Boquete, Panama

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Reviewed by Kathleen Peddicord

Kathleen is the Live and Invest Overseas Founding Publisher. She has more than 30 years of hands-on experience traveling, living, and buying property around the world.


Boquete: A True Central American Expat Haven

A Panama map with an arrow pointing to Boquete

Boquete is not a town but a district, the functional equivalent of a county. When you cross into Boquete you’ll find yourself on a sustained gentle grade up into the green mountains of western Panama and the eastern flanks of Volcán Barú.

Boquete District is divided into six sub-districts or townships (corregimientos): Bajo Boquete (the district capital), Caldera, Palmira, Alto Boquete, Jaramillo, and Los Naranjos. It is in the western most region of Panama bordering Costa Rica.

When living in Boquete, you’re only 40 minutes from David, Panama’s second-largest city. Plus, it’s one of the few places in Panama where you can live without knowing Spanish.

Many locals speak some English, while others, especially those who work in the service industry, are nearly bilingual. Though many people speak English here, it’s always a good idea to learn at least basic Spanish, if for no reason other than to show respect to the locals.

Boquete was founded in 1911. Today, it’s home to some 20,000 residents… of which a staggering 25% are expats.

The Cost Of Living In Boquete, Panama

In Boquete you’ll be enjoying many of the benefits (great weather, affordable cost of living, and tax savings), but the surroundings and the neighbors would feel familiar in many ways.

Every day consumables are slightly cheaper here than in the United States, and that includes the cost of American imports. The quality of local, fresh produce is significantly better than that available in most of the United States.

People thinking of retirement in Boquete usually come for the low cost of living and change of lifestyle. For what you get in terms of quality of life, amenities, and comforts, this mountain expat haven offers good value.

Transportation in Boquete can run up to US$150 and it will depend on what area you live in. A gallon of gasoline is US$4. Add US$50 if you plan to use local buses and taxis.

Living in Boquete, Panama, costs much the same as it does elsewhere in Panama. If you own your own home, you can live in Boquete for US$1,300 a month. Boquete real estate is still the second most expensive in Panama, second in cost only to Panama City.

A couple can live comfortably on about US$2,000 or less per month, depending on the lifestyle you choose: A one-bedroom, one-bathroom, rustic home with a courtyard goes for US$198,000 and a 200-square-meter duplex in a gated community is US$270,000.

Outside of town you can find two-bedroom, two-bathroom, fully furnished condos from US$139,000 to US$156,000.

It is possible to find real estate bargains in Boquete if you know where to look and who to ask. As in any unregulated market, you’ll find better real estate purchase and rental deals if you have your feet on the ground in Boquete, Panama. Scouting real estate in Panama from afar is much more difficult than if you’re physically present in the area.

The currency in Panama is the U.S. dollar, so U.S. retirees have no currency-exchange risk or confusion to worry about. Keep in mind that Boquete isn’t as affordable as it used to be, but it’s still cheaper than the States, Canada, and much of Europe.

For groceries, head to PriceSmart in David. It’s like Panama’s version of Costco and you’ll save a lot by buying things like toilet paper, paper towels, olive oil, rice, beans, lentils, and anything else that won’t go bad in a month or two in bulk. You Set aside US$400 for supermarket expenses (with local and imported food/household items).

When living in Boquete, Panama, expect to spend about US$25 to US$30 on a meal for two with drinks at a mid-range restaurant. Take away the drinks and it comes to approximately US$18

Apartment Or House Ownership Budget (For A Couple)

