Cuenca News

In Ecuador, motels are not for sleeping

By Liam Higgins

A few years back, a couple from the U.S. checked into a motel near Riobamba. They had flown into Quito early in the afternoon, rented a car and were on their way to Cuenca when they decided to call it a day.

Motel bed ready for action. Photo credit: El Comercio
Motel bed ready for action. Photo credit: El Comercio

The next day, they mentioned their overnight experience to an expat they met in Parque Calderon. “We had a great night’s sleep,” the traveler said. “But we couldn’t figure out why they charged us by the hour.”

As most expats come to find out, motels in Ecuador are not for sleeping. Or, if they are, it’s a secondary function. Think No-Tell Motel. Think Cupid Motel, Aphrodite Motel or La Esquina del Amor. You find them on the outskirts of all larger towns and cities in Ecuador, usually on a major highway.

Motels in Cuenca expect a full crowd this Valentine’s weekend. Many are offering special deals with free bedside chocolates and champaign, and rose petals scattered on the floor between the door and bed.

“This is our biggest time of the year and it is always best when Valentine’s Day comes on a weekend,” says Graciela Ruiz, manager of the Venus Motel on the PanAmericana highway in Cuenca. “We do everything we can to make the experience special,” she says.

Ruiz says her rooms will be ready for lovers, young and old, with extra bubble bath soap by the jacuzzis, a variety of liquor, and romantic music on the speaker system.

So what’s the deal with all the roadside love nests in Ecuador? For many expats, given that this is a Catholic country still bound by formal manners, they seem out of place.

It turns out that there’s a logical explanation. The vast majority of young Ecuadorians live with their parents until they get married. Given the fact that most moms and dads have conservative values, romantic activity is usually prohibited within the household for the unmarried. This also explains why you see so much smooching and noodling going on among young people on the streets and in the parks of Cuenca. Read more about that here.

According to Ruiz, motels provide the amorous with a safe, comfortable trysting place. “Mom and dad aren’t allowed here,” she says.


  • Destiny

    Yes, given that this is a Catholic country we are especially surprised and disappointed by this. Does the church not teach this generation pre-marital abstinence as it did their parents?

    • Dena Jo

      I’m sure they do. But when have church teachings ever stopped kids?

    • Globetrotter

      For that matter, when have church teachings ever stopped church leaders?

  • Loren Lowe

    I discovered this when I was living in Colombia. I was doing some work there, but had met a large family that insisted i stay with various relatives rather than the government supplied hotel. After a while I wanted a weekend alone, and ask where the nearest motels were. After quite a bit of flushed faces and laughter, an uncle took me to a motel. It was very odd place, since you never see the clerk… everything was done through a slot. When I walked in it reminded me of Niagara FAlls. Very overdone, mirrors everywhere, huge Jacuzzi tub in the middle of the room, and a window slot you could order anything through. It slowly sunk in why everyone was laughing at me. On the other hand I had a great peaceful weekend in solitude!

  • Edge of 2

    Teaching birth control could be a better option. The reality is sex will happen as a natural course of human beings and there are too many unwanted and neglected children as the Catholic church it could be argued is responsible for in its teachings. Everyone suffers in religious denial and ignorance

  • Charlie

    Good lord, people, are you really that isolated from what actually goes on in this culture? Do you really think that those motels are mostly patronized by young kids that can barely find two dimes to rub together? Grow up. The vast majority of patrons in this machista culture are married men having illicit affairs with their amantes and secretaries or men taking escorts, prepagos and universitarias to these motels on a regular basis. I have heard estimates that 20% of the young women attending the two major universities in Cuenca pay for their studies by selling sexual services and this activity is legal (as is common prostitution that is regulated)

    If CHL gives me the okay, I’ll give you the links to sites where this can be verified. Prudes like Destiny will probably faint.


  • Kennyboy

    Haha, and you really think it is young lovers patronizing these motels? Boy, are you naive.

    • Dan

      I’m not sure who’s naive, Kennyboy. The article clearly says motels are for “lovers young and old” and there are many folks around here who live with their parents well into middle age. I suppose you’re always young as long as mom and dad are around.

      • Kennyboy

        Dan, you missed my point and that is probably because I made it so poorly. Charlie has stated the case as well as I could. These motels are not (for the most part) patronized by single lovers, but by those who need the stealth that hypocrisy demands in this culture. I know quite a few secretaries who happen to be married, that go to these hotels once a month with their married bosses. If this is news to you, you are still in the honeymoon phase of expatdom.

        • Dan

          Sorry Kenny. I was back at the original story and not following the thread (I’m not cut out for social media I guess). We’re on the same page.

          • Kennyboy

            No problem, Dan. I’m not exactly a maven of social media myself. I have never had a facebook account, I think twitter is for twits (give me a break. Do you really think you can express an intelligent thought in 159 characters?) and if there are other social media (I think there are) I don’t even know what they are called. I don’t think this forum counts as social media but I know enough to know that it isn’t a blog.

  • As it is in Ecuador, so it is in Hungary, where I live part of the year. Amazing similarities among the young.

  • Bobette

    In Panama, these motels are called “Pushes” or “Pushbuttons” because you drive into the private garage and push a button to close the garage door. No-one sees you come, go or pay–you’re totally annonymous.