Más de las Galápagos, Exploring Ecuador's Quito & Guayaquil

Guayaquil

Lacking mountain terrain and less historical cultural attractions than Quito, Guayaquil makes up for it with a Caribbean atmosphere, an art and design peninsula village and its own national park and zoological center.

About 20 minutes from the downtown and commercial district of Guayaquil, Parque Historico is a three-section national park where you can learn about Ecuador's wildlife and plants, as well as its urban and native history. It is enjoyed by both tourist and locals, and as of 2014, free to enter.

A must visit when back in the city is the famous Parque de las Iguanas (or Parque Seminario), where you'll find iguanas roaming free. The iguanas are unafraid, and you can feed or pet them in this tiny park.

West of the park you'll reach Malecón 2000, which is a long city boardwalk next to the Guayas River that is filled with shops, gardens, museums and monuments. You'll also find an exercising area and a children's playground here, as well as several restaurants.

Continuing north, Cerro Santa Ana and Las Penas provides a great view of the whole city, after you walk the 444 steps to the top. In the lower level of Las Penas you can enjoy microbars, restaurants, art galleries and several craft shops. Nearby lies a Wyndham Hotel, but if you'd like to stay in the center of the city, the a luxury-styled boutique Hotel Oro Verde is also a good choice. Both are just about 10 minutes from the airport, where you'll find free WiFi in the terminals.

Tip: If you're leaving from the New York area, there is a new nonstop flight to Guayaquil with TAME. Quito and Guayaquil flights are under and hour, and you can easily do both in a four-day weekend.

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