AARP The Magazine has chosen the highland town of Boquete Panama as one of the top five places in the world to retire, along with Puerto Vallarta, Mexico; Languedoc-Roussillon Region, France; Le Marche, Italy; and Cascais, Portugal. You can read the full article, which factors climate, expat community, cost of living, housing, health care, access to the U.S., culture, and leisure, in the magazine’s September/October 2010 issue. This isn’t the first time the AARP has sung Boquete’s praises. In 2001 the magazine, then titled Modern Maturity, listed the hilly haven as the fourth best place to retire in the world.
“Imagine waking up under sunny skies in a Latin American paradise,” says the AARP website, which fingers Panama as “a smart choice for retirees who want it all—in a country that really wants them.” Boquete is especially popular, as for some expats its cool climate offers a welcome change from the sultry sea-level heat. Located in the friendly province of Chiriqui, Boquete Panama allows gringos to enjoy proximity to pristine beaches and the growing city of David, along with expansive mountain views and a low cost of living.
In addition, Panama lures expats with one of the world’s best retiree residency programs. The Pensionado or Pensioners’ Program makes it easy for retirees to get residency here. The potential value for a pensioner on a budget is huge, as Panama offers a host of discounts to all its retirees. The long list of discounts includes 50% off the price of admission to movies, theaters, sporting events and other public events; 25-30% off transportation, 30-50% off hotels, 25% off power and other utilities, 15% off hospital and private clinic services, and much more.
Legal and application fees for the Pensionado visa are relatively inexpensive, particularly when compared to the money-saving benefits. Plus, the Pensionado program awards residency for life. (Read one expat’s take on the Pensionado program here or watch a short video summary here.)
Expats in Boquete Panama
For some expats. Boquete Panama “also offers an opportunity for reinvention,” says the AARP report, which tells the story of two expats who moved from California to Boquete to run a seven-acre organic coffee farm. Boquete is known for its award-winning coffee and ubiquitous coffee farms, just another perk to living here. The bio-diverse town is also known for its juicy seedless oranges, sweet strawberries, rare orchids, and abundant wildlife. Residents say they have no trouble keeping busy, as communities here are active, staging shows and festivals of all types. Plus, one can enjoy any number of outdoor activities, from rafting to birding.
It’s no wonder even traditionally U.S.-focused publications like AARP The Magazine are looking beyond U.S. borders for the next best retirement destination. In a 2008 article titled America’s Loss, Panama’s Gain, Forbes fingered Panama as the new destination of choice for even Latin Americans. Émigrés from Venezuela and other countries are apparently bypassing the U.S.—traditionally a most coveted destination—and choosing instead to bet on real estate markets in countries like Panama. In 2010, Forbes said Panama was one of the world’s top 12 retirement destinations. (Destinations listed in no particular order).
International Living Magazine publishes an Annual Retirement Index that recognizes Panama as the number one country in the world in terms of retiree benefits.
Editor’s Note: Learn more about Panama and other countries in our daily postcard e-letter. Sign up for these free daily postcards here and we’ll send you a free report: Panama: First World Convenience at Third World Prices.