Welcome to the second in a series of features on the many different choices available to you if you are thinking of living in Ecuador. Any of the places I will cover are great places to visit, but the goal is to provide you with enough information to decide if this is a place you would feel comfortable calling home. Our first stop was Machala, a modern city on the southern coast with almost zero expats.
Today, we will take a look at Playas, or General Villamil Playas if you want to use the official name for the town. First, let’s take a look at the map.
Playas is located in the Guayas Province of Ecuador, just less than an hour’s drive southwest of Guayaquil. The road to Playas is in very good shape, and a new interchange has just been completed off of E40 that allows you to bypass most of Progresso for easier access. The population of Playas is about 26,000 and growing. The expat population is still small, about 40 or so, but the “small town” feel makes it easy to stay in touch.
As you might guess from a place named “Playas”, the big attraction is the large and beautiful south-facing beach. According to people who track these things, Playas has the second-best beach climate in the world, averaging 306 sunny days per year. There is very little temperature variation over the year, usually in the eighties (F) during the day, and seventies overnight.
Because Playas is so close to Guayaquil, it gets a lot of visitors on weekends and holidays. Bus tickets from Guayaquil are only $2.28 each way, and last time I checked the Terminal Terreste in Guayaquil had 72 buses leaving for Playas throughout the day and evening. This translates into some very large crowds, who are not always too careful about where they throw their trash.
When I first visited Playas in early 2013, I was not very impressed. Most of the roads were not paved, and there was nothing larger than a Tia store for grocery shopping. Since then, there have been big changes in town. New construction has improved the roads in many areas, and there is now a new El Paseo Mall in town – in fact, it is right on the beach. As far as I can Google, it is the only beachfront mall in the world. This brings a large modern chain grocery (Mi Comiseriata), hardware store, household goods, movie theaters, and so on to town.
The future of Playas continues to look bright. A new lease on the nearby port of Posorja has spurred it’s expansion and brought new jobs to the area. There are also plans underway to build a new International Airport just south of Chongon, making the city even easier to access and creating more jobs. In anticipation of these events, there are a lot of construction and improvements going on in and around this beach town. This construction boom means that there are a lot of good bargains to be had in Playas.
So let’s tick off the points, and see some of the things to consider if you think Playas could be your new home in Ecuador.
- Safety – Most of the time, Playas is a small town and a very safe place to live. When there are big crowds in town, you should watch out for the usual things that a crowd brings, like pick pockets and petty theft. But my impression, and the opinion of the expats I spoke with there, was that they feel quite comfortable living in Playas.
- Shopping – The addition of the El Paseo Mall filled a big niche in Playas. The city itself also has plenty of stores, banks, and tiendas. Of course it is easy to find fresh seafood, and there are many places for fresh produce as well. Also many nice restaurants. You should have very little need for making a trip to Guayaquil for purchases.
- Infrastructure – As mentioned, the biggest problem facing Playas is the trash left behind by the tourists. As the roads improve and trash pickup becomes more regular, this should become less of an issue. The city is not very large, so there is no local bus system, but plenty of cabs to take you anywhere you cannot walk. And of course, return buses to Guayaquil are frequent. Unless you are really on the edges of town, there is no need to own a car. Good internet is also available in most areas.
- Places to Live – There are a lot of options here. Plenty of beachfront property for sale or rent, even more off the beach, and more being built. There is also still some land available if you want to build your own. Houses and condos available for $60,000 and up, rentals available from $350 and up. Some big bargains if you want to buy a pre-build, that is, to purchase a condo in a building that is either just under construction or about to start.
- Health Care – Technically, there is a “Hospital de Playas”, but it looks like a decent size one-floor track house. I don’t know that I would want to have surgery or anything there. There are plenty of the usual farmacias, including of course the new ones in the Mall, and several clinics and doctors offices. Anything major, Guayaquil with world-class hospitals is less than an hour away.
- Culture – Let’s face it, it is all about the beach. There’s the movie theaters, a small museum or two in town, but the beach is the major attraction here.
- About the Beach – One thing to note about the beach. Yes, it is huge, and yes, the sand is soft and warm. However, the water itself is brown. Playas if very close to where the Guayas river joins the Pacific, and as a consequence, there is a lot of mud and effluence dumped into the ocean near there. I’m not saying the water is dirty or polluted, I’m just saying if you want crystal clear water, and blue and turquoise waves glittering in the sun, this is not the beach for that.
- Expats – A small but growing expat community. The folks I met there seemed to enjoy getting together, but also seem to enjoy meeting and interacting with the locals. So a small but welcoming group.
To sum up, Playas offers a somewhat rustic beach living experience, alternating between a small, quiet town and a big, busy tourist spot. There are a lot of good investment opportunities, so I think this might appeal to the beach person that is looking to buy something now, and maybe retire there 3-5 years (or more) in the future. The weather is very nice, not much rain, never too hot or too cool. You should have everything you need in town, with the possible exception of high-level medical care, but Guayaquil is close and easy to get to. This is a good spot if you want to know some expats in the area, but don’t require a full “support system”. There is definitely some room for improvement in the infrastructure and trash removal in town, but it does look like things are moving in the right direction.
Hope you enjoyed this look at Playas, please let me know if you have any questions or comments.
Next up should be fun – Salinas/Chipipe!