Swooning for a sojourn to the Galapagos Islands? Pay homage to the king of worldwide eco destinations with a nod to her motherland. After all, sustainability experts are whispering about lessening our impact through ubiquitous travel. In other words, string your Galapagos travel story together with bookends on the mainland, precisely from Guayaquil.
Night 1: Parque Historico in Samborondón
Perhaps the most charming way to broaden your stay in Ecuador is to spend at least 3 nights lingering in the steamy port city of Guayaquil. For an exquisite blend of wealth and wilderness, spend your first day in Guayaquil sauntering through the decidedly chic and oh-so-eco Parque Historico in the Samborondón neighborhood. The isthmus harbors an 8-hectare garden oasis home to some 50 wildlife species and historical architecture along the riverfront.
From within, snuggle up at the world-renowned Hotel del Parque all while sipping wine and sinking into the legendary cuisine at Casa Julian. It’s just one of three notable restaurants within the park coveted for their sustainable food practices.
Night 2: Explore greater Guayaquil
Spend day two on the mainland with a quick commute from Samborondón to greater downtown Guayaquil. Despite being a bustling city topping off over 2.2 million residents, the waterfront city is delightfully easy to explore. Plus, it’s rather famous for its parks, plazas, and meandering walking districts. Start your day with a stroll overlooking the city from the lighthouse at Cerro Santa Ana and the Las Peñas art district. Then, head back waterside before the sun sinks into the sea with a cruise along the Malecon 2000 as it lights up the riverfront after dark.
After a full day exploring Guayaquil, retreat to the serenity of Hotel del Parque and a sumptuous Italian dinner at El Jardin.
Night 3: Visit a Cocoa Plantation
For the final precursor to the Galapagos Islands, swathe yourself in the sweet history of mainland Ecuador’s favorite pastime: chocolate. Surrounding Guayaquil, the largest Pacific watershed in South America lends itself to the fertile, tropical lands responsible for centuries-old sugar and cocoa plantations. It’s the palm of the oldest chocolate recipes in the world, hosted by a plethora of chocolate farms still operating today.
An intriguing way to experience it firsthand is via the region’s very own Cocoa Route. After all, Guayaquil is a city founded on the very roots of chocolate, rising to prominence over the cocoa exportation boom nearly 400 years ago.
Guayaquil’s Cocoa Route
The official Cocoa Route passes through 6 historic cocoa plantations, through which it is endearingly possible to become a veritable cacao expert in just one day.
From Hotel del Parque, the tour first sets off for Hacienda Camino Verde, an astounding 8,600 acreage recognized globally for its sustainable production of fine chocolates. Then, continue on to El Deseo where the allure is in the secrets of taking Ecuadorian cacao from local farms to international tables.
Thirdly, a visit to the Hacienda La Danesa lends an iconic experience of the Ecuadorian chocolate trade. The historic ranch is prized for its award-winning chocolate developed on what is known as the best cacao plantations on the globe.
The route also includes a tour of the organic chocolate producer Milagro Vitaliano Sarabia, known as the prominent supplier of cacao for the fine chocolate industries hailing from France.
Additionally, a stop at Querida Virginia in Naranjal chronicles the scientific side of chocolate where the independent cacao producer develops Cacao CCN-51, a coveted fine chocolate variety recognized for its exquisite aroma and red coloring.
Finally, the full chocolate presentation is topped off with a look at the wilder side of the chocolate business. Tours through Taura and Bucay take onlookers through a deeper look at the natural landscapes in the world of cacao plantations including the vast cloud forests and coastal mangroves responsible for the best chocolate on the planet.
At the close of the day, return once more to Hotel del Parque to revisit memories of the day with Spanish tapas and wine at La Pergola on the twinkling waterfront.