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Best Place to Live in Ecuador? Mountains vs Coast

Are you trying to decide the best place to live in Ecuador? In this post by expat Deborah Hughes, you’ll learn about Ecuador’s mountains and coast. Deborah and Ash (her daughter) blog at to chronicle their family’s life in Ecuador. Full bio

Best place to live in Ecuador

Best Place to Live in Ecuador? Mountains vs Coast

Five years ago my family and I moved from a mountainous region of California to Ecuador.
When we decided to move to Ecuador we didn’t have a specific location in mind. We had traveled to Ecuador and visited certain locations to spy out the land.

We visited both the mountains and the coast. We had liked both areas equally and decided that we would move, but we just didn’t know exactly where.

Two years later, after arranging our affairs, we moved to Manta, on the coast.

What helped us decide, and what can help you decide if this is your dilemma?

Is Cuenca the Best Place to Live in Ecuador?

As we are from the mountains, we love the mountains of Ecuador and everything about them. We also loved Cuenca. The air is fresh and clear in the mountains.

There are many places to hike in Cuenca and the surrounding areas, and we love hiking.

Where to live in Ecuador: Hiking
More reading: Buyers Guide to the Best Sun Protection Hats – specifically for travelers to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands.

I really love a mountain storm as well. As the storm comes in, the big bank of dark storm clouds appear over the mountain ridges, lightning flashes and thunder roars as the storm makes its way through the area.

Storms like these are truly awe-inspiring. Plus, beautiful clouds mean amazing sunsets.

Cuenca is a great city with cobblestone streets and historical buildings that have a Spanish influence. One may even forget for a moment that they are in South America as they sit in these lovely streets.

One is reminded, however, of the great distance from Spain, the cultural richness, and diversity of Cuenca at the sight of the local Quichua. This culture adds to the appeal of Cuenca and many other mountain cities.

Even though Cuenca has a small-town atmosphere, there are all the big city conveniences such as malls, markets, and good restaurants. There are some really great restaurants in Cuenca, from local cuisine to cuisine from Mexico, Germany, Austria, Italy, Argentina and more.

It’s possible to find a similar variety of restaurants in other mountain cities. The array of options of where to eat adds to the enjoyment of living in the mountains.

Where to live in Ecuador mountains
Curious about where to move? Here are 7 reasons that Ecuador is the best country for expats.

Cuenca and other mountain cities in Ecuador have been described as having ‘eternal spring’ weather. This is true since they are at such a high elevation.

Even though the sun can be intense, the temperature doesn’t get much past the low 70’s (Fahrenheit) in the day, and it dips much lower at night. I do not think that this type of weather would bother me.

I also don’t think that the elevation would bother me (Cuenca 8,200 feet above sea level). Quito is even higher in elevation than Cuenca, and for some, this may be too much, especially for those that have lived most of their lives at lower levels. This is where we had an advantage since we are from a mountainous region.

Or, Is the Coast the Best Place to Live in Ecuador?

The Coast on the other hand is quite different than the mountains, almost in every way. The coast gets none of the cultural flare that you see in the mountain areas.

Spanish architecture is not found on the coast, for the most part. Cuisine from around the world is not as abundant as it is in the mountain cities. The weather seems to be unpredictable, and if it rains it is without fanfare.

In the 5 years that we have lived here, we have only seen three lightning and thunderstorms.

Best place to live in Ecuador coast
So, what really drew us to the coast? A number of things, the beaches and the coastline of Ecuador are beautiful and nearly untouched.

There is nothing like the feeling of tranquility as one enjoys the beach, a gentle breeze blowing the warm air, the rustle of the palm trees, the waves gently lapping at the sand, as the sun dip into the ocean, painting the sky with the amazing colors of an afternoon sunset.

Where to live in Ecuador coast
If that is not a good enough reason to come to the coast, remember, with the ocean comes fresh seafood.

There are a large variety of restaurants at almost any beach with fresh seafood and local cuisine, which is delicious. In addition to that, the people of the coast are warm and kind just like the weather.

Places to live in Ecuador
Read more about the beautiful beaches in Ecuador.

In choosing the coastal life, there are the options of living in a small village on the ocean, with its small-town advantages and comfortable feel, friendly neighbors and a beach half a block away or less, or a beach city with all the luxuries city life has to offer. As mentioned earlier we chose Manta.

Deborah Hughes 4000 miles blogAbout Deborah Hughes

Deborah’s family of 4 moved to Manta, Ecuador from South Lake Tahoe, California. 

They have lived there for 5 years and have gone through many wonderful adventures.

Gary Lee Cook

Wednesday 12th of August 2020

You have a wealth of info. Can you suggest a retirement place outside of the US where we would still have golf, tennis, hiking and pickleball? Thank you.


Thursday 26th of December 2019

What is the best city to live in along the coast I am open for suggestions! I am a retired person looking to finish out my years and looking for the best city along the coast .. thank you

B T Conlee

Monday 19th of August 2019

I am intrigued and interested to read more of your blog. In the commentary section I see only the question NO REPLY... Is it set up that only the sender can see the reply or am I as an observer able to see replies to many questions NOT from ME? Brian

Nancy Carol Boyd

Wednesday 15th of May 2019

I need help! I want to move to Ecuador to live permanently. I am on Social Security Disability and would like to know how to find a contact to set up living arrangements in the city of Cotacachi or Atuntaqui. Please tell me if these cities are a good choice and contact with American citizens to help me in my move. Thank you

Art Tyree

Sunday 14th of October 2018

Hi Bryan, Useful site here. I am intrigued with the idea of living cheaply but enjoyably in Ecuador. Do you know of any expats from Canada or US I could have a conversation with and get more of a personal feel for the country (thinking of Cuenca or Quito)? How do people ship the stuff they don't sell off back home to Ecuador (I don't have a huge amount--no furniture)? Are there good gyms in Cuenca? I speak Spanish so might be interested in local clubs etc., in addition to activities with expats--good idea?.

Julio P

Sunday 25th of November 2018

Hi, I'm from Ecuador, actually I living here in Las Vegas NV, I don't recommend to you, living in Quito or Cuenca, both cities are very nice, but in this moment the rent payment is growing and growing, they have a lot of people (Quito 3M, Cuenca almost 1M), to get a decent apartment or house with furniture maybe you need to give $500 a month, also right now is a lot foreigner people from Venezuela and Colombia living in that cities, that's mean is more unsafe for everybody (please check numbers about criminality is growing in both cities, I highly recommend to you, go and live at the North of Ecuador, Imbabura (Cotacachi, Atuntaqui, Otavalo), Imbabura (Province) has a lot lakes, mountains, rivers, history and it's very safe place and the good thing, you are only to 2 hours to the International Airport of Quito, and in that town's (Cotacachi, Atuntaqui) many retired people is living there. Very nice place and peaceful.