Jessica Ramesch

Author Image for Jessica Ramesch

No stranger to “international living,” Jessica Ramesch had called the U.S., India, and Panama home by age 14. So it was no surprise to her family when she won a full scholarship to study International Politics & Diplomacy at the University of Richmond. After graduating with honors, Jessica worked as an interpreter for the World Access travel emergencies hotline, followed by a stint as a Panama Canal editor. Not content to watch the ships go by, she went on to join the cruise industry.

After visiting 25 countries, Jessica abandoned ship for the good life in Panama City. As International Living’s Panama Editor, she writes about Panama’s beaches, islands, mountains, and countryside. She is also the author of Escape to Panama, International Living’s best-selling book on all things Panama.

Jessica regularly contributes to International Living's Panama Facebook page.

Archives

The city of David, in the Chiriquí Province of western Panama, is Panama’s third largest city and most affordable. David has the infrastructure of a modern First World city but with a charming small-town atmosphere.

Healthcare In Panama: Excellent Medical At 50% Off U.S. Costs

I’ve been living in Panama full-time since 2005, and one of the best things about life here is the medical care. I’m not the only one who thinks so, either. Over the years I’ve met dozens upon dozens of expats who were deeply impressed by Panama’s healthcare. International Living editor Dan Prescher was able to experience Panama’s modern, affordable healthcare for himself when he visited an eye doctor in Panama City. Dan liked the doctor and the modern facility, so he signed up for laser eye surgery. He estimates he saved up to 50% by having the procedure in Panama instead of back in the States.

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Slow Down and Take Time to Enjoy the View

I’m sitting on a bench, looking out at the deep blue waters of the Panama Bay. A row of tall palm trees lines the walkway in front of me. To my left is a small marina, and further off, the twinkling lights of the city’s impressive skyline. To my right, I can see the stately colonial facades of the historic district known as Casco Viejo.

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Discover the Best of Beach and City Living in Panama’s Dry Arc

The sun is setting, giving the beach a golden glow. Moments ago the water was a cobalt blue, and I could see the tail feathers of the seabirds gliding above. Now a single cormorant bobs close to shore. I kick off my sandals and walk along the surf, letting it roll over my feet. The water is the perfect temperature. A bit cooler than the air around me, it feels refreshing…inviting.

Panama-City

City Buzz, Colonial Charm, or Coastal Paradise…in Panama

I love my life in Panama. Though I travel often, I’m always happy to get back to my home in Panama City, where I’ve been living since 2005. I just don’t know where else in the world you could live in an exciting, cosmopolitan city on $2,500 a month, including rent. I go to first-run movies in English for $6, enjoy $2 beers at trendy restaurants, and have even signed up for language classes at the local university…six hours a week for just $100 a month. In any other world class city, the cost would be triple.

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The Next Great Beach Destination on Panama’s Pacific Coast

Imagine living within a stone’s throw of a range of beaches, all with warm waters and in pristine settings. Both white and dark-sand beaches, and the water ranges from the clear blue of the sky above to a deep cobalt blue. You can go sport fishing, paddleboarding, surfing, snorkeling, or just splash around and enjoy.

Panama City

The Insider Tips You Need to Know to Spend Less in Panama

Life, as we all know, is full of contradictions. Even here in Panama City—my little slice paradise. I’ve been living here since 2005, ever since I quit my job sailing the world aboard luxury cruise liners. For my money, there’s no better location and no better value anywhere in the world.

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Panama: The World’s Best Retirement Haven in 2016

It’s that time of year again…International Living’s Annual Global Retirement Index is hitting the presses. And in the top spot: Panama. I should say: Panama again. Because this tiny powerhouse has topped this index more times than any other country. (International Living’s first Annual Global Retirement Index was published in 1992.)

El Valle

El Valle: Panama’s Lush, Green, Mountain Town

In a place where even the picket fences sprout leaves, you just know the soil has to be good. Known as Panama’s fertile valley, the tiny town of El Valle is a world of green. Lushly carpeted mountains surround the flat crater town. The green is punctuated here and there with bright bursts of crepe-like bougainvillea. The tropical reds and oranges almost seem odd in a place this cool and breezy. Thanks to an elevation of about 2,000 feet, El Valle is typically a comfortable 70 F to 80 F, with noontime temperatures rarely above 85 F.

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Three Must-See Cultural Sites in Panama City

With a vibrant cultural scene, Panama’s capital is a wellspring that’s well worth exploring. In Panama City, you have so much to choose from that whether you’re into art, architecture, gourmet cuisine—or anything else—you’ll find plenty to keep you occupied. Best of all, this surprising city is filled with contrasts. Small colonial gems and skyscrapers with cutting-edge designs…hidden galleries and state-of-the-art museums…centuries-old ruins and more modern wonders, too.

