Welcome to our website ! Our vision is to inspire & promote international understanding through education and cultural exchange between South America - Ecuador and the rest of the world. To help people rediscover life with purpose, integrity and compassion, benefit from our experiences, and acquire knowledge for living in harmony in a globally interdependent and culturally diverse world. To share our "life changing adventure experiences" with family and friends worldwide. We have consolidated a wealth of the best resources on Ecuador, along with travel journals and photos. Our hope is that you will find this a valuable, user friendly resource network, which enriches your life, enables you to learn, challenges your thinking, and empowers you to discover and undertake your own new experiences and adventures.

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Friday, October 30, 2009

Guayaquil, Ecuador

The interior roads south from Portoviejo through Manabi to the province of Guayas are in very rough condition as they are being widened and reconstructed.  What currently exists for many miles resembles little more than a wide dusty goat trail – in fact I believe a goat trail would be a smoother ride!  Once you hit the province of Guayas, capital city Guayaquil, the roads improve considerably.  The coastal route of Ruta del Sol is also currently a much better route.

Along the west bank of the chocolate-brown Guayas River in flat coastal plains, we find Ecuador's largest city and the nation's main seaport of Guayaquil.

It is the largest shipping port on the Pacific Coast of South America, handling 80% of Ecuador's imports and 50% of its exports including shrimp, bananas, cocoa and coffee. The city is home to 3 million people and one of the country's two international airports. A hot and humid seaport, and industrial urban centre, it has a long-standing reputation of being dirty and unsafe.

Recently it has undertaken a massive urban renewal project to attract tourists and shed the notoriously bad reputation. Though it has always had a strong economy and plenty of nightlife, due to a series of fires it does not have the cultural heritage of Quito or Cuenca.

One of the main projects was Malecon 2000 a major restoration of the historic Simon Bolivar Pier, and creation of 2.5 miles of  ultramodern promenade / boardwalk along the Guayas River. In the city centre it is a pleasing mix of pedestrian friendly leisure and recreation space, green areas, monuments, modern art sculptures, viewpoints, restaurants, and tourist shopping and services.  It is anchored with a large outdoor "Hong Kong like" shopping mall  (popular for toys, clothing, electronic goods, DVDs, and CDs) on the south end, and the hill of Santa Ana and barrio of Las Penas on the north.


Las Peñas was completely destroyed due to a fire in 1896 (el incendio grande). It was rebuilt in a neoclassical style and now this trendy artistic centre of the city has restored many of its 400-year-old colourful houses and converted them into art galleries, shops and restaurants.

A staircase of almost 500 steps traverses the neighbourhood.  A peek into the lighthouse at the top provides wonderful vistas of the city.

The tall ship Guayas has its home base along the river promenade. It also features an Imax theatre, and Museum of Anthropology and Contemporary Art (MAAC).


The Palacio Municipal is located in front of the Malecon 2000 and houses the political offices of city and province. Built in a neoclassical style, it is considered one of the most important architectural works in the country.

We visited the Mercado Artesanal a collection of 280 colourful artisan shops. Its many vendors sell indigenous handicrafts, leather goods, jewellery, woven goods, pottery, and paintings from artisans throughout Ecuador.  The building takes up an entire city block.

Typical Guayaquil cuisine includes encebollado (one of many typical seafood soups), ceviche, arroz con menestra y carne (rice and beans with grilled or fried beef), patacones (twice-fried plantain slices) and pan de yuca (bread made from cassava).

One of our favourite destinations here is the Parque Seminario dating back to 1880 (also known as Parque de Las Iguanas or Iguana Park or Bolivar Park), which is exceptional for its wildlife. It is the shady home to many large iguanas, variety of birds, and a pond filled with colourful Japanese Tilapia. These animals chose this place to feed themselves from its vegetation, because the town of Guayaquil used to end in this park and all the rest was savanna. It is relaxing to watch the iguanas and you can even feed them mango slices from the park vendors. A typical equestrian statue of Simón Bolívar is located in the centre of the park.

The city's first high capacity bus rapid transit system, Metrovia, opened in 2006 in an attempt to reduce traffic congestion and automobile smog.  Due to the nature of driving in Ecuador with few road signs, one way streets, traffic diversions, and the significantly higher congestion here, we recommend leaving driving to the local expert taxi drivers.  The fare during the day almost anywhere in town will cost $ 2.00; it will easily double at night due to increased safety concerns.

