Where to live in Ecuador based on your lifestyle?

Johan Klok | Last update:

Who am I? What do I like to do? What does my ideal day look like? How do I want to spend my time? How much do I want to spend? These questions form the lifestyle that you want to live and are important questions for deciding where you want to live.

Another important question related to your lifestyle is: Who do I want to spend my time with? Some expats want to be immersed in the expat community while others want to be immersed with locals.

Below, we mention popular Ecuadorian places for several lifestyles. All hyperlinks link to area guides in which you can read much more about these places.

City life

Quito, Guayaquil, and Cuenca are Ecuador’s largest cities and are also the cities that offer the best city life in Ecuador.

Quito is Ecuador’s capital and has around 3 million inhabitants. It offers many cultural activities, has an international airport, and is a good base for outdoor activities outside the city (day trips to Mindo, Baños de Agua Santa, Cotopaxi, etc.). Because it’s located high in the Andes mountains it’s not suitable for people who suffer from altitude sickness or for people who prefer warm or hot temperatures. The expat community of Quito is mixed. They are mostly pensioners, employees of foreign companies and government organizations, and English teachers.

Guayaquil also has around 3 million inhabitants and like Quito, it also has an international airport. It’s a port city and therefore is more internationally oriented than other cities in Ecuador. Because of its location in the Ecuadorian coastal region, it has a warm to hot climate with high humidity. Unfortunately, the level of poverty is high and drug gangs are fighting a war in the city. There are not many expats in Guayaquil. They are mostly people working for foreign companies.

Cuenca is with 6,00,000 inhabitants much smaller than Quito and Guayaquil. It has a more provincial feel while it still offers a variety of cultural activities. It houses the largest expat community in Ecuador. They are mostly pensioners. How many expats exactly live in Cuenca is difficult to say. Estimations range from 5,000 to 10,000. Although this sound like a large number of expats, it’s still not difficult to live exclusively with locals in Cuenca.

Beach life

Along the Ecuadorian coast, you can find many places with beaches. The differences between these places can be large. Below you can read about the most popular places from south to north.

It's said that Playas enjoys the highest number of sunny days on the Ecuadorian coast (more than 360 per year). As a beach destination, it competes with Salinas but offers less variety in eating and entertainment options. It has only about 50 expats.

Salinas is the most popular resort town on the coast among Ecuadorians. The many restaurants and bars entertain but are also loud. Housing in Salinas is relatively cheap for a beach resort. From December to May, the weather is hot and sunny. In the rest of the year, it’s overcast with mild temperatures. Salinas has an active and welcoming expat community.

Ballenita is a beach town located near Salinas. It’s popular among expats and locals alike because it’s quiet while Salinas with its amenities is nearby.

Montañita is Ecuador’s party town with many hotels, clubs, bars, and restaurants. The town has quiet areas, but most expats in this part of the coast prefer to live in Olón, which is a more rustic beach town 5 minutes from Montañita. Like in Salinas, from December to May the weather is hot and sunny. In the rest of the year, it’s overcast with mild temperatures but the humidity is higher in Montañita and Olón.

Manta is the largest city on the Ecuadorian coast. It’s home to an important fishing industry but it also attracts tourists. Most expats live in a district along the coast with relatively expensive apartment buildings or in gated communities. Manta's city beaches are not that great for beach activities. It's more of a place to enjoy the ocean views. The city has security problems because it’s home to Ecuador’s largest drug gang which is currently at war with other drug gangs.

Country life

Ecuador is largely an agricultural country and therefore offers plenty of opportunities to live in the countryside.

On the coast, there are dry areas with little vegetation and greener areas where rice and fruit are grown. However, the coastal areas are not popular among expats who want to live in the countryside. These are often regions with a lot of poverty and few facilities.

Almost all expats living in rural areas live in the Andes Mountains. Popular places with a relatively large number of expats are Vilcabamba in the south of Ecuador and Cotocachi in the north of the country. Challuabamba and Baños are popular among expats in the Cuenca region. Further away from Cuenca are the towns of Azogues, Paute, and Gualaceo. These towns enjoy warmer temperatures than Cuenca but don’t house many expats.

Living in the Amazon region is another option. Several expats are living in the towns of Macas and Puyo. Still in de Andes but very close to the Amazon region is Baños de Agua Santa, a touristic town on the foot of the Tungurahua volcano.

On a budget

Everywhere in Ecuador, it’s relatively cheap but there are differences. As a rule of thumb, the smaller the place the more economical it is. Quito and Guayaquil as the largest cities are by far the most expensive cities in Ecuador for housing. Housing in Cuenca is relatively cheap although it’s a large city. It’s one of the reasons why it’s so popular among expats.

Places along the coast are all relatively expensive, especially Manta and Olón. A more economical place to live on the coast is Salinas.