All About Living In Boquete, Panama, As An Expat

Discover Panama's Boquete - one of the most popular places in Panama to live as an expat.

With its scenic mountainside setting and year-round spring-like temperatures, it's no wonder that Boquete, Panama, is a popular retirement destination.

But Boquete has a lot to offer retirees and expats beyond its picturesque scenery. This guide will help you discover what it's like living in Boquete as an expat.

Welcome to Boquete, Panama

I have lived in Boquete for just over 10 years, have seen the good and the bad, and continue living here and enjoying it.

Boquete is located in the western province of Chiriqui, Panama. It sits at the base of Volcan Baru, at an elevation of 1,131 meters. The town's cooler rainforest style weather has made it a popular destination for retirees and expats alike.

The population of greater Boquete is about 25,000 people, with almost 1/5 of them being expats. The town has a wide range of amenities and activities, making it an ideal place to live.

Throughout this article, you will see me refer to retirees and expats. Sure, retirees are expats, but in Boquete, many expats operate businesses and there are younger folks and families who have made this town their home; not all foreigners who move here are retired.

What is the weather like in Boquete?

The weather is one of the biggest reasons people move to Boquete.

The town experiences a dry season from January to April and a wet season from May to December.

The cooler weather with an eternal spring-like climate brings an average daily high temperature of 25° C with nighttime lows of 15° C, with minimal variation throughout the year. This is 10°C lower than any place in Panama near the beach. Those living in Panama City also use Boquete as an escape from the heat.

Everyone rejoices at the first rain after a long dry season starting in April.

It can be pretty windy in the dry season, while the rainy season, which we call the green season, is progressive, from April to November.

You can expect late afternoon showers, 2 – 3 times a week, progressing to July/August, where the showers will be 3 – 4 times a week, to October/November, where it may rain every day sometimes, but still in the afternoons.

A typical day in Boquete starts out with sunshine, cool fresh mountain air, and the sounds of birds singing.

The day warms up to a comfortable temperature by 10 am and remains pleasant until late afternoon when the sun begins to dip behind incoming clouds, where April through November, you may get an afternoon shower. Typically it dries up for the evening.

The Boquete area has multiple microclimates throughout the region, so it is best to check out all areas and their specific climate when looking for a place to live. Some areas are cooler than others, some windier, and some have more fog or mist.

Why move to Boquete?

If you're considering moving to Boquete you're certainly not alone.

In recent years, this mountain town has become increasingly popular with retirees and expats from around the world. And it's not hard to see why.

1. Great quality of life

Boquete offers an exquisite quality of life, with plenty of opportunities for outdoor activities, a moderate climate, and friendly locals.

2. Affordability

Boquete is affordable – real estate and cost of living are both very reasonable.

3. Sizable expat population

The population of greater Boquete is about 25,000 people, with almost 1/5 of them being expats. There are many expats from the U.S., Canada, Europe, and elsewhere here. This makes it easy to find English-speaking doctors, and other professionals, and make friends.

4. Milder climate

Boquete is located in the western province of Chiriqui, Panama. It sits at the base of Volcan Baru, at an elevation of 1,131 meters. The town's cooler rainforest style weather has made it a popular destination for retirees and expats alike.

5. All the amenities on your doorstep

The town has a wide range of amenities and activities, making it an ideal place to live.

6. Not far from the coast

Boquete is only a 1.5-hour drive to the beach for a weekend getaway, or a 3-hour trip across the continental divide to the Caribbean side, to visit Bocas del Toro for a weekend of fun

7. It's a safe place

In addition, Boquete is a safe and friendly place to live, with a low crime rate and a tight-knit community feel.

How safe is Boquete?

Crime rates in Boquete are relatively low compared to other parts of Panama and the world.

With a little common sense and caution, you can enjoy all that this beautiful town has to offer without worry.

However, like in any place, there are always some risks.