Sora, Ecuador

Five Magical Mountain Towns in Panama

You can’t help but feel happy in Panama’s highlands. The views are inspiring, with verdant pines and bougainvillea bursts covering the hillsides. Hidden gems include streams, waterfalls and even hot springs. Not to mention some of Panama’s best flora and fauna…including hundreds of species of colorful birds, orchids, and more. To be sure, Panama is known for its stunning Caribbean islands and popular Pacific beaches.

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The Best Places for Island Living in Panama

The island destination in Panama I’m asked about the most is Bocas del Toro—and with good reason. A trickle of adventurous visitors and a tight-knit expat community have transformed insular Bocas del Toro from a sleepy archipelago to a bustling outpost. But if you’re considering island life, you’ll be interested to know that Bocas is not the only exciting option available.

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Santa Fe, Panama From $1,000 a Month

“Buenas,” he says, nodding his head as he rides past. Leathery tan on a face framed by a worn cowboy hat, he’s the very picture of a Marlboro Man. Except he’s Panamanian. I’m sitting in an ancient Lada Niva—a Russian 4×4 made for rugged terrain. We’ve stopped so our cowboy (and his herd of cows) can pass safely. It’s a chance to take in the view… In the distance I can see the national park, where hiking trails crisscross hills lush with rainforest. In the treetops above me, I’ve seen monkeys and toucans and several species of birds I can’t name. This is Santa Fe de Veraguas, Panama—a tiny mountain hideaway about 200 miles west of Panama City.

Bocas del Toro

Rent on This “Zero Stress” Caribbean Island for $500 a Month

Since I moved to Panama 10 years ago, the islands of Bocas del Toro have become one of my favorite vacation spots of all time. It’s just an hour-long flight from Panama City…though I’ve also driven the scenic seven hours or so to the launch point of Almirante, where you can get a 30-minute water taxi to the main island. I’ve traveled extensively throughout the Caribbean…St. Thomas, Grand Cayman, Martinique…you name it, I’ve probably been there. But for me, none of them can hold a candle to Bocas del Toro.

Panama-City

“I Spend 40% Less in Panama City Than if I Lived in the U.S.”

As night begins to fall, strings of lights twinkle above my head. The temperature drops 10 degrees to about 78 F…absolutely perfect. The open rooftop terrace of Panama City’s Tantalo Hotel is a fantastic place to enjoy the cool evening breeze. Not to mention the colonial architecture of Casco Viejo, one of Panama’s oldest (and most romantic) quarters.

Panama-City

The Best of Both Worlds For This City and Beach Lover

Weekends, Rita Sosa tends to spend at her beach house, just over an hour’s drive from Panama City. “Our house is literally on the beach,” says Rita. “When I go up there, I just go to relax and swim. I’m very happy to sit and read a book outside and not do a whole lot of anything. It’s so great to have beach weather 12 months a year, and I love the tropical greenery.

Panama-City

The Perfect Climate for Business and Fun…in Panama

Moving to Panama was “a bit of an adventure” for expat James Bloomfield. “When I first moved to the capital, I was out exploring nearly every weekend,” he says. He fell for the coastal area of Pedasi, just 200 miles west of Panama City. It’s a region of pristine, uncrowded beaches and abundant waters just teeming in tuna, wahoo, dorado, and more.

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Rent For $600 a Month on Panama’s Sunshine Coast

A million shades of green surround me as I drive. Above, the sky is a deep cornflower blue. I’m on the perfectly paved (and newly expanded) National Highway, driving down the Azuero Peninsula’s eastern coast. As is customary in this region of Panama, the sun is shining. A five-hour drive will get you from Panama’s sultry capital to Pedasí, a gem of a village. Banana trees, sugar cane, and countless varieties of palms line the flat horizon. There are no highrises here…towns in the greater Pedasí district are tiny.

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Artistic Living in Beachside Coronado

When Harry Segil first got off the plane in Panama in 2007, he had half a mind to leave. “My glasses fogged right up,” he says, adding that the humidity was a surprise. “I thought, I’m getting back on the plane!”

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Earn in Panama’s Island Paradise

Lush, tropical jungle rings the Panamanian island where Laura Kay has lived for nine years. She has dozens upon dozens of white-sand beaches to choose from. Laura lives the simple life of a yoga instructor…in spectacular surroundings in Bocas del Toro, Panama. The Caribbean province is best known for the hundreds of islands that dot the waters just off the mainland.

pedasi

Rent for $500 a Month by the Beach in Pedasí, Panama

“In Pedasi, Panama, we live a life we couldn’t have had back home,” say Connie and Mikkel Moller. “If we were in the U.S., we’d both be working, at least part-time, and constantly worrying. After visiting for a few days in 2012, the Mollers fell in love with Pedasi. “We loved it. We fell for Pedasi. The people, the ambience…everything about it.” Located five hours by car from Panama City (you can also fly; it’s just under an hour from Panama City in a tiny commercial plane), most days of the year are sunny. Average daytime temperatures are around 88 F, but evenings and mornings can be 10 to 15 degrees cooler, thanks to the ocean breezes.

