With nearly 3,000 km of coastline, Panama has a lot of tropical beaches. However, not everyone moving to Panama is looking for hot temperatures daily. Some people are looking for cooler and more comfortable climates.
This guide will tell you about living in the mountain towns of Valle de Anton, Santa Fe, and Volcan. They are great places for expats to live if you want to enjoy a laid-back life in Panama with temperatures in the 15 – 28 Celcius range.
Living in Valle de Anton
Valle de Anton is a small town in the Panamanian province of Cocle, founded in 1915 by a group of Swiss settlers. It is known for its mild climate and picturesque scenery.
The town is situated in a valley at the base of the Anton Hills and sits in a crater formed by the eruption of the nearby extinct volcano, and is surrounded by mountains.
The town is home to several hotels and restaurants, as well as a variety of shops and businesses.
Expats living in Valle de Anton
Valle de Anton is an increasingly popular destination for expats, and it is easy to see why. The town is known for its lush vegetation, temperate climate, and friendly locals.
Many retirees from the United States, Canada, and Europe have chosen to make Valle de Anton their home. Families are also relocating here to open a business or operate their online/remote businesses.
While the town does not have all of the amenities of a large city, it does offer a more relaxed lifestyle and a sense of community that is hard to find elsewhere.
The climate in Valle de Anton
The climate in Valle de Anton is tropical and humid. The average daytime temperature is close to 30 degrees Celcius, dropping to 20 in the evenings.
The rainy season runs from May to November, and the area experiences moderate amounts of rain compared to the rest of Panama.
Despite the challenges posed by the wetter climate, Valle de Anton is a beautiful place to live and visit. The lush vegetation and vibrant wildlife are a sight to behold, and the people are warm and welcoming.
Many expats love this slightly cooler climate compared to the beaches, 45 minutes away, which are several degrees hotter daily.
Amenities in Valle de Anton
Valle de Anton is relatively small but has basics like grocery stores, pharmacies, doctors’ offices, gas stations, and a good selection of shops and services. It has an excellent public market for all your fruits and vegetables.
You are only a 45-minute drive down from the mountain to the Coronado area, where you will find virtually anything you need, from shopping and entertainment to medical services.
Then, Panama City is only another hour or so away.
This is a great place for expats to live as they have the tranquil, cooler setting of the mountains but are close enough to amenities and the international airport in Panama City.
Cost of living in Valle de Anton
The cost of living in Valle de Anton is relatively low compared to other places in Panama and the world.
Rent for a small home can cost as little as $600 per month, and utilities such as water, gas, phone, and internet and very reasonable.
Due to its higher elevation, expats tend to use less air conditioning or none, so electric costs can be low.
There are several decent restaurants with reasonable prices for those who enjoy eating out. A meal for two with drinks will typically cost around $25. Lunch at a local Fonda is $5.
Local transportation is also very affordable, with a one-way bus ticket down to Coronado costing just over $1.
Overall, the cost of living in Valle de Anton is quite reasonable, making it an attractive option for those looking to relocate to Panama.
Real estate in Valle de Anton
Real Estate in Valle de Anton is booming. The small town, just a couple of hours outside of Panama City, has become not just a popular destination for retirees but also for second homeowners who live in the city.
Real estate prices have been steadily rising over the past few years as more and more people are looking to purchase property in the town, but there are still deals to be had.
Various types of property are available, from small homes to large acreages. You can get a country house here starting from $115,000 while a well-sized house within walking distance of all the amenities can be obtained for around $340,000.
The problem is they don’t stay long on the market, so if you see something you like, you need to move fast.
Living in Santa Fe, Panama
Santa Fe is a small town located in the Panama province of Herrera with a population of about 4,000.
Santa Fe is nestled in the foothills of the Santa Fe mountains, and its climate is cooler and drier than the rest of Panama.
While Santa Fe may be a small town, it’s a great place to live if you’re looking for an affordable, relaxed, and friendly community.
The town is home to several restaurants, cafes, bars, and a few small grocery stores. Santa Fe is also a short 35-minute drive from the larger City of Santiago, where you can find more shopping and dining options.
