5 years on the coast of Ecuador, a unique perspective

manglaralto ecuador

The beach just south of Montanita, Ecuador.

 

Perspective.

You get it after spending time in a place, and boy is it helpful when investing in property.

Some areas of the coast have stayed drearily the same since 2008 attracting little internet nor foreign investment.  While other areas have flourished.
And since most of the expats in Ecuador have arrived after 2009 when International Living Magazine began really pushing Ecuador its rare to hear an honest 5 year perspective from someone who was on the coast of Ecuador before (me in 2008) while researching for the first version of my now-somewhat famous Insider´s Guide to Flipping Properties in Ecuador.  

 

This was before I lived here full time.  I´ve now been here two years now as a full time resident.But I still remember my time on the Ecuador coast in 2008 like it was yesterday.  And my trip from Esmeraldas down to Salinas setting up shop in each little town I came across.

 

Well I just completed the trip again, in August of 2013 going from Salinas to Esmeraldas, town by town, researching for my new Map Pocket Guide to the Coast of Ecuador.  

 

So what are some of the biggest changes Ive noticed on the coast from then to now?

 

Salinas is about the same as it was 5 years ago.  Prices are roughly the same, so is the level of development.  You can find a nice oceanview condo in a newer building starting around $80-90k and up.  A block back or in older buildings you can find condos for half that, same as in 2008.

The beachfront of Playas has really boomed since 2008 with tourism businesses, while the areas north and south of town have also been developed and bought up primarily by the Guayaquil weathly.  When in 2008 the property here you could get for pennies on the dollar, now its hard to find a beachfront home for less than $100k.

Heading up the coast in the small towns of Ballenita and Ayangue pretty much look the same as they did 5 years ago with relatively the same prices… with one exception, the beachfront properties have soared.  In 2008 in these places you could still find small, vacant beachfront lots in the $10-20k range, now if you can find the vacant lot it would be almost triple that.
Montanita has experienced an incredible boom!  In 2008 there were just a handful of hotels made out of bamboo sticks.  And you could find a house right in the center of town on the beachfront for $50k, (like I did, but I didn´t pull the trigger which Im still bummed about) or a vacant beachfront lot in town for $30k.  Now forget about it, the place is a true tourist mecca on the coast and there is very little for sale for anything under $100-200k right in town.  The difference, the local Ecuadorians discovered the place.  Now you will often see more Ecuadorian tourists than foreigners on a given day and the businesses that have come in reflect the new target for the local businesses, the Guayaquil and Quito weekend getawayers.
Continuing north, in Olon the area called ¨Oloncito¨ has really attracted a small army of foreign buyers skyrocketing the prices where Ive seen nice American-quality two story homes a few blocks back from the beach be sold for $160-190k.  However, the town of Olon has not changed much since 2008 with just a few foreigners which have now bought right in the center of town.Further north the San Jose area, a favorite of the Guayaquil wealthy to have a beachfront hacienda, still pretty much looks the same as it did in 2008, with the same high prices (if you can find anything for sale).  Hard to get your hands on one of these beachfront cottages on 1000m2 of beachfront for under $150-200k.Then comes Ayampe, a tiny town that was completely overlooked in 2008 when one guy pretty much owned the whole place and was willing to sell you any piece you wanted for around $10 per m2, now is the perfect example of what just a few foreign buyers buying in can do to the local prices with land prices now often 4 or 5 times that.Neighboring Las Tunas and Salango still pretty much look the same as they did in 2008, dreary fishing villages void of foreigners and investment.

Puerto Lopez now has a much more developed beachfront with the malecon extending from one side of the bay to the other, in 2008 the development stopped at about the estuary.  The rest of the town still looks the same.

Heading further up the coast Puerto Cayo, San Lorenzo and San Mateo still pretty much look like they did in 2008… as lazy, seemingly vacant, fishing villages with little development.

But there is building (by foreigners) going on in Puerto Cayo.Santa Marianita, the top beach in Ecuador for kite surfers, also still pretty much looks the same as it did in 2008, but the northern end is now thoroughly developed with villas cut into the terraced cliffs.

Manta still looks relatively the same as it did in 2008, but with several new beachfront towers.  Prices have risen too, now many beachfront condos start around $1200 per m2.  The area that has really grown is the area just south of the city of Manta with several new monsterous developments that have been built or are being built.

Continuing north, Crucita in 2008 was a hole, an ugly little fishing village and party town for young people from Quito.  Now the beachfront has really been revamped with businesses and investment and there is a steadily growing expat community, all of which have arrived within the last three years or so.  Just a year ago you could have found a nice two story house right on the beach for $65k like a friend of mine did.

The beachfronts of neighboring San Jacinto and San Clemente have really soared in prices and been improved with development, attracting a steady new contingent of expats, but from a block back from the ocean onward the towns still look the same as they did in 2008.
Further north, Bahia has had many of its buildings renovated and its streets cleaned, but it still looks about the same as it did in 2008, still more a playground for the Quito wealthy with over-priced real estate as it was in 2008.While the towns heading north from Bahia (San Vicente and Briceño) still look the same as in 2008 even with the new bridge… Canoa has really exploded!  In 2008 you could find beachfront land in the $10-60m2 range, now the average range goes starts more around $60-90m2 and up.  A close second to Montanita, there are now about 10 times more hotels and restaurants than in 2008.  Along the southern end of Canoa many foreigners have bought in and are building their own beachfront villas or condos.  Another place local Ecuadorians have just recently discovered and is a hot spot for weekend get aways.Heading north from Canoa, it gets very remote and very green very quick, as it did in 2008.Besides for a few small yet flourishing developments like Coco Beach near Jama with 1000m2 beachfront lots starting around $70 per m2 or totaling $70k, this whole stretch of coast until Pedernales as well as the rather rough-looking city of Pedernales with an unattractive beach still looks about the same as it did in 2008.

Heading north from Pedernales the towns of Cojimes, Mompiche, Muisne, Same and Sua all of whoch have expericed very little to no foreign investment nor significant move in prices since 2008.

Of course, with the exception of the newish 5 star all inclusive resort near Mompiche, Decameron, which didn´t exist in 2008.

But I was surprised to see how little spillover the new resort has affected the town of Mompiche, which still looks about the same as it did in 2008 (with very few tourists) before the resort went in.

Atacames, as it did in 2008, continues to have a thriving beachfront area and a seedy underbelly that caters almost exclusively to the Quito weekend get away crowd.  But there has been little noticeable new development.
Tonsupa, just to the north of Atacames, has really exploded, but it has followed the mold of Salinas in that the explosion is not meant for tourists but for the affluent Quito locals looking to have a trophy beach condo they can visit 2 or 3 times a year.  The number of condo highrises now rivals that of Salinas. In 2008 there were many less.

Esmeraldas hasn´t attracted much investment at all and is still the same seedy city you wouldnt want to walk around after dark.

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