Pedasí, Panama, is one of our favorite spots on our tours. We actually stay overnight there. And, it has been one of the most popular destinations of our guests who have decided to make the move to Panama.
Pedasí is located at the bottom of the Azuero Peninsula on the east coast, just off the Pacific Coast. It is a small town, with a population of about 2,500 people. It is primarily a fishing village, and the town has a public health clinic, two banks, a library and several restaurants and grocery stores. Its pristine beaches are just minutes away from the downtown core and are known for sport fishing, diving, surfing and swimming.
Pedasí is one of the more affordable areas of Panama with homes available for rent or purchase, right in town, or between the town and the beach, or right along the beach. If you are looking for a quiet, relaxing retirement, yet with all the amenities just an hour away, Pedasí may be the place for you. Join us on one of our Retire in Panama Tours, and you will not just see Pedasí, you will probably meet this great couple, that Oscar and Megan have interviewed, about their life in Pedasí.
Mikkel and Connie are two of our favorite people in Pedasí, and often join our guests for dinner on the night we stay in Pedasí. Let’s learn more about them.
Megan and Oscar’s Interview with Mikkel and Connie of Pedasí
Before getting into the interview, Oscar and I chatted with Mikkel and Connie about what the last four months have been like in Pedasí. There were zero covid cases in Pedasí until just a couple of weeks ago and now there are a few cases, but most businesses have been closed since March. They were happy to report how supportive the community has been during this difficult time.
The mayor of Pedasí has sponsored “fishing days” where he provides the gas for the boats, so the fisherman can go out and fish to bring food back to the community. Those that were able to, began putting together food baskets for the families in need. Two of the local dairy farms began donating milk. There were even two premature babies born during the quarantine and community members got together diapers and other supplies to donate to the new parents.
The Animal Advocates group in Pedasí even began to donate dog and cat food to families with pets. Overall, these two couldn’t be prouder of their town and the mayor during this arduous time for many. So, on that note, we get into the interview with Mikkel and Connie.
Megan: Remind us a little bit of your background. What were you doing before moving to Panama?
Mikkel: Well, I was semi-retired and Connie was still working in the California School District. We visited Pedasí first in 2012 during Carnaval and loved it without knowing much about it. And then we came back two more times and did all of the things that people do…we joined the expat forums, read international living, and visited the different towns. Then in August 2013, we spent our first week in Panama City getting our Pensionado visas, drivers licenses, buying a bunch of things including a car, and then the second week we were in Pedasí, all moved in.
Megan: After exploring the country some more on your follow-up visits, what made you choose Pedasí in the end?
Connie: Mostly the people; the friendliness of everyone here. We wanted to be near the beach. It’s a small town, where the expats and the Panamanians all really work together. We just liked that feeling and felt very comfortable here.
Mikkel: There were no tours like your tour when we first came to Panama, so we had to do it ourselves. We bought a GPS on one of our first visits and drove all over the country. At the end we stopped back at Pedasí and just thought this is it, this is where we want to be. Like Connie said, the people, near the beach, and we could afford it.
Megan: In that time, were you exploring any other countries as possible retirement destinations?
Mikkel: Not really, we looked into Costa Rica and Ecuador because those were the hot countries at that time. We knew we didn’t want to go to Europe. Costa Rica looked very expensive. And Ecuador… Well we knew we wanted to be able to easily return to the U.S. to visit family because we have five children and eight grandchildren between us, and with Tocumen Airport (Panama City) being the hub of the Americas, it just made more sense for us.
Connie: And we loved that the U.S. dollar is used here. No need to think about the currency exchange.
Megan: Okay, so once you made the decision, how was the process of actually moving?
Connie: Well, from January to August, we had to sell our home, our car, most of our belongings, so we just kind of decided that if all of the doors opened for us then we would go and they did. Mikkel made this 4 by 4 by 6 foot wooden crate and whatever fit in it, besides our suitcases, we would take with us and the rest we would either sell or give away. And that was quite hard, emotionally.
