Is Salinas, Ecuador, Really Like Miami?

I’d heard what people said about Salinas before I visited. “It kind of looks like Ecuador’s version of Miami.”

I didn’t take much notice of it. After all, how could a little beach city in Ecuador, almost 2,000 miles away from Florida, look anything like Miami?

But then I arrived at the beachfront and I understood what people meant. When I stepped on the pavement, all I could see in front of me was mile after mile of sandy beach and ocean. Under the bright sun, birds twisted and soared over the water. The beach, though not overcrowded, was busy with people tanning themselves, some playing volleyball, and vendors selling ice cream or fresh coconut water that you drink straight from the coconut with a straw.

Behind me, there were rows of condo buildings—attractive, tall buildings, with big gleaming windows and spacious balconies. Looking at those buildings and at the rows of sunbathers lining the beach, I could see why people sometimes compare Salinas to Miami.

But…Salinas is special in its own right. Take the cost of living for one thing. In Miami, you could easily spend $5,000 per couple to live a comfortable lifestyle. Here in Salinas, $1,500 to $2,000 will do the trick.

And though the beachfront can get busy in Salinas—and the restaurants and bars sometimes fill up in high season—go just one block back from the beach and it gets quieter. Only a five- or 10-minute walk from the malecón (boardwalk) and you’d never hear a sound from the tourists…but you’d still have the beach almost on your doorstep.

The biggest difference between Miami and Salinas, though? The cost for one of those spacious condos close to the beach.

Think you could own a three-bedroom ocean-view condo with more than 1,500 square feet in Miami for under $500,000? Even at that price tag, you’ll struggle. I just checked out listings in Miami. The cheapest three-bedroom, ocean-view condo I could find was $825,000. That’s on the lower end of the scale—the bottom price for a condo that large with ocean views. (HOA fees, by the way, were a cool $1,183 a month on that place—nearly what you could live on in Salinas.) They run all the way into the multi-millions of dollars. Pricing of $3 million and $4 million is common.

Now, guess how much it would cost you to own a condo like that in Salinas? Under $200,000. I know it sounds hard to believe. I was skeptical, too, when I first heard it. I wondered, “just how nice a place is it really going to be for that price?”

I was chatting with Salinas-based, real estate agent Amy Pinoargote recently and she sent me photos of a condo in one of Salinas’ best locations. It’s situated close to one of the city’s most popular beaches and the malecón—it’s pretty much in the middle of both. So, you get to be close to the action but away from the tourist crowds when it’s high season.

The condo has some stunning views—both of the bay and the beach. And this is a place you could live like a king or queen in. In the condo community, there are two pools, a tennis court, and a barbecue area.

Inside, the condo has a large living/dining area with floor-to-ceiling windows. The kitchen is fine, but maybe could be updated to suit more North American tastes. Still, this place has 2,150 square feet of space, including a parking spot, storage bodega, three bedrooms, and three-and-a-half bathrooms—and a price tag of $180,000. With another $20,000 to spend, you could make this a showstopper. (Word to the wise: There’s a town close by where furniture craftspeople, who have generations of experience, can will make you any item of furniture you want from a photo. And it will cost the same price it would cost you to buy a mass-manufactured piece in a big-box furniture store back home.)

But say you don’t have $200,000 to spend on a place? Salinas has a lot to fit a smaller budget. It has some of the most affordable real estate I’ve ever seen.

Take a little condo that’s on offer right now. It’s compact but comfortable at just under 650 square feet. You won’t get the same views as you would with a bigger budget, but there are partial ocean views. And, it’s right at the start of the malecón on the quieter end. You’re two blocks from the beach—just a quick walk away—but that small distance brings the price way down. You have good restaurants and bars almost on your doorstep but not so close that you’ll be bothered when they’re busy.

This little condo is priced at $60,000. It could be your full-time home, a part-time or vacation getaway, or a rental property. It has two bedrooms and two bathrooms, and you’re in a condo building with a pool and barbecue area. You even get some basic furnishings and a covered parking space for that price.

If you’re dreaming of living in a vibrant beach city, close to all amenities and with a low cost of living, Salinas could be your perfect place—even with a tiny real estate budget.

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