Don’t get me wrong. There are literally hundreds of places I would choose to go in the world other than Guayaquil, Ecuador. That being said, if you ever do find yourself in this sweltering riverside megalopolis, there are definitely a few pockets of charm that are well worth mentioning, the most notable of which is definitely the city boardwalk known as the Malecon.
An urban walking path that runs for about 1.5 miles along the banks of the gaping Guayas River, the Malecon has recovered from its inglorious past of being one of the sketchiest parts of this already dangerous city. All of that changed in 1999 however, when this once destitute stretch of shoreline (that apparently at one point was literally falling into the river) underwent a massive urban renewal project where it is now an incredibly safe, well-lit, inescapably charming riverside stroll, particularly at night.
Those who take the time to meander the length of the Malecon will encounter well-manicured parks, numerous crafts booths featuring local artisans, and notable historic monuments such as La Rotunda, a heroic monument to the liberators Simon Bolivar and San Martin who helped to free Ecuador from the shackles of Spanish rule. There is also a modern IMAX theater, as well as various local markets and food courts to cure a growing hunger or satisfy the itch for souvenirs.
Undoubtedly though, the most spectacular section of La Malecon is found at its northern terminus where the boardwalk adjoins with the stairs of the classically European Las Penas barrio. A large promontory that rises above the river and urban sprawl, the Las Penas neighborhood is chiefly accessible by a set of numbered stairs that twist their way past narrow alleyways and seemingly secret homes and bars. Eventually, once all of the art galleries and tucked away hamlets are below you, the stairs come to an abrupt end atop the Fortin del Cerro, a retired fort that once protected the city, and now is content to offer a breathtaking 360 degree view of the entire city.
While it may be only a narrow destination that occpies a limited amount of time, a night time stroll along the banks of the Guayas river by way of the Malecon is a commendable side trip and an evening meant for remembering. Anyone needing to stay a night in Guayaquil is highly recommended to check out the Manso boutique hostel, which is a funky little hostel that is stuck in an identity crisis somewhere between hostel, vegetarian cafe, and trendy day spa. Either way, the English speaking staff is more than accomodating, the food is incredible, and their location right along the Malecon simply cannot be beat.