Mikkel: We were also in regular contact with an attorney during those six months, so that when we got here, we had everything ready to go. When we arrived in Panama, we made two visits to immigration with our attorney to get our pensionado visas.
Megan: Okay, so now you’ve been living in Pedasí for 7 years, what is your favorite part about living in Pedasí?
Connie: We live right in town in a Panamanian neighborhood, and our favorite part is that we are close with our neighbors and we have lots of friends that we can walk to. There are so many good things, the town has grown so much since we first moved here. There are a lot of great restaurants where we can meet up and have fun.
Mikkel: It is a very social town. People work together, play together, and there are very few people that are not a part of the community. There aren’t any “cliques.” People work together from all different areas and nationalities. There are expats from virtually all over the world and the U.S. expats are definitely not the prime population here in Pedasí. The Spanish speaking population here is not just Panamanian either, they are from all over. We feel like we live in a mini United Nations. And we all get along; that cohesiveness of the community works well. The Animal Advocates group we work with is a good example. We no longer have groups of stray dogs roaming the neighborhoods. Panamanian pet owners lineup at the spray and neuter clinics. It has been an educational process. And that goes both ways. We have also seen the education of expats understanding how to live here in this culture.
Megan: Well, it seems like you both are still very happy in Pedasí. Is there anything you don’t like about living there?
Connie: Well, this is most of Panama though, but the power outages are quite often, so that takes some getting used to.
Mikkel: They have gotten less frequent. Maybe once a week, we have a five-minute power outage, not long. Once a month, we may have a 2-3 hour power outage. They do seem to respond better now and the power company has set up a twitter account so we can tweet them immediately to find out what is going on with the power. About 3 or 4 years ago, they fixed the water problem. We were having a lot of water outages, but now we have 13 working wells, and 11 of those have generators on them. We also now have fiber optics in parts of Pedasí so we have great internet connection. We’ve gone from 5 megs to 60 megs. When the quarantine is over, they plan to finish putting fiber optics throughout all of Pedasí.
Megan: Great, so we’ve touched on power, water, and internet infrastructure. How are the schools in Pedasí for those with children? I know there was an international school, but that closed, correct?
Connie: Yes, they closed it. The owners left; I think it wasn’t sustainable financially. So, now we just have the public school. Some people here are homeschooling their kids. Some families have moved away recently because of that. Homeschooling is tough and I know because I was a teacher. I think a lot of parents everywhere are learning that right now. But not too many people have left at this point. There are some folks trying to get back here, but it’s difficult with the travel restrictions.
Megan: Can you describe for me what the expat community is like in Pedasí?
Connie: It is a big mix, but a lot of retirees, of course.
Mikkel: There are a lot more young retirees now, between 50 and 60 years old, who are saying “why do I keep working forever?” when they can afford to retire here sooner than they could in the U.S. Some are starting small businesses. You may not make a lot of money, but it keeps you busy. One couple here started making cupcakes. That’s a market that no one had here and they sell a lot of cupcakes.
Megan: I know you both have a lot of hobbies and small business ventures that keep you busy. Can you tell us a little bit about those?
Mikkel: We distribute and sell Panama nature guides and a Panama map. We have a Panamanian employee in Panama City who does distribution for us now to over 30 different distribution points throughout Panama. I recently joined up with a Boquete expat business, “Cloud Forest Botanicals,” to bring their products to the Azuero region. Connie takes care of the money.
Connie: As for me, some of the people I’ve met here have been able to share their talents with me, which is how I really got into crafting. I find it to be therapeutic and I don’t really sell anything, I just create when I feel like it.
(You can check out their business here: https://www.expatimports.com/ )
Megan: You used to have a blog too, right?
Connie: Yes I still have it. I don’t write as much as I used to, but I did recently write a post about quarantine. You have to go back to the beginning to see more about our transition moving here.