ExpenseMonthly CostsNotes
MortgageNot included here as too variable.
HOA FeesOnly applies if living in a gated community. Estimate US$150 to US$250 per month. Fees are based on size of house and lot.
Property TaxesUS$75Tax value is assessed by the registered value in ANATI (Department of Land and Property Registry in Panama). It’s the last recorded sale and is not adjusted annually.
TransportationUS$150Depending on what area you live in. For local buses and taxis, plus car expenses.
GasUS$14US$7 per tank.
ElectricityUS$40 to US$50Highly variable.
WaterUS$40Approximately.
Cell PhoneUS$35Tigo monthly plan.
InternetUS$27Basic.
Cable TVUS$25Basic.
Household HelpUS$200US$25 per day, twice a week.
EntertainmentUS$460Eating out twice a week at a mid-range, local restaurant: US$80.
Local drinks twice a week at a nearby watering hole: US$25.
Community theater or other local event twice a month: US$20 per outing.
GroceriesUS$200Basic items for a couple shopping at Romero or Súper Barú supermarkets and buying produce at local farmer’s markets.
Gym MembershipUS$60US$30 per person at The Perfect Body or similar gym.
Medical AppointmentUS$10 public
US$25 private
Approximately.
TOTALUS$1,336 to US$1,361Mortgage and HOA fees not included.

Apartment Or House Rental Budget (For A Couple)

ExpenseMonthly CostsNotes
RentUS$400Two-bedroom, one-bathroom house.
TransportationUS$150For local buses and taxis, plus car expenses.
GasUS$14US$7 per gas tank.
ElectricityIncluded in the rent.
WaterIncluded in the rent.
Cell PhoneUS$35Tigo monthly plan
InternetUS$27Basic.
Cable TVUS$25Basic.
Household HelpUS$200US$25 per day, twice a week.
EntertainmentUS$460Eating out twice a week at a mid-range, local restaurant: US$80.
Local drinks twice a week at a nearby watering hole: US$25.
Community theater or other local event twice a month: US$20 per outing.
GroceriesUS$200Basic items for a couple shopping at Romero or Súper Barú supermarkets and buying produce at local farmer’s markets.
Gym MembershipUS$60US$30 per person at The Perfect Body or similar gym.
Medical AppointmentUS$10 public
US$25 private
Approximately.
TOTALUS$1,581 to US$1,596

Penny-Pincher’s Budget (Bare Minimum Costs, For A Couple) In Boquete

ExpenseMonthly CostsNotes
RentUS$250One bedroom, one bathroom casita or apartment.
TransportationUS$50For local buses and taxis, plus car expenses.
GasUS$14US$7 per gas tank.
ElectricityIncluded in the rent.
WaterIncluded in the rent.
Cell PhoneUS$20Tigo monthly plan
InternetUS$27Basic.
Cable TVUS$25Basic.
EntertainmentUS$45One meal out at a mid-range, local restaurant with two drinks each.
GroceriesUS$140Shopping mostly at local farmer’s markets and an occasional trip to Romero or Súper Barú supermarkets for staples.
TOTALUS$571

Infrastructure In Boquete

In Spanish, Boquete means “gap”—a fitting name for the highland valley nestled within the skirts of the Cordillera Central (Central Mountain Range).

From events and festivals to meet-ups and clubs, you’ll have no difficulty getting and staying connected with your fellow expats. Nearly everyone speaks English in Boquete, making the transition to life abroad a breeze.

Life in Boquete means always having places to visit and getting lost in unique experiences, since it’s a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts, nature lovers, and anyone looking for an adventure-filled lifestyle.

Seeing the area for the first time, you understand the appeal. The streets are draped with flowers of every kind and color… artisanal markets line the sidewalks…

Many who make their way to Boquete are so captivated by the beautiful scenery and welcoming community they find that they don’t ever want to leave.

Barú Volcano National Park

Sunrise with a view at Volcán Barú in Panama near Boquete.iStock/Smaks K

The Volcán Barú is the highest mountain in all of Panama at 3,475 meters (11,400 feet). It’s an active stratovolcano and it’s a steep 27-kilometer-long trail.

Hiking is a favorite activity in Boquete, Panama, and trails range from very easy to the very challenging. When it comes to hiking the Barú Volcano trail, you should only undertake this with a local guide…

One of the most famous trails in Panama is the Quetzal Trail. It runs through the interior of the Barú Volcano National Park, and admission is free. It is customary to start the tour at the park ranger’s booth that is in the place called Alto Chiquero, as far as it is possible to get by car, and park right there.

And if hiking is not your thing, you could also head up the volcano by car.

Visit Boquete Bees And Butterflies

Boquete Bees and Butterflies is a beekeeping company and also a butterfly breeding place. You can buy locally produced honey and coffee there, as well as practice yoga and dance in a studio where butterflies roam.

