Sunday, April 17, 2011

Is Cuenca the New Costa Rica?

We've had a lot of blog visitors this week and one question keeps popping up: “Is this the new Costa Rica?”

Wow, I don’t think so because Cuenca is a city and Costa Rica is a country! However, I understand the deeper meaning behind those words. Translation: Is Cuenca going to be so expensive in a few years that we can’t afford to retire there?

This is how I see it. You can’t keep a place like Cuenca a secret forever. When International Living named Cuenca, Ecuador as the number one place in the world to retire (2009) and MSN did a series of articles on the cheapest places to live on a pensioner’s budget and named Cuenca as “numero uno," it garnered a lot of attention.

We have seen a definite connection between news-worthy material and how many visitors come to Cuenca. Let’s face it, when gas is almost $5.00 a gallon in the U.S. and more baby boomers are trying to find a place to stretch their retirement dollars, Cuenca looks pretty good!

Will Cuenca become too expensive to live in 5, 10 or 15 years? Yes and no. I believe that the goods and services that expats require (restaurant dining, rent and housing) will continue to go up in price; however, the basic economic structure will remain the same. There will always be $2.00 “almuerzos,” open markets and 25-cent bus rides.

To put my theory to the “taste test,” I found a new ice cream place that just opened up: Mixx Gourmet Ice Cream. Tom Carbone, the owner, is a Canadian who has Italian roots (Bari, Italy), and let me tell you it shows in his “gelato.” I haven’t tasted this kind of ice cream since we left Italy. And his passion for making ice cream is what makes his place a success after only one week of being open.

His specialty is making flavors you haven’t even heard of before, like: “Cerveza” (beer ice cream); taquilla, pina colada, and sangria. And then there’s brownie ice cream, tiramisu, cappuccino and “yes” chocolate. There are so many flavors to choose from that if you don’t have your mind made up when you enter the door, you’re going to be spending a lot of time with a tasting spoon in your mouth.

My personal favorite is mango in a waffle cone (made fresh before your very eyes) and dipped in chocolate! The price for two homemade waffle cones is $1.68. I think the most expensive thing on the menu is $2.50.

I know what you’re thinking! What does ice cream have to do with Costa Rica?  Here’s my point. Mixx Gourmet Ice Cream  is an expat’s dream come true: affordable gourmet ice cream, great location, wonderful ambiance with passionate, friendly service. I think it’s a pretty safe guess that his prices are going to go up in about six months (maybe less). We have seen it over and over again in places where expats frequent; the menu has been altered with “White-Out” to reflect the higher price. However, our “almuerzo” lunches are still  just $2.00!

For those of you who are thinking of coming to Cuenca in the next year or two, it won’t affect you all that much. But for those of you who are planning to retire in 10-15 years, we'll just have to wait and see!

Is Cuenca the new Costa Rica? Time will tell...

Until next time…hasta luego!

Mixx Gourmet Ice Cream (San Blas Plaza)
San Blas 2-73 y Tomas Ordonez
Cuenca, Ecuador

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