Popular legend has it that Guayaquil’s name comes from Guayas (the great Puna Indian chief who fought bravely against the Incas and then later against the Spanish), and Quill, the wife of Guayas, whom he is said to have killed before drowning himself, rather than allowing her to be captured by the conquistadors. However, several historians claim the city’s name comes from the words ‘Hua’ or land, and ‘Illa’ meaning beautiful prairie and ‘Quilca, ’ one of the Guyas River’s tributaries where the Quilca tribe lived until being wiped out in the 17th century. Thus Guayaquil is literally ‘the land like a beautiful prairie on the land of the Quilcas.’
Whatever the origin of the name, Guayaquil is nowadays the beating commercial heart of Ecuador with a half-dozen high-rises give it a big-city profile, contrasting with several hillsides engulfed by colorful favelas. However it’s the Río Guayas’ malecón (the riverfront town square) that defines the city’s identity. The picturesque barrio of Las Peñas, which perches over the river, anchors the city both geographically and historically. Amid revitalized squares, parks and massive urban-renewal projects, the city has a growing theater, film and arts scene and lively bars, fueled in part by several large universities.
It's important to note that the flights to the Galápagos Islands either stop at or originate in Guayaquil, so the city is the next best place after Quito to set up a trip.