Boquete (pronounced bow-keh-tay) is a lovely mountain town located in western Panama in the Province of Chiriquí, along the Caldera River and next to Volcan Barú, an active (but sleeping) volcano which is is Panama’s tallest point at 3475 meters (11,400 ft). It is considered one of Panama’s top expat havens.
The town itself sits at an elevation of 1,200 meters (3,900 ft) above sea level, making it what many residents feel, the most comfortable climate in Panama. With daytime highs reaching 25° C (77° F) and evening lows at about 15° C (60° F), virtually every day of the year.
Boquete’s history started more than 2,000 years ago as evidence of rock carvings being discovered in the Caldera region, and evidence of ancient settlements in the area. During the Spanish colonization the area was a refuge for local tribes like the Ngöbe and the Misquito, due to its topographic terrain. The settling of Boquete by Panamanians and foreigners started happening in the mid 19h century with locals from David, Gualaca and Bugaba and Europeans from France, Germany, Yugoslavia and others. In Spanish the word “boquete” means opening or gap, and through this gap many curious gold seekers traveled looking for a quicker way to the Pacific. By the early 1900’s villages in the area sprang up including Lina, Quiel Bajo Mono, Los Naranjos, and Bajo Boquete, which is now the center of town for the district.
Even through the recent boom of tourism, the main industry of the area continues to be agriculture, mostly coffee growing. Boquete is very well know for it’s coffee, and has been judged to be some of the finest in the world.
With a district population of just over 20,000 people, Boquete is a popular destination for retirees looking for a simpler lifestyle. So, why retire in Boquete Panama?
The Culture in Boquete
Near the end of January every year, Boquete hosts it annual fair, named the Boquete Flower Festival, which is 10 days of music, food, Panamanian culture, more than 200 stalls displaying local artisans, midway rides for the kids and of course, acres of flowers. This floral extravaganza has been help in Boquete annually since 1984, and this year, had just over 200,000 visitors come through the gates during the 10 days.
Back in 2005, a group of expats got together and created the Boquete Community Playhouse (BCP) group. The 100 seat theater, and is the only community theater in the country outside of Panama City, and events center is located in the center of town, along the Caldera river, across from the fair grounds. They produce many productions annually, and the events center is also home to the popular Tuesday market.
This Tuesday Market attracts hundreds of expats every week, and the vendors are made of of expats selling their goods and services, and locals doing the same. You can pick up your organic vegetables, grass fed beef, pork, free range chickens, and more. Locals sell their handicrafts also. The weekly Tuesday market has become a social event for many expats who have retired in Boquete.
The Beautiful Nature of Boquete
The Quetzal Trail, is considered the most beautiful trails in Central America, and is one of the most popular in Boquete, and named after the Quetzales bird, which often will be seen on this trail. The trail, named Sendero de los Quetzales, in Spanish, is 9.6 kms (6 miles) and connects the towns of Guadalupe, near Cero Punto on the west side of the Volcano, with Boquete on the east. The trails goes along the Volcano’s north face, and can be hiked in either direction, in about 5 – 7 hours. Most tour guides offer this trail, and it is only walked one way with the guide coordinating logistics of getting a ride at the other end, to get you back to where you started.
The most popular direction for the Quetzal Trail, is from Boquete to Cero Punto, as the trail in more uphill, which is easier on the knees than the several hours of downhill the other way. Also, earlier in the mornings at lower levels, you stand a better chance of seeing more Quetzals. Also in the raining season, rain typically happens in the afternoon in Boquete, but in the morning in Cero Punto, so chances of staging dry are better this direction. But remember, you are hiking in a rain forest, so there is never a guarantee of staying completely dry on this day long adventure.
Friendly Retiree Program
Panama’s Pensionado Visa program which is one of a kind in the world is perhaps one of the biggest benefits of living in Boquete Panama. The program allows foreign retirees who draw a lifetime monthly pension of at least $1000 to retire and gain permanent residency in Panama. They also access a host of other discounts on their daily living expenses which significantly lowers the cost of living. The discounts include healthcare bills, airline tickets and restaurants, bus, boat and train fares as well as entertainment. Full details of this program can be found here.
Less Stressful Lifestyle in Boquete
The little town of Boquete is home to music, art and culture. In fact, retirees who want to get creative can join a photography club, enroll in a drawing or painting class or tour the local Boquete Public Library to check out some of the best art exhibits. Expats can also relax while playing some golf at the Lucero Country Club or the luxurious Valle Escondido. There is also a variety of full service spas for those who wish to get some personal pampering. Here you can get beauty treatments, fitness programs and therapeutic massages. Yoga, thia chi, zumba and other fitness classes are taught through out the week, at a few dollars to attend.
