Travel & Retirement: Boquete, Panama

The Trouble With Calling Panama Home

You know life is catching up with you when everywhere you go you hear yourself saying things like, “When I was first here…a decade ago…”

Lief and I have been revisiting old haunts lately, in preparation for this week’s Live and Invest in Panama Conference. We’ll be hosting about 100 out-of-town guests in Panama City starting Wednesday morning. We thought it’d be a good idea to reacquaint ourselves with parts of Panama we don’t visit often.

That’s the trouble with calling a place home. You take it for granted. Panama is beaches and islands…coffee farms and fincas…rivers and waterfalls…red frogs and howler monkeys… Over the past 14 years we’ve enjoyed much of what Panama has to offer, zip-lining and river-rafting with the kids, riding horseback and on motorbikes through the highlands, snorkeling and jet-skiing offshore…

But, when we thought about it, we realized it’d been years since we’d last done those things. Years since we’d taken time out for that kind of play. Our Panama agenda these days is all business.

A couple of weeks ago, therefore, we spent a long weekend on the eastern coast of the Azuero Peninsula. We drove from Chitre down the coast through Los Santos, Las Tablas, Pedasi, Playa Venao, Tonosi, Cambutal… And we found that, in the past few years, while we haven’t been paying attention, this part of Panama has grown up. Pedasi, in particular, has become a cool, fun little town home to an eclectic, welcoming population of expats from all around the world. We were delighted to make their acquaintance and invited some of them to come join us in Panama City this week to meet and greet our out-of-town visitors (that is, our conference attendees).

Then, this past week, furthering our agenda to reconnect with parts of Panama that have fallen off our radar in recent years, we flew out to Boquete.

When did I see Boquete for the first time, I tried to recall. I couldn’t remember except to say that our son Jackson hadn’t been dreamt of yet. Now Jack is 12 ½.

That first trip, I rode on horseback through the valley that today is the region’s (some would say the country’s) premier development community, Valle Escondido. Back then, Valle Escondido was a pristine wonderland of wildflower-covered hillsides.


Today the hillsides are as lush and beguiling as I remember, but they’re peppered with condos and private residences. In a good way. Plus a small golf course…stables…a central pueblo area… An appealing turn-key retirement option in the hills just outside Boquete town.

Boquete town has grown, too. Today one of the biggest expat retiree communities in the world calls Boquete home. We stopped for breakfast at Olga’s, one of the places where expats in these parts gather. While we enjoyed our American-style breakfast, a dozen “local” retirees around us drank their coffee, read the morning papers, and chatted…all in English.

This would be a super-easy place to plug into as a foreign retiree. And, while real estate prices spiked in this part of Panama around 2006-2008, they’re down now and negotiable.

My thought from my first visit to Boquete years ago was that this would be a great place to retire to a coffee farm. Last week, Lief and I met an American who is developing that idea in a charming way. We’ll have details for our conference guests later this week..

Pedasi and the eastern Azuero coast…the western Azuero coast where Lief and I have decided to focus our attention at Los Islotes…Boquete in the highlands…the “City Beaches,” as they’re called, about an hour outside Panama City, Panama City itself…

The lifestyle options in this little isthmus of a country are tremendously varied. I’m looking forward to exploring them together with our out-of-town guests later this week.

If you’re making your way down to Panama now to meet us for this week’s Live and Invest in Panama event, we’re very much looking forward to meeting you.

Kathleen Peddicord