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Boquete Panama – Twice the Lifestyle But Not Half the Price

Boquete Panama rainbow

“You’ll never find rainbows if you’re looking down.” – Charlie Chaplin

Rainbows mean many things to many people.  To some they are merely a meteorological phenomenon.  To others, who subscribe to certain ancient myths, they serve as a bridge that connects humans to the gods.  To still more they represent the promise of God’s preservation.  In Irish folklore, the rainbow marked the hiding place for the leprechaun’s pot of gold.  It was a mythical place that, since the rainbow is an optical effect that depends on the location of the viewer, could of course never be found.  Or could it?

To residents of Boquete Panama, frequent rainbows are the product of the bajareque, a delicate drizzle that sometimes accompanies the north winds that blow down from the mountains.  The rainbows arch, often in multiples, over the Valley of Flowers and Eternal Spring, aptly named due to the town’s vast array of exotic flora and its balmy weather that rarely registers above 80 or below 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

Boquete Panama flowers

Situated in Panama’s highlands, Boquete is nestled into the lush mountains less than 40 miles from the border the country shares with Costa Rica.  Located in the Chiriquí Province, the town (actually a group of six smaller districts) sits on the Caldera River approximately a half hour drive from the capital city of David and 340 miles from Panama City.  Its elevation of almost 4,000 feet above sea level helps to alleviate the sweltering humidity experienced by some of its coastal neighbors.

Instead Boquete enjoys perpetual spring-like temperatures and breathtaking panoramic views of the surrounding mountains.  With a population of less than 20,000, about as many as New York’s Madison Square Garden can seat, residents of Boquete enjoy the small-town atmosphere that so many expatriates seek when leaving their native lands.

Boquete Panama

Just in case you need any further convincing…

Here are a few of the reasons Boquete, Panama, may be the best place for you.

Its location provides endless sources for adventure.

For the thrill-seeker, the mountains around Boquete offer opportunities for hiking, such as the Sendero de los Quetzales trail or the ascent to the top of the Volcan Baru, a dormant volcano that is also the nation’s highest point.  Rock climbing, zip lining, whitewater rafting, and horseback riding round out the list of other available action-packed adventures.

For the slightly more faint of heart, the above areas can also be explored by vehicle, although the country’s push for ecotourism would encourage exploration that leaves the least impact on the natural environment.  Also offered are more leisurely tours of the local coffee plantations and rain forests, as well as trips to the hot springs of the nearby Caldera River.

No matter what your preferred method of sightseeing, you needn’t venture far to enjoy the spectacular flora and fauna of Boquete.  The mountains and forests boast an array of flowers:  lilies, hibiscus, roses, carnations, sunflowers, and orchids.  The region is also home to over 900 species of birds, including the Resplendent Quetzal which was regarded as sacred by the ancient Mayans.

The climate is perfect.

Boquete Panama bird watching
Repeatedly named as a top retirement destination by groups such as AARP, Boquete, Panama, enjoys spring-like weather all year round.  Perhaps the only thing that differentiates the seasons is the rainfall that occurs during the summer (roughly May through October) and ceases during the winter months (November through April).  The combination of the moist climate and fertile, volcanic soil results in a rich agricultural bounty of coffee beans, strawberries, oranges, and much more.

Culture abounds.

The mountains around Boquete are home to the Ngobe-Bugle people.  This indigenous group is comprised of farmers and artisans.  They fashion chaquiras (bead necklaces), baskets, chacara (woven bags) and nahua (the garments of their native dress).  Likewise the Kuna people are famous for their bright molas, a colorful textile art form.

Boquete is home to a vibrant music and art community.  The Boquete Jazz & Blues Festival is the largest in the province of Chiriquí.  The Boquete Community Players, an expat theater group, was started to promote an appreciation of the arts and foster a sense of community among the expatriates.  The group recently opened its new venue alongside the Caldera River.  The organization also hosts the annual Chiriquí Art Expo.

Boquete’s arms are wide open to expats.

Boquete Panama concert

Panama’s Pensionado (Pensioners’) Program offers a lifetime visa for retirees, with little expense or hassle and no minimum age requirement.  Pensionados receive discounts of up to 50 percent on entertainment, 30-50 percent on hotels, 25-30 percent on transportation, 30-50 percent on hotels, 25 percent on restaurants, 25 percent on power and utilities, and 15 percent on hospital and private clinic services. 

Panama is pro-business and pro-investor.  The country also has favorable corporate and personal tax laws.  Foreign-earned income is not taxed, and new home purchases can be tax exempt for a certain number of years.

Others have already paved the way.

