Cuenca, Ecuador: An American Retirement Haven

Apparently Cuenca was noted to be the #1 overseas retirement mecca in a magazine.  I have now “lived” here for 13 days and can easily understand why:  it’s lovely, complete with Rio Tomebamba.ImageThe climate is pleasant, people are nice, lots of services geared toward Americans’ needs, and an increcibly supportive network of ex-pats who take full advantage of digital techonology for communicating.  The primary factor of course:  IT’S CHEAP.

Bus: $.25. Cab: $1.50 to $2.00.  Apartments: furnished, nice, modern, 2 bedroom, 2 bath, good location: $300/month. 

My computer, this little baby netbook I’m now using, had aparantly been abused by me and gave the appearance of freezing up in retaliation.  I checked on the Gringo website,, and found a recommendation for computer repair (staff speaks English) and off I went, computer in knapsack.  They were right!   Some of the staff spoke English, the man who cleaned up and de-virused my computer is a University graduate with a degree in engineering, and the cost of the fix:  $22.  He said it would be done in one day: it was!

Here’s more of what Cuenca looks like.This is an overview taken as I was flying in from Quito:  large but not too large: perfect size.


Ecuador is 97% Catholic, so of course churches are well represented and not a Mosque to be seen.




I learned on my City Tour that Cuenca was extremely wealthy in the olden (aka 1800’s ff) days, and the townsfolk didn’t think their humble churches represented this. So, a brilliant architect, who happened to be a priest, remodeled the blue domed church to more appropriately display the correct amount of oppulance.

Cuenca got wealthy in those olden days from Panama Hats – yes, that’s right!  I went on a factory tour and it really was impressive.  These hats protect you from the sun, and were highly valued in Europe.  Lots of lore around the Panama Hat, but that they brought great wealth to the Spanish expat’s of Cuenca is not in dispute. Here are some hats evolving, pre-shape.


And here is an example of what happens when a hat is fully evolved:

ImageBesides hats,  tree bark added to the Cuencan coffers:  a particular local bark was used to treat malaria.

Cuenca is set next to the exquisite Cajas National Park, where the volcanic mountain is 13,600 feet high. I took a tour there and I was OK at the top as long as I didn’t move., but when I did no amount of aerobic training could prepare my poor body for the 45% decrease in oxygen content. Talk about lead feet!

ImageThis was taken at the top, and you can see the road that leads to Guayaquil, 3 hours away by car, 6  by bus.

In Cajas NP, in addition to having faux asthma,  you can backpack and hike. There are llamas running – well, standing – wild, and 500 year old trees that are tiny because of slow growth with the harsh conditions. Here’s a 500 year old tree!.Image Sure hope I look this good when I get to be 500.

ImageAnd flowers too, of course.

There are certainly down sides to retiring here, and I spoke with a young woman doing research on the topic.  The negatives would be the same in any foreign location (that’s another subject), and also it’s not as cheap as peope anticipate.  There are currently 200 ex-pat families living in Cuenca, which has raised prices considerably.

As for moi, I’ve been happily studying Spanish 4 hours daily, i.e. feeling mentally challenged more than 4 hours daily. It’s VERY HARD when your memory has lost its glue. I’ve also moved into an apartment where I rent a room and get to use the kitchen – found it on  It costs me $10/day.  I take full advantage of the markets.ImageImage

I’ve made friends at school: other women traveling solo!  At last!  Some are even in my age demographic. This environment supports our ongoing laughter.

I depart for Quito tomorrow, a $42 flight from here, and will meet a friend arriving from California. We’ll visit the Galapagos and tour Ecuador. At a minimum, you can be sure I’ll be back as part of that tour.

Thanks for reading this.

Retired Nomad


2 thoughts on “Cuenca, Ecuador: An American Retirement Haven

  1. What a wonderful commentary on your travels. I have seen the Galapagos but felt like I was seeing them for the first time thru your eyes
    . Amanda, Sara, and I missed you and your laughter over the last weeks. Sara left today and Amanda leaves tomorrow. Have fun…look forward to seeing you again .

  2. Do you live in Cuenca or were you just visiting? I want to make an email contact with someone who could answer a couple of questions for me – who is not trying to sell me something – do you know any such person(s)? My hubby and I are doing some preliminary research into retiring there. Thanks in advance for your help…I liked your site!

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