When I got to Cuenca, one of the first things I sought was a coffee shop. Of course, I was looking to satisfy my love (a.k.a. need, obsession) for coffee, but really I was looking for more: finding the right café (or cafeteria, in Spanish) meant that I would have a slice of home in a new town. From my perspective, the best café provides a sense of community. I wasn’t necessarily looking to make friends or become best buds with all of the baristas, but I was looking for a space where people gather to enjoy each other’s company or to focus on their work in the right environment.
Working remotely can be both liberating and challenging: you can stay rooted in your professional activities from anywhere in the world (including beautiful Cuenca, Ecuador), but it takes a lot of concentration, time management, and discipline to stay accountable. For some, working from home is the perfect fit, but for others, such as myself, working outside of the home can increase levels of productivity and creativity. Here are some lessons I have learned while working remotely at cafés in Cuenca:
- The change of environment is refreshing and inspiring. New settings keep my mind sharp and creative in completing tasks.
- It is easy to lose track of time, especially when no one is looking over your shoulder to check your progress. Time management is key. Create a priority to-do list or block off chunks of time to dedicate to certain projects.
- Make sure all of your devices are fully charged before you leave home. Plug options are generally not plentiful in Cuenca’s cafés, and it would be unfortunate to lose power 30 minutes into your work.
- Stick to one coffee per visit. Not only will your caffeine levels be in check, but over the long term your wallet will thank you.
As Cuenca continues to grow (in locals and expats alike), the number of cafés is steadily on the rise. Needless to say, the city is not lacking, unless it’s a Sunday or Monday, when many small businesses are closed. I was quite surprised that in a country that has coffee as a primary export, a great number of spots use instant coffee. The cafés I introduce here are only ones that I would recommend to a friend. These are the places where I enjoy the coffee and enjoy the environment to write or work from my computer.
[color-box color=”gray”]Puro Café (Calle Larga y Todos Santos)
Puro Café is an adorable outdoor spot, nestled on the patio behind the Todos Santos church. The fresh air and views of the mountains make this place really special and probably my favorite
spot in town. It is run by a sweet Belgian woman who is a professional barista and arguably has the best coffee in the city. She provides numerous drip/press coffee options, delicious cappuccinos, and plenty of alternative juices, teas, and milkshakes. The WiFi is great, and she’ll always have a fresh muffin of the day and a smile. If you want somewhere outdoors, quaint, and quiet, this is the place. No need to worry about chance of rain, as she’s got a large canopy.
Tuesday to Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. [/color-box]
[color-box color=”gray”]Mulla Café (Borrero 5-51 y Honorato Vasquez)
Mulla Café has a welcoming environment with its candlelit red tables and intimate space. The small café is owned by a young Venezuelan couple. The café has good coffee and juices and is known for their delicious pastries (brownies, pies, churros). Their food menu is pretty expansive and includes breakfast all day (hashbrowns, yum!). Mulla is one of my go-to spots for the evening, since it is one of the only places that is open later and has a quiet atmosphere. They have a nice selection for book exchanges as well. Great WiFi and electrical outlets (behind the smaller right table on the right side of the café) are a plus.
Tuesday to Thursday, 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays 8:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., Sundays 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.[/color-box]
[color-box color=”gray”]Goza (Calle Larga y Presidente Borrero)
Goza is the largest and probably most-well known café in el centro. During the day it is filled with largely an expat and tourist crowd, and at night attracts more locals. The drink options are plentiful, from coffees, teas, and juices, to beer and cocktails. They also have a full food menu that includes sandwiches, salads, and entrées. The prices are on the high end by Cuencan standards, but it’s a great place to camp out for the afternoon. The café is located along a busy street, so if you’re looking for a quiet place to work, I recommend the upper floor. Goza has a big TV inside and one out on the patio. Locals gather to watch soccer games, seated at the tables or crowded around the perimeter. The WiFi is decent and there are electrical outlets (one upstairs, and one on the wall between the patio and inside).
