I think the standard of living in Bocas Del Toro, Panama is very good but it also depends on who you are. The
expat standard of living is very comfortable for much less cost than in the United States.
At the lower end of the income scale, there are expats who come here to Bocas with not a lot of money and need a job. They seem to find work and they seem to become self-sufficient here. These are generally backpackers and surfers; younger people that don’t necessary want to wait their whole life to live in the Caribbean. Therefore, they come here and find a way to have a life here at an early age.
You will also find “pensionados” here in Bocas. There are people who are retired and have pension funds such social security or a 401K or some other type of lifetime income. As long as you have at least US $1,000 per month, you qualify for the pensionado status and you can get a residency in Panama based on that income. One of the conditions of the pensionado residency visa is that you can't work.
There are also some people here in Bocas del Toro who have more money than that and they have a variety of income sources. They can come here to Bocas, pay cash for a home, and still have enough money to live on. They do not work, either. They just come in and enjoy their lives here. There is not a lot of them but they exist. Recently, in the last year, we had an Argentinean gentleman come in and buy a piece of property for US $2 million. He went on with the renovations and now it is a beautiful house. He also bought the two properties beside that house in order to create buffer zone. Obviously, this man has no problem with money.
If your income is $2,500 per month, you can already live very well in Bocas. You would have no problems renting a home, buying your groceries, going out to eat, or doing any kind of activities. You can actually do a lot with $2,000 per month but with $2,500 you can afford extra services such as a maid and a gardener. Therefore, $2,000 a month would give you a great life.
Now, if my income were US $4,000 per month, I would probably rent for a while and save the rest of the money to buy something. If I didn’t have a down payment saved up already then I would save that extra $2,000 a month until I had enough for a down payment to buy a property here in Bocas while prices are still on the upswing. If you were located in Bocas del Toro, you could just travel, you could take trips from here to other places. You can even go to the Galapagos or Greece or go to Europe. You could travel if you had that extra money.
Of course, there are also higher end rentals here in Bocas, which will cost a couple thousand more a month in rent, but you do not need to do that here. You can certainly find nice accommodations here in Bocas for less.