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Chiriqui Highlands, Panama: Why Expats Move Here?

Last Updated on June 21, 2024 by Retire in Panama

chiriqui highlands boquete rainbow Are you looking for a paradise to relocate to in Panama? If so, you might want to consider the Chiriquí Highlands. Situated in the westernmost part of the country, Chiriqui Province boasts a population of 500,000 inhabitants. It shares borders with Costa Rica to the west, Bocas del Toro province to the north, the Pacific Ocean to the south, and Veraguas province to the east.

The communities of Bajo Boquete, Alto Boquete, Caldera, Jaramillo, Alto Lino, Los Naranjos, Palmira, Volcán, Cerro Punta, Cuesta de Piedra, Nueva California, Paso Ancho, El Francias, and Dolega are all part of the Chiriqui Highlands.

Chiriqui Highlands, whether you are thinking Boquete, Volcan, or closer to David, is one of the most popular expat destinations in Panama. 40% of our former tour guests who move to Panama end up here. There are many reasons for this, and we will discuss them more.

The highest peak in Panama, Volcán Barú, at 3,474 m (11,398 ft), is in the Chiriqui Highlands. The communities surrounding it range from 300 m (985 ft) tovolcan panama 2300 m (7500 ft) in elevation, providing many different climates in this area. The cooler climate in the Chiriqui Highlands is what most expats moving here are looking for.

Chiriqui also has a major City, David, which has everything you need, like Hospitals, Pricemart (Costco) Shopping Malls, government offices, movie theaters, and even an immigration office. All the towns listed above are a 20 – 90 minute drive to David, making it an easy day trip. Chiriqui also has several beaches, an hour to two away from these towns.

So why do expats move to the Chiriqui Highlands? In our over a decade of assisting expats in moving to Panama, the #1 answer to this question would be the cooler climate. The beach is great, and many North Americans have vacationed south in the winter for a couple of weeks every year and love the hot weather of the beach to escape the snow and winters back home. But do you want to live in 30° C – 35° C (86° F to 95° F) heat every day of the year, with high humidity? This is not for everyone, so many look for a cooler climate with access to the beach in 1 to 2 hours for beach getaways.


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Three-Day Chiriquí Highlands Tour

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Volcan Panama Town The Weather in the Chiriqui Highlands

Chiriqui is unique, with a vast number of varying climates and microclimates. From sea level to 2300 m (7500 ft) elevation, you will find communities where expats live. In less than an hour and a half of driving, this significant elevation change lets people choose the temperature they want to live in but still be close to a major center for amenities and the beach for day trips.

The climate in Chiriqui can generally be divided into two main seasons—a rainy season and a dry season. The rainy season, known locally as the “green season,” typically lasts from May to November. During this time, the region experiences a progressive amount of rain, consisting of late afternoon showers, a couple of times a week in May and five times a week in October. These showers can last an hour at the beginning of the season and several hours near the end. This rain is crucial for maintaining the lush landscapes and rich agricultural lands that Chiriqui is famous for, including its coffee plantations and varied harvests of fruits and vegetables.

In contrast, the dry season occurs from December to April. During this season, there is very little rain, leading to drier landscapes and, in certain areas, a need for irrigation to support farming activities. The dry season is also characterized by clearer skies and stronger winds, especially in the highlands. This time of year is popular with tourists, locals, and foreigners, who visit the province’s natural beauty and many events that help, like the Flower Festival, Carnival, and Jazz and Music Festival.

The temperatures remain relatively constant throughout both seasons but vastly differ depending on your elevation.

Below are some examples of daily high temperatures in different Chiriqui Highland communities

Cero Punto 18° C (65° F)

Volcan 21° C (70° F)

Boquete 24° C (75° F) 

Palmera 25° C (77° F)

Caldera 30° C (86° F)

Dolega 31° C (87° F)

The coastal areas and lowlands, such as those near David, Puerto Armuelles, and Las Lajas, feature a more typical hot and humid tropical climate. Temperatures in these regions fluctuate less throughout the year and usually hover between 25°C and 35°C (77°F to 95°F). The proximity to the Pacific Ocean does offer some relief, with sea breezes helping to moderate the heat, particularly in the late afternoon.

Chiriqui is a microcosm of weather patterns, given its varied elevations and climatic conditions. It offers a rich tapestry of environments, from mist-covered mountains and cool highland valleys to warm beaches and fertile farmlands. Whether one is seeking the adventure of hiking the many trails on the slopes of Baru Volcano, leisurely exploring coffee farms with a temperate climate, or enjoying the tropical sunshine along its Pacific coastline, Chiriqui provides a delightful and diverse meteorological experience to residents and visitors alike.

