Santa Fe is an authentically Panamanian town. Up in the highlands of the province of Veraguas, here you’ll find lush-green hills staggered across the horizon while rainbows streak the powder-blue skies.People are friendly—they will greet you nonchalantly as you pass by—and the houses are traditional style—angled wooden roofs, pastel-colored walls, and small rooms. From up here you can enjoy vistas of rolling green country and looming mountains.

There are only about 3,200 inhabitants and the industries are preserved from past times. Master craftsmen make mejoranas—handcrafted Spanish guitars that you can pick up for under $100. Santa Fe is known around Panama for its orchids and you can visit gardens to see over 300 varieties of exotic flowers. In August of each year there is even a festival for the celebrated orchids.

Wildlife is varied and abundant here. Iridescent toucans are to be seen. The 70,000-hectare Santa Fe National Park is loaded with pristine rainforest which you can explore with a guide or on horseback. Hire an inner tube for just $5 and take an exhilarating journey down the Rio Bulabá. Stroll around the numerous rivers, streams, and waterfalls and soak up the purity of the air and richness of the scenery.

Coffee is part of the local culture and you can see how they grow the rich, steaming brew on a tour of a coffee plantation. For budding ornithologists, bird watching is a joy in this lush forest-laden wilderness and Cerro Tute is a perfect place to take in the stunning valley panorama.

Retire in Santa Fe, Panama

Retire In Santa Fe

Retiring in Santa Fe is soon going to become more popular. This is because life here has the ideal balance between tradition, heritage, nature and modernity.

The modern conveniences of the Internet go hand in hand with old trades of guitar-making and coffee growing. Life here is also affordable and you’ll see your money go farther. A couple could live comfortably on $800 a month if they own their home, and furnished homes rent for as little as $475 a month. You can grab a warm breakfast for $3 or a beer for just $1.

The temperate climate is a bonus, too. Warm in the day and cool in the evening. This is because Santa Fe is located at around 1,400 feet above sea-level. In the morning you can see the wispy mist settling over the jungle-clad hills before the sun evaporates it.

Life here is more holistic and in tune with nature. The coffee is fresh and intense, the fruit and vegetables are more flavorful, and the people are friendlier. Days here are meant to be spent strolling along river banks, lazing around, watching diverse flora and wildlife. Plus a pensionado visa will grant you discounts on meals (15%-25%), hotels (30%-50%), medical check-ups (20%), and prescriptions (15%-20%)…as well as many other benefits.

Retirees here enjoy a low cost of living, a friendly community, and a relaxed lifestyle in a lush, unspoiled tropical setting. Nature lovers hike the mountain trails. Gardeners harvest their home-grown vegetables. Artists are inspired by the beauty that surrounds them. Animal enthusiasts explore on horseback and spot exotic birds. It’s country-living at its best!

Lifestyle in Santa Fe, Panama

Lifestyle In Santa Fe

Life in the secluded yet vibrant town of Santa Fe is mellow and serene. The warm, moist climate of the highlands and the mind-boggling biodiversity that envelopes this place are relaxing and exciting all at once.

You’ll be charmed by how effortlessly kind and welcoming the locals are. Their timeless culture remains intact and they are happy to see new faces. A few dozen expats have made their homes here, from all over the globe. Some have built their dream retirement homes and others have created small businesses, from farming, to freelancing via internet, to hosting guests at a B&B.

The town has many of the amenities you might desire without having a developed feel. You will find restaurants, bars, and shops here. Internet service is reliable. The city of Santiago is just an hour’s drive away if you need a trip to the metropolis, and you don’t even have to own a car. Buses run between Santa Fe and Santiago frequently, providing safe and affordable transportation.

The fresh coffee is heavenly and the organic local produce will make for a healthier lifestyle in Santa Fe. There are plenty of activities to pass the time: Meanders through the hills, by the rivers and waterfalls, nature-spotting trips to the Santa Fe National Park, white-water rafting, inner tubing, bird-watching, and visits to the coffee plantations and orchid gardens.

Real Estate in Santa Fe, Panama

Real Estate In Santa Fe

Real estate in Santa Fe is reasonably priced. You can rent or purchase on a limited budget. Here are some examples of properties that we have found:

  • A remodeled house on a nearly 1.5-acre lot in the El Alto neighborhood. The 1,200-square-foot home is very private, and has 360-degree views of the mountains, along with two bedrooms, two bathrooms, and a large terrace. Price: $99,000.
  • A new two-bedroom, two-bathroom home just off the main highway in a development on a 2,600-square-foot lot. Its “backyard” is the Santa Maria River and its banks…one of the most soothing wooded settings you could possibly have. Price: $175,000.
  • A two-bedroom, two-bathroom, furnished house is available to rent. The home is in a quiet neighborhood a five-minute walk from the town center. There’s a small thatched “gazebo” to hang hammocks and the property is enclosed by a pretty stone wall. Monthly cost: $500.
  • A fully-furnished house (featuring the caña blanca or white cane) in the heart of the village of Santa Fe. It’s on the “expensive” side because it has artistic mosaic work on the floors, three large bedrooms (one has a balcony), two bathrooms, and flower gardens with terrace and fountain. Monthly cost: $650.

