[color-box color=”green”][dropcap]Join[/dropcap] Canadian Expat, Dodie Schadlich, in her weekly column for “Off the Beaten Path”. Read on to hear about the “hidden gem” beach town of La Libertad [/color-box]
La Libertad means freedom in English. I find it very fitting that we chose this place to begin our Ecuadorian Adventure. It is exactly what we were searching for.
It is the commercial and industrial center of the province of Santa Elena. It borders with Salinas, 5 minutes from Ballenita, an hour from Montanita, and two hours from the airport in Guayaquil. Simply put; a convenient location.
It rarely gets mentioned in conversation with local expats outside of the immediate area and it is difficult to find web information about this city. All of the studying we did prior to arrival to Ecuador and nowhere did I read anything about La Libertad. After finding this gem on the coast, I have a totally new appreciation of the city and feel it is highly under-rated on many levels.
It is considered the pulse of the peninsula and home to the majority of the suppliers for goods and services. The folks living in Salinas and as far away as Montanita and Olon will often plan routine trips into La Libertad for their larger shopping needs, including medical and dental appointments.
Because people either simply drive through and/or pop in and out for goods or services, many only see the two main drags while the rest of the city remains a mystery. What they miss is the charm, the friendly, hardworking folks and the groomed and tourist-worthy stops along the way.
All but the most outlying areas are paved and have access to city services including treated water and a public sewer system. Modern infrastructure and choices of internet providers; including fiber optics, all make this a great destination for those looking for modern amenities with far more reasonable rental prices than the typical touristy destinations.
I have seen apartments renting for $250 per month in the barrio Pto Nuevo. This neighborhood is only a few blocks from the beach, clean, safe and easily accessible to all things necessary. 15-minute walk to the Malecon and 5-minute walk to a large beach. This barrio has a soccer field, central park, church and even an outdoor pool that offers a full day use rate of $2 for adults and $1 for children. The neighbourhood is just a few blocks from the bus route but also has a constant supply of taxi’s passing through the area for easy transportation options. Most of the foreigners living in La Libertad are found in the Puerta Lucia Yacht Club, on the opposite side of the city which leaves this neighborhood a hidden gem.
When you choose to participate in the hustle and bustle of Salinas, it is a simple bus ride on the #13 for 0.31 cents or $3 to $4 taxi ride depending on the are you live in.
La Libertad has a Malecon that is completely new, groomed with level sidewalks. Numerous restaurant options plus smaller kiosk eateries, 3 small waterfront bars, shopping, billiards and even a Lion’s Club. The waterfront area of La Libertad is landscaped not just on the Malecon but also on the side streets leading to the waterfront. Wheelchair friendly with a pleasant atmosphere without potholes and very few tripping hazards. On one end of the waterfront walk, you can watch the fishermen bring in their catch of the day and load onto waiting trucks, ready for market.
You can choose to fish off the break walls or enjoy some music and a Strawberry Daiquiri on the other end.
During the days the area is filled with people jogging and exercising and the evenings have families strolling, eating and playing in the park. It is not uncommon to find displays, booths and extra activities offered on any given weekend or holidays.
Currently under renovation is the Malecon Park which will include a stage, fountains, playground and plenty of shaded seating areas. The current park was functional and well used however was in need of a facelift; the project is underway and nearing completion. The park is a buzz of activity all week long with aerobics and Zumba for only 25 cents and weekends it fills for family fun.
La Libertad is home to 2 beach areas; one that is accessible from the Malecon during low tides and of course Cautivo Beach where our vacation resort is located. This is a long stretch of deep and wide sand with excellent shell collecting potential. At times, you may find yourself totally alone on the beach with your thoughts and the view of the fishing and cargo boats on the horizon.
Yes, there is definitely industry in our city, inclusive of a large and imposing refinery, however, this is one of the reasons the majority of the city is paved and has fabulously groomed and landscaped green areas. They have the tax base for community improvements; home to middle-class neighbourhoods and flourishing small businesses that supply various services and supplies to the main export industry of this country.
We came from a city in northern BC that was home to many lumber and pulp & paper mills; equally imposing but equally as important to the economy of the city. I feel a strong parallel between Prince George and La Libertad on many levels; including population which may be why I feel very comfortable here. It is difficult to find accurate information on the population, however, Libertad is noted to be the largest in terms of area and population of the main three cities that make up the province. Depending on where you read, the population quoted can be between 70,000 and 100,000. Larger centre with a small town feel.
There are numerous shopping areas including the largest Mercado in the province. The Mercado includes the largest fish market as well as street after street of fruits, vegetables clothing and housewares to name just a few things you can happen upon. Most recently, in the beginning stages of construction, is a new Municipal Mercado which will be located in the bustling downtown core. The existing Mayor, born and raised in La Libertad, made this a campaign promise to construct a new building to further enhance opportunities for small business owners.
There are also fabulous, trendy and/or ‘tipico’ restaurants to meet all budgets. From coffee shops, with comfy furniture, selling loose leaf tea and playing soft jazz to the typical $3 rotisserie chicken joint with plastic tables on the sidewalk.
You will find three malls; a new multilevel mall attached to a high-end ocean view hotel, another that is typical western style facility with a 6 theatre Supercines, and lastly a shopping centre that is more traditional Ecuadorian style.
Home to a large soccer stadium with plans underway for a new and more modern facility.
2 public hospitals plus numerous private clinics, diagnostics, veterinarians, all the major banks and specialty shops. If you are going to find something in the area; it will most likely be in La Libertad.
UPSE university is located here and offers Business and Accounting degrees, Agricultural and Environmental Degrees, various types of Engineering, Law and Nursing Degrees, Language courses. Electronics and Automation, Marine Biology, Early Childhood Education, and Tourism Development.
Whether you are looking for a place to call home permanently or simply for a tranquil vacation destination away from the typical tourist traps; I would recommend spending some time in this progressive center to get a feel for the area. You may just come to love it as much as we do.
Our vacation resort is Casa Blanca Playa Cautivo in the city of La Libertad which literally means White House on Captive Beach in the city of Freedom; simply…. captivating.
Visit our website at : http://www.casablancaplayacautivo.com