South America Living

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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.

  View Photos     Map

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

Highlights

  • 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

Drawbacks

  • 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


View Larger Map

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.

42 to “Canoa, Ecuador – Cheap Place To Live In South America”


  1. jean anhalt says:

    Hello American Expats in Canoa! Am traveling to Canoa via Quito July 2 – 10, 2011 for vacation and to check out area for possible retirement in a few years. I teach Reading but am also certified in ESOL and Special Education (K-12). I speak no Spanish but am interested in opportunities at the schools in Canoa you refer to in your post. Is there a a restaurant / shop that is a popular gathering spot for Expats in canoa? Thanks so much- Jean Anhalt

    • Molly McHugh says:

      Hi Jean – we lived in Canoa for a couple months and it was lovely. The Surf Shack is the spot to go to for info, American-owned, right across from the beach, awesome sunsets. Cheers, Molly

    • Anonymous says:

      WE TRY TO GO TO CANOA BY NOVEMBER 20, HOW DO YOU TRAVEL, IS EASE TO RENT A CAR O BY BUS FROM QUITO OR GUAYAQUIL? PLEASE ANY HELP WILL APPRECIATE.

      • Molly McHugh says:

        Hi – you can easily rent a car in Guayaquil or Quito… or take a bus. By bus you arrive first in either Bahía de Caráqueza (from Guayaquil) and take a short boat ride across to San Vincente, or directly in San Vincente (from Quito) – the small town just 20 minutes or so from Canoa – and then transfer to a local bus to Canoa. Some go direct to the town, most don’t.

        Easy to do, tell the bus driver you are going to Canoa and they will drop you off at the connection to the other bus (when traveling from Quito).

        ** Note: there is now a bridge connecting Bahia, so busses most likely do not drop you in Bahia, but directly in Canoa or San Vincente… I have not done the journey since the new construction… will research!

        Molly

  2. Anonymous says:

    Look out for hotel la Greg, nice Americans that look after tourists. We meet them and we are from Australia. Great people great spot on beach.

  3. MBee says:

    Is it possible to get reliable monthly high-speed internet service here?

    • Molly McHugh says:

      Yes – I got a line for a month and had a great connection. There were two options (companies) then, not sure what is available now but you definitely will have decent service available and various options for service – companies are in Bahia, easy to shop around.

  4. Katie says:

    Does anyone have an e-mail or phone number for Greg? I am looking for a rental house in Canoa for a few months.
    Thanks

  5. Sibbie says:

    I would like to know the ages of all these responding on these blogs? We are a 70′s age couple looking for a good place in Educador. This is the first time I have ever written on this page.

    • Molly McHugh says:

      You should definitely check out Cotacachi and Vilcabamba – both are more ‘retiree’ oriented expat towns, Canoa is a crazy party type of beach town that gets loads of tourists during holidays (New Years, Carnival)…

      Check the Cheap Places to Live page, have write-ups on both. Molly

      • Claire says:

        Is there some reason why people keep directing seniors towards Cotacachi and Vilcabamba? I’min my 60s and hoping/planning to retire to a beach town somewhere, with Ecuador definitely on my radar (along with Costa Rica and Panama). I have no interest in “spring-like climates” in the mountains. I have always dreamed of living on/near the beach in a funky town with lots of interesting expats from different parts of the world (makes for more interesting food and drink when one isn’t eating at home). Is there a reason older people aren’t being welcomed in the Ecuador coast towns? Safety? Climate? Absence of yoga classes? I really would like to know if Ecuador is the right place for me–I’ve lived in 4 countries (though mostly 1st world) so know I can adapt–it’s more a matter of finding the right fit–a place with enough moisture that you can smell flowers/trees but not so humid as to make one’s book collection mouldy (as I heard about happening somewhere in Panama!) Could you add your thoughts?

