9 of the Best Places to Retire in Panama — and One to Avoid

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Beach on the Azuero Peninsula of Panama
Marek Poplawski / Shutterstock.com

Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared on Live and Invest Overseas.

Recently, the entire Panama-based Live And Invest Overseas team and I welcomed a crowd of your fellow readers to our adopted home town.

We spent three days altogether enjoying the brilliantly sunny days this time of year is famous for here in the Hub of the Americas … while doing our best to arm everyone in the room with everything they need to know to make a success of their own live and invest in Panama plans.

Your fellow readers are off now discovering Panama for themselves.

After the conclusion of our event, they set out to exploring the capital city … the Pacific coast … the islands … the highlands … and all points between on this isthmus offering such a diversity of lifestyle options.

Indeed, as we showcased for all in attendance, you’ve got to do some thin-slicing to identify the best spot in this country to think about chasing fun and profit. Big picture, here are your top options.

The Retirement Option to Avoid: Panama City

Panama City, Panama
Barna Tanko / Shutterstock.com

Generally speaking, I no longer recommend Panama City for retirement. For sure, this city is not the screaming-bargain retirement option it was two-and-a-half decades ago.

Panama City has evolved over the past 25 years into a global business hub, a boom town attracting investors, entrepreneurs, executives, and opportunity seekers from around the world.

Panama’s capital is a competitive financial services center and a banking haven.

Big businesses from Dell and Procter & Gamble to Caterpillar, DHL, and Dole Food have based themselves here, invested in brick-and-mortar operations, and imported and attracted foreign workforces that total in the tens of thousands.

All this global attention and demand has translated into a steadily rising cost of living.

It has also meant continued development of city services and of the available standard of living. Panama City today deserves a place among the world’s brand-name cities for the bona fide luxury-level lifestyle it offers.

What You Can Have in Panama City

Modern dining room
zstock / Shutterstock.com

In Panama City, you can rent (or own) a Pacific Ocean-view penthouse apartment with a doorman, a concierge, a gym, a spa, and pools with poolside bar service … all the comforts of penthouse living in any brand-name city.

You can have a driver, a maid, and a chef. You can eat out in five-star restaurants every night of the week. You can spend your days shopping for Hermès, Cartier, and Jimmy Choo and your nights hopping from club to club or engaged in high-stakes poker playoffs.

Each Friday (or Thursday … why not?), you can take off in your SUV for your beach house or hop aboard your yacht for a weekend cruise… That kind of jet-set lifestyle is increasingly common in Panama City.

If that’s the kind of lifestyle you dream of for your retirement, then put Panama City at the top of your list, because luxury living Panama City-style is a relative bargain.

That penthouse, the SUV, the staff, the nights out, the weekends at the beach, and all the paraphernalia required to support it all comes at a fraction the cost of a comparable lifestyle in, say, Miami.

You could have it all for as little as $5,000 per month (though you could also spend many times that on your bright-lights-big-city Panama life).

Why Panama City Isn’t the Ideal Retirement Destination

Unhappy woman with empty wallet
Sewupari Studio / Shutterstock.com

You can live in Panama City on much less than $5,000 per month, but life in this city can become a whole lot less comfortable on a more limited budget, which is why I no longer recommend Panama City as a top retirement haven.

Top luxury lifestyle haven, yes … ideal retirement choice, not so much. You have better city options if it’s a cosmopolitan retirement you seek.

The biggest downside to Panama City living on any budget or with any agenda can be the climate. It’s hot and humid year-round. Thus the need for a weekend beach house.

City Beaches Area

Playa Coronado Panamá, Panama Beach
nata4188 / Shutterstock.com

The nearest beach destination to Panama City has become an extension of the city itself.

Every Panama City resident who can afford one has a weekend escape in what’s known as the City Beaches area.

Coronado, the best known of the points along this stretch of coastline, is not a luxury living option. Coronado is mid-market and overrun with tourists, foreign and domestic.