Mikkel: She actually has blog groupies. People will come to Pedasí and look her up to say hi because they’ve been reading her blog. There are even some families that moved here because they started reading her blog. I do a lot of promotion of her blog and I tell people if you want to know what Pedasí is like, check out this blog. She started it before we moved, so it talks about how we made the decision, and the different things we’ve done after moving here. But she actually became part of the Panamanian culture. She was asked as part of an expat group, to get the traditional dress “pollera”, learn the “tipico” dance, and she participated in the parades. So that has been a real source of enjoyment. Also the Animal Advocates of Pedasí took up a lot of our time when we first got here. There’s always something going on and different ways to get involved here.
Connie: For my first few years here, I taught English a few times a week at a one room schoolhouse in a nearby town, ages 6-12. They would teach me spanish and I would teach them English. Then another organization took it over. Then we started teaching young adults English, so that they could pass a test that would give them the opportunity to go study at a university in Switzerland. The classes were full time during the week and at the end, 5 out of the 6 students got to go study abroad. Anyway, that kept me busy.
(If you are interested in learning more about Mikkel and Connie and their journey, visit Connie’s blog HERE )
Megan: What is your experience with the medical facilities in Pedasí?
Connie: We have a public clinic here. It moved locations just outside of town into a newer facility. For emergencies or basic care, they are sufficient. There is no X-Ray.
Mikkel: But they can stabilize you and if you need more care than they can provide, they will take you to the Las Tablas public hospital or La ViIla hospital closer to Chitre.
Oscar: And that is the new white hospital on the main highway, right?
(this is the Anita Moreno Regional Hospital)
Mikkel: Yes, that is a regional hospital. They will take on the tougher cases. It is the biggest hospital on the Azuero and there is virtually nothing they cannot do. We personally know the doctor in charge of the emergency room there and he is an excellent doctor.
Connie: Sometimes, he will let people in Pedasí know that he is coming to Pedasí because he likes Pedasí and he comes here to surf, so he’ll come here and schedule house calls while he is here.
Mikkel: But generally you can go to our Pedasí clinic and it is very inexpensive. It is $2 to see a doctor. They can fill prescriptions, do lab tests, they have a full nursing staff, and they are open 24/7. We’ve been there several times for various things. I had a severe burn to one arm. I went there and returned back every day for 10 days to clean the wound and change the bandages, which was $1 a day. We pay for our own medical costs here, although we do get travel insurance when traveling. We’ve had great care here and we have a wonderful dentist in Chitre who does the cleaning and exam. He costs us less than what our copay was to see a dentist in the US. So we have no qualms about the medical services in Panama.
Megan: Are those administering medical care bilingual?
Mikkel: The doctor at La Villa Regional Hospital definitely speaks English, but if we have a serious problem we take someone with us to act as a translator. One of our Panamanian friends here is wonderful and she will go with us anytime we need her. The language barrier is never a problem. It’s only a problem if you make it a problem.
Connie: We always tell people, this is a Spanish-speaking country, so do your best to learn as much Spanish as you can. Don’t expect people to know English. Learn the basics.
Mikkel: We have found that when we are talking to someone and we don’t quite understand, they are generally very patient with us. Sometimes I have to say “Despacio, Despacio”, meaning slowly.
Megan: Okay last question, Can you each give me one word or phrase to describe your life in Pedasí?
Mikkel: Exhilarating because it keeps me young. Between the businesses and hobbies, it keeps me busy and I’m not just sitting around.
Connie: Blessed. We didn’t know we could have such a blessed life in retirement at this age.
Mikkel: Definitely, we could not have the same retired life that we have here in Panama back in the U.S.
Megan: Wonderful, well thank you so much for connecting with us and we can’t wait to see you guys in person in Pedasí when we start doing tours again.
Retire in Panama Tours
It’s more than a tour . . it’s an experience.