      • Delena says:

        Hi Claire,
        I am 65, just went back to Ecuador, first time in 18 years, where I lived and still own land in the Imbabura region
        (Cotacachi). I stayed with a friend who has a house in Quito and land at the beach. The northern beaches around Atacames should be avoided . . .further south would be best. I would tell you where she lives but don’t want it overrun with gringos. You would like Bahia. If I were you . . .I’d rent a car and just check it out. Do you speak Spanish . . that’s helpful. I loved Las Penas because it is what Ecuador used to be like . . .not many expats, however. I lived near Otavalo for 12 years . . .boring to me. I love cities like Quito, with action and great restaurants or remote beach towns. . . miles and miles to walk and seek seashells. I plant to return when I retire in a few years.

  6. rgdavis says:

    Anyone know anything about the organic farm – 20 years go set up by folks from New Zealand?
    Riomuchacho?
    Ever visit or contribute or work there? (three days for those over 70)
    Where is it in Canoa- outside and how to get there?
    rgd
    phd
    sfca

  7. I am retiring at the end of September 2012. I want to visit Canoa in October with the intention of moving there a few months after that. Any information you can give me will be appreciated.

    • Molly McHugh says:

      Hi Bruce, I haven’t been there for over 3 years but do know the area (we lived there three months) in general and have a travel writer gal who lives in Quito doing a Travel Guide to Canoa that will be out soon… she’s got the latest info.

      What type of questions do you have?

  8. Oh Molly! So glad you came to my site so I was prompted to come to yours! This is just what I need to know about as we begin to plan the South America part of our round-the-world trip – which will be summer 2013. Bookmarking this right now!

  9. LIndsay Kenyon says:

    Great information on page thanks all. Looking to visit the Canoa area in Mid Jan 2013. I wanted to bring my daughter on vacation with me. Will she enjoy herself and is it a safe place to wander around day and evening.

    I see there is a young party vibe , but that doesn’t spell trouble, is there anything I should know before visiting.

    • Molly McHugh says:

      Lindsay it is safe – just don’t have her out alone late at night or do long walks down the beach into secluded areas… the basic safety precautions you would take anywhere, including in the U.S. and Canada.

      Small, really sweet place to chill and enjoy the local culture. I remember there was a spot off the beach that opened-up (mainly on weekends and busy times) around 8 p.m. with street vendors (little tables/chairs) and served all kinds of yummy cheap eats – lots more to do than you would think, check out the travel guide page and give yourselves 5 nights minimum to enjoy it!

  10. Matt says:

    What about high speed internet in Canoa? How is the quality of the service and what about the price?

    Thanks

    Matt

    • Molly McHugh says:

      Hi Matt, there was years ago (I personally have not been there in over three years, the travel guide was reseached by a gal who lives in Quito… writer/editor Jena Davison) – read comment above from MBee, answers the same question. Best, Molly

  11. Clara says:

    Do you have a name of a realtor for Canoa ?

  12. My husband and I are visiting Nov. 20-Dec. 5th. We will fly into Quito and stay till the 24th, and then on to Crucita for nine days. I have read some great things about the area, and if we really like the area and Ecuador, we want to relocate in late 2013. Can anyone give me some suggestions about what to do and where to go while we are there. We are in our early 50′s but very active. We would like to settle near the coast. Are there things to see and do between Crucita and Canoa?

    • Alisa says:

      Hi there Robin. I noticed you said you were traveling to Ecuador Nov and december with the possibility of locating in late 2013. My husband and I are also looking at possibly relocating and have a trip planned for March. I was just wondering if we could exchange emails and talk more. I’d love to hear how your trip went, where you visited, and what you thought.

      Alisa

  13. Mark says:

    My name is Mark Im 53 years old and my dream has been to move and live in a tropical setting. I had a very successful business until the crash hit I lost pretty much everything . Is there much opportunity to start a little bar or a business? Could you do it with 20k ? If its possible. Canoa and Bahia sound great.

