Panama is a Central American country located between Costa Rica and Colombia. It is known for its beautiful beaches, lush rainforests, and vibrant culture. Panama is also a popular destination for expats due to its relatively low cost of living and friendly locals.
Panama is a small country with a population of just four million people. It has a vast difference in climate, terrain, and culture within its borders. There are Pacific beaches and Caribbean beaches, mountainous terrain or farming and grazing lands in between, and the major metropolis of Panama City.
You can even choose your climate, but you have to remember, that Panama has a tropical maritime climate, so you cannot wholly avoid the rain. However, expats can choose whether they want hot and humid beach weather or cooler mountain temperatures.
Due to Panama’s near-equator location, temperatures do not vary a lot throughout the year. You have two seasons in Panama, the dry season from mid-December to mid-April, and the rainy season, from April to November. The microclimates in Panama differ more than the seasons, so check out your favorite location for a while before deciding if the climate is suitable for you.
Let’s look at the top ten communities in Panama where expatriates now reside and are moving.
1. Panama City
Panama City is the capital of Panama and is one of the most modern cities in Central America. It is now home to many foreigners from all over the world and a large number of international businesses.
Panama’s skyline is filled with 50 – 70 story buildings, many from the banking sector and multinational corporations. You will find many condo buildings with fantastic ocean views. Vertical living is very popular in the city along the Pacific Bay.
Panama City is the best expat location for those looking for a vibrant, cosmopolitan city with all the amenities of an international metropolis, including the only metro system in Central America.
Here you will find Uber, food and shopping delivery services, major concerts and sporting events, and exciting nightlife, proving it is one of the best places to live in Panama.
The cost of living in Panama City is higher than in the rest of the country. Still, housing, in particular, is cheaper than in comparable cities in North America and Europe.
You can rent an ocean view apartment, starting at $1,200/month, or purchase one starting at $250,000.
The popular areas of Panama City for people looking for a high-rise condo with great ocean or city views are Balboa, Costa del Este, Punta Paitilla, El Cangrejo, and San Francisco areas.
You are close to all the big city amenities you will ever need in all these areas. These areas are great for younger couples or singles or the active retiree.
The historic area of Casto Viejo is one of the most fascinating areas of Panama City. Much of this area has been restored to its former 1800s charm.
Casco Viejo is very popular with expats with old Spanish buildings isolated from the Panama City skyscrapers, stone walkways, and old churches.
For families, neighborhoods like Clayton and Anton are trendy.
Clayton is a Panama City neighborhood formerly part of the Canal Zone and a US military base. Locals and expats alike claim it to be one of the most family-friendly areas in the city. Clayton is also home to the US Embassy.
You can find more information in our Living In Panama City guide.
2. The Coronado beaches area
If you are looking for a beach community, the Coronado beaches area is one of the most popular in Panama.
The Coronado beaches are located just an hour’s drive from Panama City on the Pacific coast.
The beach communities start at Chame and extend 50 miles west to San Carlos, with Chame being about a one-hour drive from Panama City and San Carlos two hours.
In the town of Las Lajas, Panama West province, you have the Coronado community itself, which started in the 1950s as a weekend getaway for wealthy Panamanians from the city.
Over time it has grown into a thriving beach community with high-rise condos, luxurious homes, gated communities, golf courses, restaurants, and shops.
It has major grocery stores and a clinic hospital. It is one of the most popular areas in Panama for expats.
The Chame district is a more laid-back, less populated beach area. It extends from the town of Chame 15 miles to Punta Chame. It has excellent real estate values for beach properties.
Right next to Coronado is Nueva Gorgona, a smaller beach community. It has become popular with expats due to its smaller and better value. However, it is still just five minutes from the Las Lajas town amenities.
Heading west from Coronado, you have the beach communities of Punta Barco, Costa Esmeralda, Vista Mar, and San Carlos. There are some great golf courses and golf communities here also.
This area is a perfect fit for you if:
- You love the beach lifestyle.
- You enjoy waking up and sitting on your 20th-floor condo balcony, drinking delicious Panama coffee, and viewing the ocean.
- You want other expats around you for community activities.
- You want to be close to Panama City for entertainment and international travel.
