“Do” Guayaquil, if you must

Guayaquil is big, the second largest city in Ecuador, and it is a layover stop for many who enter the country on their way to someplace else. That’s how I found myself there…as a means to the end of seeing the Galapagos.

What to do in Guayaquil if you wind up with an extra day in your itinerary? My advice is to revise your itinerary if possible, but, if not, go to the “Iguana Park” and the Malecon (boardwalk).

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The Iguana Park is true to its nickname. There, you’ll see these creatures by the hundreds: some walking across the sidewalk, some being fed heads of lettuce by the city employees assigned to their care, and others lounging in trees, from which they seem to take delight in urinating on the unsuspecting passersby below.

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And here I am not talking about just a tiny squirt, as you might expect from an animal this size. No, I’m talking about a bucket of liquid, fired at once in a great gush, so that, if you get hit at all, you get soaked. Beware. There’s a reason many of the locals carry umbrellas even when it isn’t raining.

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That said, let there be no doubt that the iguanas are the star attraction here, even though there is a Koi and turtle pond to enjoy at the same location. And the Metropolitan Cathedral directly across the street is worth a visit as well.

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You can walk to the Malecon from the Iguana Park. It’s a great place to people watch. There are various viewing platforms you can climb to get a better view of the harbor area, which includes, at least on the day I was there, a magnificent barque tall ship (the “Guay”) and, further down the docks, a large schooner.

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I am sure there’s plenty more to do in the city, because I can read “Trip Advisor” as well as the next person. So, for example, I could go to the Parque’ Historico. But I wouldn’t want to, because Guayaquil is, to my mind, a polluted, crowded, sprawling, crime-ridden city, and, whatever its charms may be, they are lost in the sooty haze of its atmosphere.

Nor is this the only Latin American city thus effected. Many otherwise very nice areas are rendered unlivable due to the fact that, apparently, cars are not required to meet the same stringent standards as the developed world, and there is so much crime that it’s hazardous to approach popular tourist attractions even in broad daylight. The good news is, any of this can be fixed…at a price, of course. I hope that someday, the inhabitants of Panama, Columbia, Ecuador, Lima, and others will find the price to be worth it.

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