Another project was the creation of the Nuevo Parque Histórico, a park in a housing development area that is called Entre Ríos because it lies between the Daule and Babahoyo rivers (which confluence to form the Guayas river), in a mangrove wetland area. The park cost the city about 7 million dollars.

It is a refuge for fauna and a zone of historical-architecture preservation, and has a traditions-and-history exhibition centre. The idea of the creation of this park came from Ecuador's central bank in 1982, as part of their "Rescate Arquitectónico" ("Architectural Rescue") programme.

The Cathedral Metropolitana de Guayaquil is one of the many churches represented here.

The Mall del Sol & El Paseo Centre are fresh new technologically advanced shopping centres ( in a developing country ) that are more impressive than any new shopping centres that we have seen in North America. 

The city's new airport, José Joaquín de Olmedo International Airport (GYE), though using the same runways, had its passenger terminal completely rebuilt in 2006. The old passenger terminal is now a convention centre.

Stadium Estadio Monumental is the second largest stadium in South America with a seating capacity of 85,000.  They also have modern facilities for horse racing, kart, bicycle, motorcycle, and car racing, basketball, golf  (not very common in Ecuador), polo courts, and water sports facilities.

Guayaquil has had a tremendously tumultuous history.  In 1687 it was attacked and looted by 260 English and French pirates under the command of George d'Hout (English) and Picard and Groniet (French).  This battle left 75 defenders of the city dead and more than 100 wounded, and 35 of the pirates died and 46 more were wounded. The pirates took local women as concubines. Quito paid the ransom that was demanded by the pirates on the condition they would release the hostages and not burn Guayaquil to the ground.

Twenty-two years later in 1709, 110 English pirates lead by Rogers, Courtney, and Dampier looted Guayaquil and also demanded ransom.  They suddenly departed without collecting the ransom after an epidemic of yellow fever broke out.

In October 9, 1820, almost without bloodshed, a group of civilians supported by soldiers from the "Granaderos de Reserva", a battalion quartered in Guayaquil, overwhelmed the resistance of the Royalist guards and arrested the Spanish authorities. Guayaquil declared independence from Spain, becoming Provincia Libre de Guayaquil, and José Joaquín de Olmedo was named Jefe Civil (Civil Chief) of Guayaquil. This would prove to be a key victory for the Ecuadorian War of Independence.

On July 26, 1822, José de San Martín and Simón Bolívar held a famous conference in Guayaquil to plan for the Independence of Spanish South America. La Rotunda is a semi-circle monument commemorating that meeting of the two Latin American liberators.

Plaza Colon  located on the site of the last stronghold of the Old City, it is today established at the entrance of the boardwalk tunnel.. Its was named  by the Counsel in 1892 at the time when a monument was to be erected in honour of Christopher Columbus who discovered America.  Facing us we have the "Fortin de la Planchada", an old colonial bastion which was rebuilt in 1906 and from where the defense of the city was carried out.

The Peruvian Military invaded the city in 1829 and again in 1860, the latter is referred to as the Battle of Guayaquil.

In 1896 the city suffered from a major fire, which destroyed large portions of the city, and the city has sustained major damage from several earthquakes.

Guayaquil has a lively population and a number of attractions that will make your stay worthwhile. This being an El Nino year they are expecting to receive very heavy rainfall between January and April 2010.

For additional information on Guayaquil:

Guayaquil Tourism

City of Guayaquil

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Casa Ceibo

Casa Ceibo

This weekend the Ecuadorian coastal city of Bahia de Caraquez welcomed the grand opening of the new exclusive, and exquisite hotel Casa Ceibo. This brand new hotel is the most luxurious resort hotel on the central coast of Ecuador.

Aerial View of Casa Ceibo

Its waterfront location is on the southern entrance to Bahia about 5 km from the city centre, on the peaceful estuary of the River Chone. Well-trained, courteous, multi-lingual staff members are ready to pamper you. It is the ideal place to take a rest from the noise and stress of the world, become part of their family, enjoying the high quality personalized service and attention.
Inagural Ribbon Cutting

Casa Ceibo is unique in design and decorations, constructed with rounded hallways, peaked and open beam ceilings, beautiful wooden floors, and large expansive glass for natural light and garden views.