Find out more about expat life in this area in our Living In Coronado guide.
3. El Valle de Antón
Expats like El Valle de Antón for its beauty, cooler climate, proximity to amenities and Panama City.
El Valle de Antón is a town located one hour north of Coronado in the crater of an extinct volcano with mountains and cloud forests surrounding it.
At an elevation of nearly 600 meters, it is relatively cooler than the Coronado beaches area, with an average daytime high of 85 degrees and nighttime lows of 70 degrees.
Many affluent Panamanians have second residences in El Valle de Antón, so they can get out of the city and come to a cooler climate on weekends.
This area is not heavily populated by expats, making it perfect for those looking for a more quiet place but still less than an hour away from good amenities.
Basic essentials are available in the town, like groceries, a pharmacy, and a doctor’s office. But for many things, a trip down the hill to the Coronado area will be needed.
So, suppose you are looking for a small-town feel, in a beautiful location, with cooler temperatures than the beach areas. In that case, El Valle de Anton is one of the best places to live In Panama for expats.
El Valle de Anton is also known for its many day and overnight hiking trails in the nearby mountains and forests. So, if you are an expat who loves the outdoors and wants to be close to nature, the town may be an excellent location for you.
4. Chitre/Las Tablas
Chitre, a city, and Las Tablas, a town, are located in the Azuero Peninsula area of Panama.
This Peninsula in the south of Panama is surrounded by the Pacific Ocean on three sides. This area is known as the dry arch area of Panama due to less rain than the rest of Panama.
Chitre has a population of almost 80,000, and is the hub of the Azuero Peninsula, with a large hospital and all the big box stores.
Las Tablas, with a population of around 10,000, is the cultural center of the Peninsula. It has many festivals and expat-friendly amenities as well.
Las Tablas is known for its annual Carnival celebrations, a week of parades, and fiestas.
You will love this area if you are looking for a lower cost of living and a more traditional feel.
While expats are starting to move into this area, it is not as expat-dense as other areas of Panama.
So, if you are looking for a more traditional Panamanian experience with lower costs and fewer expats, Chitre and Las Tablas could be one of the best places to live in Panama.
If you want to know how the two places compare to one another, read our guide Chitre Vs Las Tablas: Which One Is The Best For Expats?
Pedasi is a charming beach town in Panama that has become increasingly popular with expats.
Compared to other areas of the country, the cost of living and housing is relatively low in Pedasi. This attracts many expats from North America, Europe, and Australia who want to enjoy a more relaxed lifestyle by the beach.
The community is close-knit, and there are plenty of activities and events for expats to get involved in. Whether you’re looking for sun and sand or adventure around Panama, Pedasi is a great place to live!
With a population of just 3,000, Pedasi does not have the amenities other expat communities in Panama do. Still, you are only a 45-minute drive to Las Tablas and 1.5 hours to Chitre. So, while it is a more isolated community, you are still close enough to get what you need.
If you are looking for a small expat community in a charming beach town, Pedasi could be the best place to live in Panama for expats.
6. Santa Fe
In the province of Veraguas, Santa Fe is about 45 minutes up the mountain from the city of Santiago.
The province of Veraguas is a beautiful, rural area in the center of Panama. While it is not as expat-dense as some of the other regions of Panama, Santa Fe is an excellent option for expats looking for a more traditional Panamanian experience.
The cost of living in Sante Fe is relatively low. There are plenty of activities and events for expats to get involved in.
For the outdoors type person, Santa Fe National Park surrounds Santa Fe and is 275 sq miles of rainforest, with many waterfalls and hundreds of bird species, butterflies, orchids, and more for you to discover!
There are not a lot of amenities in Santa Fe, just small food stores and a pharmacy. But the easy access to Santiago, which has everything you need, is why expats are looking for a quiet retirement like Santa Fe.
David is Panama’s second-largest city with a greater population of just over 100,000. It is the capital and hub of Chiriquí Province in western Panama.
David is most well-known for its healthcare industry, education, transportation sector, farming activities, and the lack of skyscrapers.
It is on the Pan-American Highway, and because it’s one of Panama’s most affordable areas and a refuge for expats looking for a cheap life, it’s an obvious choice.
