The Top 5 Panama Mountain Towns for Expats
A tourist friendly country with pristine beaches, majestic mountain views, and an affordable cost of living, Panama has so much to offer expats, including the mountain towns of Volcan, Cerro Punto, Boquete, El Valle, and Santa Fe.
While each of these towns has spectacular views, year round spring-like weather, and expat friendly communities, they each have something special that makes them unique.
First Stop, Volcan
Famous for its “eternal spring” climate, Volcan sits atop a plateau at 4,200 feet. And it’s not surprising that Volcan means volcano, since the large green mountain that provides the amazing backdrop for Volcan is in fact the dormant peak of Volcan Baru (the highest peak in Panama).
This quaint mountain village was first settled by indigenous people thousands of years ago and artifacts are still found in farmer’s fields to this day. While some Ngobe Bugle people still reside in Volcan, expats can mainly expect to find the same relaxed and laid-back way of life that you can find across the country.
There is an established expat community in Volcan and over the years many have opened hotels and restaurants, further expanding Volcan as a prime retirement spot.
Only twenty minutes from David, the third largest city in Panama, Volcan is perfect for those who are seeking the quiet, mountain town way of life, with urban amenities close by.
On to Cerro Punta
Located in the highlands above Volcan, 2000 meters above sea level, Cerro Punta is the agricultural center of Panama. The hypothetical bread basket of Panama, Cerro Punta produces nearly 80% of the fresh produce for the entire country, and due to the high altitude, Cerro Punta has a slightly cooler, some might even say cold, temperature.
The friendly people and the relaxed farming atmosphere provide Cerro Punta with that small village feel that is sought after by many expats and as you stroll through Cerro Punta you will see many local farms, gorgeous mountain ranges and Ngobe families dressed in colorful traditional garb.
Arguably the most popular expat spot in the province of Chiriquí, Boquete was rated by the AARP as one of the world’s top retirement spots. This popularity began in 2001 and as a result, you will find a well-developed expat community in Boquete today.
Only a 45 minute drive from David, Boquete is known for its misty rain (bajareque), coffee, and flowers, especially orchids.
Boquete is actually considered the flower capital of Panama and upon entry, you will be greeted by buildings simply covered with magenta and coral bougainvillea.
With fresh produce and seafood in abundance, Boquete promotes a healthy lifestyle for all who live there, and because of the low cost of living, a delicious dinner for four can be purchased for around $10.
Boquete also has a strong arts community with a yearly jazz festival and even an English language theater group.
Consider El Valle
The world’s only inhabited volcano, this mountain village remains close to the urban metropolis of Panama City while keeping its coveted small town atmosphere.
Known for its wind, water, rich volcanic soil, and perfect spring climate, El Valle attracts many people interested in eco-tourism and wellness vacations.
And even though the volcano has been dormant for 5 million years, many volcanic hot springs have surfaced, providing proof that there is definite volcanic activity happening underground.
Relaxed during the week, El Valle is alive with activity on the weekends as people come out of the woodwork to visit El Valle’s famous arts and crafts market. There is much to be seen at this massive market as the locals and the Kuna Yala Indians come out to sell their colorful wares.
Last Stop Santa Fe
Expats come to Santa Fe to experience a truly authentic taste of Panamanian living.
Because Santa Fe is smaller and not as developed, you can really experience the serenity of Panama mountain life. Sitting at an altitude of 1350 feet, you will find the same year round spring weather and sweeping mountain views in Santa Fe, but with fewer expat additions.
The expats here don’t tend to participate in as many group activities as they do in the other mountain towns, and while there are still many outdoor activities to experience, there are not as many tour groups.
In addition, housing in Santa Fe tends to cost less, and although it will be equipped with cable and internet, the facilities will definitely feel more traditional.
Which Panama Mountain Town is right for you?
Rich with all the wonders that drew you to Panama in the first place, but with little differences that make each town a unique experience, any of these five towns could be the perfect place to set up shop.
A land covered in volcanoes, rivers, and lush forests, with a laid-back way of life and a low cost of living, Panama and its mountain towns are definitely an expat friendly treasure to behold.
So plan a trip and hop around to each town as you search for that ideal place to call home.
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Hi, I’m interested in a hobby farm in the cool mountains May 1-Oct 31
A peaceful mountain community for myself (Jubilado) my 35 yr old daughter and a large Mastin Espanol (Spanish Mastiff)
Which areas of Panama have cooler, less humid temperatures and considered comfortable and safe places to retire (prefer areas with nature and beauty, not the hustle and bustle of urban life)? Thank you.
In the tropics at some 1300 feet, Santa Fe, Panama, will hardly be “springlike.” More or less officially, “tierra caliente” is from sea level to about 900 meters; “tierra templada” from 1000-1500 meters. At 1800 meters you’re in a transition zone to “tierra fria.” For instance, Mexico City at about 2200 meters is definitely “tierra fria,” but I can tell you that it can get quite hot as well as quite cold. Cuenca, at 2400 meters is also “tierra fria,” and rather than “eternal spring,” “eternal fall” is closer to the mark.
The absolute ideal is probably between 1200-1500 meters, with the humidity hovering in the 50’s. Too much rain, too dry, too windy, too cloudy, will of course take you away from the “ideal” to one extent or another. Hardly anywhere is perfect all the time, of course. Maybe certain spots in Hawaii and the Canaries, or the Azores, or even San Diego.
An important element for health and mood is sunshine [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sunshine_duration]. Ecuador, for instance is typically cloudy, while Mexico is quite sunny in comparison. Moderate but cloudy is usually not as attractive as moderate and sunny.
Costa Rica is supposed to have ideal weather (at least temperature-wise) in the central valley, but I understand that the rainy season is both long and not particularly pleasant. The Arenal area is supposed to be very windy at times. Where do you think is the “best” weather in CR?
Really ideal climates are quite rare, it seems.