Small-Town Beach Life in Ecuador

Pass through the little beach town of Crucita on the first Sunday of any given month and if you’re female, you may very well find yourself at the Ladies Social, where you’ll be welcomed with open arms and warm smiles.

(Sorry, guys, I’ve no idea where you’ll end up…but there are plenty of little restaurants and bars lining the malecon where you might pull up with a cool one and watch the waves, if that sounds at all appealing. Or maybe you’ll opt to jump off a cliff—paragliding is a popular sport and the launch pad is high on a hill on the south end of town. Cost for a tandem jump with an instructor: about $25, depending on your negotiating ability.)

Crucita is about 40 minutes north of Manta, Ecuador’s largest coastal city. But while Manta is big and busy and full of shopping and social opportunities, Crucita is the opposite. It’s a little fishing village with a produce market, a fish market, but no supermarket…

You can get eggs, bread, beer, toilet paper, soap and other necessities of life at some of the local mom-and-pop shops, but for anything more exotic than that, you’ll need to go to Manta or the closer town of Portoviejo. (A bus ride from Crucita to Portoviejo is just 85 cents.)

You can find property bargains in Crucita, too. Condos front-and-center on the beach sell for an average $50,000 to $100,000, depending on size. Friends who own a beachfront condo and live in Crucita say they’d be hard-pressed to ever spend more than $800 to $1,000 a month…total. There’s not a lot to spend money on…

What Crucita does have, in large measure, is sun, sand, surf, and the endless sea…

And that’s the main attraction for the growing number of expats who are finding their ways here. (On my first visit to Crucita back in 2002, there may have been four residences occupied by expats… Today, I’m told there are as many as 40 foreign residents in Crucita, most from the U.S. and Canada.)

And of that number, many happy women were at the Sunday Ladies Social that I was lucky enough to attend. No shrinking violets, these, they come together to, as my friend Terresa says, “meet and eat.”

Everyone brings food to share and there is much talking (all at once), much (loud) laughing, and even a “white elephant” gift exchange. Wrap up something in your home you no longer want or need and bring it along. Popular items include English-language books, cookbooks and magazines—no matter how old.

The Ladies Social was started by Holly Davis, who lives in Crucita with her husband, Jeff, and their 7-year-old son. She originally wanted to start an English-speaking “mothers’ group.” Until, she says, she realized that there would be just her and one other mother in the group. Most of the expat ladies in Crucita are of retirement age.

But age has no meaning when you get a houseful of women together. Living loudly is what life is all about in Ecuador and it is no question that these ladies, ranging in age from 30-something to 80, are adapting well to life in Ecuador.

And to the Crucita Ladies Social: thanks for letting me join in the fun during my very memorable visit to your sweet seaside town!

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