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Guayaquil has made great strides in reducing crime and delinquency in recent years, and its nightlife has benefited greatly. Bars, cafes, and restaurants are sprouting like mushrooms around the Zona Rosa and Cerro Santa Ana (both located toward the end of the Malecón). This is the best area to experience the city's nightlife. For more mellow options, stroll up the Cerro Santa Ana, where you'll find many bars and pubs flanking the steps leading to the top of the hill. Right at the foot of the steps is the always-popular Divina Nicotina (tel. 09/9099-208), while around the corner from the steps, in Las Peñas, is the boho standout La Paleta (tel. 04/2312-329).

For dancing and a more lively time, try the Zona Rosa, a several-square-block area bordered by the Malecón to the east and Avenida Rocafuerte to the west, and by Calle Juan Montalvo to the north and Calle Manuel Luzarraga to the south. You'll find a score of bars here, and it's a relatively safe area to bar-hop. I like Heineken Bar Music (tel. 08/5234-129), on Rocafuerte and Padre Aguirre, which has atmospheric brick walls and often features live music; most Thursdays, you'll find a local rock band performing.

Locals like to head to the handful of clubs and discos found in the neighborhood Kennedy Norte, at the Mall Kennedy. These clubs attract a broad mix of Guayaquil's young and restless. There's plenty to choose from, but if you want an all-out party, try Ibiza Evolution (tel. 09/7422-925).

Live theater, poetry, art cinema, and other performances can be found at La Alianza Francesa de Guayaquil (tel. 04/2532-009), on Hurtado 436 and José Mascote. At the northern end of the Malecón Simón Bolívar is a four-plex IMAX theater (tel. 04/2563-078; www.imaxmalecon2000.com), showing late-run IMAX-specific films. For more traditional movie fare, there are Cinemark multiplex theaters in both Mall del Sur (tel. 04/2085-110) and Mall del Sol (tel. 04/2692-015).

If you're in the mood for some gambling, there are large modern casinos at the Sheraton, Oro Verde, and Hilton.

Finally, for something completely different, see if the Henry Morgan is sailing. This ship leaves from the Malecón Thursday through Saturday at midnight. The cost is $10 (£6.65) per person, which includes a couple of drinks at their bar. The ship, still at anchor, opens at 8pm on these nights as a bar and restaurant, with a limited menu of Ecuadorean dishes and bar food.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.