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Vilcabamba, Ecuador | © The lifted lorax / WikiCommons
Vilcabamba, Ecuador | © The lifted lorax / WikiCommons

The Best Expat Retirement Destinations in Ecuador

Picture of Angela Drake
Founder, Not Your Average American
Updated: 11 September 2017

Ecuador continues to land on International Living’s top ten list for best retirement destinations worldwide. Expats looking for affordable housing, quality medical care, and rich cultural history flock not only to the high Sierran city of Cuenca, but also to small towns dotting the mainland from the Amazon Basin to the Pacific Coast. Here are the best spots to lay your hat in Ecuador.


Beach lovers with a penchant for a low-key, relaxed atmosphere will love Canoa. Although the isolated fishing village is not for everyone, larger towns like San Vicente or Bahia de Caraquez are a short bus ride away. Sports enthusiasts will love the opportunities to surf, paddleboard, kitesurf, and parasail, while those very same activities make Canoa ripe for investment and signal growth in the decades to come.


Cotacachi made its name for the handcrafted leather trade that thrives along its main streets, attracting busloads of Ecuadorians and international tourists most weekends and holidays. Despite the active tourist trade, Cotacachi retains its local flavor. This is a small Andean town hosts vibrant cultural festivals, weekly markets, and restaurants specializing in traditional specialties like carnes coloradas.


Already famous for its relaxed lifestyle with big city benefits, Cuenca is the most sought after retirement destination for international expats living in Ecuador. Newcomers and established expats love the European feel of this UNESCO World Heritage Site. Although property prices and cost of living are rising partly because of expat influence, city-living is still very affordable.


While some newcomers are bothered by the high altitude, the slightly lower elevation of Cumbaya accompanied by the more temperate weather makes this town an excellent choice for those wanting the big city benefits of the capital city, Quito, without its high cost of living. Cumbaya and its neighbor, Tumbaco, are mixed communities with dense residential neighborhoods, large houses with acreage, and small farms, giving expats a wide choice of living situations.


Located in the far south of Ecuador, Loja remains a little talked about retirement destination. The ninth largest city in Ecuador lies in the Andes though at a much lower elevation than either Quito or Cuenca. Weather is temperate year round and the rainy season lasts only a couple of months. This city has more bustle than Cuenca but is more pedestrian friendly than Quito. It should make your shortlist if city living is a high priority.


Looking for a coastal destination with the amenities of a large town? Salinas might be a good fit. This beach resort town is only an hour and a half from Ecuador’s largest city, Guayaquil. While the beaches are packed with tourists on weekends and holidays during the high season, mid-week and off season bring out local residents and a relaxed atmosphere. With a small local airport, access to fishing, surfing, and other coastal sports, and beachfront properties, Salinas will soon be high on many expat lists.


Tena is located on the edge of the Amazon Basin with access to the Rio Napo, the Yasuni National Park, and Quito just a 3-hour drive away through the scenic Ecuadorian Andes. New tourism businesses are growing leaps and bounds in this small city, encouraging the growth of new restaurants, cafés, and bars as well as improved long term rental opportunities. The region is primarily secondary rainforest with many riverfront properties available.


For decades, Vilcabamba has been known as the Ecuadorian Fountain of Youth as long lived local residents claimed the water was beneficial to their health. Today, the town is full of meditation centers offering yoga retreats and the quaint central plaza is home to juggling backpackers making a pilgrimage to this bohemian center in the south of Ecuador.