In the western highlands of Panama, in the Chiriquí Province, is a little mountain town that has many smitten—Boquete.
There’s a lot to like and many benefits that have made it a favoured destination of retirees and other expats.
Perhaps it’s the small-town vibe that first draws you in. It’s the type of place where you can stroll down the main avenue and see a half-dozen friends (it might take you quite a while to run errands with so many conversations to be had). The expat group in Boquete is tight-knit, with many dinners out, house parties, clubs and other events that bring people together. And you never know when you pass through the park in the village centre whether there might be a municipal or folkloric celebration.
The scenery—dramatic and full of natural beauty—is another draw. Tree-covered Volcán Barú looms above the region, which is mountainous and hilly, cut with canyons and valleys, one of which contains the town. It’s an agricultural region overall—the breadbasket of Panama—with fields and pastures interspersed with forests.
Set at an elevation of 1,188 metres, the climate in Boquete is temperate…many say spring-like…year-round. Temperature-wise you’re looking at highs in the 20s C, cooling off to the mid-teens C at night. Perfect sweater weather…and great for sleeping with a blanket. There is a rainy season here (roughly May to November); it is the tropics after all. And that means you can get some windy and rainy days. For the most part, rain starts in late afternoon and lasts a couple of hours.
The influence of tourism and the expat population also ensure there are plenty of good places to eat in Boquete. There’s a range of cuisine, from the traditional Panamanian fonda offering local dishes for $7 a plate, to sports bar fare, Italian, Argentinian and more. A recently-opened microbrew pub, complete with food truck out front, has also become very popular.
And after dinner, you’ll want to stay in town as Boquete has live music many nights a week at several bars and restaurants. The annual Boquete Blues and Jazz Festival, organised by local expats, is a beloved institution that draws top artists from around the world.
A highlight of the week for many residents is the Tuesday market. Here you can buy produce, jewellery, baked goods, handcrafted textiles and more. Many of the vendors are expats trying out cottage businesses, but you’ll also find local farmers and artisans. And it’s not just a place to shop—you chat with friends and catch up on the local happenings around town. It’s a community gathering place.
Boquete is also only a 30-minute drive down the mountain to David—Panama’s third largest city—on a well-maintained, four-lane road. This provincial capital has large grocery stores, shopping centres, a large hospital, warehouse shopping club for buying in bulk (like Costco) and many other essential services. Many Boquete residents head to David for shopping trips a few times a month for items and ingredients just not found in the smaller shops of Boquete. They might also combine that with a trip to their specialist doctor or the dentist.
There’s also an airport in David with daily flights to Panama City, which is a hub for Latin American travel.
You’re also not too far from some of the prettiest beaches in Panama at Boca Chica and Las Lajas, which are just 45 minutes from David’s town centre. Picture a tropical island, virtually undeveloped. Just jungle and sand. A perfect getaway within an easy day trip of Boquete. You get the mountain life, with a steamy beach escape close by.
With all this to offer, it’s no wonder Boquete is on the radar for so many expats.
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