By Jim Gault
In the Los Santos province on Panama’s Azuero Peninsula, nestled among large farms and cattle ranches, is the small town of Las Tablas. From here, Panama City is just a four-hour drive, and the Pacific Ocean is close by, which offers some of the best sport fishing in Central America.
Las Tablas’ welcoming sign greets new arrivals
Las Tablas is famous in Panama for being the cradle of folklore and traditions and as the epicenter for street celebrations. During the Pollera festival which takes place in July, hundreds of women wear elaborate handmade dresses and dance in the street to festive Panamanian music. The country’s most famous Carnival festival takes place on the four days preceding Ash Wednesday. As you’d expect, all festivals involve plenty of music, dancing, street food, fireworks, and drinking.
Retire in Las Tablas
Las Tablas has local hospitals, dentists, and shopping. And 30 minutes away in the town of Chitre there is two larger hospitals and several larger supermarkets.
This area typically appeals to people who prefer a simpler, traditional lifestyle, with amenities close by, and a lower cost of living. Few people speak English here and you can expect signs and menus to only be in Spanish….so if you considered living here it’s a good idea to brush up on the language.
The main attraction of Las Tablas is its authentic culture, which is still very much intact. Generally, Las Tablas is not on the radar of most foreigners. In fact, only about 20 expats live in the town, with another 20 living nearby. This is a small proportion of the population given that Las Tablas has several thousand residents. There is, however, a more robust expat community in nearby Pedasí, which is only 25 miles away.
Lifestyle in Las Tablas
Las Tablas is a friendly town–people are sociable and doors are always left open. Folks here tend to value friends and family, especially the elderly, and there is great respect for traditions, customs, and folklore. There is no organized expat community in Las Tablas as the expats prefer to fully integrate into the local community.
Las Tablas has several good restaurants, including Dolce & Saladito, La Maestra, and Restaurant Mama Pina, which have friendly and helpful staff. But, if you want an American fast food meal, McDonald’s just opened a few months ago. For your groceries, Super Carnes is an American-style store with low prices. Super Rosa is good for fresh meat, and local vendors sell fruit and vegetables out of the front from their trucks. You don’t need a car in Las Tablas, but if you need help getting all of your shopping home, taxis are plentiful and inexpensive.
The area is in a central location to visit several nearby Azuero peninsula attractions. The scenic road over the mountains to Tonosi and the remote beaches of Cambutal offer beautiful day trips. Just 30 minutes from Las Tablas and a 20-minute boat ride off Playa Arenal is Isla Iguana, in Pedasí. A National Wildlife Refuge, this small white-sand beach is lapped with turquoise waters good for snorkeling. The island is also home to thousands of hermit crabs and hundreds of green and black iguanas, as well as a vital nesting ground for frigate birds and sea turtles.
Real Estate in Las Tablas
Typically, homes in Las Tablas are about 1,100 square feet with one or two-bedrooms and a bathroom. Due to the low saturation of expats, property prices are relatively low here. Near the main area of town, lots can be purchased for $10 to $15 per square meter. A three-bedroom, two-bathroom home and a lot, with parking, can be bought for $50,000 to $70,000.
Currently, there are four new North America-style developments being advertised as starter homes. With no appliances, air conditioning, or landscaping included, prices start at $60,000.
New housing developments in Las Tablas
Just a 15-minute drive from Las Tablas, a beachfront house on beautiful Uverito can be bought in the $155,000 and up range .
Be advised, if you are considering buying property, only purchase titled property and use a good real estate agent.
Uverito beach is 15 minutes from Las Tablas town center
Cost of Living in Las Tablas
Generally, the cost of living in Las Tablas is lower than other places in Panama. Below is a monthly budget for a couple.
|Rent (three-bedroom apartment)||$350 – $600|
|Electricity||$30 – $150|
|Gas||$5 – $10|
|Cell Phones (x2)||$35|
|Groceries and Household Items||$400|
|Internet||$25 – $35|
|Dining Out (four meals out for two people)||$100|
|Total||$975 to $ 1,360|
If you prefer traditional living, with amenities close by, a low cost of living, and a warm local community, then Las Tablas is worth considering.