 Adding to its charm it serves as an open gallery of Ecuador and its wonders. A tribute to local craftsmen and artisans featuring all hand crafted fine wood furniture throughout the hotel.  There are stained glass windows, lamps, and glass cathedrals by Ecuadorian Master Artist Pablo Mora.  Master Eduardo's creations in ceramics include the central mural of the Ceibo tree, native to the area, which also provided the inspiration for naming the hotel.

 There is an extensive collection of paintings from prominent artists in Ecuador such as Miranda, Kingman, Almeida, Catasse, Constante, and others.  Sculptures, pottery, and many other fine details, landscaped with meticulous gardens and waterfalls.

The Hotel has three floors and this surprising gem's wonder begins from the minute you enter the lobby with a waterfall cascading down a multi story rock façade. Large windows facing the estuary allow both ample daylight and beautiful vistas of the courtyard, swimming pool with multi-level decks, and tropical flower gardens.

 The expansive gardens feature a variety of coloured lighting to create a special ambiance. On this thrilling inaugural evening the sky was crystal clear and the stars were twinkling, the skyline of Bahia glowing in the distance. About 200 guests were entertained, and the tropical evening's night air was filled, with a variety of Latin music. Musicians included the resort's owner Daniel Jacome of Ecuador's famed Tercer Mundo rock band. Upstairs from the lobby is the restaurant, and rooms with balconies overlooking the grounds.

This evening the restaurant featured gold-medal international award winning executive chef Hugo Jimenez who provided a culinary experience of samplers and desserts, fusing the local "Manabi" cuisine with international cuisines for a style unique to Casa Ceibo. Wine and house cocktails were provided by the bar staff. The grand opening event was a tremendous success and the staff clearly delivered a superior experience for all the local dignitaries and distinguished guests.

All of the 18 rooms are richly decorated and have 32" flat screen TVs, wi-fi internet, and double Jacuzzi tubs. Hotel amenities include a swimming pool with wet bar and grill, gym with cardio equipment, free weights, steam and sauna baths, private massage room, clay tennis courts, and meeting rooms with audio visual systems.

The northern area of Manabi features a great variety of activities and attractions, including bird watching, nature walks, sport fishing, whale watching, aquatic sports, cycling, eco-tourism, and historic and archaeological sites to complete a truly memorable vacation experience.

For additional information please visit their website :

Casa Ceibo - Bahia de Caraquez, Manabi, Ecuador

Monday, October 19, 2009

Exotic Fruit of Ecuador

Exotic Fruit of Ecuador

Ecuador features many different geographies from snow capped volcanoes, jungles to coastal plains and is a  fantastic place for growing many types of fruit. Fruit lovers will discover, along with all the common tropical fruits, many new varieties of fruit not imported or found in North American stores.

Ecuador is the largest exporter of maracuya (passion fruit) concentrate in the world and of course the world's largest exporter of bananas.

Naranjilla or little orange – Naranjilla's are a bright orange fruit which is a bit smaller than a tennis ball. The inside of an naranjilla is full of pulp with tiny seeds when strained and sweetened can make a orange-greenish juice that is tangy and leaves an aftertaste that is almost perfumey.  The naranjilla is native to Ecuador and Columbia and is rarely grown anywhere else.

Uvilla or husk tomato, ground cherry, gooseberry – This small yellow fruit is called ground cherries as they grow close to the ground and are cherry like in both shape and size.  The uvilla has nothing else in common with cherries as there is no stone or they do not even taste like cherries.  The uvilla is bright yellow and grows inside a husk that is shaped like a small thin lantern.  The flavours of the uvilla are something like a pineapple and are eaten raw.

Chirimoya or Custard Apple – The cherimoya is related to the guanabana/soursop.  A cherimoya has a tasty white pulp that is in a green mottled skin and can be the size of a small melon.  The white pulpy flesh is full of black seeds which are large and smooth and can be removed easily.

Tomate de Arbol  or Tree Tomato – The tree tomato is red and shaped like an egg and is full of seeds that are covered by the pulp of this fruit.  It is a bit like the passion fruit.  The tree tomato fruit is good for juice and can be used in a dessert if boiled in sugar.  This fruit if eaten fresh can be very sour.

