“Our day starts relaxing with coffee outside while we watch our dogs run around,” says Wayne Lebelle. “When we feel ready to start the day, I go to my workshop and Christine does some gardening. It’s a pretty chill lifestyle.”
Wayne and his wife, Christine Small, live in the small town of Pedasí—a beach lover’s paradise on Panama‘s Azuero Peninsula. Having lived in Connecticut for many years, Christine and Wayne were drawn to this Pacific coast paradise by the lush tropical greenery and spectacular climate.
“The constant breezes through the dry season make it really comfortable,” says Christine. “I love the rainy season too. Rarely does it rain so much that you can’t get anything accomplished. It may rain every day for several days in a row but there is always a nice break with sunshine—I’ve never seen so many rainbows in my life.”
Their new life started off with a land purchase on the edge of town. Wayne drew upon his construction background and built their house on that land. He also built a rental casita, which Christine manages. Their rental provides them with enough income to cover the bills with a little leftover for spending cash. After building their home, Wayne decided to put his woodworking skills to use and now builds furniture for many of the town’s expats.
Christine and Wayne live comfortably off their income in Pedasí—budgeting about $1,500 a month for both of them. “We go out to eat about once a week and are lucky to have so many options in town,” says Christine. “A nice dinner with wine, appetizer, main, and dessert for two costs about $50 at Segreto—one of the finer Italian restaurants in town. We love it there. They give you a nice plate of olives and bread to start, and a free glass of Limoncello to top the night off.”
Pedasí also has a variety of affordable dining options on offer. At local expat hangout, Smileys, lunch can range from $4 to $10; where you can get a burger and fries, tacos, spaghetti, or a pulled pork sandwich as the lunch special of the day. And there’s always one of the local fondas (a small restaurant) serving $3 comida del dia, or food/meal of the day—usually a delicious, filling meal of rice, lentils, and either chicken, fish, or pork.
On the days they don’t feel like working, they don’t. Pedasí is an ocean playground providing countless surfing and fishing hotspots, and land-lovers can enjoy horseback rides, zip-lining, and miles upon miles of secluded beaches to walk.
“We take the dogs to one of the beaches at least once a week,” says Christine. “There are so many miles of sand for them to run around on, and at low-tide it’s even better. The hardest part is deciding which beach to go to!”
“Or we drive out to Playa Venao, have a few beers, and watch the surfers.” says Wayne. “The fishing is great here too. It’s nicknamed The Tuna Coast. But if the tuna aren’t running, it’s still just nice to be out on the open water.”
“One of my favorite things to do is get a group of friends together and head over to nearby Isla Iguana for a day of snorkeling and hanging out in the calm, clear water,” says Christine. “We pack coolers, chairs, and blankets and spend a good portion of the day there. Los Vientos beach club is another favorite spot with their infinity pool overlooking the ocean, cool music, and a nice relaxed vibe. And metal detecting on the various beaches is a lot of fun, although Wayne hasn’t come back with a bag of gold yet!”
But they don’t just spend all their days chilling out on the beach. Christine volunteers with the local Animal Advocates charity. And while visiting family stateside, Wayne decided to buy a truck and ship it back to Panama. But this is no ordinary truck. It’s a racing truck, which Wayne drag races near Panama City, providing the couple with a mini-vacation in the city for some fast fun.
“We just love the life we’ve created here,” says Christine. “We love the tropical climate, the beaches, the lush greenery, but mostly the people. Everyone is so friendly here and not in a huge rush.”
In Panama, you’ll find a better quality of life on offer for less.
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