What is paradise?

by | Mar 5, 2001 | Archives

38 acres of beachfront for $15,000 or is there something more?

Waves crash on black haystack rocks that grind an aquamarine Pacific into foam and mist of white. It is early March, near the coast of Puerto Lopez, Ecuador. We head due west. Merri and I are with friends, sitting on the gleaming 35 foot cruiser. Warm salt air massages our sun drenched skin us as we race west, hypnotized by a sleepy drone from twin Yamaha 115s.

There are many economic opportunities to share in this message, but first let me answer the question that was meandering gently through my mind. “What really is paradise?” I almost nodded off then looked across the sea once more. Eleven shrimpers glowed white as they bobbed on the horizon. Their bird covered arms trailed nets that looked like spidery webs of white. The ocean turned deep indigo as the continental shelf dropped away. Our destination? Isla de la Plata, the Silver Isle, little known but like Galapagos, the home of rare birds ( we saw loads of blue footed boobies in their rookery) and animal life not known elsewhere.

“What really is paradise?” I pondered once more. Walking a broad beach at sun rise to join the villagers for the morning’s catch, which included a monstrous snook? The soft murmur of young lovers as they stroll on a warm evening, holding hands? A billion stars on a clear night? A native market piled high in mangos, papaya, pineapples, custard fruit, bananas in yellow, red and green, blackberries, ovos, plums, beans, potatoes, corn, tomatoes, peppers, cabbages bigger than a bread basket, flowers and other delicious fruits and vegetables, you can’t even imagine as they are endemic only to Ecuador even know, all swollen with vine ripened goodness and priced so low they cost nothing? A cook who prepares these treasures with love and serves them on an open air balcony cleansed by a sweet breeze from the sea? An afternoon sleep in a hammock, soothed by a gentle salt breeze? Riding through a tropical forest? Fresh ground juice at night on the terrace? Village laughter in the darkness heard from a comfortable bed? Friendly, happy faces everywhere?

I couldn’t decide having just enjoyed them all for just eight bucks a night on an inspection trip Merri and I made to the coastal area around Manta.

I want to share why this is an incredible place to visit, plus why it’s an economic wonder for investors right now.

First let me make a point. If you want the sanitized version of life, switch off now and go to a web site that lists Disney World and places like this. Or go visit American coastal cities like Naples where I have left. Manta, Puerto Lopez and the other Pacific villages Merri and I savored on this trip have dusty roads, unkempt beaches, dogs walking the beach and the people appear poor. Plastic and various other types of debris often line the roads. The water where we stayed was only lukewarm. There are some pathetic sights and pungent smells. Life is rich, ripe and real here, no street signs, no life guards and no lines in the middle of the road.

Yet consider this. In Naples, Florida, I just looked at buying a very small beachfront lot because it was cheap at one and a half million bucks. Here I was looking at a 38 acre tract of coastal land on a brand new highway with a half mile of wide, empty, clean Pacific beach for $15,000 bucks!

In Naples I’ll get fined for parking, taking a dog, glass, or fire on the beach. I’ll be patrolled, warned and controlled by more rules and regulations I can keep track of. Here it’s purely Laissez Faire. Merri and I are pioneers and we love untidy, rambling, ramshackle places. We have made millions buying in such places and then watching them grow up. But you have to love this type of disorder to enjoy the process.

To us this is where the real adventure is・long with the best investment potential. So having said this let’s spend a moment talking about the cash.

There is some great economic news from Manta. Several years ago I began bringing investors to this coastal town telling them it was one of the hottest places around. Merri and I didn’t especially like Manta but saw its potential. The U.S. military is bringing in a new base and some of the finest emptiest beaches in the world are near here. I continued bringing investors here through the worst depression in Ecuador’s history, a Presidential impeachment, then a bloodless coup, countless social demonstrations and even a couple of kidnappings on the border. The worse events grew, the more excited about the potential I became. Now places in the south of Manta that were scrub vegetation and wild are gleaming apartments and housing developments with really attractive and grand homes. Prices for land have quadrupled. There is a new road, new water system and though prices in Manta are still much lower than they will become, the miraculous bargains some of my delegates have enjoyed are gone. Some investors have seen their investments grow two, three, even four times in this last two years and values will rise much more!

But the news gets even better. The airport has just been shut and is being redone (by the U.S. military) and a new road from the airport to the city center is being built. I have been told by many that a Howard Johnson and Sheraton are coming in. Continental Airlines will start a direct flight Newark -Manta when the road is done (about six months) and American will fly Miami-Manta direct. Manta will become an international destination.

