El Conquistqdor Francisco de Orellana

El Conquistqdor Francisco de Orellana
The Conquistador who put the Amazaon baisn "on the map"....Francisco Orellana

Friday, August 24, 2012

Making Money in a Beachside Paradise

By Chuck Stanley

Long popular with vacationing Ecuadorians, Canoa, on the country’s northern coast, is known as a hot-spot for all sorts of waterborne activities—and many expats fund their new lifestyles by catering to tourism.

It means they get to live in one of the region’s most beautiful stretches of shore with plenty of time to spend between surfing and paragliding.

Pete Stromberg and his wife, Maija, first discovered Canoa during their honeymoon in 2008. Like most young newlyweds, the couple, from Fort Collins, Colorado, were not financially prepared to leave work behind for a life of lying on the beach.

They did, however, have enough saved up to invest in a charming restaurant overlooking the beach where fishermen pass by at night, bringing in the day’s catch.

Today the Surf Shak, run by Pete, Maija, and their two business partners, provides equipment and lessons for paragliding, surfing, and kayaking—as well as some of Ecuador’s finest burgers.

"We just started running scuba diving at the Surf Shak and now we’re doing spear fishing," Pete says. "They’re bringing in some monster fish with the spear guns."

Canoa is beginning to open up the world, and the town itself is growing: "The expat community is made up more of residents rather than investors," explains Pete. "They are the kind of people who are less concerned with how much their property will sell for next year than how to preserve the things they love about this town into the coming decades."

But despite the increase in the number of westerners calling Canoa home, the new arrivals have not brought the high prices found farther north with them.

In the local market, a sack of veggies costs just $5. At beach-side Restaurante Costa Azul, a dinner of pan-fried chicken for two, served with a mountain of seasoned rice, black beans, fried plantains, and spicy house-made sauce called aji, plus a plate of ceviche, all washed down with a cold beer the size of a bottle of wine, costs a little under $12.

Set lunches and breakfasts in restaurants throughout town are about $3 and usually include a drink and soup with the main course.

Newcomers like Pete and Maija have been instrumental in developing the region, which now boasts a bilingual elementary school. The residents also helped fend off a proposed development that would have destroyed sea-turtle nesting grounds.

The couple has discovered their dream life of Pacific sunsets with the scent of fresh fruit and flowers wafting through the air.

Just like the new homes popping up along Canoa’s coastline, no two dreams are exactly alike. But whatever they are, Canoa is a great place to make them come true.

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