While en route to the Galapagos last year, we spent time in the Ecuadorian port city of Guayaquil preparing for our expedition. On the return home, we had time to really explore the city and were thrilled to find one of the most impressive public works projects in South America – Malecón 2000.
Driving into the massive city from the airport to our hotel, I was honestly pretty skeptical about Guayaquil. The sprawling city seemed saturated with large tenements spreading to all corners of the city. Our hotel was an American chain and it seemed as if we were in a bubble within the city. Given our free time though, I was eager to learn more about the city and to see what it had to offer. After a brief survey of hotel staff, it was obvious that the best place to start the exploration was at the Malecon.
Malecon is a promenade or boardwalk and Guayaquil’s spans a two-mile distance alongside the Guayas River. This mammoth project was completed in 1999 and was the culmination of a massive revitalization effort. The historical malecon had fallen into complete disrepair by the 1980s and was known as one of the worst parts of town, home to thieves, prostitutes and drug dealers.
The Malecon of today though is a glittering jewel in the crown of the city. Its massive walkways are lined with shops, restaurants, bars and plenty of amusements for people of all ages. Oddly enough, the hotel staff seemed most proud of the IMAX theater, which I was told was the first in South America. We spent a lovely afternoon and early evening walking the full length of the Malecon, enjoying the companionship of thousands of city residents, marveling at the river views and enjoying an ice cream in the hot, humid weather.
At the end of the walk we explored a restored neighborhood with art and architecture clearly inspired from the city’s colonial period. In this area of the walkway we found massive art galleries and hole in the wall stores selling crafts and music all from local artists.
Once the sun set, we hailed a cab and returned to the hotel bubble, not feeling as if we really knew the city, but pleased at our first introduction with Guayaquil and the remarkable Malecon.