If you want high-end estate on the shores of a Caribbean island, you could easily spend millions in the Bahamas or Turks and Caicos. But for a similar property in Panama, you’ll spend $300,000 to $600,000.
But if you are interested in living like a local…and saving up to 50% on your monthly costs…you can do that, too. There are several places I recommend for living la vida local. In all, you’ll find growing expat communities, easy access to modern comforts and amenities, and excellent telecommunications (that includes Internet). Here are three that consistently make the list:
The highland town of Volcan has been gaining in popularity. Sometimes it’s called “the next Boquete”…quite a moniker, since Boquete was rated one of the top places in the world to retire by the likes of Fortune magazine.
Volcan boasts a cool, spring-like climate…think cool enough for a cardigan at night yet sun-kissed by day. Named after the dormant volcano that dominates the lush green vista, Volcan also boasts a low cost of living. A 7,500-square-foot-lot near a well-known Bed & Breakfast is going for $17,500. For the same price you can get a lot three times that size 10-15 minutes by car from the town center. The same goes for houses. A small two-bedroom, one-bath house on a lot of over a quarter-acre is on offer for $65,000.
During my last visit to a town called Volcancito, just 10 minutes from Boquete, I saw two small cabins for rent. They were one-bedroom, one-bath units, but they enjoyed heart-stopping views…I am talking surroundings so lush, they seem to have come straight out of a picture book for kids. The cost? Between $250 and $350 per month depending on the season or duration of your stay. The longer you commit to, the better the deal.
Coronado is the most popular beach location for expats in Panama. It’s about an hour by car from Panama City and it’s a place of convenience. From supermarkets to restaurants to beach clubs, Coronado is comfy. Understandably, real estate is a bit pricier here than elsewhere along the coast. If you want to be on the beach or in the center, you’ll pay upward of $200,000 for a home.
Consider less expensive locations like Gorgona Beach, about 15 minutes from Coronado. You’ll have access to the great amenities without the hefty price tag. A $75,000 home is for sale just “two minutes” from the water. It’s 1,000 square feet and sits on a lot of a quarter acre, and has a large terrace, separate covered barbecue area, and a storage shed. The home even comes with a membership to a beach club. (Three pools, restaurant, and direct beach access…need I say more?)
If you’re not interested in buying, you can rent a fancy condo right smack on the beach for $1,200 a month…but why spend more? A Panamanian-style home with a breezy terrace can cost as little as $450 a month.
The third-largest city in Panama, David has cute restaurants, malls, movie theaters…even a domestic airport. Surrounded by farms and close to national parks, the small city is just 45 minutes from the highlands, just 30 minutes from the beach. David seems to truly have it all…and it’s all cheaper than in Panama City.
Small residential communities with names like El Robledal or Santa Cruz feature homes from $45,000 to $60,000. These are Panamanian communities and you’re likely to be the only foreigner there…if that’s ok with you, the prices speak for themselves.
Prefer to be closer to the action? A three-bedroom, two-bath home is a hot deal at $90,000. It’s between David and Boquete, and comes fully furnished, with everything from white line appliances to granite floors to air conditioning units. The 1,200-square-foot home sits on a corner lot of about 5,000 square feet. The community is quite international, and your neighbors will be Panamanian, Argentinean, American, Canadian, and German. Sounds like a fun place for a potluck.