Cost of Living in Santa Fe, Panama

Cost Of Living In Santa Fe

The cost of living in Santa Fe is very affordable. A couple could live comfortably on a monthly budget of $800-$1,000. About 200 miles west of Panama City, Santa Fe is the kind of place where you don’t need a car…a horse will do. Don’t have a horse? No worries… buses and taxis are close by and inexpensive.

In this rural town, bottles of water are still 75 cents, $2.50 will get you a glass of wine, and $3 will get you lunch. A large bag crammed full of the freshest produce costs $5. One pound of the rich locally grown coffee, Café Tute, will set you back $5.50.

And as for utilities, you’ll never need to pay to heat or air-condition your home, and monthly water bills rarely exceed $3. Reliable internet service runs about $30 and furnished homes rent for as little as $475 a month.

Enjoy a Better Quality of Life in Santa Fe, Panama

living in sante fe panama

Mitzy and Bill Martain moved to  Santa Fe, Panama from North Carolina in search of a simpler, yet better lifestyle. “Our standard of living had deteriorated,” says Mitzy. “We lost our pensions and our medical, and were going to have to survive on social security.”

In contrast to these stark words, Mitzy today is the picture of contentment, shelling peas on her tidy, sun washed porch as she shares her story (and her fresh brewed coffee).

Not the type to surrender to a grim fate, Mitzy thought a move might be the solution.

They were no strangers to exploring overseas; Mitzi lived in Ecuador during her time as a Peace Corps volunteer and trainer, while Bill had traveled extensively in Mexico. Both had learned Spanish and were familiar with—and much enamored of—Latin culture. And both heard good things about Panama.

“We bought some land in Capira (about an hour west of Panama City), but it was a remote piece of land without even any electricity. We realized that the lifestyle…frontier living…wasn’t exactly what we wanted,” says Mitzy. So the couple sold the property and set out to find a region in Panama that would better suit them. “We considered the beach areas around Coronado and even stayed for a few months,” says Mitzy. But she wanted something quieter and smaller.

From the Archives of santa fe

The Cheapest Places to Retire: Five Towns Where You Can Live Better For Less

The Cheapest Places to Retire: Five Towns Where You Can Live Better For Less

At home, prices are rising. It costs more to put gas in the car, buy groceries, and pay for health insurance. At the same time, retirement savings eroded in the market downturn. If you’re looking overseas for a low-cost alternative to an uncertain retirement at home, there’s good news. You can find it in places that offer not just “cheap” living, but a whole basketful of benefits, too—places where a mild spring-like climate is yours all year round…beaches are of powder-white sand…snow-capped mountains soar above colonial towns…and your costs could be as low as $1,000 a month.

The 5 Benefits of Living in the Mountain Towns of Panama

The 5 Benefits of Living in the Mountain Towns of Panama

Where to Retire
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November 26, 2015

Many expats and retirees are attracted to the mountainous areas of Panama, known as the highlands. From west to east, these are the towns of Volcán, Boquete, Santa Fe, Sorá, El Valle, and Cerro Azul. While each has its own distinctive features, they all share common traits that benefit those who live there. Here’s a look at the top five advantages of life in Panama’s highlands:

Perfect Weather and Healthy Living on One Social Security Check

Perfect Weather and Healthy Living on One Social Security Check

Daily Postcard
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August 13, 2015

The road leading to the town of Santa Fe de Veraguas climbs gently and steadily up the slopes of the Continental Divide, winding past cattle ranches, jungled hillsides and gurgling rivers. The bright blue roof of the Catholic church in the middle of town is one of the first sights you see. This church marks the center of town. Around it you'll find a soccer pitch, a shaded plaza with benches and a gazebo, and small stores and businesses along the main street.

8 Things to do in Santa Fe, Panama

8 Things to do in Santa Fe, Panama

By |
April 23, 2015

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.

Santa Fe: Panama’s Little-Known Highland Town

Santa Fe: Panama’s Little-Known Highland Town

Daily Postcard
By |
February 21, 2014

My adventures in pursuit of stories have taken me to strange and wonderful places. The spice-scented bazaars of Istanbul were memorable, as were the breweries of Dusseldorf on the banks of the German Rhine. I have haggled with gypsies, queried stamp investors, "borrowed" a speed boat to check out real estate, and handled shotguns in London worth $100,000 each.

Panama’s Highland Towns – One Popular, One Unknown

Panama’s Highland Towns – One Popular, One Unknown

In much of Panama, sultry tropical days average 88F...but there are places where you can experience more temperate weather. Think mild and breezy—up to 10 degrees cooler (or more, when the sun's not out). Places where rain will be your biggest concern...where there's no hail, or snow, or hurricanes either. The most popular is the mountain town of Boquete, located in the Province of Chiriquí.

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