With all the trails available, and many of the local activities, residents can get out almost daily, and go for a walk, or some or attend some activity their neighborhood. Lunch and happy hours are popular in Boquete, and in it’s many expat friendly restaurants, you will see groups getting together daily for lunches, coffee or a happy hour with their other expat friends. There are many charitable organizations, that you join and can help out, that have fundraising events often, making the social life here very busy. We also have the knitters club, the bridge club, the photography club among others that meet weekly or monthly.
Many retirees in Boquete will tell you that their health has significantly improved simply because this small town lends itself to healthy daily living, and there is something about the eternal spring like climate here, that also seems to help..
Lower Cost of Living
Although Boquete, similar to Coronado, are large expat communities, so the cost of living in these places is higher than in smaller town in Panama, it can still be much less than the cost of living in your home country. An individual can live in Boquete, for a little as $1,500 a month, including rent, but if you want a more North American style home, you are looking at closer to $2,000 a month. You can also spend lot more than this, depending on your life style.
Now let’s look at this chart I put together with explaining the cost of living in Boquete ranging in lifestyles from basic, moderate to luxury.
I will explain each of the expenses below.
Rent – Basic is a Panamanian, 2 bedroom home, in a Panamanian neighborhood, fully furnished. The Moderate is a more North American style home, stainless appliances, granite counter tops, and the Luxury is a 2500 + sq foot, Villa in a Luxury gated community.
Utilities (Electric/Gas) – Utilities are cheap in Boquete, as there is no need for heat or air conditioning, because of it’s temperate climate.
Internet/TV – Basic will have 20 meg internet and a Netflix subscription, Moderate a 60 mb connection, and some cable channels, Luxury 160 mb internet, and full cable with HBO.
Cell Phone – Basic has prepaid minutes, does the odd call, and using Whats app, moderate and Luxury, unlimited data and minutes on a post paid plan each person,
Transportation – Basic – Use of Taxis and Buses, Taxis in town usually under $1, bus to David, $1.75. Moderate will have an older used car, with expenses for gas, maintenance and insurance. Luxury, a newer used car, with expenses for gas, maintenance and insurance.
Grocery – From the Basic, chuck steak to Luxury filet mignon, you can buy grocery on any budget here.
Restaurant – Basic eating out twice a week, at Panamanian restaurants, to the Luxury dining out weekly at fine restaurants, and lunches twice a week.
Entertainment – The Basic is a movie night twice a month, and attending local events to the Luxury attending upscale charity events, shows and cultural events twice a month.
Health Insurance – Price based on age 55 – 65, Local Insurance, 1,000,000 coverage, 1,000 deductible.
If you are considering moving to Panama, Boquete is one of those places you can live well on less.
Affordable Real Estate in Boquete
If you are planning to retire in Boquete Panama, real estate is quite affordable in this town although prices continue to rise with the town’s growing popularity. There are so many options available when it comes to real estate as the town offers both traditional and modern housing. Expats also get plenty of choices in locations within and around Boquete. With the help of a reputable real estate agent, it is easy to find good real estate values in Boquete. Currently as of this writing, it is a buyers market, with options from $100,000 to over one million, depending on your lifestyle and desires.
We at Retire in Panama Tours, do not recommend buying in Panama until you have lived here and rented for a while, but it is good to know what options you will have when it is your time to buy.
Here are some options on what is available right now in Boquete, at some different price ranges.
This 1200 sq foot, 3 bedroom 2 bath bungalow sitting on about 1/8 acre lot is for sale at $115,000
As you can see there are properties available for everyone in Boquete, but on our Retire in Panama Tours, we will not be selling you real estate. We will be encouraging you if you move here to rent for a year, just to make sure you are happy with the area you picked. With so many micro climates in the Boquete area, it may take you a while to decide where you want to send the rest of your years, so we do not want to encourage you to buy too soon. On our tour, we will be introducing you to a real estate agent, one we know is good, and when the time comes, will do a good job for you, but for the tours sake and they will be talking about real estate laws in Panama, and rental leases, and rental availability.
So you may think that Boquete is for you, and you may be right, but if you join us on our Retire in Panama Tour, we will show you many expat communities, across the country with different climates, cultures and prices. Then you can make the informed decision on whether retiring in Panama is good for you.
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