Retire To Santa Fe, Panama

The Best Of Panama, Part 2

I visited the undiscovered, unassuming mountain town of Santa Fe, Panama, for the first time about six years ago. Back then, Santa Fe was about as out-of-the-way as a mountain town can be. The roads in the region sometimes washed out and became impassable during the rainy season. It’s not an island, but (not only six years ago but still today), if you don’t bring it with you from Santiago (the nearest destination of note), you’re going to have to do without, at least until your next drive into the big city.

A hostel, a few tipico restaurants where you could enjoy the dinner plate (chicken, rice, and beans, typically) for US$2 or less…that’s what Santa Fe had to offer the traveler who happened upon her a half-dozen years ago.

In other words, nothing much to speak of…except beautiful, lush, rolling countryside, crisscrossed by a river and punctuated by waterfalls.

I’ve returned to Santa Fe many times since, most recently a few months ago. Each return visit, I notice change, including not insignificant road construction and improvements, plus talk of bigger road improvements, culminating, today, in the construction of a new highway from Santa Fe through to Panama’s Caribbean coast.

How will things play out in Santa Fe from this point? We don’t know for sure, of course, but we can make some predictions based on experience. An important infrastructure development, of the kind now in the offing in little Santa Fe, means opportunity. In advance of the improvement, opportunity for speculation. After the improvement, opportunity for investment, for increased tourism, and for an expanding population, including an expanding population of foreign retirees and other expats (including expat-entrepreneurs).

I’d be very surprised if all these things weren’t on the horizon for Santa Fe. How you interpret them depends on your point of view.

If you’re looking for a place to speculate, to bank a little land, I’d say get ye’ to Santa Fe pronto. It’s still possible to get a very good deal on a piece of mountainside property in this area.

If you’re interested in finding a cool-weather, back-to-basics, and super affordable place to live or retire, again, I say, you should plan a trip to this unsung corner of Panama. Change is coming, but it will unfold slowly. And, from the perspective of the would-be resident retiree, much of it will be welcome, because it will mean more and greater comforts.

Not everyone would be happy living in Santa Fe, especially full-time. This is a beautiful, safe region where the living is sweet but not well-appointed. At home in Santa Fe, you’d be living a true Panamanian lifestyle, among Panamanians. You’d need to speak Spanish. You’d need to be comfortable taking care of yourself. You’d need to be willing to put some effort into building your new life.

Santa Fe is the best of simple mountain country life. As a friend traveling with us to Santa Fe on our most recent visit put it, “The doomsday predictions could play out, the world could collapse, and the folks out here in this part of this country would be unaffected. Life here would continue on as it has for centuries…”

Much of life in Santa Fe centers around the river, which is wide and flows quickly at some points. Tourists navigate it in inner tubes. The locals bathe and wash their clothes in it. Children delight in it on hot Saturday afternoons. On the hillsides all around it, bougainvillea, hibiscus, and jasmine bloom in abundance.

When the sun begins to set, temperatures fall, and, thanks to the elevation and the mountain breeze, evenings are pleasant and best spent out-of-doors.

Lief and I are city folk, but, every time we visit Santa Fe, we’re tempted. We can imagine settling in here easily, removed from the worries and the troubles of the real world, savoring some of the best that Mother Nature has to offer anywhere.

Certainly wouldn’t cost much. You could live a simple but comfortable life in Santa Fe on well less than US$1,000 a month.

Kathleen Peddicord

Continue Reading: Retirement Options In Panama From Pedasi To El Valle

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