. Rafael (Editor's Pick) – Av. Chile 414 y Clemente Ballen. Excellent location adjacent the Parque Seminario (Iguana Park), and a short 3-block walk to the Malecon. The city's Zona Rosa, several blocks of bars and discotecas, is about a 5-block walk. Private room with bath is $35/night. Breakfast included. Good Wi-Fi in rooms.
- Casa de Romero – Calle Velez 501, Bocaya. Small, 5-guest room hostel within walking distance of the Malecon. Beds are $18/night. Wi-Fi in rooms.
Short Term Housing
If you plan to spend a few weeks, or months, in the city, then you'll want to rent a room or apartment. Your best bet is to either negotiate a long-term rate with a hostel or ask around for rooms or apartments for rent.
Guayaquil offers plenty of Couchsurfing options.
Things to See & Do
We'll keep this short, like most people's time in Guayaquil.
- Las Penas – At the north end of the Malecon is a hill with old, colorfully painted buildings. Walk the 400 steps to the lighthouse at the top for good views of the city. The neighborhood is filled with cafes, bars, restaurants, and art galleries. It's especially fun on a Friday or Saturday night and is relatively safe.
- Malecon 2000 – This massive urban development project has brought new life to the riverside in the city center. Several kilometers long, it's best walked in the morning, or late afternoon, to avoid the heat. Along the way, you'll see a shopping mall, some small restaurants, parks, playgrounds, and an IMAX theater.
- Parque Seminario – Located at 10 de Agosto Ave & Chile Ave. From a distance this park looks like any other, filled with fountains and trees, however, once you walk inside, you'll notice the abundance of iguanas hanging out. It's an odd sight, seeing such large iguanas in an urban environment among more common pigeons.
Food & Drink
As Ecuador's largest city, Guayaquil has no shortage of restaurants to suit all budgets. The modern malls in the northern suburbs feature high-end options, while typical meals can be had on a budget just about anywhere.
- Ceviche – A coastal favorite throughout Latin America, ceviche consists of raw seafood (fish, shellfish, etc.) marinated in citric juices, such as lime juice.
- Churrasco – Grilled steak seasoned with chimichurri, and served along with plantains, rice, French fries, a fried egg, and avocado.
- Encebollado – Fish stew containing cassava and red onion.
- Pan de Yuca – Bread made of cassava starch and cheese.
- La Canoa – Chile & 10 de Agosto, inside the Hotel Continental. A good place to sample classic Ecuadorian dishes. Moderately priced.
- Noe – Francisco de Orellana, Centro Comercial San Marino. Located in the northern suburbs, this is the highest rated sushi restaurant in the city on TripAdvisor.
- Pique y Pase (Editor's Pick) – Alejo Lascano 1617 & Carchi. Typical Ecuadorian food, and excellent ceviches.
What Guayaquil lacks in tourist attractions, it makes up for with nightlife options.
However, when given a choice, many of Guayaquil's party people prefer escaping the city altogether on the weekends for the beach scene in Montanita.
Bars & Clubs
- Kennedy Mall – Ave. Francisco de Orellana, in Kennedy Norte district. A handful of bars and discotecas to choose from here.
- Las Penas (Editor's Pick) – Neighborhood on the hill at the north end of Malecon. An assortment of restaurants, bars and clubs make this a fun area to experience the local nightlife. Relatively safe too.
- Zona Rosa – A strip of bars and discotecas that runs parallel to the northern section of the Malecon, but about two blocks west. Any taxi driver or hostel/hotel reception can give you precise directions.