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My Life in Ecuador: Linn Vermilion Smith Living in Pakakuna Gardens, Quito

This is a post by Linn Vermilion Smith. Linn spent 25 years of her adult life traveling the world as a professional singer. Before moving to Ecuador in October of 2010, Linn and her husband Cardell lived in Hawaii.
This is part of our Ecuador Expats Series.

My Life in Ecuador: Linn Vermilion Smith 

Linn Vermilion Smith EcuadorI was living on Kauai when I first heard about Ecuador.

Our retreat business was rapidly declining with the economy in the dumps and we were looking at other ideas about where to go and what to do.

My sister and her husband had done a lot of research on other countries where one could retire.

They had a list of criteria including:

  • weather
  • cost of living
  • infrastructure
  • health care
  • safety
  • monetary system, the list goes on.

Cuenca, Ecuador was at the top of their list.

Our New Life in Cuenca

cuenca-ecuador-livingThey moved to Cuenca in September of 2010, and we moved in October. We decided to sell everything and came with 10 suitcases and a lot of hope for a relaxing retirement.

Cuenca proved to be as beautiful as we had been told.

We found a cute little Ecuadorian home surrounded by Ecuadorian neighbors and began to acclimate ourselves to life in a new culture and environment. We spoke no Spanish, so immersed ourselves in learning the language of our adopted country.

More reading: 11 Books and Courses We Used to Learn Spanish
cuenca ecuador market

We did not buy a car. The public transportation in Cuenca is fabulous, so we used the bus system for most of our excursions in town and out of town.

We traveled all over the southern part of Ecuador on day trips and weekend getaways and got to know our way around very well.

One day we watched a construction site across the street from our home with intense interest. They were building a new top floor to a small apartment building. They use concrete to build in Ecuador, trees are scarce here.

The workers needed to get the material up to the top floor with no elevator or lift of any type. They devised a pulley and rope system, to which they attached a bucket.

Then after filling the bucket, two men would hold the rope and run up the street to raise the bucket to the waiting men on top, who would then add water to create the concrete. We were fascinated at their ingenuity.
Here is a video of the process.

Adapting to Our New Country

We have done our best to adopt the customs, which I find utterly charming.

Every person I pass on the streets says hello, good morning, how are you. In the United States this would be considered very unusual except in small towns.

I find the children in Ecuador to be so calm, sweet and centered. Seldom do I ever hear a screaming child on a bus. I am offered a seat almost every time I step onto a crowded bus and I always meet a friendly soul who wants to talk to me.

I find the people in Ecuador to be very happy, almost stress-free, relaxed, and absolutely lovely.

I will never forget the time we were waiting for a bus and watching a couple of small children playing. No game boys or iPhones to occupy them, they had a roll of packing tape. They would place a piece over the other one’s mouth and then giggle with delight when the other couldn’t talk.

It reminded me of the 50’s in the States when life was so much less complicated when children made up games to play and lived a simple and happier life.

The children here are soooo cute and are so safe. I see small children (6 or 7 years old) on the bus by themselves all the time. No one would even think of harming a little child, they are considered treasures of society.

ecuador childrenFrom Cuenca to Ecuador’s Coast

We spent 3 ½ years in Cuenca. After only one year, we knew we needed to find a warmer place.

Read more: Cuenca’s cool spring-like climate

We started exploring the coast and after 2 ½ years of looking, we settled on Manta, where we moved in October of 2014. Manta had lovely beaches, a mall, decent grocery stores and very nice open-air markets.

manta ecuador beach

malecon in manta ecuador

At first it seemed great, but we began to tire of the brown. What I mean is this, it seldom rains in Manta and so everything is dry.

Manta is all about the beach, and it is wonderful for about a third of the year when the wind isn’t blowing. When the wind is blowing the sand beats you to death.

The climate was also hotter than we expected and we longed for the lush greenery we were accustomed to on Kauai.

In Manta, the mosquitoes made it hard for me to spend much time outside in the cooler evenings (I am sweet meat to them) so we were delegated to running the air conditioning constantly, which got very expensive.

When we moved to Manta, my sister and her husband moved too. They also found Cuenca to be too rainy and cold, and missed the sunshine.

They discovered Pakakuna Gardens, east of Quito, very close to the new international airport and bought a villa there.

pakakuna gardens
I visited them in the summer of 2015 and after only one day I had fallen in love with the place. It is a huge botanical garden with villas and homes interspersed throughout the gardens. The magical energy of Pakakuna had me under her spell.

I spent a week, went home to Manta and informed my husband I wanted to live there for the rest of my life.

living in quito

Finding Our Ecuador Home: Pakakuna Gardens

We moved to Pakakuna in December and I have never looked back.

The sun shines here most of the time, it ranges in temperature between 70-80 degrees almost every day, nights are cool with little to no mosquitoes (what a relief) and the vibration/energy of the place is mystical – magical. I can’t explain it. It is so unique.

our ecuador patio
The villas are separated by plants, so even though neighbors are close by, it feels like we are only surrounded by tropical plants.

Pakakuna Gardens is the brainchild of Claus and Maria Elena Egger, a couple from Switzerland and Bolivia. They came here 30 years ago and built their dream of a botanical utopia.

life in ecuador pakakuna
I can say that to live in a place like this in the USA would cost millions of dollars and I live here on social security. It is incredible.

I feel like Goldilocks, from the fairy tale. For me, Cuenca was too cold, Manta was too hot, but Pakakuna is just right. I have found paradise in Ecuador and plan to live here forever. My heaven on earth.

expats of pakakuna

Your Turn

Have a question for Linn? Ask it in the comment section below.


Saturday 27th of August 2022

Hello Lynn, Just would like to ask how about safety in and around Pakakuna Gardens & the general Quito vicinity as of today. The crime in Ecuador has been in the news so much lately. Is Pakakuna Gardens an HOA community that has stopped development or are they still filling in every green space available? And how does the Ecuadorian property tax work for foreign property villa owners as they really would not own the land only the villa? Thank you for any information you can provide.

Anders Berry

Saturday 18th of September 2021

Lynn, Do you have a vehicle? If not, how do you get around? Do you spend most of your time in Pakakuna Gardens or do you go into Checa, or Quito, fairly often? This is a fascinating article and story. Thank you.

Gina Adams

Friday 11th of September 2020

Does the elevation bother you in Pakakuna? I’ve read it is hard on an older person’s lungs


Saturday 22nd of August 2020

This is for Linn and Carnell, how are you living in such a beautiful like pakakuna On social security?.


Monday 3rd of August 2020

Hi Linn, I really enjoyed reading your article about Ecuador ! My husband and I live now on the island of Kauai ! Small world . We have recently sold our home and are currently in the process of closing on the sale of our business. We are retiring and looking to get out of the US for a while. Are you still living at Pakakuna Gardens ? It looks like such a lovely area ! I have been to Cuenca before and really liked it but I was on vacation and only there for 2 weeks. We are thinking of coming down in October and would be flying into Quito . I know we will need to quarantine somewhere for 2 weeks but then we could visit where you are. Are you guys still loving Ecuador and where you live. Thanks, Debbie