Santa Fe is a lovely rural village in the highlands of Veraguas Province of central Panama. With a population of around 3,200, it truly has a small town feel and charm. With an elevation of around 1,500 feet, is also boasts a near-perfect climate. The daytime high temperature ranges from 75° F to 85° F and at night it cools down to 65° F to 70° F. These traits attract Panamanians seeking relief from the heat of the lowlands and foreigners seeking a slower pace of life in a mountain setting.
There are many low-cost places to retire to in Panama. For those who enjoy the slower pace of rural living, Chiriquí Province, where I live, offers a delightful climate, easy convenience, and a quality lifestyle in an affordable retirement destination. While the city of David offers all the amenities of a good-sized city and the town of Boquete is a favored expat haven, some of the smaller towns in the area combine access to these desirable features with a lower cost of living. Dolega is one such small town in Chiriquí Province in western Panama. The four-lane highway that runs north and south between David and Boquete runs right through Dolega, so it’s easy to find. A new pedestrian overpass marks the main turnoff into town, at the Municipal Palace, shaded by a gigantic mango tree. Dolega is the administrative seat of the district of the same name, which encompasses a total of nine towns such as Los Anastacios, Dos Rios, Los Algarrobos and Potrerillos.
Before settling in David in western Panama in 2009, I lived aboard my sailboat, Carina, for 16 years. My husband and I sailed the western Caribbean and we still have many friends among the cruising community. Although Panama has miles of coastline, it has few marine facilities for small boats. If you’re looking for a safe harbor to dock your boat in Panama, here are the stand-out marinas to visit.
This year marks the centennial of the opening of the Panama Canal, and celebrations are taking place throughout the year. The first boat to make the ocean-to-ocean transit of the canal was the SS Ancon on Aug. 15, 1914. Most visitors who come to Panama make a point of seeing the canal, usually at the Miraflores Locks just outside of Panama City, or the Gatun Locks, just west of Colon city. Personally, I can think of no better way to honor and enjoy this wonder of the modern world than to see it at eye level and take a boat trip on the Panama Canal. The complete transit takes about nine hours, passing through three sets of locks. There are a number of ways to do this, and no matter which one you choose it will be a memorable experience.
One of the bonuses of living in Panama is that you’re never very far from the coast. Surprisingly, most of the Caribbean and Pacific coastlines are undeveloped or even inaccessible.
"I'm glad we didn't have enough money to retire in the U.S." says Kris Cunningham, who moved to Panama with her husband Joel in 2012. "If we had, we would have missed out on our wonderful life here."
The first time I saw Chiriquí Province I was enchanted. Although I was born and raised in New Jersey, I’m a country girl at heart and Chiriquí felt like home. My husband Al and I had rented a car to tour Panama in our quest for a new place to live.
Some of the world’s best coffee is grown in the highlands of Panama, including the ultra-expensive Geisha variety. Low coffee bushes with shiny, dark-green leaves dot the hillsides of the volcano on numerous coffee plantations.
There are plenty of valid reasons to rent a home before you buy when you relocate overseas. For those who choose to live in Panama’s Western-most province, Chiriquí, one major reason is to check out the weather in various locations to find what suits you best. Despite being a small country in the middle of the tropics, you’ll find Panama has a variety of climate zones and even within the province there are variations in temperature, rainfall, wind, and cloud cover.
Santa Catalina is one of those out-of-the-way beach towns with its own quiet charm. As you walk through town along one of the two narrow streets you pass young men with their surfboards under their arms, headed for the break. Kids on bicycles roll past, avoiding a dog or two. The bus from Santiago arrives and a few backpackers get off, hoisting their loads as they're passed down from the top of the bus.