Friday, I told you how I stopped working at age 49 and retired to Cuenca, Ecuador, where my moderate savings (less than most people I knew) allowed me to live better than I ever had to that point.
For me, Cuenca, a former Spanish capital and city of the Incas, was the ideal place to retire overseas. I’d often stop, take in the surroundings of my 16th-century city, and just marvel at the fact that I was really living this life.
Imagine heading out the door bright and early each morning, bound for the local bakery. If you time it just right, you can catch the warm cinnamon rolls as they’re coming out of the oven at 7:15 a.m. A rich cup of Ecuadorian coffee goes perfectly as you settle down at a small table with the morning paper.
Living here, you walk the cobblestone streets that saw the traffic of the early Spaniards in the mid-1500s and the Incas before them. The colonial architecture, with iron balconies and center courtyards, takes you back in time.
While Cuenca has a new, modern mall on the edge of town, the historic center still features large and colorful indigenous markets, some taking up more than a city block. You’ll also discover tiny, hole-in-the-wall shops, each one selling its own specialty, as it may have done for centuries.
Today, you’ll also find surprises hidden among the old adobe buildings of downtown Cuenca. Today’s historic center also features small sidewalk cafés, English book shops, fine dining, and a handful of bistros and expat gathering places. It even boasts Indian and Middle Eastern restaurants, along with the traditional Ecuadorian venues and international restaurants.
In the evening, you’ll find plenty of restaurants, bars, clubs, and discos. But you can also take in a tango show or a play at the theater… or spend an evening at a (free) concert by the symphony orchestra… or attend an art opening at a gallery hidden within the old convent… or take in an exhibition at the modern art museum.
Cuenca is the cultural heart of Ecuador and a benchmark for colonial cities in the Americas.
However, it’s not the only top-tier budget retirement option in this country.
The beautiful city of Loja, for example, is a smaller, quieter version of Cuenca. Clean, classy, and upbeat, this “music capital of Ecuador” is a breath of fresh air… and a place where you can live well on less than US$1,100 per month.
If you’d prefer small-town living, the popular highland town of Cotacachi has been drawing expats for years. Charming and friendly, it’s one of the lowest-cost places you can settle anywhere in the world.
Or there’s Vilcabamba, in Ecuador’s Valley of Longevity, reputedly home to more people over 100 years of age than anywhere else on earth.
In small-town Ecuador, your budget can be even lower than in the cities. Some expats live for less than US$750 per month.
If you’d like the bustle of a world capital, Quito and its surrounding valleys provide a multitude of options. Quito’s historic center, a remarkable testimony to urban reinvention, now offers an enviable lifestyle amid historic colonial grandeur.
Then there’s this country’s coast… more than 500 miles of tropical coastline with the continent’s best beachfront buys.
On the north coast you’ll find the bustling town of Atacames, with its wide beaches, beachfront restaurants, bars, clubs, and shops. A traditional seashore getaway, Atacames, with its driving salsa beat, has drawn visitors for years.
Just down the road you have the quiet seaside town of Súa… then a few miles farther along the positively tranquil town of Same. Together they offer three contrasting lifestyles along a small section of coastline.
But that’s not all.
Ecuador’s coast also offers the sleepy surfer village of Canoa… and the bustling, world-renowned surfing village of Montañita. You can have the comfort of a small, friendly city if you choose Bahía… or the convenience of a larger coastal city like Manta, with its great medical care, expat community, and city amenities.
Beachcombers will enjoy Olón… with its 8 miles of incredible, walkable beach.
Playas is a newly expanding area and is the shore point closest to the airport. It’s also the sunniest spot on Ecuador’s coast.
But for many expats, the crown jewel of Ecuador’s coast is the town of Salinas. It’s the pride of many Ecuadorians who enjoy its restaurants, cafés, clubs, and beaches.
Salinas also offers something special for the property owner—a unique rental opportunity. It’s one place on this country’s coast where a North American can come to enjoy great weather during the northern winter… yet profit from a strong rental market in the off-season.