Feria Del Café Y De Las Flores (Fair Of Coffee And Flowers)

This fair is a yearly occurrence. It takes place in January and lasts 10 days. At the fair, local and international companies have stands with crafts, coffee, plants, and more, all of their own production. When you get hungry during the day, you can buy food and drinks from local restaurants that have stands at the fair.

Enjoy Panamanian folklore shows, the theme park, horseback riding, and more.

Las Cascadas Perdidas (The Lost Waterfalls)

Here’s another hike for the adventurous soul. Las Cascadas Perdidas is considered to be one of the most stunning trails in Panama. To reach the three waterfalls, you have to trek through a dense forest and muddy paths. The entrance to the hiking trail costs US$7, and it’s a short hike but very worth the effort.

Chocolate-Making Classes

The Perfect Pair is a café that’s located in the town of Boquete, close to the central park of town. It’s a great spot to enjoy a mug of hot, creamy cocoa while you work or chat with a friend.

Additionally, they also offer a chocolate-making class.

Boquete Jazz And Blues Festival

Music is a big part of everyday life in Boquete, Panama and that’s why the Boquete Jazz And Blues Festival has become a popular with performers from around the world.

The music festival is a lively event that takes place in venues like the Boquete Community Players Theater and the slopes of Volcán Barú.

Retirement in Boquete, Panama

As a country, Panama has options for foreign residency if you want to live here full-time. Boquete is home to established and welcoming groups of expats and retirees.

Local Panama health insurance (which can be good, comprehensive coverage, all you need living in this country) can cost US$150 per month or less…

Panama’s pensionado program of special benefits and discounts for foreign retirees is the current Gold Standard.

Retire in Panama, especially in Boquete, and you can save as much as 50% on everything from restaurant meals to in-country airfares, from prescription medicines to closing costs on your new house.

The government of Panama has historically allowed any adult over 18 years of age who could show proof of a monthly pension of any kind to qualify for a pensionado, or retirement, visa.

U.S. citizens may enter Panama without a visa and remain in the country as a tourist for a maximum of 180 days per trip.

Being Safe In Boquete

Weather In Boquete, Panama

For many years, Boquete has been a cool-weather retreat for the elite of Panama, families with a home in Panama City, a home on the beach, and still another here in Boquete.

It’s rainier and windier in this part of the country than down on the coasts, and temperatures are often cool enough to warrant the fireplaces that have been built into many Boquete homes. It’s fresh and invigorating.

Because the town is about 1,131 meters (3,710 feet) above sea level, temperatures are cooler. During the day, the temperature is about 68°F (20°C) and at night, temperatures drop to about 60°F (16°C).

Boquete, Panama, has the perfect climate. You can wander around during the day in a T-shirt and jeans and put on a light jacket in the evenings.

January is the sunniest month with an average of 275 hours of sunshine and February is the driest month in Boquete, Panama. The warmest month is April and the temperature goes up to 85°F (29°C).

While living in Boquete, always carry a raincoat or umbrella with you during the rainy season which goes from May to October. Mornings are usually sunny but it’s guaranteed that it’ll start raining at noon or 1 p.m.

6 Reasons Retirees Keep Choosing Boquete
By Adriana Valdez Esquivel

Panama, Boquete, villa with lush tropical garden in the jungle among the volcanic hills Adobe Stock/Marco

Boquete has been a favorite among expats for decades. Interest in this charming mountain town only grows with time, which has caused an increase in the area’s cost of living.

Boquete is no longer the budget-friendly retirement destination it was 20 years ago, but it’s probably still more affordable than your home country. It all comes down to the lifestyle you choose, which is true for all retirement destinations.

Let’s take a look at the six reasons retirees (and expats in general) keep choosing Boquete as their new home…

#1: Cost Of Living

Boquete isn’t as affordable as it used to be, but it’s still cheaper than the States, Canada, and much of Europe.

As a couple you can live comfortably on about US$2,000 or less per month, depending on the lifestyle you choose.

You can save money by buying locally grown veggies and fruits and by replacing imported goods with local brands. Decide which products from home you can live without and replace them with local equivalents. Reducing your monthly costs this way will allow you to indulge more on the imported goods you don’t want to live without.

