Cuenca takes great pride in its parks. And, rightly so. They are generally very well maintained, easily accessible throughout the city, and act as great meeting points for all to enjoy.
One of our family’s favorite pastimes is to visit the many different parks of Cuenca armed with bikes, roller skates, frisbees, footballs & other toys for the kids (including this big kid) to enjoy.
This guide showcases some of the most popular parks in Cuenca and why we like them. Hopefully, you’ll pick up a few new parks to try yourself.
Have you met Capture Joseph?
Joseph shares a similar story to me. He’s a long-term digital nomad that fell in love with Cuenca and has decided to call it home. Whilst he’s only been in Cuenca for a few months, he’s already amassing a solid video content library.
We’ve collaborated on a few video projects together and there’s more in the pipeline. This video is all Joseph, but as our styles are similar, I think Joseph’s videos work well with our articles so we’ll be included them from time to time. Check out his other Cuenca videos on his YouTube channel.
Cuenca Park Locations
This map shows the parks that we’ve featured below.
1. Parque Calderon
You probably know this one, but given its importance as a focal point, it would be rude not to include this much loved, and photographed, park in Cuenca.
There’s a reason the walking tours start at Parque Calderon, it’s smack bang in the center of Cuenca’s Centro Historico, providing easy access to many of Cuenca’s must-see historical highlights.
The Abdón Calderón Park is surrounded by the New Cathedral (Church of the Immaculate Conception), the Old Cathedral (Church of El Sagrario) and the Governor’s Office.
Why we like Parque Calderon
When you first arrive in Cuenca you can’t miss this park even if you wanted to. Given its central nature, you’ll most likely find yourself weaving through it several times each day as you start to find your way around Cuenca.
On a busy day, we like to grab some ice cream and just sit whilst the vibrant atmosphere works its way around us. You’ll likely see street vendors, locals relaxing, others just passing through and tourists soaking up Cuenca’s architecture.
I spend a lot of time in Centro Historico visiting partners of our YapaTree Discount Card program. But, if I have some downtime between visits, then I’ll often spend 10 minutes alone in the park just recharging my batteries.
You may also come across street performers either in the park itself or sometimes organized events are held in the gazebo to one side.
Like most tourist focal points the world over, you’ll find a variety of street vendors offering snacks & photo opportunities. Some photo opportunities may include a massive Saint Bernard (as seen in Joseph’s video) & wooden horses for your kids to sit and smile.
But, Parque Calderon has some limitations
Whilst we do like to spend time there with our kids, it’s not somewhere you can let them roam free and explore too much. There’s no playground equipment either.
You will likely see some tourist police hanging around. But, even so, it can be a place where pickpockets hang out. Whilst I haven’t experienced any issues, I have seen some warnings to be careful of unscrupulous shoe shiners that may target you for more than just loose change.
2. Parque de la Madre
On the other side of the Tomebamba River, you’ll find another local and expat favorite; Parque de la Madre. They spent millions of dollars in a significant refurbishment back in 2013. This included adding a 3 lane athletic track that Ecuador’s 1st Olympic gold medallist, Jefferson Pérez, would be proud of. And, I really hope so given his statue overlooks the park.
Why we like Parque de la Madre
I dare say there is enough equipment here to keep the kids entertained longer than your stamina allows. Several sets of swings and climbing obstacles are great, but our kids tend to gravitate towards the flying fox.
The previous name was Parque del Ejército. Boring maybe, but definitely accurate. There is a bunch of exercise machines with pull-up bars etc. You’ll often see guys giving their muscles a tweak. There’s also a basketball court that gets a lot of action and if you time it right, you may see some group fitness classes going on.
Yoga / Tai Chi / Other Group Classes
Before the pandemic, we were regulars at the free yoga classes offered by a local school. The best bit for us is that they also organized a yoga class just for kids. So, the whole family was occupied & happy. This has quietened down during the pandemic, but there are signs of group activities returning.
For example, I know there are some free QiGong classes this weekend.
Given its convenient location and quality facilities, it’s often used as a meeting spot for various groups such as expat families & frisbee throwing.
Bonus – parking
The parking lot at the bottom of Parque de la Madre is big and cheaper than a lot of similar parking in the area. It also houses an EMOV registration center that you’ll likely need to visit as part of your vehicle registration process.
What can be improved
Joseph mentioned some dog owners not picking up after their pets. I wish that was just a Parque de la Madre thing, but unfortunately, there seem to be quite a few irresponsible pet owners across Ecuador.
They used to have a metal plane sitting in the park. Great in theory, but without regular maintenance, it was always going to turn into a tetanus hotspot. They’ve since removed this, which we were quite happy about.
3. Megaparque IctoCruz
This is a newer park that is located in Turi. Note, this is not the Turi lookout you may be familiar with if you’ve taken the double-decker bus tour that drops you at the Church & lookout. It’s less than a 5-minute drive away, but not really within walking distance unless you’re into hills.
Why we like Megaparque IctoCruz
This is one of our favorite places to take the kids with their bikes. It’s a long circuit that is an easy ride for everybody and you never get tired of looking to your right at the spectacular views over Cuenca.
