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Ron Hunter of Finca Cazador – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
Rio Sereno, Panama – Best Places In The World To Retire – International LivingIf you look at a map, you’ll see Volcán Barú, an extinct volcano that erupted about 3,500 years ago. Volcán Barú is somewhere around 5,000 feet in elevation, and as you go up to Cerro Punta, which is a very rural farming community, the elevation increases. 
 
Chiriquí, the province where Volcán Barú is, produces 85% of the food for the entire country of Panama. One of the reasons I chose and ended up living in Río Sereno, Chiriquí, which is 45 minutes from Volcán Barú, is because I wanted to be in an area where food is abundant and is grown locally. 
 
Chiriquí is the westernmost province of Panama. Chiriquí borders Costa Rica on its entire northwestern border. Chiriquí includes Río Sereno, the town where I live, Volcán Barú, David, Boquete, and Cerro Punta. 
 
Boquete doesn’t really grow any food per se but they have coffee. Boquete is more of an expat haven. I don’t want to say bad things about Boquete but it’s not my cup of tea at all. It’s not even really Panama anymore. Living in Boquete is like living in the United States, and some people like that, but everyone has their own preference. 
 
Cerro Punta, on the other hand, is very much Panama. It’s very agricultural and very picturesque. On the higher parts of Cerro Punta, it’s close to 7,000 feet elevation. Cerro Punta is brisk and they grow a lot of broccoli, cauliflower, potatoes, etc., up there.
 
At the foot of Cerro Punta is Volcán, about 5,000 - 5,500 feet-high. In comparison, the elevation here where I live is about 3,500 feet. 
 
In Río Sereno, you can see the Pacific Ocean within your line of sight. The roads in Río Sereno are winding, and it’s an hour and a half away from Volcán. From Volcán, you’re dropping from 5,000 feet to sea level in that 25-mile distance, so you’re going up the hill. You’re going up a very noticeable incline and the ecosystems change from sea level. Between sea level and 1,000 feet, there would be jungle, if it weren’t developed, but the jungle is all gone now.
 
If you move up that hill in Volcán Barú, it’s still very green and lush. You would be in a typical rainforest. Where I live, in Río Sereno, it’s called a dry forest. Río Sereno is not dry by our standards in the United States, but it’s dry by Central American standards. 
 
If you continue to go farther up the hill you’ll get into what’s called the “cloud forest” where you’re at the level where the clouds typically are. Above the cloud forest, you’re above the timberline. In most places in the world that are above 10,000 feet, there aren’t any trees. When the vertical release is steep like it is here in Río Sereno, you get eco changes very rapidly. In a few miles, you’re in a different eco habitat. 
 
Volcán is 5,000 feet high and it’s still in that dry forest habitat as we are here in Río Sereno. I’ve lived in Volcán and I like it there. What pushed me out of Volcán is that it’s like a watered-down Boquete. An awful lot of expats are moving to Volcán, and for some reason they didn’t feel comfortable in the gated community Boquete aspect. It’s a little less expensive in Volcán, whereas Boquete is very expensive. Volcán is also overpriced, but it has a lot of services, including a lot of nice restaurants.
 
If you want to live in a foreign country without having to really be in tune with the country itself and have all the comfort features such as McDonald’s, you can try and situate yourself in an area where those things are available. Volcán is very Americanized, but it’s still Panama, and it’s still quaint.  Volcán is too crowded for me- there are too many people in a small space. 
 
The reason that I live out farther in Río Sereno is that there are fewer people and it’s just not as dense or as loud. Río Sereno is rural, and some people don’t like rural places. People want to be closer to the facilities, but the facilities that I need more are here in the rural community in Río Sereno. Río Sereno is quieter, slower, and safer. For other people, Volcán would be a far better choice than David, but I would never live in David because it’s hot and crowded with a population of about 150,000. 
 
I have lived in Panama City in the past, but now I would only go to Panama City if I must. Panama City is a megalopolis, with about 1.5 million people. Panama City has a lot of people, a lot of great restaurants, and a lot of everything, but also has a lot of problems. Volcán is a good medium place, but if you want to really savor the culture of Panama and get away from some of the reasons you left the United States to live in another country, Volcán doesn’t really do that. You must get a little bit farther out. 
 
For some people, moving away from Volcán would be unacceptable and they wouldn’t feel comfortable, unlike some people like myself. I feel more comfortable in the country than I do in any city in the United States, Germany, etc.  
 
(Rio Sereno, Panama, pictured.)
Wee-Yiong Fung of Prestige Panama Realty – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
New house in Volcan, Panama – Best Places In The World To Retire – International Living​Volcán itself is commercial and they only have a single street. In that street you have a couple of restaurants, a supermarket, and a highway store where you can buy your daily needs. The rest of Volcán is just homes and land for cattle, horses, etc.
 
In Cerro Punta, it's also just one street but it's more rural compared to Volcán because most of the people in Cerro Punta are farmers who plant onions, carrots, etc. So if these farmers need chemicals or fertilizers for their crops, they go to Cerro Punta. There are also a couple of hotels in Cerro Punta if you don’t want to hang out in the fields. 
 
Volcán and Cerro Punta are all agricultural and residential.  The Chiriqui Highlands where Volcan and Cerro Punta is located produce 60 to 70% of the food for Panama. And if you like to be far away from stress and be closer to Mother Nature, you go to Volcán and Cerro Punta.
James David Audlin of Editores Volcán Barú – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
The main communities in the Volcán and Cerro Punta area are those two just named, plus Paso Ancho and Guadalupe.

Volcán, the southernmost in the area, is growing quickly into the size of a small city. Its business area is not particularly attractive, but the stunning mountain views everywhere make up for that. There are several shops and quite a few surprisingly good restaurants anchored by two chain supermarkets (Romero and Bérard). Away from the town center, there are several quite nice residential areas. Commensurate with the population, there is somewhat more incidence of crime. There is a good-sized "gringo" community. No visit is complete without seeing Raquel´s animal sanctuary; it is private, so you need to secure permission. There is also an interesting archeological site in a nearby hamlet.

A few miles up the road is Paso Ancho (Broad Pass), where I live. It is mostly residential, very quiet, much more attractive, especially down by the river. The gringo community is smaller. There are small family farms even within the village itself, and the air is redolent with the scent of growing things.

Next up is Nueva Suiza (New Switzerland). It is very small, attractive, but with little shopping opportunity. There is a trout fishery that sells fine fish retail, and, if you get permission to visit, a fascinating bird sanctuary.
 
Cerro Punta (Where the Stream Ends) is next. Absolutely stunning views. Some tree cutting is changing the ecology and weather for the worse, however. There is one moderately good market, and several quaint little shops. Guadalupe, just beyond, stretches up into the mountains to the north, and the views get even more dramatic.

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