Due to an already-established community of expats, newcomers to Boquete will find many of the same conveniences they enjoyed back home.  Essentials such as cellular phone service and high speed internet are readily available.

Organizations such as Rotary International and Lions Club International have established chapters in the area.  These and many other philanthropic initiatives have been started by local expatriates.  Through Animales de Boquete, they strive to control the animal population and improve overall animal health.  A group called Amigos de Boquete feeds hundreds of local school children each day.  Another organization called Buenos Vecinos collects food and monetary donations to assist the hungry and elderly.

Boquete Panama street

It goes without saying that, no matter how spectacular the perks of a particular destination, it may not be everyone’s answer to the question “If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?”

Here are a few of the reasons Boquete, Panama, may be a better place for someone else.

The cost of living, while low, isn’t the lowest you’ll find in Central America or even Panama.

While still far less than the cost of living in the United Sates (60-70 percent less per some expats), the cost to live in Boquete, Panama, is higher than that of living in other mountain villages. However the old adage that ‘you get what you pay for’ may hold very true in this case.  The prevalent amenities and luxurious accommodations available in Boquete do not come without a price.

That being said, the cost of living is STILL quite low.  A modest 3-bedroom/2-bathroom home on a decent lot can be purchased for under $150,000.  To rent the same property would run you in the neighborhood of $800 per month.  A taxi will drive you across town for $1-2.  A haircut costs around $5, and dinner for two with a bottle of wine will set you back a mere $30.

Boquete Panama Real Estate

The mountains aren’t for everyone.  Say, for instance, a beach person.

While Boquete is not ON the beach, it is near it.  Panama is an S-shaped country that borders the Caribbean Sea on one side and the Pacific Ocean on the other.  Slightly smaller than the state of South Carolina, the country is 110 miles across at its widest point.  Boquete’s location lends itself to a view of both oceans from atop the Volcan Baru.  So what you sacrifice in proximity, you regain in panorama.

The mountainous terrain also makes Boquete somewhat of a difficult place to access.  Buses from David, the capital of the province, leave every 45 minutes.  Flights from Panama City to David range from $80-$100.  Taxis are available for local travel.  However, the city of Boquete itself is very pedestrian-friendly.  Also to be considered is the fact that the abundance of local businesses, such as grocery stores and even shopping malls, eliminates the need for frequent travel outside of town.

The well-established expatriate community may dishearten the would-be pioneer.

Those wanting to immerse themselves in the local culture, learn the language, and dress in authentic garb would have much preferred Boquete a decade ago.  Today there are almost as many expatriates as there are Panamanians.  Recent years have seen the addition of 1,000 homes, and the area now features over 10 gated communities.

map of boquete panama

On the flip side, this could also be regarded as a benefit to those who want to relocate to paradise without losing too many of the things to which they’re accustomed back home.  For instance, the dollar is the national currency of Panama.

So now, over 100 years since the city was first founded on April 11, 1911, Boquete, Panama, has become a mecca for international tourism and a magnet for refugees from all across the globe.  A bowl-shaped valley tucked into the mountains of Panama’s highlands, it is a true cultural melting pot and, until recently, one of the region’s best-kept secrets.  With a name that means “gap” or “opening” in Spanish, perhaps it’s no coincidence that the town was first founded by gold-seekers who were hunting a shorter and faster route to the Pacific.  Who knows?  Maybe those leprechauns were onto something.

boquete panama valle escondido

Whether it’s best suited for you or more appropriate for someone else, there is no doubt that Boquete, Panama, is indeed a treasure.  If Boquete is the home away from home of which you’ve always dreamed, we look forward to seeing you.  If your search for the destination of your dreams must continue, we wish you the best.  May the road rise up to meet you…

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19 thoughts on “Boquete Panama – Twice the Lifestyle But Not Half the Price

  1. 1

    ME GUSTA EL CLIMA , SUS MONTANAS Y EL COSTO DE VIDA NO ES MUY ALTO , PERO EL SEGURO MEDICO SI ES UN PROBLEMA.

  2. 2

    any added information on bouquete would be a big help i am considering moving there in a short time with my wife and son thank you

    • 3

      Everything you read is not true. The pensionado is not excepted everywhere. If you are white the price goes up. Example a taxi from David to Boquete Canyon Village is only worth $15.00 but the cabbie will try to charge you $25-$30 dollars. One cabby tried to charge us for gas after we already agreed on the price before even getting into the cab, always get the price first. Movies at 50% off is a joke they are all in Spanish. If you can not speak Spanish you get screwed every time. They call it miss comunication . They want money up front to buy parts say for anything house related and then never show up or the cel # doesn’t exist. We had a guy Olmedo build a vanity for us and 6 months later is still not done and he refuses to get back to us. And on and on it goes. The place is a dump, Why due you think they have gated communities. Because of theft and the cops are corrupt as well. Always want to be paid off for traffic tickets and will take whatever is in your wallet. They only pull over white people.

