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True! Bahia, Ecuador Is Worth Rediscovering

If you’ve never traveled to Ecuador’s northern coast (or if you haven’t in a while), Bahia de Caraquez, known to the locals as Bahia, Ecuador, is one city that’s worth a second look.

Once a bustling port city, Bahia was virtually devastated by El Niño rains and an earthquake in the late 1990s.  Determined to overcome these tragedies, the town re-established itself as an up-and-coming eco-city, and the results have been astounding.

bahia, ecuador

Patriciota Mariz

Bahia’s Climate Makes It an Ideal Coastal Destination

Although it lies just 40 miles south of the equator, on a peninsula at the mouth of the River Chone, Bahia’s climate is surprisingly comfortable. The city lies in a dry tropical belt that experiences relatively low humidity and temperatures averaging around 80 degrees from May through November.

A wet season begins in December or January and can run as late as April.  During those months, the sky is often overcast with evening showers and temps closer to 85 and moderate humidity.

There’s a constant breeze blowing off the ocean, which helps considerably with the heat.  As a result, there’s less need for air conditioning.  You might even find yourself reaching for a sweater or blanket at night.

Such conditions are considered by many expats to be a breath of fresh air from a lot of the hotter, more humid coastal cities.  Many also find they prefer mild, coastal living to the thinner air that plagues the colonial cities that lie at higher altitudes.

Bahia Offers a Great Mix of Residents

Bahia, Ecuador is a city of only around 30,000 regular inhabitants, which allows it to maintain a small-town feel, despite its popularity as a beach destination.  Most of the locals come from very meager backgrounds, but they aren’t looking to take advantage of visitors and expats.

Instead they’re warm and welcoming to the many middle- and upper-class citizens from Quito and Guayaquil who have vacation homes in the area. In fact, Bahia has a reputation for being an incredibly friendly city.

It’s also extremely safe, with the lowest crime rate in all of Ecuador.  Just like with any other foreign city, you should use care not to carry around wads of cash or flash extravagant items. But in Bahia you don’t have to worry about getting swindled by the locals or walking around late at night.

Because Bahia has historically been somewhat cut off from much of the rest of the country, it doesn’t see a lot of international travelers or expats.  However, that seems to be changing.

In fact, on my last visit I was surprised to see that an established expat community does exist, albeit a small one.

Bahia, Ecuador Has Just Enough of the Attractions You Crave

Whatever your tropical passion, you’re practically guaranteed to find a place to enjoy it at least near to, if not in, Bahia.  Yet at the same time, it’s not overrun with tour buses or overpriced souvenir shops.

There are beaches with small waves that are safe for swimming, yet at times steady enough for long boarding.  You can also go water skiing, sail boarding, or fishing. Both hang-gliding and surfing lessons are available just up the road in Canoa.

Bahia offers a plethora of birds and other wildlife. The nearby Isla Fragatas and Isla Corazon are home to a variety of birds. Saiananda is a local park that’s home to deer, donkeys, ostriches, geese, and sloths.  Whale-watching is also a popular pasttime.

There’s also the Chirije archaeologial site and the Rio Muchacho organic farm to explore.

It’s worth mentioning here that Bahia’s beaches are somewhat limited.  Due to significant beach erosion in recent decades, the south shore of the peninsula is narrow and often crowded.  At high tide it can become almost completely submerged. The north (bay) side of the peninsula is polluted and unsuitable for swimming.

In terms of consumer options, Bahia has everything you’d expect to find in a mid-sized tourist destination, including a new modern supermarket.  What you can’t find in town you can easily get from a nearby large city like Manta or Portoviejo.

One other area where some expats might find Bahia a bit lacking is in its cultural offerings.  While it does have a few attractions, like a great museum, it doesn’t have a lot of them.

bahia, ecuador

Bahia’s Eco-friendly Initiatives Keep Everything Nice and “Green”

Bahia is known throughout the country’s as Ecuador’s cleanest coastal city, ever since it established itself as an eco-city, and the benefits are obvious as you stroll along the beach or through the pristine streets of the city.

Eco-friendly behaviors are a part of life in Bahia.  Residents are encouraged to recycle and employ other sustainable practices. There’s daily garbage service, and the town even has its own paper recycling plant.

It was also the first coastal city in Ecuador to ban the use of plastic bags.

Living in Bahia, Ecuador Won’t Break the Bank

Like the rest of Ecuador, Bahia de  Caraquez enjoys an extremely affordable cost of living. A mere $1,000 per month could buy you a very comfortable life there.

Factors that contribute to the low costs include government subsidized fuel (currently around $1.50 per gallon) and low wages. As a result, almost everything is cheaper in Ecuador and particularly in Bahia.

An almuerzo (a typical lunch of soup, salad, rice, and beans with meat) is only $1.50.  You can enjoy the fresh juice that comes with it or spring for a $1 beer to wash it all down.

Other affordable perks include the services of a domestic helper, such as a maid or gardener, as well as inexpensive Spanish schools.

Bahia Has Bridged the Gap for Expats, Tourists, and Investors

What’s kept Bahia de Caraquez off the radar of most expats and international tourists, has been the fact that it was more than a little off the beaten path. Even merely crossing the Rio Chone, on the most direct route to Quito, once took three hours on a small ferry that held only 12 cars.

After the 2010 completion of the 1.25 mile (2 km) Bahia-San Vicente Bridge, however, the river can now be crossed in only 15 minutes.  This longest bridge in Ecuador is expected to considerably boost trade and tourism to the area, as Bahia is now connected to nearby San Vicente, the fishing village of Canoa and basically the entire rest of Ecuador’s northern coast.  

Getting to Bahia has never been easier thanks to the new bridge. There’s an airport in San Vicente, but it’s small and doesn’t run regular flights.  The next closest are in Portoviejo or Manta, both of which are about 90 minutes or less by bus. The flight to these airports from Quito is only about a half hour.

There are also bus services that run to and from cities like Quito, Guayaquil, and Esmeraldas.

bahia, ecuador

Patriciota Mariz

Why Now Is the Best Time to Purchase Bahia, Ecuador Real Estate

Bahia, Ecuador is a town that has clearly reinvented itself. Although it was due to unfortunate circumstances, the city has no doubt benefited from its fresh new eco-friendly image. This fresh start, combined with the drastic increase in accessibility from the new bridge, has brought new life and new interest to Bahia.

In addition to the renewed appeal of Bahia itself, the town is also strategically positioned for growth in the surrounding areas. The area across the bridge just north of Bahia is a naturally beautiful, and largely underdeveloped, coastal region.  With the new infrastructure in place, it’s primed for a big surge in property values.

The bridge has also opened up a new path for the transportation of merchandise that can now be brought through Bahia on its way to the port city of Manta just 30 minutes south of town, making what could become a stop on a major thoroughfare.

As a result, the time is right to buy or invest in Bahia before prices start to rise. Here are a few examples of what you can get for your money in Bahia, Ecuador.

  • Just $75,000 buys you a 2-bedroom, 2-bath beachfront penthouse with an ocean view in a gated complex with a pool and landscaped grounds.
  • For $170,000 you can have a 3-bedroom, 3-bath condo in a high-rise building with panoramic views of the bay, the beach, and the city.

As you can see, Bahia is still a place to score a great bargain on real estate in an area that has the potential for tremendous growth in the near future. Consumer and cultural options that are currently lacking in the area are likely to be introduced soon.

Who knows? Maybe you could be the one to fill a much-needed niche in the city’s scene.

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