That’s a good thing for the rental property investor … but doesn’t make for an ideal get-away-from-it-all beach escape.

Other City Beaches spots, though, offer both five-star comfort and privacy at a fraction the cost of a fully appointed coastal good life most anywhere else I can think of.

East Coast of the Azuero Peninsula: Chitré, Las Tablas, and Pedasí

Cathedral of Azuero, Chitre, Panama
Gualberto Becerra / Shutterstock.com

The east coast of Panama’s Azuero Peninsula has been attracting retirees for the past 20 years and remains an appealing option for a more rustic coastal lifestyle.

More shopping and services are popping up here all the time but not the great variety of top-line condo and beach house options you find along the City Beaches coast.

In this part of this country, we highlight Chitré in particular. We’ve named it the fifth best place to live or retire overseas in our 2024 Overseas Retirement Index.

West Coast of the Azuero Peninsula: Mariato, Torio, and Los Islotes

Torio Beach, Panama
NFKenyon / Shutterstock.com

I discovered Panama more than 25 years ago but wasn’t turned on to the west coast of its Azuero Peninsula until a decade later.

When Lief and I began spending time on this coast, no one else had ever heard of it … not foreign investors and not Panamanians either. On this coast, we were pioneers.

The pioneer life isn’t without challenges.

Azuero’s western coast is remote and undeveloped; services can be unreliable, roads rutted. The flip side of remote is private. For us, that was a priority agenda when we targeted this stretch of the Pacific.

World-Class Coastline

Retired couple laughing and smiling on the beach
wavebreakmedia / Shutterstock.com

Today, services are catching up … as are other foreign investors and tourists, especially fishermen and surfers.

This is not only one of the most beautiful stretches of coastline in Panama but in the world, and both the fishing spots and the surf breaks just offshore are, likewise, world-class.

Wealthy locals feeling crowded at the City Beaches these days are beginning to move out to western Azuero.

Those choosing to make the longer drive for their beach escapes are rewarded with more elbow room, lower prices, and, for my money, much more impressive land- and seascapes.

Boquete

View of valley and town of Boquete, Panama
Alfredo Maiquez / Shutterstock.com

Say “Panama” and “retirement” in the same sentence, and most well-informed listeners hear “Boquete.”

The tiny mountain village of Boquete was targeted for development for the foreign retiree market by one gringo developer in particular, named Sam Taliaferro.

Sam introduced me to Boquete on the day that he closed on the piece of land he eventually developed into Valle Escondido, one of the best known private expat communities in all Central America.

In addition to his Valle Escondido development, Sam invested in restaurants, hotels, and a golf course in Boquete, all intended to attract the foreign retiree buyer.

Boquete’s Large Retiree Community

Rainbow in the mountains. Volcano Barú, Boquete. Panama.
Stika / Shutterstock.com

As a result, today Boquete is home to one of the biggest communities of foreign retirees in the world. That has its advantages and its downsides.

More English is spoken on the streets and in the cafés of Boquete than Spanish, and the foreign retiree never looks far for other foreign retirees to pal around with.

The retiree moving to Boquete doesn’t have to learn a new language if he doesn’t want to and has an instant support network to help with all phases of the transition.

Maybe that sounds like just the kind of place you’re hoping to find for your overseas retirement reinvention or maybe it sounds, as it does to some, like a gringolandia you’d rather avoid.

Lots of foreign retirees with lots of time on their hands and not enough to fill all that time can be a formula for discontent. Idle hands and all.

Santa Fe

Santa Fe, Panama
flitz / Shutterstock.com

Santa Fe is Boquete before Sam Taliaferro.

Santa Fe is a lovely mountain village with a small local population and limited infrastructure and services, a beautiful, tranquil, picture-postcard highlands escape.

As in Boquete, the climate is more comfortable than down at sea level. Life in Santa Fe could be simple, safe, and super-affordable.

This is a place where you could live on as little as $1,000 per month if you’re up for going very local. In truth, you would have no choice.

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