      • 4

        This is a pretty distressing report considering I have not heard any thing this negative on any other blogs or websites.
        I was under the impression Boquete was pretty clean and had good infrastructure. I want to leave behind the violence and overt gang violence present everywhere in the US, so I can tolerate petty crime as a trade off. Given the current issues with police here, I am not sure our situation is much better.
        Have you seen any improvement since this blog? I am going somewhere outside the US to retire, and all countries with a lower cost of living seem to have the same issues. Poverty is what makes the living cost low.
        Thanks.

  3. 5

    I live in Panama City and am thinking about selling strawberries here and therefore I need the name and email address of some strawberry growers, who can supply me.

  4. Cindy Van Alstine
    6

    I am considering moving to Boquete can you give me any information? Are there any nursing jobs around that area?

  5. 8

    How are the medical facilities rated in Boquete Panama? Cardiologist, etc. If not how close are they?

  6. 10

    I’m a USAF veteran with 40% disability. Aren there medical facilities for US veterans in David?
    If not, does local hospitals and doctors accept Medicare? What is the cost of private medical care?
    If we were to rent, what is the rental cost for a small house or good size apartment in a nice area or subdivision?
    Do you need a vehicle and how much will it cost to purchase a reliable SUV? Would it be better to ship ours from Florida?
    Can we live comfortably with $3,000.00/month in Boquete?
    Any information will be greatly appreciated.
    Anxiously waiting for your reply to our inquiries

    • 11

      Hi Louis, thanks for taking the time to comment. As a usual rule Medicare doesn’t usually cover health care outside the U.S. However, you can contact the American Embassy for the latest information. Private hospitals are available in David. Many require payment for services up front. Asking as much as several thousand dollars as a down payment if surgery is required. If living in David, you can get by on public transportation, perhaps in Boquete as well. But there is an add convenience of having your own vehicles. Rental prices vary greatly from location to location. What you might deem small, Panamanians might think as large, so we recommend coming down, staying 6 or so months and checking out availability. Generally speaking, rentals are less expensive in David.

  7. cecelia muhammad
    12

    Retiree thinking of visiting t what is 1 bedroom rental look like,

  8. 14

    Can US expats pensionados join the natural healthcare system? Is it expensive?
    Is there high speed internet and are utilities expensive?
    Also, is there a limit on how long you can be gone each year (for example visiting family in US or travel to other countries) and still be on the Panamanian Pensionados Programs?
    Thanks.

    • 15

      Hi Alton; No a US Expat cannot join the national healthcare system, however if you use the system, and you can, you need only to pay for the fees associated with your care. How much? Depends on what is being done, if you want to wait in lines, speak Spanish, and are willing to go through a few loops. However, private care, which often is the same doctors in the public system, is affordable and there are many health insurance plans to help with costs. High speed internet is available, but be warned, there are service interruptions. Electricity costs depend on your usage; running ac units 24/7, lots of electronics. Our house consumption averages $80. We do not run ac all the time (and it is hot at times). For more on the pensionado program visit here. Hope this helps!

  9. 16

    I think if you move out of the USA any and all tax subsidized program you are a part of should be discontinued. Why take tax dollars out of our own country? Think about it…..YOU CHOOSE TO LIVE ABROAD, USE YOUR OWN MONEY, KEEP AS MUCH OF OUR OUR TAX MONEY HERE. For heavens sake, our government is already throwing away our tax money overseas, corporations are already laundering there fair share of tax money. We need to stop the bleeding.

    • 17

      Michael,

      Medical is a benefit that you paid for over a period of years. Same with social security.

  10. 18

     How far away from town is the residence?
     Driving distance?
     Walking distance?
     How far away is the residence from a main walking road?
     Are buses available within walking distance? How often do they run? Cost?
     Are taxis easily available? Within walking distance? Cost?
     How close are the nearest neighbors?
     Are there any businesses close by? Such as a car shop, welding shop, bar or pool hall?
     Who is responsible for maintaining the property? If it is the tenant, is there is a reliable person to hire? How much might this cost and how often? Are tools provided to maintain the grounds? Weed wacker? Hedge trimmers?
     Are pets allowed? Any exclusions? Is there an additional security deposit for pets?
     Is the residence fenced?
     Are there outside security lights?
     Are there any security alarms installed? Video cameras?
     Is there any type of security system installed?
     Are security bars on windows? If yes, how many or are all windows barred?

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