As I sit writing this in my Guayaquil hotel room, I realize there are many parts of Puerto Cayo Ecuador that we'll miss dearly. On the other hand, I can't help but feel a wave of relief that our adventure there was cut short. When Trevor and I made the decision to spend 6 months in remote Coastal Ecuador, we had no way of knowing some of the things we would come up against……
Our collection of: ‘The good, the bad and the ugly – Puerto Cayo Ecuador Edition' would be a useful tool for someone considering a stay in the area (or similar remote latin american destination) but please remember that these are our opinions and our experiences. Many people might have a strikingly different reality in the same town.
Puerto Cayo Ecuador – HIGHS
Value: When we were searching online for an OCEAN FRONT villa for rent, our eyes popped out of our heads seeing some of the pricing across Central/South America. I'm not kidding. Why would anyone pay $7-10k a month for an ocean front villa in Mexico, Costa Rica or the Dominican? If you are one of those people, STOP RIGHT NOW, you are driving up the cost for all the SANE people in the world. (hehe!) But in all honesty, we almost scrapped the entire trip. The #1 thing on Trevor's list was being able to see and hear the ocean from the house. When we found the Delfin Villas in Cayo, the price fit into our budget VERY well. For the price, you can't get any closer to the ocean. (and the place is really gorgeous to boot!)
We found our beautiful rental on VRBO! You should take a look at renting a house instead of a hotel for stays over 1 week (it can be way more cost effective)
Safety: Personally I have spent a ton of time in Latin America (from travelling alone in southern Mexico as an 18 year old girl, to being held at gunpoint and robbed in Nicaragua) and safety for both Trevor and I is top priority. Not only was our villa completely gated, walled and locked, but we had a 24 hour security guard and a protective pitbull! The town of Cayo is completely safe to walk around in the day or even at night (which is uncommon in South America). There was never a moment we felt unsafe.
Peace: Let's just call it how it is: Trevor and I are complete retirees. Imagine slippers, knitting, newspapers and naps… yep… that's us. The peace and quiet of Puerto Cayo was a huge bonus for the inner recluse in both of us. When we went for a walk on the beach, we could basically pretend that we owned the whole thing, not a soul on it! There were no stores in the area, so that ‘busy/running errands' mindset vanishes. Just the sounds of our laptop keys clicking and the rumble of the waves.
Weather: Hot, (mostly) sunny, humid. All while we started seeing Facebook photos from our friends back home of their snowy driveways. Enough said.
Jo: Jo was our driver, tour guide and friend. The main reason we did not rent a car (well apart from it being stupid expensive for 6 months) was that we could hire Jo as our personal driver for $10/h. What a bargain! She took us on excursions, to get food and supplies, and other errands. Jo was an absolute lifeline.
To summarize: We loved having a pool, the ocean, the waves, peace and quiet, and the feeling of safety. It was like our own little tropical paradise. Honestly if it wasn't for the trade off's below, we probably would have stayed there forever!
Puerto Cayo Ecuador – LOWS
Power: The power outages are constant. All the time. All different times. Sometimes when you are sleeping, other times when you are trying to do laundry. Our house had POWER water pumps and a POWER stove (not propane, I know how crazy that is for Latin America) so we could not shower, flush toilets or cook food when the power was out. And unlike using your cell phone during a power outage in North America, we only had wifi….which… ran on power. At first, it was kind of fun. Light the candles and play charades! After the 20th time, it became a kind of cruel and unreasonable torture. Imagine trying to get some work done and BOOM, no power again. If Trevor had hair, he would have pulled it all out.
Internet: When the power actually decided to grace us with its presence, the internet did not always follow suit. We are NO strangers to the ‘interesting' internet connections you get while in Latin America, but this took the cake. At times it was slower than dial-up. I can still hear the haunting sounds of a modem connecting over a phone line in my nightmares.
Food: You may have read my blog all about our carb consumption, but if not, let me give you the gist. White bread, white rice, fried plantains, french fries, fried chicken, twinkies, chips, Coke. That is about 95% of what is available in Cayo if you do not eat seafood. If you DO eat seafood, you are good to go. Dive right on in to the squid, crab, lobster, etc. They will even bring it to your door alive.
Isolation: Yes, I know I just said the peace and quiet was one of our favorite parts, but this is different. What I mean by isolation is the absolute lack of anything you might need. You quite honestly need to take a Tuk-tuk, to a bus station, a 40 minute bus ride, to another Tuk-tuk ride, AND BACK, just to pay a bill. Or to get something other than white rice to eat. Want to order something online? Well shucks, they just don't have mail service in Cayo, so you are SOL. We basically had to stockpile supplies like we were going to live in a bunker.
Dogs: Trevor's pet peeve! (see what I did there…) There are dogs on the road, dogs on the beach and dogs that just pop right out of nowhere. Some are typical mangey, sickly mutts who just want a scrap of food. Others are downright mean and vicious and would love to take a chunk out of your leg. When we went for walks, we were forced to do so with a stick for our own protection.
Garbage: This is not ‘little miss white girl' saying there was a lot of garbage compared to squeaky clean Canada. Cayo, Jipijapa, Lopez and Manta had a lot of garbage for even Latin American standards. It's everywhere. Every ditch, roadside and all over the beach. I wish it wasn't, but it is.
To summarize: We did not realize just HOW secluded we were, the general lack of fresh food and supplies, and how many times we were not able to work because of outages. I also did not realize just how many carbs I could eat in one sitting (it's mind blowing!)
Our Suggestions To Travellers:
- If you are going to live here, a generator is a MUST. If you are renting on the coast, make sure they have a generator. The power outages require a generator.
- If you like convenience and easy access to things, Cayo may not be the place for you. I did not believe when I read online that you could just buy ‘eggs and bread' at the store here. It's true.
- You will need wheels if you want the freedom to travel to get supplies, OR be okay with hiring a driver about a week ahead of time.
- If you are in love with your brands of shampoos, creams, etc- bring them. You will 100% not find them here.
- Learn some basic, basic Spanish here. They do not speak English. (nor should they have to! We are the visitors!)
- Do your research. We used VRBO to find our place, TripAdvisor to research things in the area, and a lot of Google searches!
I'm looking out the window from the 7th floor lounge at the hotel where I was just served a refreshing drink and a delicious plate of fruit and feeling absolutely delighted for SMALL pleasures such as this. While sleepy Puerto Cayo will always be in my heart, the time has come to enjoy the benefits that come with a little bustle.