A warm, tropical city, with spectacular rivers and mangroves, both within the city and nearby, plus beaches and forests a short drive away, Guayaquil offers families a variety of both urban and outdoor activities. A commercial hub, always busy, with the largest population in the country and, with its eternal Summer, a place that cherishes its cinemas, malls and trendy shopping centers —like ritzy Plaza Lagos in Samborondón — it is also a city overflowing with unique nature.
1) El Malecón
The Malecón Simón Bolívar on the Guayas River is perhaps the first place in Guayaquil to visit as a family. From end to end, this large river-side walkway is chock-full of attractions and interest: from visiting the MAAC (Museum of Archeology and Contemporary Art), watching a movie at the IMAX theatre, eating great local food at the Mercado del Río food court, riding the La Perla Ferris wheel (the tallest in South America), or enjoying seasonal theme parks and large-scale events that can attract large crowds. Families of all ages flock here to enjoy the river’s breeze among beautiful flowering gardens with mango trees and other exotic species.
2) Malecón del Salado
The “esteros” or mangrove beds of the Gulf of Guayaquil reach the city proper and offer striking contrasts between nature and the surrounding avenues and buildings. A food-and-graffiti park (Guayarte), a small-scale amusement park and a sculpture “that plays music” complement this unique riverbank promenade, where large iguanas, herons and crabs can be spotted along the way. Also check out La Bota cultural center, dedicated to the performing arts.
3) Parque Lago
A fabulous natural environment awaits at this large reservoir located west of the city, with biking paths, places to picnic and the chance to paddle-board (contact paddletime.ec for classes and equipment rental).
4) Playas y sus playas
The beach town closest to Guayaquil (1h by car) gets very crowded on weekends (the best eats in town are Juan Ostras, on Calle Zenón Macías or the Chilean empanadas and other eateries in front of the playgrounds in center town, Calle Roldós). There are interesting nearby visits (north) to Playa Pelado (with beautiful coralline sand) and Engabao, a fishing village known for its surfing; or southeast to Posorja, a pier from which you can travel to Puná Island (a special trip that takes us to unique beaches and towns out in open ocean) and El Morro and its mangrove tours.
5) Parque Histórico de Guayaquil
Although the Malecón is the most obvious place to take your family in Guayaquil, the one that will surely seep deep into their imagination is the Parque Histórico. Apart from being a zoo of sorts and a museum of coastal architecture (where old wooden houses that once stood in the heart of the city have been transported, plank by plank, including a chapel, to this new location), the beautiful park full of green and full of history, at the edge of the majestic Daule river, is also a fun walk. Here, you can get to know the animals of the area in natural spaces that replicate the different ecosystems of the region, with an observatory deck to see the great Harpy Eagle, otters, ocelots, alligators, tapirs… species that once dwelled in the city just a hundred years ago. A segment is also dedicated to the agricultural products (including cacao) and rural life that characterizes the coastal plains, where old hacienda homes have been set up to visit and on weekends are brought to life with theatrical performances showcasing the “montuvio” lifestyle. The Parque Histórico is located in the middle of bustling Guayaquil, but it is, without a doubt, quite a journey.