The City Built On Chocolate
Guayaquil, Ecuador – The Countries Largest Seaport
First, A Word Of Caution* – We flew to Guayaquil from San Cristóbal, Galapagos and even on the island we were being cautioned about the terrible crime in the city. We were warned to never go out alone and to not go out on the streets after the sun goes down. Once in Guayaquil we were informed that even in the CBD and the tourist areas most restaurants closed before sunset because of curfews and a lack of customers out at night. If things are truly this bad it is a tragedy because there is much to recommend this city.
Most people believe that chocolate was discovered by Mayans in Central America some twenty five hundred years ago. New evidence suggests that chocolate’s origin goes back over four thousand years and is traced to Ecuador. Perhaps that’s why Guayaquil’s nickname is ciudad de cacao, the chocolate city. The name is traced to the mid 1700’s when Ecuadorian chocolate was first offered to the outside world and demand was immediate and overwhelming. Shortly thereafter Guayaquil became the world’s first cacao port. For over 150 years, Guayaquil got rich controlling a monopoly on the exportation of cacao.
Guayaquil is formally Santiago de Guayaquil, and the second largest city in Ecuador. It is the most prosperous city in the country and the nations main seaport. Located on the west bank of the Guayas River, that flows into the Pacific Ocean through the Gulf of Guayaquil.
Our first impression of Guayaquil is that it is a remarkably modern city with numerous skyscrapers, an amazing river walk known as Malecón 2000, a favorite destination for local residents, stretching for several miles down the Guayas River. It starts at an amusement area featuring La Perla a giant ferris wheel and at the other end is the tallest building in Ecuador. The Point, a modern skyscraper of unique design, somewhat like a long tube twisted so that it looks like a corkscrew and is the design of Ecuadorian architect Christian Wiese.
One of the least expensive and most amazing rides to be found anywhere is the new Aerovia, Guayaquil’s cable car system now operating between Durán and Guayaquil. For only US$1.70 round trip you can travel above the city for over 4 km, through 5 stations using 154 cars. The line connects the business heart of Guayaquil to the residential area of Durán across the Guayas river in just 15 minutes (compared to one hour using the only bridge at rush hour).
The most famous park in Guayaquil is often referred to as Iguana Park, officially it’s Parque Seminario, located in front of the Catedral Municipal. While most famous for its iguanas, it is actually a memorial to Simón Bolivar, the South American hero of independence from Spain.
If you are interested in pre-Columbian history visit Museum of Anthropology and Modern Art (M.A.A.C). It houses one of the best artifact collections of ancient Ecuadorian cultures located along the coast.
The Presley Norton Museum offers a collection of some 8,000 pieces of art from the pre-Columbian Valdivia culture. Donated along with their home by local Guayaquil businessman and his wife to the Ministry of Culture and Heritage for the enrichment of the Ecuadorian people.
Another popular destination is the colorfully-painted homes of the Calle Numa Pompilio Llona part of the neighborhood known as Las Peñas. Stroll the areas historic streets past pastel painted homes visiting art galleries and cafes.
Where We Stayed
Our accommodations where in the four star plus River Garden Hotel + Suites located in the central business district across the street from Malecón 2000. The modern room featured a king bed, desk and a private bathroom. The hotel has a friendly and attentive staff with great views of the city from the top floor. It features an open air rooftop pool and hot tub along with a bar and an excellent formal restaurant with incredible views. Included with the room that was under $100 a night was a buffet breakfast offering made to order omeletsof . Popular points of interest near the hotel include Saint Francis Church, the Artisan Market Guayaquil and the Malecón 2000 with the Botanical Garden right across the street.
*Looking into the issue of crime in Guayaquil it seems that the city wasn’t prepared for the impact of the Covid epidemic and civil order broke down. Guayaquil is still working to control crime and there were a large number of police patrolling on foot as we walked around the city during the day. Looking into international crime statistics per 100,000 population, it appears that for murder, car jacking, robbery and other violent crimes, Guayaquil rated slightly better off than Chicago in 2022. This raising the question – Is Guayaquil crime being overly hyped or is Chicago maybe worse than we think?