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Every Day is a Vacation on This Affordable Caribbean Island

Lorelei Kusin lives on an island in Panama’s Bocas del Toro province, and in this part of the Caribbean, time seems to stand still. “Our small house is situated on a bay facing the ocean,” she says. After waking to the sound of chattering birds, Lorelei and her husband James enjoy a cup of freshly ground Panamanian coffee, followed by a smoothie using local fresh produce such as fresh coconut water, mango, pineapple, guanabana, and bananas. “Then I often swim or paddleboard before we head to town in our 22-foot boat.”

Isla-Iguana

From Fiesta to Full-Time Living in Panama’s Beachside Paradise

In 2012, Connie and Mikkel Moller planned a trip from their hometown of Auburn, California, to Panama without checking the local calendar. They flew into the busy hub of Panama City, and hopped on a bus to the fishing village of Pedasí. Little did they know it was Carnival season…one big, nationwide party, with the biggest concentrations of revelers just minutes from the town center.

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Earn with Opportunities in “Paradise on Earth”

In 2005, I decided to leave the U.S. for good and move to Panama. The tropical climate is perfect for me—especially the Caribbean isles of Bocas del Toro. Near Panama’s northern border, Bocas is what you picture when someone says “paradise on earth”—white sands, jewel-toned waters, swaying palms, and a slow pace of life. Bocas is just one of Panama’s many, many treasures. If I wanted to I could spend every single day of the year on a different isle or mainland beach.

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Laidback living on Panama’s Pristine Beaches

Life in and around the town of Pedasi is lived on outdoor terraces. It’s here that you’ll find people sipping their morning coffee, eating breakfast, and swinging or rocking in the shade—hammocks and rocking chairs are a common sight.

coronado

A California Lifestyle for Less in Panama

The sound of rolling waves soothes me as I lie on the warm, glittering white and black volcanic sand. Bursts of green palm trees ring the beach, which is dotted with bits of driftwood, coral, and shells. White marine birds complete the scene, standing on spindly legs, looking out towards the sky-blue sea.

Coronado

Making Friends and Enjoying Beach Life in Panama

Though Panama boasts two coasts and hundreds of islands, there’s a region on the Pacific that really stands out in terms of climate. Known as the Arco Seco, or Dry Arc, the Coronado region gets more sunshine than nearly any other place in the country.

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“I’m in Vacation Mode Every Single Day”

Lorelei Kusin has seen four Panamanian presidents come and go during her 14 years in Panama. But she lives on an island in Bocas del Toro province, and in this part of the Caribbean, time seems to stand still.

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“It’s So Easy to Meet People and Make Friends”

“Congestion, noise, and frenetic energy.” That’s how Maureen LoBue describes her former life in San Diego. Her new life in Panama couldn’t be more different. Here, her days consist of salsa dancing, swimming, and plenty of happy hours. “I rent a three-bedroom house with three porches and a huge yard—in the beach town of San Carlos—for just $800 a month,” says Maureen. Panama City is just over an hour away. She goes often, adding that a bus to the vast Albrook Mall and National Bus Terminal is just $2.50. And she’s about 10 minutes by car from a hub town bustling with supermarkets, shops, a clinic, and more.

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“I Have a Second Lease on Life”

Jennifer Blackstone’s newfound tropical lifestyle is a far cry from her childhood in Wisconsin. In fact, it’s a life she didn’t think she could ever have. “Several things fell into place and conspired to get me to Panama,” says Jennifer, who fell in love with the tropics several years ago. “I visited Costa Rica and I loved the tropical feel…the colorful flowers and the warm ocean,” she says. “But the thought of living there…it was a fantasy.

Las Tablas

Retire in Las Tablas, Panama for $1,000 a Month

The Brodeurs chose Las Tablas so they could live well, without sacrificing the good things in life. They go to the local expat hangout, Ponchalo’s, several times a week. The cost averages $20 total, including beverages. “Recently we had a to-die-for filet mignon for $6 at a place around the corner,” says Armand.

A Tropical Retirement in Panama for $1,000 a Month

Lying in the Arco Seco, little Las Tablas is Panama at its best. This town of under 30,000 people lies on the Azuero Peninsula, a region renowned for everything from colorful Carnival celebrations to artisanal textiles, pottery, and leatherwork. Life in this region of Panama is good. It is graced with more sunny days and less humidity than any other part of the country. And the cost of living is the lowest in Panama: Here, a couple can easily live on $1,000 a month, including rent, as expats Joyclyn and Armand Brodeur have found out. Originally from St. Louis, the Brodeurs came to Las Tablas in August 2014 to test-drive their Panama retirement, so to speak. Armand, 66, and Joyclyn, 59, long yearned for a tropical, beach lifestyle. At the same time, they wanted to choose a place where it was possible to live on a social security check.

