Panama is one of the world’s top retirement havens. However, in this country, you have three dramatically different lifestyle options to choose among: the city, the beach, and the mountains. Here are the best places in Panama to live each of these retirement lifestyles.
Panama’s most user-friendly retirement choice: Panama City. This is a city where you can get any product or service you might want, if you’re willing to pay for it. You have many good options for obtaining a residency visa fairly easily. It’s possible, depending on your circumstances, to live here tax-free. This is an important banking center, home to dozens of international banks, which makes it easy to access your money. And the infrastructure is good, thanks to the efforts of the American military while they were here operating the Canal and the continued revenue from the Canal. Panama City is also a travel hub, not only for the region, but for the world. There are many good restaurant choices, international-standard shopping, and a diversity of opportunities for how to spend your time.
On the other hand, Panama City is hot and humid year-round, sometimes stiflingly so. Its streets are clogged with traffic at all hours of the day and night, and it’s impossible to escape the noise of constant construction and seemingly omnipresent car alarms. In addition, Panama City no longer qualifies as a super-cheap retirement choice. You will need about $2,000 a month for a comfortable, expatriate -standard lifestyle in this city, including $800 a month for rent.
You could live here for less, but I don’t imagine you’re looking to move to Panama to dine at home alone every evening in a tiny overheated apartment on rice, beans, and yucca. My budget estimate is for a pleasant life you’d enjoy living. If your retirement nest egg doesn’t allow for a $2,000-a-month cost of living, don’t write off Panama entirely. Instead, look beyond Panama City.
Panama’s most affordable beach retirement option: Las Tablas. Panama is blessed with two long coastlines, one Caribbean and one Pacific. There are many beach lifestyle options. The Pacific beaches just outside Panama City are the most expensive, not because they’re the nicest (they aren’t), but because they’re within commuting distance of the capital.
For the best beaches in the country, you need to travel to the Azuero Peninsula. On the eastern coast of this peninsula is a small colonial town called Las Tablas. This is my pick for the best beach retirement choice in the country. Las Tablas is a charming town within minutes of the beach, home to a small but growing expatriate community. It’s also a place where you can enjoy a comfortable life on a very small budget.
A retired couple could live comfortably here on less than $1,000 a month. One reason the overall cost of living in Las Tablas is so reasonable is because the cost of renting here is almost unbelievably low. You can rent a one-bedroom house within a few minutes’ walk of the beach for as little as $300 a month. You could spend more on housing, of course, but you won't have to.
Panama’s best weather: Boquete. The biggest downside to life in Panama City and at the beach is the weather. If you can’t tolerate heat and humidity, you might regret a move to either place. In that case, again, don’t take Panama off your list. Instead, consider Panama’s highlands, where the climate can be markedly cooler and less humid.
Boquete is the best known and most developed highland option in this country. And, right now, it’s a more affordable place to retire than it has been in some time. Housing costs have fallen in this part of Panama over the past two years. It’s currently possible to rent a comfortable house for as little as $600 per month.
Kathleen Peddicord is the founder of the Live and Invest Overseas publishing group. With more than 25 years experience covering this beat, Kathleen reports daily on current opportunities for living, retiring, and investing overseas in her free e-letter. Her book, How To Retire Overseas—Everything You Need To Know To Live Well Abroad For Less, was recently released by Penguin Books.