Growing up in a small, rural town in Northern California, I learned to appreciate the wide open spaces, the smell of fresh fruit and vegetables sold in weekly farmers’ markets, and the friendliness and helpfulness of neighbors and community. After a hectic professional life of developing communities and contributing to urban sprawl, I looked forward to a retirement life that took me back to my roots.
Volcan, in the highlands of Panama’s Chiriquí province, is just such a place. Having discovered this little piece of paradise three years ago while driving around Panama, I was hit with an “Aha, this is the place” moment.
It’s small enough to be friendly and laidback, yet large enough that I have almost everything I need for day-to-day living. Volcan has spring-like weather all year long, fresh fruit and veg are to be found at roadside stalls, and it’s a community with heart and civic pride. All the things I was looking for in my retirement.
Each morning I’m greeted by roosters crowing, cows mooing, birds singing, and horses neighing. I often watch my neighbor, Beto, milk his cows and return to my house with fresh, warm, organic milk, which I then turn to butter, cream or yogurt. Trucks of produce fill the streets and people bustle to shops, quilting classes, and garden club meetings.
Late afternoons usher in the bajareque…a mystical mist that falls and moves between mountains, valleys, and towns. And with it comes beautiful double rainbows.
The cost of living in Volcan is affordable…comparing the costs here to my old life in California actually makes me laugh aloud. To build a new 2,300-square-foot house in California for under $120,000 is inconceivable, yet here in Volcan it’s achievable. If you’re thinking of renting, a three-bedroom, two-bathroom home here costs about $850 per month.
Because of Volcan’s climate, there’s rarely a need for heating or air conditioning, so energy costs are under $20 per month. Healthcare is also reasonable, with a typical doctor’s appointment costing between $40 and $50 per visit. High-speed internet is available in most areas of town at an average cost of $45 per month and a gardener and housekeeper costs about $20 a day each.
While most of the things you’ll need for day-to-day living can be found in Volcan, there are a few things we don’t have like theatres, shopping malls, gated communities, and a wide variety of gourmet restaurants and shops. But for all those things, David is a short drive away. The 45-minute bus ride costs $3 or you can get a taxi for $35. Weekly trips to David are the norm but at the moment I’m in the process of constructing a new home, so my trips down the hill are more frequent.
Volcan is a growing town. Panamanians and expats looking to find tranquility and a comfortable retirement in a perfect-weather paradise are flocking to the area. In the shadow of the magnificence of Baru Volcano, they’re lured here by the beauty of the area, the affordable cost of living, and a friendly and helpful community.
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