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How to Transition to Island Life on Bocas Del Toro, Panama

Bocas Del Toro has become recognized as one of the most popular tourist destinations in Panama. The rich biodiversity of the area, the sparsely developed shoreline, and the plethora of islands in the archipelago entice expats and investors who are seeking to find a less stressful way to live and enjoy island life.

There is certainly a transition curve to living a “Robinson Crusoe” style of existence in Bocas Del Toro. Yet there is also a great deal of untapped potential in terms of real estate and commercial growth that adventurers may find compelling.

photo by Panapro

photo by Panapro

Bocas Del Toro Is a Work in Progress

Like many areas that are experiencing growing pains, Bocas Del Toro does have challenges that may not suit everyone’s idea of a tropical escape. Knowing what to expect (or not) before deciding to move there is a sound way of making such a life changing decision.

Electricity Is Not a Given

Unlike larger, more developed communities, Bocas Del Toro does not have a power grid as such. The town’s electricity is supplied by diesel-powered Caterpillar Olympic Ready-to-Run Generators. As one might expect, outages do occur – especially during heavy usage periods like Carnival celebrations.

For those whose lifestyle requires a regular, mostly uninterrupted source of electricity, this somewhat rustic power solution may prove to be a hard obstacle to overcome. For others, however, there is a kind of romance to living in a place where the pace of life isn’t measured by the kilowatt hour.

Welcome to the Tropics

Bocas Del Toro is located on the Caribbean side of Panama. The weather is tropical; hot and humid. The average daytime temperatures year round are in the mid to high 80s.  There are also two rainy seasons; May through August and December through the end of January.

When combined with the electricity status, air conditioning cannot always be counted on. Adjusting to the heat is something that could confound those who prefer a more moderate environment.

Limited Shopping and Services

What Bocas Del Toro has in abundance is beautiful shorelines, fantastic islands, and a great relaxed vibe. What the area is short on, however, are services such as banking, medical facilities, and shopping.

There is only one bank in Bocas Del Toro, the National Bank of Panama. The bank closes at 2:00 p.m. during the week (although it is open 9:00-12:00 on Saturdays), so planning ahead for any banking tasks is a good idea.

There are small shops and markets where you can find all your basic necessities. However, major items, such as appliances and electronics will require a trip to either Panama City or David.

There’s a definite trade-off between the rustic, laid-back Caribbean beach lifestyle and the amenities and conveniences of living in a faster-paced cosmopolitan city. You’ll have to decide if the loss of access to some consumer goods and modern conveniences is worth it.

Bocas del Toro  via Celine

Bocas del Toro via Celine

Investment Potential Is a Major Upside

The continued growth potential in and around the Bocas Del Toro archipelago promises a good return for investors looking to tap into the increasing popularity of the “Galapagos of the Caribbean.” Here are some great opportunities that are currently available, just waiting for those with a true entrepreneurial spirit.

Stunning Hotel on Isla Carenero 

Located on Isla Carenero, this 5000 ft. beachfront property, known as Vista Azul Lodge, could be the ideal vacation home, bed-and breakfast, or idyllic tropical hotel. With six en suite bedrooms, each with its own king-size bed, and terraces that overlook the blue Caribbean, the name “vista azul” is certainly well deserved.

Additionally, there is a loft bedroom with two double beds that could increase the total number of guests to 14. Visitors can snorkel right off shore, explore the lush 4+ acres that make up the grounds, or enjoy the private pier and over 500 feet of coastline. The long term prospect for profitability makes the $1,300,000 asking price a reasonable initial investment.

425 Titled Acres with Ocean View and Unlimited Investment Potential 

This parcel is for the entrepreneur who wants to dream big.  The 425 acres (172 hecatares) are fully titled and are being offered for $689,000. In addition to stunning vistas of Bocas Del Toro islands, Changuinola River, and the Caribbean Sea, this parcel includes five small rivers, two waterfalls and a rainforest teeming with biodiversity.

There are over five kilometers of internal roads, many cleared lots, as well as a dedicated rainforest preserve that encompasses 1/4 of the property. With over $800 million in infrastructure improvements in the area, along with two housing projects nearby, the potential to turn this into an eco-resort, ranch preserve, or another type of development is limited only by the imagination.

Authentic Piece of History

There are also a number of possibilities for restoring some of the original residences built by the United Fruit Company in the early part of the twentieth century. For those seeking to capture the sense of those bygone days, these properties could be a wonderful opportunity to own a part of history.

bocas del toro panama

S. McCallum

The Best Steps to Transition to Life in Bocas Del Toro

Knowing some of the challenges that await you as you look to finding your island dream can help you plan a course of action. Below are the best steps to begin your journey:

Set Realistic Expectations

When you realize that island living is a far cry from what you are used to, setting your expectations to include dealing with those differences can reduce the stress of adaptation.

Take Your Time

Remember that one of the big reasons island life was so appealing was that it was going to move at a slower pace. The flip side of that benefit is that things, like repairs, appointments, etc. are also going to be dealt with on a more casual basis. Take a breath, and remember you’ve got nothing but time…so enjoy it.

Become Part of the Community

One of the best ways to transition to any new living situation is to be willing to participate in your new community. As you become known to your neighbors and learn “how things work,” you will discover, one day, that you are no longer the outsider, but a part of the family.

Last, But Not Least…Don’t Lose Sight of Your Dream!

Island life isn’t for everyone; so congratulations if you’ve made the decision that this was a life path to follow. Even as you hit speed bumps while adjusting to your new environment, keep your dream close at hand. Bocas Del Toro is a place to reinvent and build new dreams. Go there and start the quest today.

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