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"When you travel, remember that a foreign country is not designed to make you comfortable. It is designed to make its own people comfortable."
We were lucky enough to spend five weeks in Puerto Cayo, Ecuador in June and July 2018. It is a small coastal fishing village of about 2,000-3,000 people, and we could not have asked for a more welcoming and comfortable place to start our travels. This post is an overview of what we learned about the town to hopefully help others who might be interested in adding this destination to their travel itinerary.
How to get to Puerto Cayo:
We flew into Quito, Ecuador from the United States and then bought a separate plane ticket with Tame to fly from Quito to Manta (~1 hour flight). Our hosts were gracious enough to pick us up in Manta, but there are also buses available for the one hour trip south to Puerto Cayo. We found this trip straightforward to book and recommend traveling via Manta if possible since it is close to Puerto Cayo.
Another option is to fly into Guayaquil, Ecuador, which is about 3 hours south of Puerto Cayo. From Guayaquil, there are buses available to get to Jipijapa (a 2 ½ hour trip) for $4 US dollars a person, and then buses to get to Puerto Cayo for a dollar or two (a ½ hour trip).
You could also take the bus to Puerto Cayo from Quito. It is about a 12 hour bus ride and from what we found it would cost about $10-15 per person. This may not be a terrible option depending on the bus company you pick but our hosts recommended the flight since it was less than $100 (and free for us since we were able to use credit card points).
Getting around town:
You can easily walk everywhere in Puerto Cayo, but if you need to go a little ways out of town to a hotel or restaurant, there are mototaxis/tuk tuks available everywhere for a few dollars (a motorbike with a small carriage on the back). Walking around town or on the beach at night is safe, however, we would not recommend walking on the roads on the outskirts of town because there are no street lights and cars can’t see you. We usually just walked the 15 minutes to town via the beach but make sure you check the tide charts first. The difference between high and low tide is about 150 feet and it changes by 40 minutes per day.
There are a few small stores in Puerto Cayo where you can get basic supplies, however, there is not a formal grocery store or market. There is a bakery in town along with street vendors selling various grilled meats and snack foods. There is a fruit and veggie truck that makes the rounds on Wednesdays and Saturdays. This is the best way to get inexpensive and delicious fruits and veggies - we got 15 oranges for $1!
You can find a decent grocery store in Jipijapa, or in Puerto Lopez, both ½ hour away by bus. Manta is a little further away but has a large mall and Megamaxi grocery store where you can find anything you would need. There are also small fish markets located along the route from Puerto Cayo to Manta where you can buy fresh caught fish for about $5 per kg.
There are a lot of restaurants in Puerto Cayo but we only tried a few of them. Most of them are run by Ecuadorians and offer a variety of seafood options with rice and beans. It’s all very fresh and delicious! There are a few restaurants and bars operated by ex-pats which are also delicious (Booby's Bar and Grill about 5 minutes outside of town is one example). Overall eating out in Puerto Cayo is not too expensive, you can easily find a meal with fresh fish or shrimp for under $10-$12 US dollars.
One side note: we found a wonderful lady downtown that owns a small restaurant called Fruta Selecta. She makes batidos (milkshakes) for $1.50. We tried the Oreo milkshake, but she also makes other varieties. It was delicious and she was incredibly friendly! She also makes a few other simple dishes such as grilled cheese sandwiches and fried yuca. Visit her shop if you are in Puerto Cayo!
Puerto Cayo is a very safe community. We walked on the beach all the time and around town at night and never had an issue at all. Crime seems to be non-existent and you're more likely to be followed by school kids who are curious about the Gringos than you are someone looking to cause trouble. As mentioned above, just be careful walking on the streets where there are no streetlights at dark, cars go very quickly and may not see you.
Where to Stay:
There are a few hotels in Puerto Cayo, however, we did not stay in any of them. You can easily find a place to rent on Airbnb, or if you're looking to stay a little while, our Workaway hosts rent very nice longterm apartments across from the beach. You can find them here.
One thing we didn’t think about before arriving in Puerto Cayo was the change in the tides. Because the town is near the equator, the tides are drastic and change every day. During high tide it is very difficult to walk on the beach unless you want wet feet, during low tide there is plenty of room. We found this website useful for tracking the tides and checked it every morning: Surf-Forecast.com.
Another thing we did not consider was that it would be cloudy almost every day. June-August are the winter months in Puerto Cayo and it's fairly warm (around 70-75 degrees F), but it's cloudy most days. It was also the dry season, so we saw very little rain. This was great weather for working outside and our walks with the dogs, but we did miss the sunshine. We've been told that there is a lot more sun the rest of the year, however, they do get quite a bit of rain from December - February.
Puerto Cayo has beautiful beaches and is a great place to learn to surf. We did not try surfing, however, there is a place in town that rents surf boards and will teach beginners. Often the beaches are empty and you have the whole place to yourself to walk up and down or play in the sand (except for the occasional dog that will come and join).
One very last thing that we had not expected... The day after we arrived they upgraded the internet situation at our home to 20 mbps. This is blazing fast for South America. We don't know if everyone in town had the same speeds but it's interesting to see small towns like this getting fast internet and would make it a great option for any location independent entrepreneurs looking for a cheap place to live!
Overall, we loved our time in Puerto Cayo and felt welcome by everyone we met!