The Best Place to Live in Ecuador

What’s the best place to live in Ecuador? There is a clear and simple answer.

It is certainly a hot button question, though. Name any place at all, and someone will jump in to explain categorically to you why you are wrong. I suppose it is only human nature, but whenever you ask that question of expats in Ecuador, they invariably will inform you that by a wild coincidence, it just so happens they have settled in the ideal spot. Rita and I have traveled over a fair amount of this country, and we still have many places to explore. We have seen a lot of wonderful places, and everywhere we talked to expats, you guessed it – wherever we were visiting happened to be the best place to live in Ecuador.

What is interesting to me, is that in some cases this feeling gets rather militant. You will find people who seem almost offended if you do not agree that they are in the ideal location for an expat. I don’t know if the motivation is pride in their new home, or fear that maybe they made the wrong choice. Maybe it is a case of everyone has to agree with me, or else I have to reconsider my decision.

This seems particularly true in Cuenca. I don’t mean to pick on Cuenca, it just seems that this foible is more advanced there – maybe just because the expat population is higher. But I’ve noticed in conversations, online forum chats, and social media, that if you bring up any point that sounds like it might be slightly negative or critical of Cuenca, be prepared for an onslaught of epic proportions from the newly-minted Cuencanos. You will be informed swiftly and often that Cuenca is the BEST! Reactions are particularly swift if you use one of the two four-letter words that are forbidden when discussing Cuenca – “rain” and “cold”. It is NOT rainy or cold, it is SPRING-LIKE, dammit!

What is really unusual to me as an observer of human behavior, is that some are not content merely with promoting their choice of Ecuadorian real estate as the best. They must also denigrate everywhere else. How often have you heard someone in the Andes dismiss the entire coast as “hot”, “buggy”, or my personal favorite “chilly in the off season”? There are newsletters and blogs from Cuenca that routinely run articles about what a bad investment property anywhere else is, how bad crime is everywhere except for guess-where, and so on. I expect any time now to see an article linking proximity to sea water with erectile dysfunction.

Don’t get me wrong, I like Cuenca. I can see why people would want to live there. But is it the best place in Ecuador?

Rita and I try not to show this sort of geo-political chauvinism. We are very happy in Salinas. But is it the best place in Ecuador?

Wherever we have travelled in Ecuador, we have seen places that we really liked. We try to see the pluses and the minuses in all of them. So far, for us, Salinas is far and away the one where we have the most pluses and the fewest minuses. But is it the best?

There is a Buddhist koan that tells the story (like many of the koans) of a young monk suddenly achieving satori, or that sudden inexpressible flash of understanding where you become one with and understand fully all of the universe. You know, like when you eat chocolate.

Anyway, the story goes:

When Banzan was walking through a market he overheard a conversation between a butcher and his customer.

“Give me the best piece of meat you have,” said the customer.

“Everything in my shop is the best,” replied the butcher. “You cannot find here any piece of meat that is not the best.”

At these words Banzan became enlightened.

That, I believe sums up things nicely. There is no “best place in Ecuador”, because they all are the best – for someone.

The trick of course, is finding the place that is best for you. And I cannot tell you where that place is. Neither can anyone else. You will have to discover what is best for you – and you may discover your “best place” is not in Ecuador.

What I can do is to give you something that is sorely lacking when it comes to describing places to live in Ecuador. I can try to give you as close to an honest, dispassionate appraisal of the good, the bad, and the ugly of the various villages, towns and cities we have explored. I’m sure to step on some toes in doing so, in fact, I’m not doing it right if I don’t. If you are thinking of moving to Ecuador, or living somewhere that is not quite what you expected, maybe I can give you a few leads to check into.

I still maintain the best thing you can do is to go and see for yourself! Don’t take my word for it, or anyone else’s. Moving overseas is too important a decision not to have your boots on the ground.