The Major retirement destinations in Chiriqui Province Boquete

Chiriquí Province is increasingly becoming the retirement utopia for many, offering a tranquil reprieve from the bustles of city life. As we delve deep into the heart of this paradise, we’ll explore four major retirement destinations: Boquete, Volcan, Dolega, and David.

Boquete: A Garden Town Amidst the Cloud

Boquete is Panama’s most known expat community, as expats have been moving here for over 30 years. The greater Boquete area has around 25,000 people, with an expat population of nearly 5,000. The town center sits at 1075 m (3525 ft), making the climate perfect for many.  

Expats will fall in love with Boquete’s close-knit community atmosphere. The expat community here is thriving and welcoming, often organizing social events and cultural exchanges perfect for newcomers. Boquete will satisfy you if you are looking for an expat community with activities to keep you busy. It also has a great music calendar if that is your thing. Restaurants are abundant for foodies—hiking, biking, pickleball, for the sports enthusiasts.

Housing options range from modern condos to rustic mountain villas and Panama-style homes, each offering picturesque vistas of the surrounding cloud forests and winding rivers. 

volcan Volcan: The Land of Eternal Spring

Volcan, another jewel in the Chiriquí highlands, is a smaller but equally enchanting expat option. As its name implies – it is located near the Barú Volcano – this area is marked by a cooler climate and rich volcanic soils that propel an abundant harvest. The agriculture-rich region produces much of Panama’s fresh produce, including vegetables and strawberries. Volcan is an ideal locale for those considering a more laid-back, private, or even off-grid lifestyle amidst panoramic mountain views.

Expatriates in Volcan enjoy a slower pace of life, often engaging with the local community through gardening, horseback riding, or volunteering. The cost of living here is also relatively low, making it attractive to retirees on a budget who don’t want to compromise on beauty or quality of life. Volcan is a place where one can truly immerse in the tranquility of rural Panamanian life.

Dolega: The Hidden Gem of Expat Retirement Dolega Town

A lesser-known retirement destination, when pitted against its highland counterparts, Dolega is a quaint district that offers a truly authentic Panamanian community feel. It’s conveniently situated halfway between the city of David and the cooler climate of Boquete, providing a unique balance of local culture and expatriate amenities. The cost of living in Dolega is attractive, allowing retirees to stretch their dollars further while enjoying the beauty.

The town is gaining traction among expats for its peaceful environment and friendly locals. Life in Dolega unfolds leisurely with an emphasis on neighborly values. Outdoor markets, small-town fiestas, and community gatherings are commonplace, fostering a tight-knit ambiance. The surrounding countryside, with its unspoiled beauty, is ripe for exploration and offers the chance for retirees to own larger properties if they wish to experience a more rural lifestyle.

David PanamaDavid: The Urban Gateway to Chiriquí Living

The city of David is the provincial capital and presents an urban twist to the expat experience in Chiriquí. It is not in the Highlands, as it is at sea level, but a quick 30-minute drive north, you will be in the highlands. 

As Panama’s third-largest city, it serves as an economic and transportation hub for the region, providing all the amenities one could need. Some expats want to have the conveniences of living in a City. David boasts diverse shopping centers, healthcare facilities, restaurants, government offices, and cultural hotspots. The accessibility of flights to Panama City through Enrique Malek International Airport makes it incredibly convenient for retirees who plan to explore or have frequent visits from family.

David can be one of the most affordable places to live in Panama. With house rentals starting at $400 a month, the budget expat can stretch their money. The one thing to remember is that you must love the heat to live in David.

The Cost of Living in the Chiriqui Highlands

The cost of living in Chiriqui varies throughout the province but tends to be cheaper than Panama City or other expat areas like Coronado. You could live in Chiriqui for a single, starting with a budget of $1300 a month and a couple of $1800 a month. Of course, for this price, you will not live in a luxury North American-style home and will probably use public transport. You will shop at local markets, not the big grocery stores. You will eat out at local restaurants, not expensive restaurants. It all depends on what you are looking for in a lifestyle.

Of course, your most significant expense will be your housing. Rentals in Chiriqui can start at as little as $300 monthly for a basic studio or small house in the David /Dolega or Volcan region to $3,000 for a luxury home in the mountains overlooking Boquete. For purchasing homes, you are looking at $ 75,000 for a rustic small rural home and over a million for luxury mansions.