If you have heard that you could live in Panama for $1,200 a month, David would be an excellent place to start looking.
Although David is Panama’s second-largest city, the vibe is nothing like Panama City’s.
The people are friendly and welcoming, and there is a growing expat community. The vibe in David is more traditional and Latin American.
One thing to consider if you are interested in David is that it’s listed as the hottest city in Central America. It sits about 10 miles inland of the Pacific Ocean. Most of the city is slightly below sea level, so you get no pacific breeze to cool things down.
Want to know more? Read our Living In David guide.
Boquete is a small town located in the Chiriqui province of Panama. It is probably one of the best-known expat communities in all of Panama and has been listed numerous times in publications as the best place to retire globally.
Boquete is known for its stunning scenery, with towering mountains and lush green valleys.
The town and surrounding areas have a population of about 25,000.
The town has been my home for 10 years and has a large expat community due to its great weather and relaxed lifestyle. It sits at an elevation of 3,700 feet at the base of Volcan Baru, a dormant volcano, and Panama’s highest point at 11,500 feet.
There are plenty of activities to keep you busy in Boquete, from hiking and mountain biking to rafting and bird watching.
If you’re looking for a place to retire, Boquete is a great option thanks to its low cost of living and welcoming locals.
One of the most attractive things Boquete has is its weather with daytime highs of about 78 degrees and evening lows in the mid-60s.
It does rain more in Boquete than in other areas of Panama. April to November rain is typically heavy showers in the late afternoon, starting in April a couple of times a week, to October almost everyday afternoon rains.
The expat community in Boquete is growing every day as more and more people discover this charming mountain town.
The cost of living is relatively low in Boquete, compared to North America or Europe, but more expensive than in the rural areas of Panama.
Every day in Boquete, something is going on. There are plenty of activities and events for expats to get involved in. Bridge night, trivia night, newcomers happy hour, Rotary, Lions, hiking groups, etc. It’s an active expat’s dream.
Whether you’re looking for a place to retire or just a slower pace of life, living in Boquete is the perfect option.
Volcan is a small town located in the Chiriqui province of Panama, on the opposite side of Volcan Baru to Boquete.
Volcan sits at an elevation of 4,500 feet, so it has a cooler climate than Boquete. Thanks to its great weather and relaxed lifestyle, it is home to a sizable expat community.
Volcan is a much smaller and less developed town than Boquete. It has a very affordable living cost and attracts expats seeking a slower-paced existence in a picturesque outdoor environment.
The expat community in Volcan is growing every day as more and more people discover this charming mountain town. Whether you’re looking for a place to retire or just a simpler way of life, Volcan might be just the place for you.
You can find more information in our guide to Panama’s Mountain Towns: Valle de Anton, Santa Fe and Volcan.
10. Bocas del Toro
Bocas del Toro Province’s capital and largest city, Bocas Town (often shortened to Bocas), is located on Isla Colón’s southern tip in the Caribbean Sea.
Situated on an archipelago of seven main islands, Bocas del Toro is a tropical paradise with stunning beaches and lush, green rainforest. It is home to the most interesting expat community in all of Panama.
The expat community in Bocas del Toro is very active and welcoming, offering plenty of opportunities for expats to get involved. There are plenty of activities and events to enjoy, from surfing and scuba diving to exploring the many islands.
You will not find a lot of amenities in Bocas. There are no big box stores, no movie theaters, and no private hospitals.
The expats here tend to come from worldwide and are looking for a life away from the hustle and bustle. It is a simple life here.
Many expats that live here take a day trip monthly to David, about four hours each way, to fill up on major supplies.
Suppose you’re looking for a quite simpler lifestyle in retirement or just want to live in a beautiful, tropical setting, Bocas del Toro might be the perfect place for you.
The best places to live in Panama – summary
The best places for expats to live in Panama vary depending on what you’re looking for.
If you’re looking for a charming mountain town with great weather, Boquete is your place. If you’re looking for a more relaxed tropical island setting, Bocas del Toro is perfect.
If you want to be in the heart of the local community, Pedasi may be the place to be. And, if you are wishing for the Miami lifestyle, Panama City could be your home.
Whatever you are looking for, we hope our list of the best expat locations in Panama can help you find your perfect home abroad.