“Which is it like to live in the Highlands of Panama compared to Panama City?”


Having read your magazine, we have decided to visit Panama for a few months before hopefully retiring there.

Should be retire in one of the highland towns that you talk about or Panama City itself?

We would just like a better idea of what it is like to live there.

Which is it like to live in the Highlands of Panama compared to Panama City?



Jessica Ramesch – Panama Correspondent

Jessica RameschDear Sarah,

Thanks for your message.

Where to go? This is an intensely personal decision that only you can make. International Living Publications does its best to publish the kind of ultra-specific information you will find useful in judging which destination is best for you (based on your personal needs and wants) and making your decision.

It’s important to make a list of your needs and wants so you can evaluate and choose the right destination for you. Panama City and the popular highland town of Boquete are very different. Panama City is a true cosmopolitan capital and visitors who have seen other parts of Central America are generally shocked at how modern it is, from the upscale health care facilities to the many U.S. and European brands featured in supermarkets, malls and more. That said, Panama has one of the region’s fastest-growing economies and the burgeoning city can seem busy and chaotic, especially to first-time visitors. If you enjoy world-class cities for their restaurants, nightlife and cultural activities, then Panama City may be for you. The tropical weather is perfect for me—on average around 88F during the day and about ten degrees cooler at night. Most mornings are sunny…even during Panama’s May through November rainy season.

If however you prefer cooler weather and a small town atmosphere, Boquete may be for you. With temperatures ranging from about 65 F to 86 F, the Boquete region is all lush green valleys, rain forest parks, and rolling hills, with small towns where one can find a cute little hostel or buy strawberries and cream. The growing city of David is just a 35-minute drive away and offers many alternatives for shopping, medical care, and more. Though the expat community in Boquete is as active as Panama City’s, you won’t find as much in the way of high culture—no opera house, large museum, or even a movie theater. But if you enjoy socializing with other expats, small events, and outdoor activities, it is impossible to be bored here. In fact many expats say there are so many gatherings and sights to see they find themselves spoiled for choice. With its mountain views and natural beauty, Boquete is a gem, but of course no place on earth is perfect. Boquete is generally wetter than Panama City, with a misty rain liable to fall at any time of year, and downpours during the wettest months (generally August through November). You can’t have a rainforest without rain!

Linda Card – Panama Correspondent

Linda CardHi Sarah,

Thanks for your inquiry and interest in Panama. It is a small country but offers much diversity in geography as well as lifestyle.

Panama City is our only metropolitan city with a population of almost 2 million. It’s very cosmopolitan with everything you might need or want: nightlife, shopping, museums, parks and great neighborhoods. It is a busy place and great for those who prefer city living, including traffic and a higher cost of living. It’s convenient for travel, with Tocumen Airport right there. And while there’s no actual beach in the city, it is right on the water so it feels open along the shoreline and the popular beach towns such as Coronado are about an hour away to the west.

Outside of the city there are a few highland towns across Panama that all share a more rural environment, cooler climate due to their elevation, and more relaxed lifestyle. Among these, Boquete in western Chiriquí Province is the most popular, featuring beautiful rainforest scenery and a large, active expat community. The smaller highland towns of El Valle, Santa Fe, Volcan and Cerro Azul also offer tropical forest scenery in a tranquil setting. The cost of living may be a bit lower in these areas, but the nice thing is they’re still only an hour or so from nearby beaches.

So the real question for you is which lifestyle and environment (city vs. country) do you prefer? One way to make a choice is to come to Panama and rent for a few months in one location, then move to another place for a few months. Take your time, look around and decide which feels right for you.

I hope this helps and hope you have a great visit to Panama.

Best regards,


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