    • Molly McHugh says:

      Mark you can definitely start a business with that amount of cash but please research carefully beforehand as you would first need to become a resident and Ecuador has made that more difficult (and expensive) in recent years due to the influx of foreigners moving and buying real estate.

  14. Molly McHugh says:

    UPDATE AUGUST, 2012 – SAFETY IN CANOA

    I’ve read reports of sexual assaults (including rape of a foreigner by more than one Ecuadorian), armed robberies (enter home of expats with weapons and steal, not sure of injuries).

    I do not know of the validity of these reports as am not in Ecuador now – but anyone interested in Canoa should contact the U.S. Embassy for verification of the current crime situation. It is an unfortunate reality that when a place becomes popular with expats it then often becomes the target of theives, those with a political agenda (do not like foreigners, Americans, etc. and want to scare them into leaving their country, etc.).

    Please stay safe and do your research before planning a move to Canoa. Molly

  15. Mark says:

    Where would you start your investigation at websites or phone # to get info about becoming a resident of Educador and or Costa Rica If you wanted to check out Costa Rica and just head south down to Canoa Educador where would you advise to fly too ?

    • Molly McHugh says:

      Hi Mark, the best advice I can give – after over 9 years in Latin America – is to first do exactly what you are doing… travel and visit for a few months, checking out areas, etc. and keep an open-mind about future plans while simply enjoying your time.

      Traveling around the continent is easy for the most part, and enjoyable. Costa Rica is beautiful, as is Ecuador and both have many areas that expats have settled in.

      Here is a good piece on residency requirements for Ecuador: http://internationalliving.com/countries/ecuador/visa/

  16. Lisa says:

    Just returned from a great holiday in Canoa. We are building a house there, great place very relaxing. We have stayed at a couple of different places over the years. Try & meet up with the guy Greg mentioned above. He is building a hotel & has a lot of contacts with properties to rent. We are retirement age, yes the place is an evening party town, but very peaceful hrough the day & early evening. We rented a fantastic 3 bedroom house on beach. Bliss.

  17. Molly McHugh says:

    Lisa, those are the stories everyone wants to hear, thanks for sharing and wish you the best on your adventure :) I don’t like to have to put ‘crime scare’ type of info on area pages but know that it is important for folks to have that info as opposed to not have the info… so they can make decisions that are right for them and do not waste a bunch of money moving somewhere that they may not have if they had known beforehand… that kind-of thing.

    Folks who live in an area and have a financial interest in having new folks move there don’t always give the full scoop. As well, the U.S. Embassy – or any other – isn’t always a great source of information, but when it comes to violent crimes like assault and rape, are usually up-to-date on incidences involving Americans.

    best, Molly

  18. JohnF says:

    so when is the best time to enjoy the beaches? what publications are the best for info on Equador?

    Thanks

  19. Molly McHugh says:

    Hi JohnF – Christmas time is a great time to visit Canoa, and over New Years. It’s ‘happening’ enough with folks from Quito and many tourists, but also mellow enough that you can enjoy yourself. Beaches are pretty packed at this holiday time, but also fun with many vendors out.

    During this time (summer) the surfing is pretty hot, with the locals throwing some fun competitions (at least when we were there) but during the winter the winds are better for the paragliding and Canoa Thrills is a great company to go up with; you can even learn to be an instructor there. Winter months more mellow tourist-wise.

    Publications depends, I have some of the most comprehensive up-to-date travel information (http://www.southamericaliving.com/travel-destinations-in-ecuador/) you will find online… International Living is good for those who want to buy real estate and sell an eBook on Ecuador if I am not mistaken… check their website.

    Hope that helps, Molly

  20. Shaun says:

    Hi there – My wife and I are looking at going to Ecuador in March 2013. Canoa sounds good as we love the beach. How far is it from the main airport where we land?

  21. C. R. says:

    !!!AVOID!!! OWNER ATTACKED ME !!!AVOID!!!

    Canoa’s a nice place and there are plenty of hotels. Seriously, just go find one of those; Bambu, Coco Loco, Baloo. You don’t want to stay at The Coconut. Seriously.