Maracuya or passion fruit – The maracuya fruit is shaped like an egg and yellow.  The fruit is hollow and filled with dozens of seeds inside which are covered with the pulp.  The maracuya can be eaten fresh off the vine and has a tart flavour.  The people in Ecuador put the pulp with the seeds in a blender for a few seconds to make juice and add a bit of sugar (brown sugar is nicer) to sweeten the juice.

Orito or Finger Bananas – Many different types of bananas are grown in Ecuador but the Orito banana is the smallest banana and has a much sweeter and richer taste than the other bananas.

Guanabana or soursop – The guanabana's outer skin is rough and green.  The guanabanas are large and can even reach  the size of a volleyball.  The inside of this fruit is white with pulp, and is full of many cherry like seeds.  The flesh inside the guanabana can be eaten fresh,  has the taste of a strawberry and is mild and quite sweet.  The Ecuadorian people make this fruit into juice, as they can be very messy to eat.

Pitahaya or Dragon Fruit – The pitahaya fruit grows on a type of tree cactus and is a yellow bumpy fruit.  The fruit is cut opened and the flesh is a bit transparent and gray in colour and is full of small black seeds.  The pitahaya is a bit like a kiwi.  The pitahaya can be eaten the same way as a kiwi but can also be made into a juice.  The pitahaya is said to have mild laxative properties.

Taxo or Banana Passion Fruit – The taxo is a long soft fruit that looks like a small orange banana but straight.  The fruit has many seeds that are covered with pulp which when separated can be made into ice cream or juice.  This fruit has a tart taste and is tangy and is not usually eaten fresh.

Tuna or Prickly Pear – This fruit should not be confused with the fish – in Spanish you would ask for "atun".  The tuna fruit is from a species of cactus and grows all around South America.  Looking at the tuna fruit is does look like a small cactus, the outer skin of this fruit is green and when opened there is red pulp inside the fruit.  There are small seeds in the fruit that are crunchy, they can be eaten and are tasteless.  This fruit has a very mild flavour that is fruity, although bland when compared to other fruits from Ecuador.

Granadilla or Sweet Granadila - The granadilla fruit is small, a pale pinkish-orange colour and shaped like an egg.  The fruit inside has dozens of black seeds which are enclosed in a gray pulp that is semi transparent.  The pulp and seeds can be eaten whole without the skin.  Granadillas have a fruity flavour and are very mild. They are a popular fruit here in Ecuador.   This fruit is too mild for making juice and is usually eaten fresh.

Mora or Blackberry – Blackberries from Ecuador are larger than the blackberries that we would see in North America and are grown all year round.  In most parts of the country blackberry bushes grow like weeds.  Although the blackberries can be eaten fresh, the Ecuadorian people blend them with water and some sugar and make a very tasty juice.

Babaco – or Mountain Papaya - The babaco fruit is seedless and has a smooth skin that can be eaten and is said to taste like strawberry, papaya, kiwi and pineapple. The fruit is pentagonal in shape. The babaco like the papaya, is grown for its edible fruit and for its fruit juice. The babaco fruit has no seeds present in the fruit. At this point the fruits reach a length of about 12 inches long and 8 inches wide. They are distinctly five-sided, rounded at the stem end and pointed at the apex. The flesh of the babaco is very juicy, slightly acidic and low in sugar. The Ecuadorians not only use this fruit for juice but also to make a dessert called Dulce de Babaco and it can also be used as a pie filling and goes great with apples or strawberries in a pie.

Pepino or pepino dulce (melon shrub, tree melon, sweet cucumber and pear melon) - Pepino is an exotic fruit that has a taste that is like a cucumber, cantaloupe, and a honeydew melon. The pepino has a smooth round or oval shape and its colourful skin is light yellow with purple lines. The fruit of the pepino is an orange/yellow colour with juicy flesh. There are also seeds which can be eaten. The pepino is commonly used as a dessert fruit, and combined with other exotic fruits in fruit salads and platters. The pepino can also be eaten raw, provided that the outer skin is removed.  

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Bahia de Caraquez, Manabi, Ecuador