For groceries, head to PriceSmart in David. It’s like Panama’s version of Costco and you’ll save a lot by buying things like toilet paper, paper towels, olive oil, rice, beans, lentils, and anything else that won’t go bad in a month or two in bulk.

#2: Weather

The weather in Boquete is ideal.

Because the town is about 1,131 meters (3,710 feet) above sea level, temperatures are cooler. During the day, the temperature is about 20°C (68°F) and at night, temperatures drop to about 16°C (60°F).

In my opinion, it’s the perfect climate. You can wander around during the day with a T-shirt and jeans and put on a light jacket in the evenings.

You should always carry a raincoat or umbrella with you during the rainy season from May to October. Mornings are usually sunny but it’s almost guaranteed that it’ll start raining at about noon or 1 p.m.

#3: Language

Boquete is one of the few places in Panama where you can get by with little to no Spanish.

Thanks to its popularity among expats over the years, many locals have learned to speak English. Speaking English has even become a requirement for most jobs. Restaurants, banks, retail stores, cafés, hostels, hotels, plantations, haciendas, etc., all require their workers to speak at least intermediate-level English.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t learn at least basic Spanish. You should learn at least enough of the language to get your point across. If you decide to hire a maid or gardener there’s a chance they won’t speak English and you’ll need to be able to tell them what work you need done.

#4: Community Activities

The BCP Tuesday Market, which takes place every Tuesday from 9 a.m. to noon, is a great chance to get to know your fellow retirees. You’ll find both locals and expats selling their goods. Some have taken up agriculture, some paint, some bake, and some have become craftsmen and craftswomen.

The Boquete Community Group on Facebook is the best way to stay up to date on activities going on during the week. Popular get-togethers include bingo nights every Wednesday and trivia nights every Monday at the new Selina hotel, veggies and wine every Sunday at Ngädri restaurant, and more.

#5: Large Expat Community

Boquete has an enormous expat community… It makes up 25% of the area’s population. Walking down the street, you’ll notice there are about the same number of foreigners as there are locals. You’ll hear more English on your stroll than Spanish.

Getting involved in the expat community couldn’t be easier. Before your move, you should join the Boquete Community Group on Facebook and introduce yourself. You’ll find your fellow retirees (and expats) are very welcoming. If you ever need help finding someone to do a certain job, have a question about something, or simply want to share an experience, this is the place to do so.

#6: Proximity To A Large City

Boquete doesn’t have any major hospitals. There are clinics, dentist’s offices, pharmacies, and a Centro de Salud (a type of mini hospital for basic needs).

Boquete is about 40 minutes from David, the capital of Chiriquí Province. This is where you’ll go for more specialized care and surgeries.

The main hospitals in David are Hospital Chiriquí and Hospital Centro Mae Lewis. Both facilities have English-speaking doctors and offer high-quality care at a reasonable price.

There are many other reasons to choose Boquete, but to discover them all you’d need to visit and see the town for yourself. Plan a trip, experience all that Boquete has to offer, and get a feel for what retirement here could be like for you.

As is true for anywhere, Boquete isn’t perfect, but it’s well-deserving of its position as Panama’s #1 retirement destination.

Map Of Boquete, Panama

Boquete, Panama FAQ’s

Is Boquete Worth Visiting?

Boquete is worth visiting because it offers scenic locations that are always unique experiences. A paradise for outdoor enthusiasts, nature lovers, and anyone looking for an adventure-filled lifestyle, Boquete is the right place to try new activities each day.

What Is Boquete, Panama, Known For?

Boquete is known for having the most pleasant weather in all of Panama and for its hiking attractions: You can climb to the top of the Baru volcano or one of the most popular trails in the country: the Quetzal Trail.

Is Boquete A Good Place To Retire?

Yes, Boquete is a true Central American expat haven: Excellent weather, low cost of living and it has a foreign-resident-friendly tax system.

Why Should Americans Move To Boquete?

Americans should move to Boquete because it has an enormous expat community. Walking down the road, you’ll notice there are about the same number of foreigners as there are locals.

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