Guayaquil is one of the most vibrant cities in Ecuador. The busy streets, restaurants, riverwalks, and shops may hide its «wild side». But if you take a look back in history, you will still identify some traits of the urban and rural context from the XVIII and XIX Century, when the local wildlife was around everywhere you went to.
Around this time, the city thrived through agriculture and commerce in the Cacao Boom. Ecuador was the world’s largest producer of cacao beans, the main ingredient for chocolate. Most of its export was shipped from the port of Guayaquil.
Haciendas were the transition centers between the production areas and trade, housing a diversity of activities and people. Do not miss the Historic Park in Samborondón, which is an attraction that recreates the natural context and architecture, and will definitely transport you intime.
If you want a contemporary feel of cacao and chocolate, you can experience modern haciendas. Many of them are environmentally conscious and cultivate their crops combined with other fruits and plants that contribute to taste, biodiversity and local ecology. You can still visit the lush tropical forest that used to cover this area at Cerro Blanco.
From the haciendas, the products where sent to Guayaquil through the river. Mangroves, birds, and crocodiles were the highlights of the journey. Go to the Manglares Churute Ecological Reserve for a deep wildlife experience with monkeys, snakes and other reptiles. If you are into sports, you can even try paddle boarding along the mangroves of Puerto Azul.
Inside the urban area, the port gave life to a very different setting. Ships docked to take the cacao beans, but brought to Guayaquil international culture as well. The city blocks were defined by classical wooden architecture and nature was bound to the periphery. However, the Santay Island, boardwalks along the Estero Salado, or the mountain paths of Parque Samanes will showcase wildlife within the city.
When the Cacao was finally sent out to sea, the ships would sail out through the Guayas River and on to the Guayaquil Gulf. You would find islands that would house unique ecosystems along mangroves. Right before heading out to the ocean, dolphins may have followed the boat hull. Go and feel that thrill from Puerto El Morro.
What has not changed from the XVIII century until today is that in Guayaquil, food is delicious. Wherever you are, you can experience the best products in a “surf and turf” version, or seafood, meat, or rice and beans.
You can learn more about all of these attractions in Spanish in EscapeNatura.