There have been reports of petty crime, such as pickpocketing and theft, and occasional instances of more serious crime. Nevertheless, Boquete remains a safe place to live for most people.

What is there to do in Boquete?

Boquete is also home to a vibrant expat community with plenty of activities and events. For example, Boquete is known for its world-class coffee, and there are several tours available that take you behind the scenes of Boquete's coffee industry.

There are also ample opportunities for hiking and bird watching in Boquete's stunning natural setting.

There are many other clubs and activities for expats to get involved with. From volunteer opportunities to clubs like Rotary, pickleball, bridge and trivia night, and more. There really is something for everyone in Boquete.

Boquete has a great nightlife, especially on weekends, with live music in different venues.

Can I live in Boquete without knowing Spanish?

Yes, you can live in Boquete without knowing Spanish. While it may be challenging at times, several resources are available to help you get by.

Living in Boquete - the views
Boquete views

Many businesses in Boquete cater to English-speaking tourists and expats, so you should have no trouble finding places to eat, shop, and bank where you can get by with limited Spanish.

However, it is essential to note that most people in Boquete do not speak English, so it is still advisable to learn some basics before moving to the area.

If you move here, join one of the Spanish language classes, there are plenty of them here, and start learning the language. In addition, you can find many online resources and language classes that can help you understand the basics of Spanish.

What does it cost to live in Boquete?

For retirees and expats looking for an affordable place, Boquete is one of the top destinations in Panama. But what does it cost to live in this picturesque town?

The cost of living in Boquete is quite reasonable.

Basic necessities like food and transportation are relatively inexpensive, and healthcare is affordable. Most expats use local healthcare insurance providers or pay out-of-pocket. Some, however, do use an international cover.

International health insurance can be quite expensive. To make sure you get the best value for money, compare international health insurance options from various providers to find the best deal. 

Utilities are not particularly expensive either. In this climate, you will not need heat or air conditioning, so you can expect all your utilities, electric, gas, water, high-speed internet, and cell phone, to be under $150 a month.

Housing costs can be higher than in other parts of Panama, although plenty of affordable options are still available.

If you are okay with living in a Panamanian-style house, you can rent at $600 a month, whereas a lovely 3 bedroom North American-style house will start close to $1200 a month.

Of course, there are always costs associated with any lifestyle change, and relocating to Boquete is no exception.

Groceries can be very affordable if you buy from local markets and local fish and meat suppliers. If you need your imported North American branded products, you will pay more for them here.

Typical lunch in a restaurant will cost you $4 – $7. A nice dinner for two, with a bottle of wine, in one of the many upscale restaurants in town will set you back $50.

As you can see, the cost of living in Boquete is quite reasonable compared to other places in Central America, especially if you come from North America and Europe.

Is there a tourist season in Boquete?

Tourists are attracted to Boquete for its natural beauty, including its mountainous landscape and lush vegetation. The town is also a popular destination for birdwatchers, as it is home to a variety of rare and endangered species.

living in Boquete - the parks
Boquete's central park

Boquete is known for its coffee production, and visitors can tour local farms and taste the unique flavor of Boquete coffee.

It is also a holiday and Sunday getaway from the heat destination for the Panamanians living in David. You will see hundreds of them every Sunday making the 40-minute journey up the mountain to escape the heat, stroll our streets, visit our shops, and get lunch and dinner with their families.

January to April is the busiest season in Panama, with tourists from up north escaping their winters and with the locals, as it is summer holiday time for the kids during these months.

Annually two significant events happen in Boquete. In January, the Flower Festival, and in February, the Boquete Jazz and Blues festival, attracting tens of thousands of visitors every year.

The pros and cons of living in Boquete

Pros and cons can be pretty subjective depending on personal taste, so these are the pros and cons of the way I see it. I am a guy who likes a cooler climate, some peace, and quiet, but close to amenities I need and activities if I want them.

