based out of Guayaquil...

Guayaquil is Ecuador’s largest city, as well as the primary port, with a history reaching back nearly 500 years.  Its location is the flat plain where the Daule & Babahoyo Rivers merge to form the Rio Guayas, and the drainage of much of coastal Ecuador.  The climate tends towards hot and muggy.  Long maligned for crime and corruption, the city has worked exhaustively to change that image in recent years.  Today one can explore most parts of the city and environs without worry. 

The Guayaquil Malecón is a vibrant tree-lined pedestrian esplanade running along the Guayas River waterfront, from the old Caraguay Market / Mercado Sur (a reconstructed bustling glass roofed seafood, meat and produce marketplace) in the south, to Barrio Las Peñas in the north.  The area is home to numerous cafés, bars, government buildings, monuments and a string of shops.  In the evenings Malecón Simón Bolivar Avenue is lined with horses and carriages for tourists with rides spanning the length of the promenade.  The quaint old hillside Las Peñas neighborhood dates in part from the early days of Guayaquil’s founding (mid 16th century).  An artisans’ market features embroidered goods, wooden decorations, tagua or marble carvings, leather work, and costume jewelry.

Seminario Plaza/Parque is in the shadow of the cathedral.  Here scores of wild iguanas laze in the trees and on the lawns, much to the delight, or fright, of the children in the park.   

The beautiful 12 acre Guayaquil Botanical Garden is located on Cerro Colorado north of the city (roughly a 90 minute drive from central Guayaquil).  Here you can find upwards of 300 botanical species, ranging from trees to native plants and exotics (including 80% of the orchid species found in Ecuador).  A butterfly enclosure houses up to 60 species free-flying.  The shaded garden paths and streams have also become home to numerous bird species.  Additionally the park houses exhibitions on medicinal plants, a family garden, and geology. 

Surprisingly close to the city center (30 minutes away) is the Cerro Blanco Protected Forest.  With an area of nearly 15,000 acres, and an altitude range of 150 to 1,500 feet above sea level, the terrain is hills divided by ravines – many with permanent springs.  The Cerro Blanco vegetation is greatly influenced by the weather, with the rainy season (January – April) keeping the forest humid and green.  Keep an eye out for blue morpho butterflies, scorpion lizards, deer, howler monkey, ocelot, agouti and peccaries.  In addition Cerro Blanco is known for its birds, with 215 species that include 30 birds of prey.  The visitor center includes a wildlife rescue center, and a staff guide escorts all visitors.   

An hour south of the city is the Manglares Churute Ecological Reserve.  The reserve has an area of 88,000 acres, 20,000 of which are mangroves.  The labyrinthine estuaries of the mangroves and swamps were the main reason for setting aside the reserve, although the reserve also includes considerable tropical dry forest on the slopes of the Cordilliera de Churute, with the higher elevations giving way to a humid forest.  The flora and fauna of these three distinct habitats is very different and exciting.  More common sightings might include deer, howler monkeys, crocodiles, green iguanas, turtles, kingfishers, herons, cormorants and numerous migratory species.  As many as 260 species of birds have been recorded here.

Here in the equatorial tropics the countryside surrounding Guayaquil, between the Andes and the Pacific, is dotted with rice paddies, banana, sugar cane, and cocoa plantations, grand estancias, colorful produce stands and charming people.  


Guayaquil City Tour; half-day (daily; duration 3 hours, 9am-noon or 2-5pm)
Explore the touristic center of Guayaquil, visiting the Cathedral, the Malecón promenade and monuments, Las Peñas neighborhood, and Seminario Plaza. 

Guayaquil City Tour & Market; half-day (daily; duration 5 hours, 9am-2pm)
This is an expanded version of the half-day Guayaquil City tour, visiting the same locations, plus either the bustling Mercado Sur, or the Artisans’ market, depending on your interests. 

Guayaquil Botanical Garden half-day (daily, duration 3 hours, gardens open 9am-5pm) $3 entrance fee per person not included.

Cerro Blanco half-day (daily, duration 3 hours, starting between 5am and 9am)
This 3-hour tour will spend roughly 2 hours exploring the Protected Forest trails.  $4 entrance fee per person not included.  A reserve guide fee of $25 is paid locally, shared between participants in your private group. 

Cerro Blanco half-day Expanded (daily, duration 5 hours, starting between 5am and 9am).  With more time in the Cerro Blanco Protected Forest there are more opportunities to get further into the park.  $4 entrance fee per person not included.  A reserve guide fee of $25 is paid locally, shared between participants in your private group. 

Manglares Cherute Ecological Reserve full-day (daily, duration 8 hours, starting between 5:30am and 8:30am).  This is a full day tour including a morning exploring the reserve’s trails as well as a canoe excursion through the estuaries.  Lunch at a local cocoa plantation hacienda, where you will have a chance to see the artisanal production of chocolate, before returning to Guayaquil.  A canoe fee of $100 is paid locally, shared between participants in your private group.