Some of the best places to retire to in Panama also happen to be the most beautiful places in the country. A happy convergence of natural beauty, convenience, low cost of living, and more makes these places ideal for the would-be expat…of any age. Whether you’re looking to retire from your current job and “do nothing” or just want to make a change, these locations are worth your consideration.
The best places to retire in Panama…and stay active
As a long-time writer for International Living, I have “retired” readers of every age. In fact, one of the youngest is barely in his thirties! He chose to make his home in a lush green crater valley. A place where he could practice yoga and massage and live simply. The name of the town is El Valle, and it’s just a couple hours by car from Panama City.
El Valle has long been a retirement locale of choice for Panama’s elite. So it’s no surprise that expat retirees discovered it and began to follow suit. Today, El Valle is becoming known as an eco-tourism destination, too. With the new small businesses that have opened here and a small but steady influx of foreigners, El Valle is more fun than ever, yet somehow retains its small town feel and appeal.
A favorite activity for expats here is salsa lessons, held every weekend at Paraiso Restaurant and Bar. It’s turned into the ultimate place to spend a fun Friday, meeting and talking to like-minded people and getting in a little exercise, too. Another popular place is O’Pedro’s (now even El Valle has its take on the typical Irish pub…and with a name like O’Pedro’s, it’s a very unique take at that).
But dancing and drinking are the least of all there is to do here. This is a wonderland for lovers of the great outdoors. The waterfalls, the flora and fauna, the walking trails and hot springs…all this and more make this a great place to stay active. The close proximity to Panama City…with its first rate hospitals, malls, theaters and more…doesn’t hurt, either.
Retire to Bocas: the most beautiful beaches in Panama
If you’re looking for beach adventure, then you may want to look at Bocas del Toro. The province’s famous archipelago features hundreds of islands, the main one called Isla Colon. Here you’ll find a motley crowd of surfers, bohemians, backpackers and expats from all over the world.
Despite the tropical rains that beat down on the Caribbean islands for at least eight months out of the year, residents can’t seem to get enough of the turquoise blue waters dotted with white sands and green rainforests. I’d call it Panama’s most beautiful retirement haven any day.
Plus, Bocas is always interesting and always fun. Take day trips to surrounding islands to enjoy the beaches, and at night there are dozens of cool places where you can enjoy the cool ocean breeze and a variety of cuisines. There are always new and interesting people to meet and the scenery never gets old. If you’re happy to weather the challenges of island living…dealing with tropical rain and importing most everything from the mainland are a couple of them…then the beauty of Bocas may just be hard to resist.
Never bored in Boquete: Panama’s best-known retirement destination
Finally, there’s Boquete, which may be one of Panama’s most active expat communities outside of Panama City. Located in the Chiriqui Highlands, Boquete is an hour flight (or six-hour drive) from the capital. But it’s just 45 minutes away from the major town of David, where you’ll find hospitals, malls, restaurants, and much more. In fact, David is the capital of the wealthy Chiriqui province.
The region is known for its spring-like weather, outdoor activities (like white-water rafting and hiking) and award-winning coffee and orchids. People walk a lot. There are more fresh veggie and seafood stands than fast-food places. Social activities for people of all ages more often involve movement—like dancing or horseback riding. You’ll find you don’t have time to sit in front of the television, mindlessly munching and slurping whatever junk is on hand.
It’s just the way things go here. There are so many groups and activities that Boquete is the only town outside Panama City that boasts a yearly jazz festival. Two of the major developments here—Cielo Paraiso and Valle Escondido—have golf courses (the former designed by Michael Poellot). Just try and get bored. Most of the expats I’ve talked to say they are more social, more physically active…even healthier… in Boquete than they ever were back home.
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