I often use my lifestyle to prove the cost of living expenses in Chiriqui. I rent and live in Boquete, about three blocks from the center square, in a Panamanian neighborhood, in a two-bedroom, 900 sq ft Panama-style house with a fenced yard.

Rent: $600

Electric: $22 (No A/C needed in Boquete)

Cell Phone: $22 (10 gig data)

Internet: $40 (400 mbs speed needed for business)

Gas: $5 (Gas stove and Dryer)

Grocery: $250 (All local fruits/Veggies/Eggs Meat from monthly PriceMart Trip)

Restaurants: ($50 Twice weekly, eat lunch at Fondas for $5. I do get to go out for dinners with our groups several times a month)

Car: ($100) (Gas and Insurance on a new car) I need a vehicle for the business; otherwise, I would not need one living in town on Boquete)

Shopping: $100 (Clothing, accessories, home things)

Entertainment: $100

Health Insurance: $200

So, this is about the cheapest a single could live in Boquete, with health insurance and some entertainment, around $1500 a month, $2000 a couple. In other areas like Volcan or Dolega, it could be a couple hundred dollars less per month.

Let’s look at the average cost for a couple living in the Chiriqui Highlands, leaving out rent but living in a 1500 sq foot house, eating out more often, and having a decent entertainment budget.

Electric: $50 (No A/C needed in Boquete/Volcan. $100 – $200 A/C costs if living in the lower parts of the Highlands.)

Cell Phone: $44 (10 gig data 2 plans)

Internet: $30 (250 mbs speed)

Gas: $10 (Gas stove, hot water and Dryer)

Grocery: $500 (All local market fruits/Veggies/Eggs. Meat from monthly PriceMart Trip)

Restaurants: $300 (Twice weekly, eat lunch at Fondas for $5. Once weekly dinner at a nice restaurant)

Car: $100 (Gas and Insurance on a new vehicle)

Shopping: $300 (Clothing, accessories, home things)

Entertainment: $200

Health Insurance: $400

We are looking at a decent lifestyle for a couple slightly under $2000 monthly plus rent or if you purchased a house. Of course, this excludes travel and large purchases.

Chiriqui Highlands can provide a budget for almost anyone.


Retire in Panama Round Green 200 Introducing Retire in Panama’s Three-Day Chiriquí Highlands Tour

We have found over the years that many expats considering the move to Panama have already decided on moving to the Chiriqui highlands, so one specific reason or another. This is why we introduced this new 3-day group tour.

On this All-Inclusive 3-day tour, you will visit David, Los Olas Beach, Boquete, Volcan, and many other communities in the Chiriquí Province areas.

You will meet other expats who live in these areas; you will meet experts in Immigration, Insurance, Shipping, and more.

Included in the tour:

  • Four nights accommodation (Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday)
  • David Airport Pickup (Sunday) and Drop off (Thursday): If you are coming earlier or staying later, Pick up and drop off can be arranged on alternative days at a cost of $40.
  • All transport Monday – Wednesday
  • All breakfasts and Lunches
  • A last evening wind-up dinner party with other expats to chat with.
  • And, of course, like all our group and private tours, you will leave with the personal cell phone and emails of the best relocation experts in Panama, Oscar, Megan & Rod, to assist you in your future move to Panama.

The Tour is All-Inclusive except for your Flight to David Panama, dinner on Monday and Tuesday night, and alcoholic beverages.

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boquete sign

For various reasons, many expats choose Panama as their retirement destination, specifically the Chiriquí Highlands. The first reason we usually hear is the cooler climate of the Highlands.

The second would be affording the cost of living. You can live cheaper in the Chiriqui Highlands than in Panama City and the larger beach expat communities. The area is known for its stunning natural beauty, diverse landscapes, and rich cultural heritage. Expats can enjoy a fulfilling lifestyle surrounded by paradise, with opportunities for outdoor activities like hiking, bird-watching, pickleball, and exploring the rainforest.

Before making the move to Panama or any other country, expats need to be fully informed and prepared. This includes making retirement plans, saving up the necessary funds, and creating a budget for retirement abroad. Seeking the assistance of a relocation expert specializing in expat retirement is essential in navigating all aspects of retiring in a foreign country.

The best way to do this is to join us on our Chiriquí Highlands Tour and receive all the information and experts you will need to make this move to Panama.

Overall, the Chiriquí Highlands offer expats a fulfilling and enriching retirement experience. With its natural beauty, diverse landscapes, and high quality of life, it’s no wonder why so many expats are choosing this region as their retirement haven.

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