Guayaquil used to get bad press as a place to avoid. These days we highly recommend it as a place to stop after a Galapagos cruise. The city has undergone a renaissance and the riverside walkway makes a pleasant afternoon stroll. One attraction is the city’s most luxurious boutique hotel, set amid Parque Historico, set in the botanical gardens and wildlife sanctuary. The 19th-century property is reminiscent of a Republican era mansion with spacious rooms and delightful patios. Hotel del Parque is in a tropical oasis that was once a mangrove swamp. Today the hotel is a haven of tranquility from the bustle of the city, amid the peaceful surrounding park.
Guests can walk the park’s nature trails and access its wildlife sanctuary or go bird-watching along the river. However, it lies just 10-minutes from the sophisticated Samborondón neighbourhood, with shopping centres, restaurants and the airport is a 15-minute drive away. The 19th-century building has been transposed piece by piece from the centre of the city. Though retaining its history there are all the modern luxuries you’d expect. The common areas are graceful, with a mixture of traditional and modern art. Two open-air patios are the main attraction, one with a restaurant, the other, a tranquil space, is full of colourful tropical plants. The staff are all friendly and helpful. The front desk concierge speak English and will help booking restaurants or taxis. I particularly enjoyed the reading room with armchairs and complimentary drinks and snacks where one can play games, watch television, or work on computers. Most surprisingly the chapel’s gothic style bell tower holds a fitness centre and massage room. There are 44 rooms over four categories, from Deluxe to the luxurious Park Suite. Deluxe rooms are beautifully designed and spacious: large beds, televisions, sitting areas with armchairs, desks, minibars, and coffee/tea stations. Every detail is tasteful; marble bathrooms with huge showers, cosy bathrobes and slippers, and fragrant cosmetics, complimentary kits and toothbrushes.
As well as a high-tea English style, enjoy cultural encounters such as chocolate tasting, coffee roasting and wildlife walks in the tropical grounds. A massive breakfast buffet offers the usual items such as bread, cereal and fruit alongside some more unusual options like seafood ceviche. Nearby there is a gourmet restaurant, Casa Julian. This is one of Guayaquil’s veritable dining experiences, a tasting menu of Ecuadorian food with international influences such as steamed shrimp buns with curry and a wide-ranging cocktail menu.
All images copyright David Horwell 2019