Retire in Panama: Everything you need to know 2024

Retire In Panama
Playa Venao, Azuero Peninsula, Panama|Jason Holland

Cosmopolitan lifestyles complete with cultural events and world cuisine worthy of New York or London…. Palm-studded Caribbean beaches that somehow still manage to look untouched by humankind…. Rural towns where mango and avocado are falling off fruit-laden trees…. It can all sound too good to be true. But Panama offers all this and more—all you have to do is take a little time to get to know Central America’s tiny powerhouse.

International Living was one of the first publications to home in on the clear and concrete benefits of retiring to Panama. And to this day, you won’t find a country “overrun” by expat enclaves. There are active, engaged expats all over the country…from North America, Europe, and beyond…but they live alongside locals, in the same middle-class neighborhoods, beach towns, or even luxury gated communities. This is a common phenomenon in safe, welcoming countries where locals are accustomed to foreigners.

Retire in Comfort & Convenience in Panama

It’s not uncommon for visitors to Panama to experience something of a shock when they leave the airport known as the Hub of the Americas. Your first glimpse of the capital will in all likelihood feature shining skyscrapers lining the sapphire blue Panama Bay. And Panama’s beauty is more than skin deep. Take a closer look, and you’ll discover just why Panama is one of Central America’s most developed countries.

Panama has built its reputation as a world-class destination on a solid foundation that includes reliable infrastructure and modern amenities. So if you live in Panama, you’ll have access to familiar products and comforts from back home. And you’ll likely be able to splurge on more of life’s little luxuries because of lower costs on healthcare, insurance, transportation, entertainment, and more.

Though costs continue to rise—here and all over the world—Panama still offers nearly unbeatable value. In the capital, you can take the metro for under a dollar, sit and enjoy a cold beer for $2, and have a fish and shrimp dinner for $12. Outside the bustling capital, where many North American expats choose to live, life is even cheaper.

And life in Panama is active. You’ll find expat-organized activities in different towns across the country. They enhance a local landscape that features live music, outdoor adventures, English-language movies, and so much more. You may be wondering how you’ll fill your days when you retire…but expats in Panama have found it’s impossible to get bored.

Quality Housing & Healthcare

Are you interested in an ocean-view condo in Panama City…a building on the beach in a coastal community…or a Swiss-style cottage in the temperate mountains? In Panama you’ll find a wide selection of rentals and property for sale to suit every budget and wishlist. Opt for a bit of pampering or live like a local in simple digs…the choice is yours.

You’ll meet many an expat here enjoying the kind of lifestyle they always dreamed about but could never afford in the U.S., Europe, or Canada, where little luxuries like proximity to a beach come at much higher premiums.

Healthcare in Panama is perhaps the biggest—and most pleasant—surprise for most newcomers. The country’s major facilities are inexpensive and modern…not to mention the many smaller clinics that offer everything from competitive dental work to free eye exams.

Many Panamanian doctors have trained in the U.S. and speak English. Hospital standards, equipment, and techniques are on par with what you would find in North America or Europe. In fact, Panama City’s major private facilities have affiliations with prestigious U.S. hospitals (and yet they charge up to 50% less for similar services).

Ask any expat living in Panama today, and they’ll likely tell you that some of their biggest savings stem from affordable insurance—health, auto, and more. And then there’s the medication. Most drugs available in the U.S. can be found here…some of them without a prescription, which can save you even more time and money.

Panama’s Unparalleled Pensionado Program

In 1987, Panama’s government introduced the Pensionado program. To this day, it’s one of the world’s most popular retiree residence programs, with the most appealing benefits you’ll find anywhere in the world today. Not only does it allow qualifying “pensioner” expats to retire in Panama for as long as they like, but it also entitles members—or pensionados—to a wide range of money-saving discounts.

Pensionados in Panama get 10% to 50% off on everything from hospital visits to entertainment to travel…including flights back home from Panama! Even your restaurant meals are cheaper when you’re a member.

The Best Places to Retire to in Panama

In Panama’s best retirement destinations a happy convergence of natural beauty and modern amenities makes life easy and fun. Whether you’re looking to retire from your current job and “do nothing” or you just want to make a change, these locations are worth checking out.

The Best Places to Retire in Panama…While Staying Active

Expats of every age all have one thing in common: the desire to improve their standard of living (and spend less doing it). These days folks want to work less—if at all—and enjoy life more. And one place where this is easily done is the lush green crater valley known as El Valle.

