Your neighbors in Bocas del Toro are pretty much like minded other expats. They are adventurous, entertaining and very interesting people. There are two types of neighbors here. There are the reclusive neighbors who enjoy the peace and quiet and live on the outer islands. Then the other would be the neighbors who live closer to town. They are much social in nature because there is a larger social life in Bocas Town. It is a tourist town and that makes it a more interesting and lively place to live.
I live in Carenero Island in Bocas del Toro and most of my neighbors are absentee owners. They live in Bocas del Toro for three to six months out of the year then they go back to the United States. Most of them are from the United States.
Life in Bocas del Toro with your neighbors is very much social, where everybody does get togethers. Getting together is a very frequent business. We end up having brunch over at somebody’s house or having happy hour party. Neighbors go back and forth in Bocas del Toro. At the same time, everyone has lots of good friends who live in Bocas Town or on another island and when they have a get together, they invite everybody. It is not necessarily a "neighbor’s thing" but a "neighbor’s friends-of-friends thing."
My immediate neighbors are expats. The rest of my neighbors are indigenous people who live in Carenero Island. There is a small village not too far from where I live. We all live together on the same island. We basically interact with almost everybody on Carenero Island. It is the smallest island on the archipelago. It’s also the closest one to the main town of Bocas del Toro, which we call Bocas Town.
There’s about 60% indigenous people and 40% expats on Bocas Town. It is on the main island of Isla Colon and there are 5,000 to 6,000 people. A lot of expats in Bocas del Toro have very much embraced the culture and are much involved in it as much as my wife and I are. We are friends with the expats and we are also good friends with the locals. That is very important and common. Most of the people who moved to Bocas del Toro want to be part of the cultural exchange. One of the best things about living and retiring in Bocas del Toro is that you can learn another culture and language.
I am not retired yet, but I can say that if you are an expat who wants to retire in Bocas Del Toro, you have to have something to do on this Caribbean island. If you are retired, you have to do something. It can be either volunteering for some type of social activity, which we have a lot of here in Bocas. There are lots of different things that expats can help the locals with. Retirement in Bocas means you have to have a hobby. To just retire in Bocas with nothing to do does not work; you’ll go crazy because you have nothing to do!
When I first came down here to Bocas, I was semi-retired. The thing that I used to wish back in the US when I had my company was that if I could just wake up in a Caribbean island with nothing to do. The only thing I can say right now is, be careful what you wish for! It’s terrible to have nothing to do in a Caribbean island. It is a situation where you really have to have something just for yourself to work. There people who retire here with nothing to do and they leave because Bocas is a kind of place where you retire if you want to be active. If you are sedentary, then you should consider other places such as Boquete or other retirement villages. Retirement in Bocas is a different type of retirement. The retirees who come to Bocas are active retirees.
There are no golf courses here in Bocas, but there is plenty of snorkeling. You can go into the jungles or walk on the beach. It really helps if you get yourself setup with some social environmental program where you volunteer to put water systems in an indigenous Indian village or volunteer for spay and neuter programs for dogs and cats here in Bocas. You can volunteer to teach children in schools or volunteer to teach people how to play guitar.
In Bocas, you have to have that certain kind of activity that lets you help other people, so that you have a sense of self-worth. I have met very few people who had actually nothing to do here, who lasted very long in Bocas.
We have a lot of retiree surfers. Bocas Del Toro is a world class surfing destination and you would be surprised how many 60 to 70 year old surfers we have down here.
(The un-retired Beach Boys in concert, pictured.)