What Are the Best Places to Live in Panama?

Many people are tempted to move to Panama these days. It’s a top-notch destination for people who want a life that’s closer to the beach, a more laid back atmosphere, and a convenient location to start a new life. The country has plenty to offer for all kinds of people, and it’s a lot modern than most people assume. Panama has room for everybody, as in whether you’re looking for a luxurious neighborhood or a remote and peaceful paradise. 

Panama City is not the only best place to live in Panama. Although it’s already this perfect city, bustling with the scenic view of the Panama Bay landscaped perfectly with modern buildings, Panama has more charming spots to boast. You’ve got Bocas del Toro that’s close to the Carribean, a small forest town called Boquete, the beachside Coronado, Volcan the tropical haven, the bohemian Santa Fe, and the quiet areas Taboga Island and El Valle.

Read on to know more about these amazing locations in Panama.

Panama City: Affordable Cosmopolitan Life

Panama City is a first-world city that offers all the amenities you would expect from any big city for such a low cost. There’s that significant urban touch of skyscrapers, civic condos, and grand hotels all over the city, all seamlessly attached to the Panama Bay and the major industrial and financial hubs in the world. 

The combination of breath-taking metropolitan infrastructure and the fashionable suburbs around make an impeccable stimulating city. Another thing that breaks the presumption that Panama City isn’t as developed as the other metros are its high-speed internet and reliable power and water supplies. It’s like a slightly immaculate version of Miami. 

Cost of Living

Living in high-end cities like New York City would cost you $2524 a month to survive, and that’s at the least and if you’re renting an apartment that’s $900 at max. We all know that a decent place in NYC would cost at least an average of $2000-$3000 a month. So the realistic monthly total budget to have a decent life in the Big Apple would at least be $5000. In Panama City, $2500 is enough to live in a nice home for two with so much more money to spare. 

You can live a far more luxurious lifestyle in Panama City even for as low as $2000 if you’re living on your own. Here’s a breakdown of how far an average $2000-$2600 monthly budget can go for a 2-person household in the capital of Panama. 

ExpensesCost (US $)
Rent (2-bedroom, prime central location)$1000-$1500
Transportation (taxi, fuel, or small car maintenance)$75-$200
Electricity and water (bundled with trash pickup fees)$60-$170
Grocery shopping (food and other household necessities)$400-$500
Entertainment for 2 (dinner 4x a month, movies 2x a month with drinks and snacks)$150-$400
Phone (local use)$13-$20
High-speed internet$20-$45
Cable or Satellite TV$35-$50
Monthly Total$1753-$2885

You may not even reach the highest end of this monthly cost of living. After all, you might not really be the type to own a landline or pick an expensive central area apartment. You can see the big difference between living so comfortably in Panama and surviving in a more reputable city like New York, though. 

Climate

When you hear people say that Panama City is hot. It’s really H-O-T. It is as hot as Miami in July when nobody comes there at all because it’s just scorching. Still, the good thing about Panama City is that it has a cool breeze during the evenings. Humid months from May through November may feel like slow death in a fire but it should all go lighter from December to April. 

During that bearable season, temperatures range from 85-90°F or 29-32°C. Some may find it too hot while others don’t. Just look at it this way; in the Philippines or Singapore, 90°F or 32°C is just average yet you don’t see people melting or having to ditch their formal suit and ties to go to work. 

Of course, there are those hot summer days when you’ll feel yourself dripping in sweat and you just can’t do anything about it. Well, you can actually do something about that. Just stay indoors, put the airconditioning on full blast and make yourself a lovely refreshing fruit drink to avoid getting heatstroke. 

Pros

  • If you’re into the arts, Panama’s art scene has exploded everywhere in the capital from museums to banks, restaurants, malls, and even the streets. 
  • Panama City is gaining a reputation for being a culinary destination offering a wide range of high-quality dishes for an affordable price.
  • The city has outstanding health care services.
  • If you’re planning on investing in real estate, Panama City is known for being a booming property market.
  • Great retirement benefits and programs attract many people, especially retirees to move to the area.
  • There’s always a cultural or educational event taking place somewhere in Panama City.

Cons

  • If you don’t make the move soon, you might arrive at a time when you won’t get to enjoy the underrated metropolitan lifestyle in the capital city anymore.

Bocas del Toro: The Forever-on-Vacation Neighborhood

Bocas del Toro is the best choice for anyone who’s looking to settle in heaven forever. It is popular among tourists and retirees. You’ll find a lot of backpackers here, staying at party hostels or B&Bs, which the area has plenty of. The province is a perfect place to start that do-nothing-all-day chapter in your life with it being in the Carribean, closer to the sun and the crystal waters. 

If you’re a fan of full sustainable living and an absolute laid back lifestyle, Bocas del Toro is the place or the community for you. Here, you get to enjoy the simple pleasures in life without worrying about too much (okay, that is if you know you’ve got yourself well-backed financially). 