Manta is still an wonderful place to invest, but now the incredible bargains have moved slightly south. A really excellent coastal road has just been finished from Manta to Puerto Lopez and it opens an hour and a half of coastal views, property and wonderful new bargains not seen before. On this recent inspection trip, as mentioned, I viewed a 38 acres with about a half mile of beach offered for $15,000, plus a smaller 10 acre lot asking about $7,000 and a crude sub development with glorious ocean views were the asking price was $2,500 for a 2,500 square foot lot. These are rough properties that will need some work, but the prices are so low because this area has just opened up and a new market price has not yet established itself. No one knows yet what to charge for their land because no hotel have come in etc. So the prices are still what they were before the road.

Yet the changes are just beginning. South of Puerto Lopez, Metropolitan Tours have built a new 15 room hotel. This is built by Barro Viejo the same architects that designed Merri’s and my house at our Andean plantation Rosaspamba.

This hotel has a charming design and sits high up cliffs with commanding ocean views. Brand new, the rates at this hotel only $30 a night for a single, $20 per person for a double (excluding breakfast).

If you want a real bargain stay at the Whale House Hostel in Puerto Lopez. The rate is only $8 per night including breakfast. This hostel is owned and operated by our friend, Santiago Guaminay. The service is intimate and just plain sweet. Santiago who runs the tour company Ecuador Amazing can book you into either Whale House or the Metropolitan hotel. At Whale House Hostel you sleep in a very comfortable (but not air conditioned) room and dine on excellent food on their roof terrace. Five hammocks are strategically placed. The rooms are just a room, but clean, and the water is only luke warm, but the food is so excellent, the rustic ambience so relaxing ad the walk to the beach just five minutes. Santiago operates tours on his brand new 35 foot cruiser (the fishing is great by the way ・snook, snapper, sea bass, the world record Marlin was caught nearby, – plus there are cruises to Isla de la Plata and in season, whale watching where spotting whales guaranteed. Last year we were able to cruise around huge humpbacks at a range of just a few yards.

Puerto Lopez is surrounded by over 100,000 acres of national park and there are also hiking and riding trips in the dry and humid tropical forests of the park.

You can get details from Santiago Guaminy. His email address ecuamaz@interactive.net.ec

These attractions, plus the growing U.S. population in this area due to the military base, will force prices up in this area. The next real estate tour will conduct in coordination with International Living will be in the mountain cities of Quito and Cuenca, but IL will then take those interested on a Manta, coastal real estate extension. I recommend this for sea lovers. Real estate in Ecuador is an incredible opportunity now. You can get details about the tour in Quito, Cuenca and the coast from Agora Travel. Their address is agora@gate.net

Real estate is not the only outstanding business opportunity in Ecuador at this time. Each day we research here, we uncover more great deals. Three (of many) ideas we will cover in the upcoming “Ecuador Business Made EZ” course March 18 to 24 include, a coastal hotel business, bringing fiber optics to Quito and some great export opportunities in wool. After our coastal tour Merri and I visited a wool spinning plant that offers killer wholesale prices on sweaters, gloves, hats, shirts and coats that can have customized embroidered logos. More on this next message. But don’t wait if you are planning to attend this first course March 18. These course are conducted by me and Merri and the first course and it can be attended at half price (because it is our first course and will have the usual hiccups). This course is limited to just ten single or couples attendees and we already have reservations for over half! Details are available http://www.garyascott/courses/.

One final note because I have seen some of the negative news coverage about the drug wars in Columbia and kidnappings that took place in Ecuador. As Merri and I strolled through the center of the city late, last night looking at the brilliant stars we could not help but note how quiet and peaceful everything is here. There are few cities in the world that are completely safe, but the reason kidnappings in Ecuador make so news is they are so rare. Newspapers know bad news sells. They magnify negativity wherever they sniff it out.

Over the past weeks Merri and I have travelled with our friends all over this country and have not felt unsafe for a minute. We feel safer here than if we were in Miami, Baltimore, New York or any major North American city. We would not go near the Colombian border for sure and there are places in the big cities we avoid at night, but this is true everywhere. There are many spots on the U.S. – Mexican border where you may easily be shot! So don’t go there either.

The good community feeling here goes beyond safety. Ecuadorians are friendly and helpful by nature. As we stroll it so comforting to see neighbors standing in the streets visiting. There is a great sense of friendship everywhere. Smiles and waves, even from strangers are normal even in crowded cities. Everyone who visits here notes how friendly the place is! We feel so cared for and welcome here and one friend compared this to Jamaica and noted the difference. “In Jamaica the feeling is that everyone resents the tourists being there. Here we feels welcomed. Over the next several months Merri and I will have our son and daughter travelling all over this country. We will not worry about their safety one bit. There is not much more of an endorsement I can give. After travelling all over the world Merri and I made a vow that our lives were going to be spent in places where we were comfortable and felt cared for. We chose the mountains of North Carolina and here in Ecuador for their beauty and the wonderful friendly nature of the people in both places.

Don’t let the negativity of the newspapers stop you from enjoying this wonderful, human warmth.

Until next message, good global investing.