Monday to Sunday, 8 a.m. to midnight[/color-box]
[color-box color=”gray”]Café San Sebas (Plaza de San Sebastian)
Café San Sebas is tucked into the very charming Plaza de San Sebastian next to the modern art museum (which is also awesome!). It is located on the edge of downtown and a little bit of a walk from most tourist sites, but well worth a visit. The food is always delicious and perfect if you’re craving brunch. Personally I love the coffee, mimosas, and friendly service. They cater to both a local and expat crowd and often have vegetarian and gluten-free specials. The WiFi is great and there are a few electrical outlets (one in each room, downstairs and upstairs). Café San Sebas is a great place to camp out and work, but do note that it’s very busy on Saturdays and Sundays, so remote workers should be mindful of time and respect people waiting for tables. Café San Sebas has also been very active in earthquake relief work through the Saman Project, a sustainable relief camp in Canoa.
Wednesday to Sunday, 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.[/color-box]
[color-box color=”gray”]Windhorse Café (Calle Larga and Hermano Miguel in front of the escalinatas)
Windhorse Café is not only a wonderful café, but a place where expats have built a community; you’ll notice that people tend to know each other there. The owners were Peace Corps volunteers in Ecuador in years past, and most of the staff are locals. They always have the freshest food, pie or pastry specials, and a special plate of the day. They cater to an expat crowd and thus have loads of vegetarian and gluten-free options. Upstairs, they host yoga classes for beginners twice weekly, by donation, a meditation practice on Sundays, and have a large book exchange. They also have a wide selection for free book rentals located upstairs, with a $10 deposit. The WiFi is decent and they have two electrical outlets (one behind the table closest to the counter, and one upstairs next to the couch).
Thursday to Sunday, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.[/color-box]
[color-box color=”gray”]Café Nucallacta (Hermano Miguel entre Juan Jaramillo y Honorato Vasquez)
Café Nucallacta is a popular spot to buy freshly roasted coffee beans or to sit and enjoy a drink and a bite to eat. It provides an intimate setting and friendly, knowledgeable staff. There is an indoor courtyard at the back of the café, which brings in plenty of light. I’m a big fan of the coffee and juices, and their food is also fantastic. It’s a great, quiet place to work, with strong WiFi and a couple of electrical outlets available.
Monday to Saturday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.[/color-box]
[color-box color=”gray”]The Vegetable Bar (3 de noviembre y Jacaranda, close to the hotel Oro Verde)
The Vegetable Bar is a juice and smoothie café with plenty of healthy menu items. Enjoy a fresh pressed juice or smoothie, or indulge in one of the breakfast items, salads, paninis, or soups. The food is always healthy and yummy. Great WiFi.
Monday to Sunday, 7 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. [/color-box]
Muccha is a charming and welcoming café with two locations in Cuenca, one downtown and one a few blocks off of Av. Solano. The downtown location is the only one with WiFi, and also has one electrical outlet (under the first booth on the right side). The other location close to Solano is very open with two floors and a beautiful atmosphere, but does not offer WiFi, which makes remote work more challenging. Muccha offers a large menu, but the coffee-based drinks and pastries are highlights, including a variety of miniature pastries at the front counter. The quiet environment makes for the perfect setting to pass hours working.
Juan Jaramillo y Benigno Malo — Tuesday to Thursday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Federico Proaño y Honorato Loyola — Monday to Saturday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. [/color-box]
Melatte is a fun and funky café with numerous locations around the city. They have strong WiFi and plenty of outlets at each of their locations — just order a cappuccino or a juice at the counter and get to work. The location downtown is very open and you could easily pass hours working there. The location by the university and along the river have outdoor seating, which can be a refreshing change of pace while working.
All locations open 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Presidente Borrero y Mariscal Sucre
Avenida 12 de abril y Augustin Cueva, next to the University of Cuenca
Puertas del Sol sector, next to the Ricardo Darquea bridge[/color-box]