South America Living

Canoa, Ecuador – Cheap Place To Live In South America

Help - I got on the Wrong Bus! Riding 25 Minutes From San Vicente to Canoa With a Bunch of Rowdy School Kids

The small fishing village Canoa on the Pacific coast is a very popular tourist location in Ecuador and becoming increasingly popular as a relocation destination also. Many English-speaking expats live in the area (primarily from the U.S. and Europe) full or part-time.

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There are expat-owned local businesses (bars, hotels, restaurants, adventure companies) and a lot of interaction between the locals and ‘gringos’. A small, private bilingual elementary school was opened by a group of Americans to serve the local population as well as International children that live in Canoa full-time. It is 6-7 hours by bus from Quito.

For those who move to South America with the goal of becoming fluent in Spanish, or at least giving it the good ‘ol college try… there is a local Spanish Language School with accomodation available (great place to touch-down and orient yourself to the area while you look for a rental) and classes on the beach – Canoa Spanish Language School.

If you want to take a short trip to check it out, this page lists where to stay, eat & things to do for all budgets: Travel Guide To Canoa.

The main tourist hub is Bahía de Caráqueza – a short boat ride from San Vicente across the Rio Chrone or drive via the new bridge… with more shopping options (larger stores) and bank ATMs that will accept International cards.

There is very little shopping within the town itself, just the usual corner Mom & Pop stores that sell basic food items (canned goods, sugar, coffee, etc.), vegetables, fruit & beer. San Vicente is a short 25 minute bus ride – or drive – away and has a few larger stores that cater to the local expat community stocking their shelves with a selection of imported goods (specialty coffee, cheeses, dry goods, etc.).

Just Another Day at the Beach in Canoa. Volleyball Anyone?

Local restaurants serve fresh seafood at rock-bottom prices. A plate of buttered shrimp, fried squid or fresh fish with rice costs as low as $3.50 USD. Throw in a litre of beer for $1.50 USD and you can see how many live very happily for an extended time in Canoa on a small amount of money – eating out daily.

There is not an abundance of low-cost (under $300 USD per month) apartments or houses in Canoa (most expats own real estate) but you can find some rentals in town (room, cable T.V., private bath with shared kitchen) for $200 USD per month.

The Sundown Beach Hostel (15 minute walk from main town, or $1.50 USD shuttle ride) offers beachfront private rooms with bath for $244 USD per month. Site has common room for backpackers and shared kitchen.

Canoa is a great place to learn how to surf with waves year-round and a shallow, sandy bottom. Intermediate surfers will like late November through April when the surf is more consistent and waves more challenging. Many Ecuadorian locals own surf shops and offer inexpensive board rentals plus lessons.

The town is also a hot spot for paragliding in Ecuador with American-owned Canoa Thrills offering tandem rides, instructor certification and contests for those who take it to the sport level. To see the company in action click here: Photos & Video – Paragliding in Canoa, Ecuador


  • Beautiful location on the Pacific coast with clean beaches
  • English-speaking community present to help new foreigners adjust, find apartments, real estate, etc.
  • Low-cost Spanish classes available (private lessons $7 USD, for 2 or more persons only $5 USD per hour)
  • Surfing (beginner to Intermediate) & paragliding hot spot
  • Food costs minimal when buying local products and restaurant meals for $3 to $5 USD


  • Young, party vibe in the town (alcohol & drugs) – may not appeal to older retirees
  • Fully-equipped apartments and condominiums (a few modern, two-story or so complexes in town geared towards wealthy retirees) cost $300 and up per month, difficult on a $800 USD budget.

Interactive Map of Canoa

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Other Articles on South America You May Enjoy:
Cotacachi, Ecuador – Cheap Place to Live
Travel Hot Spots in Uruguay
How To Buy Real Estate in Ecuador

Top photograph of riding the bus by Molly McHugh, all rights reserved.
Photograph of a day at the beach by Jena Davison, all rights reserved.

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