Located on the Pacific Ocean in the Azuero peninsula, in the Los Santos province of Panama, Cambutal is a small village about five-and-a-half-hours’ drive from Panama City.
Most tourists visiting Panama head to the beaches not far from Panama City on the Pacific coast, or Bocas Del Toro on the Caribbean coast to enjoy surfing, swimming, and fishing. But, the lesser-known Cambutal is well worth a visit for its remote beaches and tranquil atmosphere.
Retire in Cambutal
Cambutal is a remote village surrounded by rolling countryside, with pristine black-sand beaches and good surfing. The village is home to a mixture of mostly Panamanians, and about 20 full-time, and 20 part-time expats, some living near the beach, and others in the surrounding hills. It is preferable to have a good level of Spanish in Cambutal, but it is not uncommon to hear English spoken in the hotel and restaurant areas.
Many people living in Panama City come to Cambutal to relax or enjoy outdoor activities.
The beaches in Cambutal offer good surf breaks, ranging from beginner to advanced, and as fishing is popular here you are sure to see pangas launched from the shores in the early mornings. On some of the more remote beaches you will even see sea turtles lay their eggs on the sand.
The village borders the Nacional Cerra Hoya, Reserva Forestal Tonosi, and Reserva Forestal La Tronosa, large protected forests and jungle reserves for wild and endangered animals. This ensures the area will remain in its natural and undeveloped state for future generations. Due to the fact there are no paved roads to visit the waterfalls and secluded beaches during rainy season, a 4×4 vehicle and a guide are highly recommended.
Lifestyle in Cambutal
4x4s are popular for expats to drive into the interior where there are no paved roads outside of the village.
Cambutal is a fantastic place to retire if you desire a healthy, slower-paced life. People come here for the stunning scenery, clean air, no pollution, lack of crowds, and many outdoor activities. Favorite activities include off-roading in a 4×4 vehicle, riding horses, turtle hatching, or hiking to dozens of scenic areas and waterfalls.
The beaches are untouched and without wall-to-wall people to create noise or to block your views of the Pacific, so there is plenty of room to put down a blanket and enjoy.
There are no big-box stores in the village, but larger stores are only a one-and-a-half-hours’ drive away in Las Tablas.
The Hotel Playa Cambutal (www.hotelplayacambutal.net)—with 10 ocean-view rooms and a gorgeous refreshing pool steps from the water’s edge—and Hotel Casa Cambutal (www.casacambutal.com) are two very nice small hotels in the village, as well as the upscale yoga sanctuary, Sansara Surf and Yoga resort (www.sansararesort.com).
Cost of Living in Cambutal
There is not a lot of choices in real estate on, or near, the beach in Cambutal, simply because of the lack of available land. Away from the beach, you can still purchase up to 20 acres of land, which should have power, but you will most likely need to drill a well. The very close proximity of the mountains and the large volume of rain received can cause flooding in low-lying areas so it is important to choose your location wisely. Generally, home prices in Cambutal are lower than other beach areas in Panama, and you can purchase a very moderate home for around $200,000.
Purchasing fresh foods and eating out is very inexpensive in Cambutal, and several small restaurants provide good home-cooked meals. Restaurants also vary in terms of Italian, Chinese, and local Panamanian foods.
Lunch is usually under $5, dinners are usually under $10, and a cold cerveza is around $1. Most expats cook at home and go out once or twice a week.
For internet, most expats buy a package and, in some areas, due to the terrain, reception is limited. A couple can live on $1,500 per month in Cambutal.
Monthly Budget Breakdown for a Couple in Cambutal:
|Rent (two-bedroom home)||$500 to $800|
|Electricity||$20 to $50|
|Water/trash pickup||$5 to $20|
|Propane for cooking, hot water, & dryer||$5 to $10|
|Supermarket (with one trip to Las Tablas)||$300 to $400|
|Dinner out (two people four times a month)||$100|
|Phone (cell phone, mostly local use)||$60|
|Internet (depending on usage)||$40|
|Gas for vehicle||$80|
|Bus to Las Tablas (twice a month)||$30|
|Total||$1,190 to $1,640|
The allure and charm of Cambutal, and the reason people choose to live here, is the proximity to the ocean, simple lifestyle, stunning scenery, and very low cost of living.