For our honeymoon in the Galapagos, we decided to go via Guayaquil (the other alternative would be Quito), and we didn’t have many expectations around it.
We arrived in Guayaquil on a Saturday afternoon. Our hotel picked us up from the airport, which made things a bit easier. We discovered there was a shopping centre right next to where we were staying, so we decided to check it out (the kind of thing I only ever do on a holiday).
We found a supermarket and bought some supplies, then went for dinner at Piola, where we had veggie pizza and two for one mojitos ($20 including tip) – there weren’t many vegetarian options in other places, so we ended up going back there a few times.
We had the whole of Sunday to explore Guayaquil, so we went to check out the sights. We started at Las Penas and Cerro Santa Ana. This used to be a dangerous neighbourhood, but it went through a regeneration programme and now it is a nice area to walk around and get views over the city and the river Guayas.
Our next stop was a big Ferris wheel which has recently been set up by the port (tickets at $5 per person), which also had nice views over the river. This was right next to the famous Malecon, Guayquil’s most popular attraction. This is a nice promenade by the river with lots of view points, cafes and restaurants along the way. It was extremely hot, so a nice bar with cold beers would have been a welcome sight – unfortunately it was not to be.
Our final stop in the city centre was Parque Centenario, or Iguanas Park – a public square where iguanas hang out with tortoises and squirrels. The iguanas lounge about being fed lettuce and climbing trees. This is a nice and fun place to visit.
To escape the heat we went back to the hotel and enjoyed the swimming pool!
We had another free day in Guayaquil before our flight to London so we headed to the city centre for a walk. We visited a handicraft market which had lots of shops selling alpaca blankets, wicker baskets, artworks and all sorts of other things. Prices were good and you can haggle a bit (we bought t-shirts for $5 each).
For lunch we went to Fenix, which we found through Happy Cow. For only $2.50 you get soup, a main course (rice, vegetables, a banana dish and soy meat pattie) and a drink! The food was simple but delicious, and it was great to find a veggie place to eat.
This restaurant (and most places in the city centre) only opens for lunch and caters mostly to locals, but we were immediately served in English by the manager who explained how the menu worked and what was the day’s special.
HOW TO DO IT:
- Go: Getting to Ecuador from the UK is a bit tricky as there are no direct flights. We flew via Miami to Guayaquil, which is not the best choice: you need to go through the immigration process in the US even for connecting flights, and that in itself is enough reason to choose a different route – worse still was the 14-hour delay to our flight which was a bit painful. On our way back we flew via Madrid and that is definitely an easier option.
- Stay: We stayed at Sonesta, a good hotel located 5 minutes from the airport. They offer free transfers to and from the airport, and the service was very good. Their prices vary a lot – we got a good deal on our first stay there but not so much when we returned from the Galapagos.
- Taxis: You can’t avoid hearing horror stories about taxis in Guayaquil, so it’s important to only get taxis from official rinks and to agree on a price before you get in. Fares were very cheap at around $3.50-$4.
- Food: Veggie food is definitely not the norm, but there’s lots of great local produce, including loads of exotic fruit.