Cost of Living

The great thing about living in Bocas del Toro is that you can be satisfied with such gorgeous islands between Costa Rica and the Carribean for as low as $900 including rent. If you earn around $2000-$2500, you can live there like a king or queen. You can afford a nice house, go out to eat, do any kind of water sports, and even hire a helper for some chores and gardening.

Food in Bocas del Toro is a lot cheaper compared to the US but a little higher than most parts of Panama. Then you have taxis or water taxis there to take you to the main town if you want to shop for food and other household supplies. You only pay 60 cents for the car taxi while water taxis charge $1 to $3. 

Renting is also very affordable it barely eats away your monthly income. Furnished apartments range from $275-$1200 depending on the size and distance to the sea. Buying a beachfront property only costs $150,000-$200,000 for a half-acre. You get cheaper rates in areas away from the center of the fun, of course. You can build your own vision of a home there or just turn the space into a B&B, hostel, or Airbnb accommodations for extra income. 

Then for entertainment, you don’t have the movies but a much better quality time spent on getting together with friends, adventures on the marine world, and exploring the mysterious jungle. With $2000 a month, you can certainly do all those activities as much as you want.

Climate

The weather in Bocas del Toro is not as great as it seems. Unfortunately, it’s bipolar with times that are extremely sunny and tan-friendly then rainy even at unlikely times. The weather condition on the Carribean side is just different from the Pacific. The Carribean has more of a spring break vibe, whereas the Pacific has a mix of gloomy and sunny for its regular weather. 

The best weather in Bocas del Toro is in October when it’s not too hot and definitely not damp. The worst month is in January when there are rain and harsh winds disrupting your itch to dive into the waters or hang out at the local beachfront bar.

Pros

  • If you like biking, bicycles are everywhere on the island. They are a popular mode of transportation there, as well as skateboards.
  • Snorkeling and scuba diving are everyone’s hobbies in Bocas del Toro.
  • You can watch whales and dolphins playing in the sea.
  • To spice up your day, you have diving lessons, Spanish classes, fitness classes, and boat tours (the cheapest is just worth a dollar!).
  • The community arranges volunteering activities.
  • Everyone’s friendly, you can make friends just by walking down the street.
  • There are live music venues to cap the night. 
  • The beaches alone are enough reason to stay.

Cons

  • The island has problems with petty crimes.
  • Not as pristine as expected but rugged yet relaxed.

Boquete: Highland Luxury 

Boquete was just once a small farming area that thrived throughout the years as it is blessed with fertile volcanic soil and temperate climate. Fast forward to the present time, Boquete is dashing with a lot of highland activities, shows, and a bunch of expats residing in this modern countryside community. Despite the influx of Gringos in the small town, the population remains around 20,000. 

So you can expect a well maintained lush green valley with clean waters and majestic hills around. If you prefer the cooler terrestrial lifestyle, Boquete is where you should be. It has a simple village life which you can easily upgrade into a luxurious, golf club-level one. Boquete has got it all for you whether you’re going for a semi-rural life or the British-royal-out-in-the-Scotland-highlands-vacation-castle type.

Cost of Living

The average monthly cost of living in Boquete ranges from $1,100-$2,500 for simple to mid-high lifestyles. If you want the extremely extravagant highland living, it’ll cost you up to $3,267 per month. That’s for groups or families, though. That’s plenty of budget for an area where food is very cheap. Known as the “breadbasket” of Panama, Boquete serves the freshest and most affordable foods in the country. 

A three-bedroom house with two bedrooms doesn’t even cost much to rent. It’s just $800 a month. If you leave alone or there’s just two of you, a smaller size home is going to cost a lot less, you’ll hardly feel rental costs taking a portion of your monthly income. You can allot most of your funds to indulgent activities then. You’ve got great restaurants, water activities, and a whole lot of clubs for all sorts of things. 

Climate

Boquete is situated at an altitude of 3,200 feet among dramatically tall mountains. That’s why it has a cooler climate averaging from 70°F to 80°F (21°C to 27°C) during the day and even cooler at night. What makes Boquete’s a farmer’s haven is its misty rain that pours often. It keeps everything bright and gree and facilitates the growth of anything that’s grown in the soil.

The weather is not all gloomy, though. As a matter of fact, you get a nice presence of sunlight from the hills but the cool winds even out the temperature so it doesn’t get too warm. Many expats love this laid back weather as it allows them to do a lot more things during the day without worrying about melting outside. 

Pros

  • You’ll never run out of things to do. There’s horseback riding, bird watching, hiking, jazz festivals, a lively art scene, theaters, music venues, birding clubs, golf clubs, expats clubs, white-water rafting, and fishing among many other things. 
  • Both locals and expats agree that Boquete is good for families who have strong ties. Many people from the US think it’s like being back in the 1950s when families stayed that closely and enjoyed the countryside happily together. 

