“Kathleen, thanks for your ongoing info. My boyfriend and I are planning on checking our Salinas, Ecuador, and Boquete, Panama. He’s visually impaired so can’t drive. We require things within walking distance, including a well-equipped gym. Can you please give advice on which place is better? He’s retired now, and I still have a year to go, but if we can find a suitable place to rent, we might move in sooner.”
–Rufina T., United States
Latin America Correspondent Lee Harrison responds:
Given the choice between Boquete, Panama, and Salinas, Ecuador, in your situation, I’d have to go with Salinas. For the visually impaired, there are far more residential options in the city proper than you’ll find in Boquete, so it’s easier to make your way without driving.
Both places have gym facilities…but Boquete is a small town, and finding a residence within walking distance of one may not be easy, depending on what you’re looking for. Salinas, on the other hand, is a small city, with a developed tourism infrastructure, meaning you’ll have more amenities close by, as well as, again, lots of condos and houses to choose from.
I’d like to suggest a couple of alternatives to consider, as well, when planning your scouting trip.
If you like coastal Ecuador, I’d take time to check out the cities of Manta and Bahía de Caráquez. Neither has the tourism of Salinas (or rental potential) but both are small cities suitable for year-round living…and both have residential options in walkable areas.
If you like the idea of mountain living in Boquete, you might also want to check out Loja, Ecuador. It’s a small city whose historic center is easily walkable. The city amenities (including gyms) are more plentiful than those in either Salinas or Boquete. Loja is a bit cooler than Boquete, with highs in the mid-70s (23° to 24° C). The cost of living is lower in Loja, and the cost of real estate is much lower.
One thing I’ll be doing at our Live and Invest in Ecuador Conference in Quito next February is walking attendees through how Ecuador stacks up against other countries in Latin America. I think this kind of comparing and contrasting is critical to making the right choice, and I’ll give my honest opinions based on more than a decade of experience living and traveling in the region, from Mexico and Colombia to Brazil, the Southern Cone, and beyond.