Our snowbird retirement has taken us to a beautiful expat friendly mountain valley town called Boquete in Panama. We really wanted to experience this part of Panama because of its “perfect” all year round high temperature of 26C (80F) that reminds me of a sunny day in spring or fall. It is cooler than the coastal areas of Panama because of the higher elevation at 1200M (3,900 ft.). The nights can cool down to 16C (60F) and there is a rainy season. The town is a river valley town between two mountains, one which is a dormant volcano. The town has a very relaxed – take your time vibe. Most of the native Panamanian people have modest one story homes, with classic corrugated metal roofs. There is also a strong indigenous population that are a welcome part of the community. The area has a strong coffee growing industry with many family based coffee farms, and lots of cafes and a wide variety of restaurants. See our article about the Coffee Farm Tour we took.
This is a prime coffee growing area, including the worlds most expensive “Geisha” coffee, which you can buy in the local stores.
Expats From Outside Of Panama
It has become a very popular expat destination, with about 20% of its population now comprised of non Panamanian expats – the majority being US citizens, but also many Canadians, Europeans and a strong Jewish representation. Despite that, the town seems to be retaining a nice mix of traditional and expat centric vibe. This influence means that people who only speak English can probably get along here in restaurants and shopping, but of course it’s more effective to learn some Spanish. It also means that you will find some of the more familiar North American brands here. Overall the town is very safe and patrolled by a trustworthy police force, but there are a few gated communities for those who like the large north American style homes and golfing. Panama also has a “pensionado” incentive for retirees that give them discounts and privileges. (available with a residency)
On the positive side, I observed an act of kindness by an expat woman at a coffee shop, when she offered to pay for a needy Panamanian man’s package of bread.
Major Town Features
The main mountain river is fed by various smaller streams, which become refreshing backdrops for some restaurants and homes in various neighborhoods. The bridge that crosses the river is a major route into the main street, which has three other major streets running parallel, with various neighborhoods off them. The Bridge area has a very vibrant flower garden attraction as well as a souvenir marketplace and weekly farmers market. The municipal town square is also a center of attraction for many events. A new park area was recently added parallel to the main river, which has several coy ponds and small waterfalls, with walking trail along the river and trees.
There are tour operators offering hikes to nearby waterfalls, zip lining, white water rafting and much more. We did not have time to pursue these.
(Click image for larger version)
Many of the indigenous woman in Boquete wear a colorful, full length dress, which is generally a family heirloom that gets passed down from mother to daughter as a prized possession.
The nearby “Volcan Baru” volcano, is 3,475 meters (11,400 feet) elevation, and is the highest point in Panama. It is considered “active”, but has not had activity for 500 years, although minor earthquake tremors in the area are common.
The flowers here are so colorful and vivid. There is a large flower garden exhibit near the bridge. The downward pointing horn shaped flowers that you see everywhere are a poisonous hallucinogenic – Angel Trumpets / Genus Brugmansia (Click image for full sized version)
Restaurants and Food
Coffee Shop With A View Of The Valley In The South Mountain
Suites, Hostels and Campgroud
Campground at Malu Cafe and Bakery. The German couple in the blue van is driving from Nova Scotia to Argentina. They have been on the road for about a year.
Weekly Farmers Market
Notice that the Panamanian homes don’t generally have fences and gates. The bigger homes use a lot of gates and bar the windows. Most of this is to help prevent “opportunistic crime”. If you make it hard for a criminal to break in, then they move on and look elsewhere, especially if your house is not occupied all year around.
Gated Community With Golf Course and Homes
Be wary at 12 noon if you are standing near the fire station. It has a very loud lunch time siren for the community.
Parks and Nature
The town has a number of streams feeding the main river which have trails. There is a newer park which has three ponds filled with coy fish and small waterfalls.
The Airbnb apartment we stayed in was perfect for our 1 week stay (1 Bedroom, with full kitchen). It was about 3 blocks from the main street, next to the Peruvian restaurant. The super host was great.
The weather here is amazing. The way our apartment was located, you could enjoy the balcony outside with the cool mountain breeze blowing gently. It’s like natural air conditioning which is generally un-necessary here. The most you might need in the hot part of the day is a fan on. The weather forecasts on the two apps we used were NOT very accurate. It seems the micro-climate is quite different in terms of rain and thunder clouds, even a few kms down the road. We did carry foldup poncho rain coats in our back pack, which had use twice. Most of the rain while we were here was what I call “sun showers” – very light rain, while the sun shines.
We noticed many big businesses had electrical generators, but we never lost power during our stay.
We will be back!
See Wikipedia’s voyage for more information