So look for a new series in this blog, each with a title that starts “Exploring Ecuador” followed by the city/location name. We’ll start by working our way up the coast from Machala to Canoa, then jump over to the Andes. Over time, as we get to the northern coast and other new areas, I’ll continue to add to the series.

Let’s see if we can find your best place in Ecuador. First up will be Machala, Banana Capital of Ecuador!

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  • Frances says:

    You make good points to be sure. I often see posts where people want to know the best place in Ecuador to move. They don’t even state what they are looking for in terms of climate, mountains verses ocean, small town or city…It depends on what you are looking for. I will look forward to reading your future articles.

  • JL says:

    I enjoyed your article and will be following your blog from now on. I think Cuenca is a great place but I also like the west coast (I have a beach apartment in Tonsupa) and ‘El Valle’ near Quito. If I do retire to Ecuador it will probably be to the coast.

    • Jim Santos says:

      Thanks – we look forward to exploring Tonsupa and Atacames in May or June of 2017. We love Quito, but I’m not familiar with El Valle – is that near Avenida El Inca?

  • Robert Badgett says:

    Very true and well described, Jim. People who ask those questions, I think, just want to narrow their choices, since there are so many areas to scope out. I doubt if anyone would make a final decision on an area based on a FB survey alone. I hope not. Since most expats in Ec have only lived in one or two locations, how would anyone rely on their appraisal? It’s a lot like asking, “What is the best religion?”
    I also look forward to future articles.

  • greg says:

    Looking forward to the articles Jim. We have chosen the coast, and Salinas in particular, but would love to visit other coastal towns as well. Sure the mountains are nice, but we are beach folks, so a lot of choices are of no interest to us, but they are still great places to live. Viva Salinas!! Viva Ecuador!!

    • Jim Santos says:

      There are a lot of beautiful places to chose from, both on the coast and in the interior. The trick is finding the one that is best for you. Of course, it is also nice that the country is just the right size – you can settle in one spot, and easily visit others.

  • Cheryl Weatherhead says:

    One of the things I am looking forward to is finding our “best place” in Ecuador. We have travelled over many parts and are settling in Cuenca as our starting point. But we enjoyed the Andes and the coast so the adventure will continue! Looking forward to seeing your take on various places!

    • Jim Santos says:

      Thanks – it is a beautiful country with a lot to offer. That’s why I feel bad for people who lock themselves into one place, and don’t take advantage of what the country has to offer.

  • Kathryn Jones says:

    The best place to live is……within your self. I want to move to Ecuador for a change of pace, the challenge of refining and mastering the beauty of Spanish……to see new sights, find a way to give back some of what I have been given in this life. I am very interested in your explorations, appreciate your level headed information, and add this to my store of information. I live in Seattle WA……Cuenca weather, “spring-like” or cold and rainy ? Maybe a great place to get used to things–comfortable with a similar climate. But I don’t want to stop there….I want to explore, learn, I want to see Loja, to see the cloud forest. I am interested in seeing the coast, I might just surprise myself……maybe in my old age I will learn something new about myself and stay awhile. I am drawn to the idea of Vilcabamba. I have no idea where I will end up, I am not to worried about it either To explore, enjoy and smile a lot at being in a new place, surrounded by new cultural parameters and see just what happens within myself…..”home ” is within ME…..why not explore ?

  • Diana & Tony says:

    Jim so nice to see for once an unbiased opinion, we [Diana & Tony] are considering a move to Ecuador but as you can imagine it is a big step.
    I am an avid P.A.D.I qualified scuba diver(50 years) and as such as you can imagine explored many locations in this great World of ours but although I have visited either side of Ecuador [Peru & Colombia, Caribbean side] but never got as far as Ecuador so I’m looking forward to it.
    Jim I will be saving your page into my “favourites” and reading intently your findings.

    • Jim Santos says:

      Thanks – I’ve been meaning to catch up the Exploring Ecuador articles. We’ve been to a lot of interesting places, and they all have their pluses and minuses. Beautiful countrry though, and we’ve met nothing but friendly Ecuadorian and Quechuan.

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