    Why?

    Because the owner is mentally unstable.

    As in he attacks guests with physical violence when he doesn’t understand or like what they say. Or maybe when he’s drunk? Mind alight with harder drugs? I don’t know what his deal is, but he assaulted me my last night. Oh yeah, like raging bloodlust full-on cage-match style ferocity. Like an animal in his eyes, not a man. What, this doesn’t convince you? Ok, let me explain.

    I stayed at The Coconut for a month and a half, maybe more. During the majority of that time the owner was the sole employee of the hotel. The first couple weeks were fine, though I did notice a striking tendency of the owner, whilst conversing, to either completely ignore any point made by anyone other than himself, or, if acknowledging the point, went on to assert that he knew all about that, had already done that in ways you could never dream of, so there was no need to talk about it ever again. Charming, I thought, but not a deal-breaker. After a few weeks he berated us (I was at that time traveling with another) one night over not doing enough to help out around the place. Excuse me, I thought again, is the money we hand you no longer sufficient? Said that we were roommates, not guests, and we could do more for ourselves (like fixing the gas tanks that – oh so very rarely – heated the water for bathing, or mopping, etc.). All of which would be fine of course, except that nothing of the sort had been worked out at the beginning, and as far as I was concerned it was a little late to be agreeing on a lease. This was mostly laughable, childlike behavior, so at the time I took it as such. Then Mateo, one of his buddies (who stayed at The Coconut six months prior to my arrival), came over one night on a three-day ‘partying’ blitz. Not my scene so I went to bed. I was awoken the next morning by fire sirens, police crawling around the building, huge plumes of smoke hovering overhead (http://www.eldiario.com.ec/noticias-manabi-ecuador/249420-un-carro-se-incendia-en-hotel-de-canoa/). The buddy in question had apparently set fire to a moto-scooter, the owners car. Burned them to cinders. Luckily the wind was blowing northerly so the hotel wasn’t touched, no one was hurt. Hmm, I thought to myself, this is a deal-breaker; this and the fact the owner decided to use the tragedy to blame every single citizen of the United States of America (where Mateo is from) for his misfortune. I’m from the states, hate discrimination and bigotry in all its forms, didn’t find this very convincing or logical at all. Find it acceptable. Made plans to leave. Before I could, one night while researching online, the owner comes home in a particular state. Same type of state that his ‘buddy’ had been in that fateful night. Urged me to join the celebrations though I had no interest. A few days later he did something that sealed it: he lied directly to my face without batting an eye. Told me, my travel companion, that he doesn’t ‘party’ like that, that that was what started this whole mess and he wanted nothing to do with it; except that just two nights before he couldn’t get enough! I stood there entire time trying to figure out if a camera was on me. If it was a joke, prank. It was not. He spoke as if he actually believed what he was saying; now I’m not trained to assert this, but I have to say the experience possessed a tinge of the psychotic. The events of my last night confirming it beyond all doubt.

    Yes. The last night. He was carrying on again about how terrible the states are, our culture and the way we treat each other, disparaging an entire country because of the errors in his life. I’d had quite enough of all that drivel by the time, told him, in a clearly jocular tone, if that’s really the way all Americans are I better “finish what Mateo started”. That’s when he assaulted me. Grabbed my hair, tore at my glasses. Screaming nonsense about murder, death, showing someone something. Came after me a few times with full-throttle brutality. Being in better shape it wasn’t hard to evade the brunt of his attack, push him off. I left soon after.

    Sure. All of this is just one man’s experience. But …

    It’s your vacation.

    If there is even one chance in a hundred that you’d be staying with, paying, a psychotic proprietor who lies, discriminates, resorts to violence against guests – would you take it?

    Should you?

    Do you have kids? Someone you love?

    If so don’t take them to The Coconut. Don’t risk it. Don’t go there yourself. Canoa’s got plenty of other hotels.

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