“We’re right on the beach and we love that,” says expat Cynthia Kelley.
“We can hear the ocean at night and we love to watch the sunset over the water in the evenings.” It’s easy to get the feeling that you’re a million miles away from the rest of the world in Canoa, on Ecuador’s northern coast.
In the past few years, though, newly-paved roads and a bridge across the bay between neighboring San Vicente and Bahía de Caraquez have opened up this idyllic beach town.
“When we first arrived there was a dirt road to get here and now there’s a four-lane paved highway,” Cynthia says. “We used to have to come across the bay on a little boat and now we drive across a big bridge.”
Cynthia and her husband Ron are part of the growing community of expats enjoying the low costs and laid-back lifestyle of one of the finest stretches of Pacific beach you’ll find anywhere.
“Canoa is not like in the U.S., where all the houses look the same. Everybody creates their own dream here. They have an idea about what they want in a house and what they want their lifestyle to be and they create that,” says Cynthia.
For Cynthia and Ron, the dream started after a trip to the Galápagos Islands. “We hadn’t planned on visiting the mainland but we liked the people so much that we decided to change our itinerary,” she remembers.
Buying property for a vacation home wasn’t part of their plan, either. But after falling in love with the town’s laid-back atmosphere and being blown away by the low cost of living, they started to consider the possibilities.
When they came across a beachfront property offered at a bargain price, they decided the opportunity was too good to pass up. Once the planning was complete and work began on their home overlooking the Pacific, they were overcome with excitement. They moved in before the construction was even finished.
Now, in addition to the one-bedroom house Cynthia and Ron live in, the property features a two-bedroom guest house, an outdoor kitchen and dining area, a garage/office, and a bamboo yoga hut with a grass roof.
“We could never have afforded to build a home right on the beach in the United States,” says Cynthia. “Now we’ve about four acres and this year we have papayas growing in the front yard.” They also have banana trees, coconut trees, a variety of tropical flowers, and two happy dogs with ample room to roam and play.
“We buy the rest of our produce fresh from the market, where a sack of veggies costs just $5. The flavor is superior to anything you can find in the U.S. I think it comes from being picked ripe instead of picked green and then shipped,” she says.
“And if you know where to go, the selection of fresh meats can be just as rich as the fruits and vegetables that come to town fresh from the countryside. We get our meat from Manta, from a guy who raises his own cattle, and I get my chickens from a woman who raises her own chickens. I can’t get chicken that nice back in the U.S.”
It isn’t just groceries that are low cost in Canoa…
Editor’s note: In the current issue of International Living magazine, this Ecuador article goes on to give costs for what you might expect to pay in Canoa for things like restaurants, maid service, hotels and more. You can get instant access to this article when you subscribe to IL magazine with this link.