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In Photos: Pick Your Perfect Beach in Panama

For a tiny country, Panama offers a lot of choice—city living, mountain hamlets, and more beaches that you might realize. Despite having both a Pacific and Caribbean coast, a host of affordable flights from the U.S., and stellar infrastructure, Panama’s beaches aren’t overrun by big resorts. Each little beach town has its own personality, so no matter your taste or budget, you’ll find a beach town to suit you. Just an hour’s drive west of the nation’s capital, on the Pacific Coast, you’ll find the beach town that’s favored by expa

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“Why I Chose Panama”

Crackle! Pop! Fizz! It isn’t my morning cereal talking to me. It’s midnight on February 14, and the sound of fireworks has us all running to the balcony. Over Panama Bay, we watch flower and star-shaped formations explode into the night sky, then cascade into the Pacific. Back in the States, Valentine’s Day would hardly be cause for such jubilation, but in Panama it is Carnival season. The dates change every year, so festivities can take place during the four days preceding Catholic Lent. One might say that Panamanians mark their calendars religiously, but Carnival is not about being good or saintly. Quite the opposite, in fact.

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From New York to Panama: Glamorous Living For Less

Film editor and producer Sarah Tyler was living in New York when she decided she was ready to say goodbye to grueling winters. “I also wanted the experience of traveling abroad and practicing Spanish,” she says. Sarah now lives in Panama City’s Casco Viejo sector, where she feels at home among the cobbled streets and colonial plazas that she loves. “It’s a neighborhood known for its beauty and historical value,” says Sarah. “There’s a great bohemian vibe thanks to the people that live and visit here—artists, wayfaring travelers, investors, and entrepreneurs from all over the world.”

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A Little Bit of Magic in El Valle, Panama

There’s a magical mountain town waiting for you to discover it. To get there, you turn off a busy highway onto an easy-to-miss little road that snakes up into the mountains. A couple hours ago, you were in a cosmopolitan capital studded with skyscrapers…but now you’re enveloped in a green rainforest cocoon. It feels a million miles away from the hurry of the city…

Panama City

Panama City’s Best Neighborhoods

When I started apartment hunting in Panama City almost a decade ago, I thought I knew what neighborhood I wanted to live in: the ritzy International Banking District, where the tallest skyscrapers face the sparkling Panama Bay. The area had undeniable cachet, and everyone I knew was living there. The district is in the heart of downtown, where you’ll find the best hotels, restaurants, shops, and more. Since 2009, new pedestrian walkways, green areas, and recreation facilities line the bay. On any given day you’ll see people jogging, buying fruit, or just sitting and enjoying the pleasant atmosphere.

Panama City

Sun, Sea, and Opportunity in One Country

Rosalind Baitel, 54, is bi-coastal. And by that I don’t mean she subjects herself to long flights to shuttle back and forth between expensive, crowded cities like New York and L.A. “We go to the beach most every weekend…it’s so close that even if we can’t stay the entire weekend, we can go for the day.” An hour and 40 minutes gets her from Panama City on the Pacific shore to the brilliant blue waters of the Caribbean. What she loves most about Panama City is that it’s a world capital…with amenities and entertainment to rival many of the world’s great cities.

Coronado

Why Isn’t Everyone Flocking to the Beach Town of Coronado?

I’m walking barefoot on volcanic sand that sparkles like diamonds in the sun…and the only sound I can hear is the soothing crash of waves on the shore. There’s no music or shouting from vacationers or revelers to break the silence…and I don’t have to step around chairs or towels or anything else. In fact, I have the beach almost to myself. There’s a girl jogging up ahead, and that’s it for today. You see, on Panama’s Coronado Beach, huge resorts don’t line the shoreline. There’s a small one a few minutes’ drive from the water, which also serves as a country club for the golfing enthusiasts who live here. But besides that, there are surprisingly few inns and hotels to be found.

Panama City

Live in Pine-Clad Mountains Close to Panama City

On the balcony of a Swiss-style cottage in Cerro Azul, I’m looking out over the mountains. The air is damp and cool—about 70 F—and there are thin wisps of mist around the hilltops. The land is densely populated with trees, most of them evergreens. It’s surprising, since I’ve just come from Panama City, where you’ll find tropical palms. So far I’ve seen hummingbirds and owl butterflies, smelled resinous pine and exotic jasmine, and heard the roar of howler monkeys in the distance. It couldn’t be more different from the sea-level city just under an hour’s drive from here. In fact, I’m reminded of where I grew up, in Oregon.

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