Just a couple hours by car from Panama City, El Valle has long been a weekend and retirement destination of choice for Panama’s elite. It’s no surprise, then, that expat retirees discovered it and began to follow suit. Some of them have even opened small businesses—cafés, inns, bakeries—to cater to residents and visitors. Today, El Valle is known as a green tourism destination, with a variety of places to stay and plenty to see and do. That said, it has retained its small-town feel and appeal.

El Valle’s cool climate—it sits at an elevation of about 2,000 feet—is part of the draw. So is its friendly expat community. Favorite activities include trivia nights, expat-organized mixers (all are welcome), and more. Popular venues—where you’ll be likely to meet resident expats—include the Golden Frog Inn, El Camino del Inca Peruvian restaurant, and O’Pedro’s pub, El Valle’s unique take on the typical Irish pub.

Of course, there’s much more to life here than eating and drinking. This is a wonderland for lovers of the great outdoors. The waterfalls and ponds, the mountain trails, the hot springs…all this and more make El Valle a great place to stay active. The close proximity to Panama City…with its first-rate hospitals, malls, theaters, and more…doesn’t hurt, either.

Retire to Bocas: The Most Beautiful Beaches in Panama

If you’re looking for a beach adventure, then you may want to look to Bocas del Toro. The province’s famous archipelago features hundreds of islands, including Isla Colon. Here you’ll find a motley crowd of surfers and bohemian types, boaters—both in transit and in residence—and retiree expats from all over the world.

Despite the tropical rains that keep this part of the Caribbean lush and green all year long, many a visitor comes here to find they just can’t get enough of the turquoise-blue waters dotted with white sands and green rainforests. You could call Bocas beautiful, but that would be an understatement...

Plus, Bocas is always interesting and always fun. Take day trips to surrounding islands to enjoy the beaches, and at night there are dozens of cool places where you can enjoy the cool ocean breeze and a variety of cuisines. There are always new and interesting people to meet and the scenery never gets old. If you’re happy to weather the challenges of island living…dealing with tropical rain and importing most everything from the mainland are a couple of them…then the beauty of Bocas may just be hard to resist. (And if you prefer coastal living, Panama has plenty of mainland beaches worth your attention, as well.)

Never Bored in Boquete: Panama’s Best-Known Retirement Destination

Finally, there’s Boquete, home to Panama’s most famous expat community...and with good reason. Located in the Chiriqui Highlands, Boquete is an hour-long flight (or about a six-hour drive) from the capital. Just 40 minutes away via a neatly paved road is the growing city of David, where you’ll find hospitals, malls, restaurants, and much more. In fact, David is the capital of the wealthy Chiriqui province.

With elevations up to 4,000 feet, Chiriquí’s mountain region is known for its spring-like weather, myriad outdoor activities, and award-winning coffee and orchids. People walk a lot. There are more fresh veggie and seafood stands than fast-food places. Social activities for people of all ages more often involve movement—like dancing or horseback riding. Expats here will often tell you they lost weight without any conscious effort. And perhaps that shouldn’t come as a surprise. People here watch less television and spend more time outdoors. Eat less fast food and more fish and vegetables. They socialize more and find there are less reasons to get stressed.

It’s just the way things go here. There are so many groups and activities that Chiriquí boasts the only yearly jazz and blues festival outside of Panama City. There are two golf courses, three national parks, and countless other attractions. Just try and get bored. Most of the expats here say it’s impossible.

Common FAQ’s About Retiring in Panama

Is Panama safe for retirees?

Panama is one of the safest countries in Central America. That’s why it is home to thousands of expats and international businesses.

Does Panama welcome expats?

Panama’s easy-access residence programs show beyond a shadow of a doubt that this country is happy to welcome foreigners. Expats—many of them single—live in the same communities as Panamanians.

Where is the best place to retire in Panama?

Panama has many great options for retirement. Expats can choose between cosmopolitan lifestyles in Panama City, cool breezes and mountain views in Highland towns like Boquete, beach living in coastal regions like Coronado…and so much more. Whether your dream is to build an island hut or buy your very own coffee farm, Panama has something for you.

How much do you need to retire in Panama?

Panama offers comfortable lifestyles for less, with modern services and idyllic natural settings. A retired couple can live very well in Panama City for less than $3,000 a month, including rent. Buy your own apartment, and you and your partner can easily live here on as little as $1,500 a month. A single person could retire in Panama and live on $1,400 to $1,700 a month in a lush highland haven or a stunning beach community.