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A Pacific Coast Retirement on $1,000 Per Month or Less

Cuenca has the edge for big city amenities including theater, nightlife, and restaurants. It also has a new, upscale shopping mall and many options for modern health care facilities. (Thinkstock)

Ecuador sits on the equator in South America. As a result, its Pacific coastline enjoys reliably warm and pleasant weather year-round.

That's one reason this country has become so popular among expat retirees. Others include its dramatic natural beauty, its non-intrusive government and its very low cost of living and real estate. Ecuador's user-friendly retiree residency program requires pension or Social Security income of just $800 per month. If you don't have that, you could qualify for an investor visa with an investment of just $25,000 in a piece of real estate (that could be your residence) or one of several financial instruments.

Many foreign retirees in Ecuador have focused on the colonial mountain city of Cuenca. However, this country's coastline offers one of the most affordable oceanfront retirement options in the world. Starting from Guayaquil and traveling north along the coast, you come to many small towns and fishing villages, some more developed and appealing to retirees than others. The town of Playas on the Gulf of Guayaquil is one of the most attractive for retirees.

Thanks to Playas' situation, sheltered from the Pacific's fog and cold water, the weather and the ocean are typically warm and pleasant. The town's 24,000 residents work mostly in the fishing and tourism industries. As a result, it's as though the town can't make up its mind whether it's a fishing village or a resort. This makes for a great and authentic beach experience along with an abundance of fresh and inexpensive seafood.

Most of the Ecuadorian coast is overcast during a significant part of the year from roughly May to November. How many days of sun you get varies from one spot to the next and can change quickly as you travel north or south. Playas is largely immune from the overcast weather, thanks to the relatively warm waters in the Gulf of Guayaquil. Playas claims 320 days of sun per year, the only place on Ecuador's coast that sees nearly that much reliable sunshine.

Playas is also Ecuador's most accessible beach. It's 60 miles from the airport in Guayaquil. Beaches in Ecuador can be as far as six hours from the international airports, so this proximity is a strong selling point.

Historically, Playas has been a small, undeveloped piece of coast where there's not much to do aside from beach combing, swimming and eating fresh seafood at one of the beachside seafood shacks. Restaurants and accommodations have been basic and limited in number, but this is changing.

The local government has made a significant investment in Playas' infrastructure recently, including improved roads and a new beachfront shopping mall. An international developer is beginning work on a $700 million destination resort a few miles outside Playas. This will have its own restaurants, shops, bakeries, pharmacy, supermarket, gas station and spa, along with a golf course and artificial lake. The developer is targeting the expat market, and the fact that they chose Playas for the project says a lot about its intrinsic desirability and climate.

Again, the cost of living in this part of Ecuador is one of the main appeals. A couple could retire to Playas on a budget of $1,000 per month or less. Real estate, too, is a global bargain. It's possible to buy a two-bedroom condo with an ocean view for less than $100,000.

If you're looking for an upscale beach lifestyle reminiscent of Puerto Vallarta, then Playas won't fit the bill. But if you'd enjoy a simpler, more relaxing lifestyle, then Playas could be an ideal choice. It's a great place to enjoy fishing, swimming, beach walks and good seafood. And Playas is just an hour from Ecuador's largest city, Guayaquil, and all its amenities.

Kathleen Peddicord is the founder of the Live and Invest Overseas publishing group. With more than 28 years experience covering this beat, Kathleen reports daily on current opportunities for living, retiring and investing overseas in her free e-letter. Her newest book, "How To Buy Real Estate Overseas", published by Wiley & Sons, is the culmination of decades of personal experience living and investing around the world.

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