They’ve been able to build such a large park because of its location up in the hills. The main path is a great place to start, but once you’ve walked a lap don’t be scared to go off-piste and explore the lesser-visited sections. Particularly where you see the various flying fox stations – the kids love to roam and explore whilst we catch our breath.
If you’re looking to take a photo with a Cuenca sign that overlooks the city itself, I’d suggest this is the spot for you. As you continue on the path, the city view changes into a more rural landscape.
Love it or hate it, you’ll also get a good view of the Turi Prison as your progress on the path. I personally find it interesting.
Joseph whipped out his drone in the video, giving you a glimpse of those lush views over Cuenca.
Bonfires & barbeques
Fancy sitting around the campfire with some marshmallows? They allow camping and sell firewood on site. We haven’t done this yet, but it’s certainly on our list of beginner-camping spots to try.
What can be improved
It’s a double-edged sword. Build a lovely park and the people will come. Sometimes too many people. Even though they included a good-sized carpark, it’s been full several times when we’ve tried to visit.
This wouldn’t normally be a big deal, but the hilly location doesn’t really allow itself to park anywhere else. So, we’ve been forced to turn around and find another park. Luckily, there are many to choose from.
We haven’t ever seen the zip lines working either. Not sure why, but we assume it’s down to lack of maintenance.
4. Parque Paraiso
This park is easily one of the best in Cuenca. It’s very big, close enough to the center and has a lot of variety for everyone. You can find food vendors as you enter via the main carpark.
Why we like Parque Paraiso
There is a large lake that is perfect for chill vibes and a bit of duck watching. Bring a picnic and you’re set for hours.
The park also backs onto two rivers which converge at the end making for an interesting walk on the raised boardwalk. We also enjoy the interesting trees and other fauna in this area.
Open, green spaces
There’s a lot of space which can be great for entertaining in large groups or just to get that little extra privacy.
Lots of group fitness activities take place in this park too.
This park is a little older than say, Parque de la Madre, so some of the equipment is also a little dated. Do the kids care? Not in the slightest – they have a blast running from station to station playing and laughing.
The park is big enough to also accommodate several football fields that are used for a variety of sports.
What can be improved
I’m sure they’ll upgrade some of the playground equipment soon enough. My guess – perhaps when Cuenca’s first Megamaxi opens they’ll also consider giving the park another makeover as they are right next to each other.
5. Parque de la Luz
The best park with a view overlooking the other side of Cuenca has to be Parque de la Luz.
The park itself is 9.5 hectares on the Yanacuri hill in Miraflores, in Cuenca’s north. It’s also known as “Tu Eres Pedro” thanks to Pope John Paul II visiting in 1985. Like most other parks in this list, it’s also gone through a recent transformation that significantly improved its overall function & popularity.
Why we like Parque de la Luz
The highlight for many is the large cable bridge that provides a long walkway leading to a wonderful view over Cuenca. There tends to be a bit of a beeline that forms as people are naturally attracted to this bridge and the promise of selfies and other photos.
There is a similar bridge on the other side that provides a very different view of the surrounding hills and neighborhoods. This side doesn’t tend to be as popular so you can spend a little more time here without feeling guilty about holding people up.
Walking around the top section of the park will provide you with numerous vantage points, including the two bridges mentioned above. I find these views very refreshing because always tend to view Cuenca from the other direction (ie from Turi).
Joseph’s drone footage gives you a great idea of the views you can expect.
You can either use the standard path to get to the top (boring) or you can opt to use the activity course they’ve set up. This involves some obstacles & ropes to pull yourself up.
What can be improved
I’ve got nothing. The only ‘negative’ experience we had was getting told off by a security guard for climbing on the Cuenca sign whilst taking photos. But, this hardly qualifies as an improvement.
6. Megaparque Tarqui-Guzho
The final park we’re covering in this guide is also the kids’ favorite. They just love, love, love the playground here. And, judging by the crowd of kids that always seems to be there, so do many others.
This park is tucked away a little bit behind Mall del Rio. As such, it’s not a park that is super accessible, but you’re rewarded with the area’s natural greenery that flows from the Tarqui River.
Why we like Megaparque Tarqui-Guzho
There’s a lot of variety for the kids to sink their teeth into, with multiple stations full of high quality and new equipment. The variety is important as it provides constant stimulation with new activities, leaving the adults with some time of their own (phew).
There is a large, dedicated section just for barbeques and entertaining. There must be over 10 barbeque stations. Even so, they do get busy on weekends so you may need to be patient.
Greenery & river
The Tarqui River runs through the park, with a little wooden bouncy suspension bridge separating the barbeque section from the playground section. Part of the original park project was to restore the vegetation. The river and associated green vegetation give the park a natural feel, leaving you energized as you leave.
What can be improved
There also appears to be an abandoned zip-line project at this park that looks like it would be a lot of fun if they were able to get it back up and running again.
A lot of investment has gone into Cuenca’s parks. Not just the ones we’ve included in this list either. There are probably another 3-4 quality parks that we could have included.
It’s one of the reasons we find Cuenca to be so family-friendly and we’re super grateful to have access to these right at our fingertips.
If we’ve missed any of your favorite parks out, do feel free to let us know and we’ll try to update this article to include them.