edgeclinger wrote:We're thinking about going to Ecuador - probably for 2 weeks or so. Tentatively we're thinking we'll go to Guayaquil and to Cuenca. Would love to hear any recommendations from people who have traveled there.
Cuenca's a nice city. There's a large expat community of students and American retirees, so there are a lot of restaurants and cafes catering to foreigners - depending on what you want from a holiday, this can either be a plus or a minus. It's a nice a city just to wander round, but also simple things like the city bus tour are worth doing, although you have to be keep ducking the telephone cables, or you'll be decapitated. Outside the city is Ingapirca, which is about two or three hours drive from Cuenca and is like a mini Machu Picchu and definitely worth a visit. Although if you go by bus, be careful you don't miss the last bus. There are no hotels nearby.
I could tell you what hotels I stayed in, but as I wasn't particularly impressed with any of them, you're probably better looking on Tripadvisor, or even Hostalworld. Although Hostalworld tends to only cover the budget side of the market, the advantage is that people can only write reviews who have booked a room through the website. So it's not full of reviews which look as if they've been written by the owners of the hotels.
I didn't think much of Guayaquil - unless it's changed a lot in the three years since I visited, and I have heard there have been some improvements, I'd probably recommend going to the coast instead. Salinas is a bog standard beach resort and like Lima, it's often covered in cloud over the winter months. Just at the north of end of the town - I think it's called Ballenita -there was one nice hotel called El Faro, designed like a ship, where you can spot whales - I can't say I saw any, but the locals swear that at certain times of the year, there are dozens of 'em. If you head further north up the coast, on the Ruta del Sol, there are some nice places. Montanita, famous for surfing, is probably the prettiest, but the least friendly. However, there are plenty of smaller towns along the coast, each with something to offer. There was one place with the most depressing acquarium I've ever seen in my life, with unhappy sea lions, in tiny paddling pools and depressed penguins staring at the walls. Strongly recommend avoiding all places like these. Although there was a town called Puerto Lopez, where you could take day trips out on boats to some of the islands where there's a lot of undisturbed wildlife. I can check what other towns I visited if you're interested and let you know.
To be honest, although it had its good points, I found Ecuador not only the least friendly country I've visited in South America, but the worst for getting ripped off. Double check everything from restaurant/hotel bills to taxi fares and prices in shops. Unless you've already been there, I'd strongly recommend a trip to Bolivia.