Cons

  • Poor infrastructure
  • High crime rate
  • Awful trash management
  • Clique mentality among expats, not much integration between them and the locals

Taboga Island: The Island Escape

Taboga Island is a volcanic island just 20 kilometers away from Panama City and located in the Gulf of Panama. The island has a fascinating history being discovered in the 16th century and originally named by Spanish Explorer Vasco Núñez de Balboa as Isla de San Pedro. The current name of the island is derived from the Indian term aboga which translates to “many fish”.

The earliest settlers of the island were Indian slaves who originated from Venezuela and Nicaragua. In the present time, several expats are moving to the area for its calmer atmosphere. There are no loud parties here which is good for those looking for peace. Taboga has that isolated appeal most retirees or done-with-the-city people find attractive. 

Cost of Living

You can live a fulfilling life with so much more to save in Taboga with at least $945 to $2026. This is an estimate for a couple’s expenses, so if you’ll get half the deal if you’re going out there alone. Isn’t that just the dream life? Rent also only ranges from $300-$750 depending on the size and location of the house or apartment. 

The prices of food and other utilities are relatively the same as the rest of the provinces in Panama. It could even be lower. Since there isn’t so much to do on the island except for going out for dinner or walking along the beach shore, you have nothing to worry about entertainment expenses. You can save your money to start a business tied to tourism right there or other areas since you’ll be living really cheap in Taboga. Maybe purchase a property in Bocas del Toro!

Climate

Taboga has a tropical rain forest climate with daytime temperatures around 83°F or 28°C. Generally, the island always has high temperatures. Then there’s a lot of rain from May to November contrary to the assumed sunny year-round island climate. Ironically, the warmest month is also the coolest month in Taboga, and that is September. The driest month is February while the wettest is October. 

Pros

  • You get to wake up to island views and whales or dolphins out front in the waters
  • Not much noise due to the absence of nightlife and backpackers
  • A peaceful place to live

Cons

  • No buses
  • No ambulances
  • No car alarms
  • There’s a great lack of malls and other commercial establishments

Santa Fe: Authentic Panamanian Town

Like the Santa Fe in New Mexico, Panama’s Santa Fe is a vibrant center of culture, eccentricity, and authentic town living. Santa Fe is surrounded by green hills and situated up in the highlands as well just like Boquete. The only difference is that Santa Fe is more known for its orchids and exotic flowers instead of crops. 

Santa Fe is home to 300 different flower species. They especially celebrate a festival of orchids though. The wildlife is as diverse and abundant here as well. The Santa Fe National Park is a 70,000-hectare space where there are guided tours on horseback to check out the area’s amazing rainforest scene.

Cost of Living

You can live comfortably with $800-$1000 a month in Santa Fe and absorb all its quirks and perks at the same time. You can rent fully furnished homes (take note, not little apartments) here for $475 a month. To get the idea of how cheap the rest of the things are in this part of Panama, a nice breakfast only costs $3 and a bottle of beer is still $1 like its decades ago. 

The standard and cost of living here in Santa Fe align with its reputation for being holistic and closer to nature. It is unlike many destinations all over the world that ironically charge a lot for a simpler lifestyle with their expensive accommodations and capitalist food and supplies costs. 

Climate

Santa Fe has the most balanced and favored climate in the entirety of Panama. Its daytime temperatures only play around 80°F or 27°C. The nights get even cooler than that. The rainy season in the region is from May through November, but they often last so short so you don’t have to worry about a disrupted tropical life. 

The temperate climate of Santa Fe is due to its being 1,400 feet above sea level. In the morning, you get to see threads of mist resting on the hills before the sun rises to evaporate. If having that moment isn’t enough as a sign of a good life, I don’t know what is. 

Pros

  • You can do a lot of outdoor activities such as horseback riding, camping, birdwatching, hiking, inner tubing, and seeing freshwater swimming holes.
  • It’s not as noisy as other best places to live in Panama.
  • It is a healthcare hub.
  • You get to eat healthy and fresh fruits, vegetables, and other foods.

Cons

  • Santa Fe doesn’t have its own gas station, mall, or banks. 

Conclusion

Whether you’re on your own, moving as a couple or as a family, Panama indeed has a diversified collection of neighborhoods for you. Just consider your necessities, be intuitive with the new life you want to live if you’re resetting and choose the place that draws you the most. The rest of the aspects of moving such as the expenses will just start falling into place naturally. 

When planning a move to Panama, the worst error you can make is overindulging. Still, would the memories from that be so bad? Not so much, trust me.

Matt Romero

I’m Matthew Romero, one of the guys behind PanamaLifeInsider.com I am incredibly passionate about Panama, its beautiful territory, and all the incredible opportunities which offer to people coming here from all over the world both either visiting and settling. In this blog, I decided to share my passion with you!

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