During the past year, I had the good fortune of two assignments taking me to Ecuador. And even though I lived there for more than five years, I was continually amazed that such an affordable paradise can still exist in 2009.
Maybe you’ll enjoy a stroll on a wide, deserted beach bordering the warm, Pacific waters…or a sizzling mound of sautéed shrimp for just $3.50…or a beachfront condo for $33,000. Ecuador never stops reminding you of its beauty, charm, and low cost of living.
For leisure destinations and comfortable expat living, the most desirable stretch of the Ecuadorian coastline lies between Atacames (on the north) and Salinas (on the south).
This area is renowned for its number of tropical microclimates, which can change with surprising and delightful frequency. You’ll be driving through a tropical dry forest, only to round the bend to find an enchanting, lush, green valley, with bananas, palms, and giant jungle plants.
Sandy beaches and cliffs line the entire coastline, but their surroundings vary widely. Sometimes the beaches are remote and totally undeveloped…perhaps a mile away from the nearest road. In other areas, you’ll catch glimpses of small villages on the shimmering water or a secluded cove as the road runs along the ocean.
And the potential lifestyles are as varied as the geography and the climate.
Our readers ask:
Where can we find a safe and low-cost area in Ecuador to hunker down and ride out the storm?
IL’s Latin America correspondent, responds:
If I were looking for a place to ride out the depression, I’d choose Ecuador, hands down. I was favorably impressed with Manta. It’s a good, solid city based not on tourism, but on a firm industrial base.
The nice properties in the condo market are about $9.50 per square foot. The city amenities are great.
I like Cotacachi, too, but it’s a small town. For any city diversions you’d need to go to Quito, some two hours away. So if that’s what you’re after, it may be just right (and you won’t need air-conditioning here). If not, Manta has a super selection of restaurants, shopping, and other things to do.
Behind Ecuador, I like Nicaragua (where I also have a property), and Uruguay, where I live presently.
Ecuadorian weekenders enjoy the vibrant resorts of Atacames and Pedernales, with their beachside bars and restaurants, driving salsa music, and 24-hour bustling activity. But expats are often drawn to the quiet fishing village of San Clemente, with its clean, cobblestone streets and friendly people…or the surfing villages of Canoa or Montañita.
Even city-dwellers will be happy, with the extensive city amenities available in Manta or the smaller, more laid-back Bahia de Caraquez.
The cost of coastal living in Ecuador is unbeatable in Latin America. I have a good friend who lives a comfortable lifestyle here for $800 per month…for a family of three, with a car.
A beautiful new 1,200-square-foot condo will cost just $78,000 in Atacames, while a new two-bedroom beachside condo in Canoa is only $33,000…just a mile from a quarter-acre beachfront lot going for only $20,000.
Even in Manta, a modern luxury condo will set you back an average of only $93,000 for a 1,000-square-foot, beautifully finished unit facing the ocean.
If you prefer living in a planned community, I found two good ones. Palo Alto is wild and natural, with rolling wooded hills, cliffs, and long stretches of sandy beaches. For peaceful country living, you won’t beat it. But Ciudad del Mar is the winner if you’d like more people, lots of project amenities, and Manta’s urban conveniences nearby.
The Ecuadorian coast holds a wealth of lifestyle and budget choices. Here are some of my personal favorites.
Atacames is my pick for owning a vacation rental, thanks to the low prices and high demand from vacationers.
Salinas is my favorite for part-year resort living, given its beautiful beaches, affordable properties, and “just-right” level of high-season activity.
Olon takes the prize for lush tropical surroundings and miles-long stretches of deserted beaches.
Manta is my choice for the best expat destination overall. It has a good offering of big-city amenities, nice nearby beaches, great restaurants, and an active and well-organized expat community.
And if I were picking my own place to live on the coast? I’d choose cheerful and laid-back Bahia de Caraquez, with its excellent waterfront restaurants, quiet boat harbor, and clean, bustling downtown.
But your choices are sure to differ…and the only way to know what’s right for you is to plan your own visit. Come when the winter is at its coldest, and be ready to enjoy the adventures and pleasures of the Ecuadorian coast.