Which coastal areas in Panama should we consider retiring to?

My husband & I will be travelling to Panama in September to have an initial look as to whether we would like to retire there. As my husband is a scuba instructor we would like to look at coastal areas. My question is where should we be looking?

Linda Card - Panama Correspondent

Hi Jaci,

As you know, Panama has coastal communities on both the Pacific and Caribbean, and they are quite different.

On the Caribbean, the main destination is Bocas del Toro, where scuba diving, snorkeling, surfing and boating are prevalent. It's a water-based area so local transport is via boats and some costs are higher as a result. Ferries and water taxis run non-stop. There's a well-established expat boating community in Bocas that you could easily tap into if you visit by going to the local marinas.

On the Pacific the main locations for diving are the Azuero Peninsula around Pedasi, Veraguas Province off of Santa Catalina, and the Bay of Panama in the Pearl Islands.

The Azuero is part of the Arco Seco, or Dry Arch, where there is less rainfall than other parts of the country. Numerous beaches, islands, reefs, and marine parks make this area ideal for scuba and other water sports. It's easy to reach by car or plane, and has a growing expat community

Santa Catalina is more remote and less developed. It may not be the best place to live, but it is the access point for Isla Coiba, one of the best diving locales in the world.

The Pearl Islands lie just off of Panama City and are reachable by ferry or plane. This area is more of a vacation/resort destination and may also be too undeveloped to be a good retirement spot.

You might consider getting a copy of the Escape to Panama book to help your research. It's an invaluable resource chock full of info you won't find elsewhere. It's available here: https://www.ilbookstore.com/Panama/

Good luck with your research, Linda

Jessica Ramesch - Panama Correspondent

Hi Jaci,

Coronado is one of the most popular expat destinations in Panama (the most popular beach destination for resident expats). However, it is not a diving beach...I am not a diver myself but I don't think anyone dives anywhere along that coast. But yes, it is popular because it's only an hour from Panama City...budget another 30-60 minutes to get to the airport which is at the eastern edge of the city (Coronado is west of Panama City), depending on traffic. There is a small airport about a half an hour west of Coronado, at Rio Hato, but at present it receives only charter flights, not commercial.


IL Panama Editor Jessica Ramesch