Much has been written about Ecuador as one of the most ecologically diverse countries on earth, with near-perfect climates to choose from and landscapes including plains, mountains, coastal, and everything in between. For a country about the same size as Wyoming, this is impressive. Choose the weather and terrain you like best, and most likely you can find the ideal spot in Ecuador.
If you are a beach lover, you are really in luck. With over 900 miles of coastline on the Pacific Ocean, you have a lot to choose from. Even better, about three-quarters of the beaches are below the equator, the rest less than one degree above, and all on the Western side of South America. This means that the whole coastline is free from tropical storms and hurricanes.
The coastal lifestyle in Ecuador can be just as diverse as the country itself. There are secluded beaches and small fishing villages, if what you crave most is peace and quiet. There are great surfing beaches, like Montañita, Olon, and Punto Carnero, to name just three. If you want a resort area where you have more entertainment and shopping options, there are the towns of Salinas and Ballenita, along with places that are undergoing major improvement and development like Playas and Puerto Lopez.
If you are the more independent type, and would like to get the full-immersion experience of life in a foreign country, maybe you would like to live in a city that does not have much of an expat presence. Check out the port city of Machala on the southern coast. This is a city of about a quarter-of-a-million people, with plenty of shopping and services, including a new, modern mall. Machala has several attractive squares and parks, a beautiful riverfront Malecon, and ferry service that will take you around the small Isla Jambelli for a day on their ocean beach.
All of these different locations do have some features in common. The weather of course is always warm; the biggest weather variation as you move on the coast is in average rainfall. Playas, for example, is known for having as much as 320 sunny days a year, but further north the beaches get enough rain to sport lush tropical foliage.
There are local variations in the way they prepare certain dishes, but great and affordable seafood is a constant on the shores of Ecuador. Just off the coast of Ecuador, the Humboldt Current brings cold, low-salinity water up from the south. The border between the cold current and the warm Pacific is an abundant feeding ground for a wide variety of sea life; a major reason why Ecuador is considered one of the best destinations for sport fishermen and boasts a booming fishing industry.
Likewise, the fruits and vegetables grown in the coastal regions and imported from the sierras mean that you can always find a wonderful open air mercado, displaying the bounty of fresh produce at prices that are hard for a North American to believe. Bring a lot of small bills and change, because vendors will be asking for $1 for a pound of strawberries, 35 cents for a pound of potatoes, and maybe as much as $1.50 for a large pineapple. I usually have to stop after spending $15 or so, because I simply can’t carry any more.
Home prices are also reasonable. Even in the resort town of Salinas, you can still get a beachfront condo for less than $100,000. Apartments that would be a million dollars or more on a California beach can be found for $250,000 or less. I know expats who have bought single-family homes for $45,000 to $65,000 that are only 100 yards from the ocean. Once you own property in Ecuador—and by the way, expats have the same property rights as citizens—it is inexpensive to do remodeling work as well. Property taxes are low, too. My property taxes this year for a 2,000-square-foot four-bedroom condo on the ocean were less than $250—that’s for the whole year!
What I like best about living on the coast of Ecuador are the people themselves. Sure, there is a growing expat community in most areas happy to help, but the Ecuadorian people are among the friendliest people you will find anywhere in the world. I have met so many Ecuadorians who always greet you with a smile and a “Buenos Dias!”, and who are patient with my bad Spanish when I talk to them. They love their country, and are proud of it—but they also are happy to share it, and they really enjoy seeing others who recognize what a special place Ecuador can be.
Whatever you think of as the perfect coastal lifestyle, from fun and sun, to quiet and contemplative, or anything in between, Ecuador has a beach location that is perfect for you.