I love retirement in Panama. It is like living in Spain, but with fewer foreigners. I like it. I like the climate and the people are nice. We have everything we want in the village where we live and we’re free to move around. We can get to the beach in a couple of hours and spend a few days there. There are so many things to see and it’s such a diverse type of terrain. You go from one side of the country to another; it’s completely different. You have Volcan in the mountains, you have your jungle in Gamboa, you go to the lakes, waterfalls, and rivers to swim. The beaches are great, too. It is absolutely wonderful.
From my home in Calobre, in Santiago, these places are all within less than a couple of hours of driving. In 45 minutes, you are in a beautiful national park. In 10 minutes, you will reach the river down the road where you can swim. There are hot springs that are about 20 minutes away. The city is 40 minutes away. The beaches are two hours away. In three and a half hours, you are in Panama City.
So there is lots of things we can do because we are in the center of Panama, really, between the city and Boquete, and in three hours approximately, you are in David.
You have to research a lot if you are thinking of retiring in Panama. We researched a lot. Do I want to be with expats? Do I want to be without them? Do I want nightlife? What sort of climate do I want? Do I want to be near the beach? Do I want to live in the country? You have to weigh all those things out. It’s really a matter of personal choice.
For example, I could not last in Coronado for five minutes. In fact, we have a friend who had lived there for a year, but has gone back to the States. When we took her to Pedasi, she said to me, “What the hell am I doing living in Coronado? There are drunk Canadians arguing at night.”
Panama is a very small country and you can get anything you like. You can get city life and expats, whatever you want, if you choose carefully. To me, from where I live, down the Pan-American Highway three and a half hours to Panama City is not long. Going the other way to the beaches also is not far. It just depends on what you want. You can choose urban or country or mountains or beach. In Panama, you’ve got anything and anyone.
What’s nice about it is it’s all very close. Let us say you are in the city and you want to go to the mountains; it does not take long, or if you’re in the mountains and you want to go to the city. In a little more than an hour from Panama City, you can be in El Valle, up in the mountains. Also, you’ve got your beaches around the corner.
Going East towards Colombia into the Darien, there’s a nice area called Lake Bayano, which is beautiful, near Chepo. Lake Bayano has caves with bats. There’s really almost no development there; just Lake Bayano. You can walk in the caves and it really is a nice area. It is about two and a half hour drive. We went to a little fishing port there. It is a nice, quiet place with no foreigners and we walked around. We had two whole fish, patacones (fried plantain), a few beers and I think it was US $17.
I also had sugar cane water that I got in the city at a stall at the side of the road. I never tried it before. They have a machine that grinds the sugar cane and then the juice goes through a cooler and into the bottom, into ice, and they serve that to you. It’s delicious.
This is just an example. There are plenty of new things to experience and to learn. I like to learn everything. Panama is a great place to retire for those who wish to learn.
As another example, when I get this horse one of the locals is selling me for US $200, I’m going to get them to teach me to rope. I’m going to help with the cows. I’m going to learn how to brand and things like they do. I will be a vaquero!