Unipark: An exotic classic in the heart of Guayaquil


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As the years go by, there are hotels that become “classics”, places to stay that are a snapshot of a moment in history that defines a city. Hotel Unipark has earned this accolade in Guayaquil, located in the heart of the most commercial city in Ecuador, in a unique urban enclave that also breathes the fresh air of one of the lushest, most emblematic urban squares in the country.

Few know the story. Unipark, which many identify as a long-standing hotel, was actually a first for the city: the first hotel/mall in Ecuador, a then ground-breaking hybrid that ushered a new era for the country.

Sober and elegant interior décor poised against a stunning view of the lush trees at Seminario Park.

It was back in the mid-1970s and Guayaquil, an economic hub and crucial port city in Ecuador, still had not raised a single mall… (and if there is something that makes Guayaquileño’s proud today… it’s their malls).

The hotel and its very own mall

A shopping center in the beating nucleus of a river city was, in itself, a visionary, risky, ambitious dream; one that took almost a decade to materialize. Twenty thousand square meters, fourteen million dollars in investment, half of an entire downtown Guayaquil block sandwiched between four vital streets: Aguirre, Clemente Ballén, Chile, and Chimborazo… Times were changing, and at the forefront of this change was the Unicentro-Unipark project. Without a doubt, a gigantic undertaking, one that rarely occurs in the history of a city, in a city that had yet envisioned its full commercial potential. The result was inaugurated in 1982 —the long-awaited Unicentro— which became one of Ecuador’s first malls.

Along with it, the owner of the Oro Verde hotel chain, José Antón Díaz, had another no less grandiose idea in mind: building a hotel joined to that mall’s hip.

Iguanas guard Unipark with a watchful eye.

One opens a side door and there it is, sparkling department stores and boutiques, just as Unipark’s first guests discovered, in awe, back in the day (which is actually another great story). The hotel opened its doors that same year, in 1982, offering accommodation to the many visitors and athletes that came down to Guayaquil for the World Swimming Championship, a historic moment for the city. Even today, it is still a favorite for sports figures who come to Ecuador’s main port to compete (including three football teams that stay here exclusively).

A walk in the park

Unipark is inseparable not only from its shopping center, but from its precious Seminary Park. One of the country’s most characteristic parks, for many, the city’s most beautiful, surrounded not only by lush trees, but dozens of iguanas that maraud its grounds (a key reason to visit it). You also have several iconic sites surrounding it.

You have the Unicentro, as we mentioned, one of the country’s first malls. But also Guayaquil’s Catedral Primada (Cathedral), with an iconic Christ the Redeemer on the cornice; and for nostalgia purposes, on the ground floor of the hotel, Unicafé, one of those restaurants that every Guayaquileño remembers from his childhood.

Its unbeatable location in front of the park historically made everyone who wanted to spend a Sunday stroll, watching the movement and activity of the city streets, in Guayaquil, finish their day with a coffee, bite or, why not, a classic “arroz con menestra”, at the emblematic Unicafé, overlooking the park.

Sunday restaurant

The Sunday tradition adds flavor to the entire culinary experience. The varied international menu, created for all tastes, still offers its typical Guayaquil offer: hayacas, chupes, arroz con menestra, seco de gallina, “coconut cheese” (pure decadence), and, of course, the most astounding culinary adventure this side of the Pacific: the Caldo de Bolas de Verde (the one and only “Green ball soup”…), not to mention the spectacular buffet breakfast and brunch, possibly the best in town.

A superb breakfast and brunch!

For those who know Guayaquil and those who know that staying in Unipark is staying in Guayaquil —with the Malecón just three blocks away and the impressive administrative buildings even closer: this is a wonderful place to get to know the city.

There’s great authenticity here, as it was built as part of the city itself. Guayaquil lies in the very walls of this comfortable, central hotel, full of warm Guayaquil hospitality (and, of course, a gym, jacuzzi, large rooms for any event…).

There’s always a reason to continue celebrating this iconic hotel in the largest, pulsating commercial capital.

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