The pros of living in Boquete

One of the pros of living in Boquete is the climate. The town is situated at a high elevation, which results in cooler temperatures than in many other parts of Panama. Additionally, Boquete experiences less humidity, because of the lower temperatures, than other areas, making it a comfortable place to live.

Another pro is the scenery. Boquete is surrounded by mountains and rivers, and there are numerous parks and gardens within the town itself. This makes for an enjoyable and picturesque setting.

The people of Boquete are also known for being friendly and welcoming, making the transition to living in a new town easier. Additionally, Boquete has a strong sense of community, and residents often participate in local events and activities.

Some other pros of living in Boquete include its affordability, safety, amenities, and variety of activities.

While there are many pros to living in Boquete, there are also some potential cons. 

The cons of living in Boquete

One can be the cost of living for some. Because Boquete is such a popular destination, prices for goods and services can be higher than in other non-touristy or populated areas of the country.

Another con is the infrastructure. Because Boquete is located in a rural area, the roads and other infrastructure are not as developed as in urban areas. This can make transportation and communication more difficult.

We also can have a couple of power outages weekly and water shortages at times.

Additionally, some residents find that the cooler temperatures can be too cold for their liking.

The best neighborhoods to live in Boquete

The Boquete district is divided into 10 conglomerates; it stretches over 10 km but is only 5 – 10 city blocks wide, as it sits between 2 mountain ranges or canyons in Alto Boquete. Below are some of the more popular areas of Boquete that expats live in.

Bajo Boquete

Bajo Boquete may just be for people who do not mind the activity and traffic and want to be within walking distance of everything. There are several options like houses and apartments available for rent or purchase.

In Bajo Boquete, the homes are close together, like in most city centers, and most of the apartments for rent are on the main street, which can get a bit noisy.

There will be noise from barking dogs and chickens, and many locals keep chickens in their yards. But the trade-off of being within walking distance to everything is enough for some people to enjoy living in this area.

Alto Boquete

This is one of the most popular neighborhoods in Boquete for expats. It's centrally located near shopping and dining options, and it offers stunning views of the Volcan Baru.

In addition, it has excellent value in rentals and real estate, and you are a 3 – 10 minute drive to downtown Boquete.

Alto Boquete, located between the two canyons mentioned above, spans several kilometers and has many housing options available.

Valle Escondido

This is a premier gated community for those looking for the best Boquete offers. This community is tucked away in a secluded valley, only a 5-minute walk to the town center, offering residents privacy and peace of mind.

Valle Escondido also features its own 9-hole executive golf course, making it a favorite among golf enthusiasts. A top-notch clubhouse has an indoor pool, gym, racketball, and tennis courts. 

This community comprises condos, villas, houses, and estates, with properties going for $200,000 to $4 million. Monthly memberships are available for gym, spa, golf, and tennis.

Jaramillo

On the west side of Boquete, Jaramillo Mountain is an excellent option for those who want to be close to nature. This neighborhood offers larger properties and easy access to hiking trails and other outdoor activities.

Jaramillo is only a 10-minute drive to downtown Boquete, making it a convenient option for those who want to be close to the action and enjoy some peace and quiet.

The Jaramillo area is cooler than Boquete, several hundred more meters in elevation, and typically wetter.

Final thoughts about living in Boquete

Boquete is a great place to retire or move to, with its stunning views and temperate weather. Whether you're looking for an action-packed neighborhood or one that's more secluded, Boquete has something to offer everyone.

With its close proximity to nature and easy access to all the town's amenities, it's hard to beat Boquete as a place to call home.

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Rod Larrivee

Rod, an expat from Vancouver, Canada, living in Panama since 2011, is co-owner of Retire in Panama Tours with his business partner Oscar Peña.
They offer relocation tours of Panama, with groups of 8 - 12 people. Over seven days, their guests will see all the great places in Panama an expat may want to live in and receive all the information and contacts someone needs to move to Panama. In addition, they offer a host of expat services to assist anyone looking to relocate to Panama. If you need Rod's assistance, click on the link below