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How to Find Your Dream Property in Panama

How to find your dream property in Panama photo by VivaTropical


Deciding where you want to live, invest, or spend your retirement abroad can be tough.  If you’ve picked Panama, then we think you’ve made a good choice.

But now you may be wondering exactly how to find your dream property in Panama.

The decision ultimately depends on your particular set of values and how you envision spending your retirement.  There’s no ideal community or city that’s perfect for everyone.

However, with some careful consideration and self-examination, we’re confident you can find the place that’s the best fit for YOU.  Here’s a map of Panama, with some popular expat destinations labeled on it, for you to reference as you go along.

What is my dream?

While it sounds cliché, a good place to start is with the good ole “Close your eyes and imagine yourself in paradise” trick.  So, go ahead.  Close ’em.  Can you picture it?  Save that image in your mind, so you reflect on it as needed.

Now let’s examine that vision.  How did you visualize yourself spending your retirement?  

Were you in a hammock on a deserted beach with monkeys chattering in the trees and toucans flying overhead?  Or maybe in the lush mountains picking fresh organic vegetables from your very own garden, or tending your hillside coffee farm?  Or maybe you envisioned yourself sipping a glass of wine at a table outside a small cafe in a bustling cosmopolitan city.

Whatever that dream, it can be a reality for you in Panama.  You’ll just need to consider a few more factors to help you narrow your search, from an entire country, down to a short list of areas that are best suited for you and your values.

Am I a beach or a mountain person?

This question should be a fairly simple one and one that can probably be easily answered based on a quick survey of how you’ve spent most of your pre-retirement vacations.  It’s also a pretty important question, since the difference between the beach and the mountains in Panama may be an even more drastic one than you’re accustomed to.

There is some variance depending on the area but, in general, Panama’s beaches are hot and humid, with highs in the upper 80’s and very little seasonal variation.  The only real difference in the seasons is between dry and wet, as a vast majority of the country’s annual rainfall occurs from April to December.  Panama City and Santa Catalina have this kind of climate.

While they also experience little temperature variation, Panama’s mountain areas enjoy a more spring-like climate year-round (with temps dipping down into the 50’s at night).  As a result, vegetables and flowers can be grown all year.

Temperatures continue to decrease the higher you go and, rather than just having the one main attraction (the beach), the mountains have rivers, waterfalls, and a wide variety of ecosystems.  Santa Fe and Boquete are two popular mountain destinations.

If I’ve decided to live near the beach, which side should I choose?

Since Panama runs from West to East, it’s bordered by the Caribbean to the north and the Pacific to the south.  And the two are vastly different.

The Caribbean boasts most, if not all, of Panama’s most beautiful beaches.  With white, powdery sand, a crystal-clear turquoise sea, and shady palm trees, it looks exactly like a postcard.

Not so fast, though.

While unquestionably breathtaking, Panama’s Caribbean coast presents its own set of challenges.  Because it is so far removed from the Pan-American highway, most of the cities along the Caribbean coast are quite difficult to access by land.  As a result, there are few areas with any kind of established city to live in.  Bocas del Toro is a great one.

Its inaccessibility is further intensified by the large portions of Caribbean coast that are designated as protected areas or indigenous lands, making it difficult for individuals to own property there.  The Caribbean coast also experiences significantly more rainfall than its Pacific counterpart.

The Pacific coast on the other hand, is ever-so-slightly cooler and gets about half the amount of rain.  However, its beaches are much more varied and maybe the tiniest bit less picturesque, depending on your tastes.  With coarse, gray sand and sometimes rocky coastlines, the Pacific offers great surfing and sport fishing opportunities.

Panama’s Pacific coast is also much more accessible and available to would-be property owners.  As a result, it offers many more settlements that are as unique as those who reside in them, from quiet fishing villages like Pedasi to up-and-coming luxury destinations like Boca Chica.

How to find your dream property in Panama photo by Rori Ablilia

Rori Ablilia

Do I want to be near a lot of other expats?

Think back to that vision of yours.  Whom else did you see in it?  Locals?  Other expats?  No one at all?  Knowing the kind of community, or lack thereof, that you want is a major factor in helping you find your dream property in Panama.

Like many who have gone before you, you may welcome the opportunity to live among like-minded individuals who understand where you’re coming from and what you’re going through.  If so, you may find that a place with an established expat community provides you with the support group you need to help you more easily acclimate to your new surroundings.  Panama City and Boquete are both home to thousands of foreign residents.

If being surrounded by people just like you sounds like it defeats the entire purpose of retiring overseas at all, then you might be better suited for a place like Las Tablas or Volcan.  You can find expats there, but they’re carefully woven in among the locals and a little bit harder to find.

If you don’t want to see other expats, or anyone at all for that matter, more remote areas like Playa Burica and the western Azuero Peninsula offer the opportunity to pretend you’re Robinson Crusoe.  All alone with your thoughts.

I know where I want to be.  Now what?

Once you think you know where you want to settle, the final step is finding your actual piece of paradise.  You can start by shopping for properties online.  But use caution.  Make sure you really feel out the sellers to weed out any that are less than credible.

Buying property in Panama can be challenging, but the key is finding a seller, agent, and attorney you can trust.  Asking a lot of questions, even ones to which you already know the answers, is a great way to find out who’s honest and who isn’t.

Once you’ve narrowed your search down to a handful of promising options, plan a trip down to Panama to check them out.  Set up meetings with the agent and attorney you plan to work with.  Confirm those appointments.  Several times, for good measure.  When you finally find the right place, a trustworthy attorney can handle much of the actual transaction for you, another reason to make sure you’ve picked a credible one.

Now that you know how to find your dream home in Panama, what are you waiting on?  Close your eyes.  Get started.  

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