Santa Fe is in the middle of the country and isn’t really for beach lovers, as you are 2 hours or more away. However, when you fancy a day out on the beach, there is a new highway that will take you to the Caribbean coast.
Santa Fe is one of Panama’s smaller mountain expat communities, just a 1/2 hour north of the 3rd largest city in Panama, Santiago. The town is situated in a valley between two rivers, and mountains and jungle surround it.
It’s a popular destination for expats, retirees, and digital nomads looking for a slower-paced lifestyle.
Santa Fe is also home to several different cultural events and festivals. Expats living in Santa Fe enjoy the town’s laid-back atmosphere, proximity to nature, and friendly residents.
The climate in Santa Fe
The town has a tropical savanna climate, with a long dry season from January to April and a wet season from May to December. Santa Fe experiences its heaviest rainfall from August to September. However, the area is drier compared to other parts of Panama.
Santa Fe’s average temperature is relatively constant throughout the year, rarely dipping below 21 degrees Celsius or rising above 32 degrees Celsius. As a result, Santa Fe is nice year-round. It’s an ideal destination if you want to avoid the lowlands’ heat or enjoy Panama’s vibrant rainforest.
Amenities in Santa Fe
You won’t find a lot of amenities here. Essential grocery stores, public markets, and a small pharmacy are available. But the good thing is its proximity to Santiago, which is just a 30-minute drive by car or a $1 bus ride where there are shopping malls, doctors, hospitals, PriceMart (Costco), movie theaters, and more.
The cost of living in Santa Fe
Being such a small community and not yet fully discovered by expats, Santa Fe has one of the lowest living costs in Panama.
Rent for a modest one-bedroom can be as low as $350 per month, and a meal at a local restaurant will cost you about $3 – $5.
This is one of those destinations in Panama where an expat couple could live comfortably for $1200 – $1500 a month.
Real estate in Santa Fe
The real estate market in Santa Fe is relatively thin, with not too much available. If you are looking for a Panama-style home, you can pick one up for under $100,000.
Property here, outside of town, can be very cheap in the $3 – $8/sq meter range.
Many expats who decide on this area will buy a plot of land and build a house. Building costs throughout Panama are $8 to $13/sq meter.
Living in Volcan, Chiriqui, Panama
Volcan is a town in the Chiriqui province of Panama. It is located about 70 kilometers from the province’s capital city of David.
Volcan is a popular expat destination due to its cooler climate, excess amenities, and proximity to the City of David.
With a growing population of about 15,000 residents, Volcan has what many expats want: to enjoy a slower pace of life and proximity to nature. There are several hiking trails in the area and the volcano to explore.
Volcan is also home to a variety of wildlife, including howler monkeys and toucans.
Although the town of Volcan and surrounding areas are modern with good infrastructure, the Volcan area also calls out to people looking for off-grid style living.
You can have a great lifestyle on a property with your own water, solar power for electricity, and satellite-type internet for connectivity and entertainment. It’s possible to buy mountain property just a few miles out of town, which is very cheap but still not serviced by infrastructure.
The weather and climate in Volcan
Volcan has a tropical climate with an average temperature of 21 degrees Celsius.
It is by far the coolest expat location in Panama, with daily highs of 24 degrees Celcius and evening lows of 15 degrees Celcius every day of the year. The cool climate is the attraction of most expats that live here.
Volcan receives more rain than most areas of Panama, with over 4400 mm of rain annually. That is a lot of rain, but in Panama, rain typically comes hard for short periods in the afternoon.
In the rainy season in Volcan, there are a lot of clouds most days. The town experiences two seasons, rainy from May to November and dry from December to April.
Amenities in Volcan
Volcan is a small town, big on amenities. There are full-scale grocery stores, hardware stores, lots of different shops and services, local farmers’ markets, doctor’s offices, medical labs, and a public hospital here.
Many expats that live in Volcan never need to go to the city for shopping. But some still like the city, for a day trip every month, to load up on bulk items and visit the mall.
There are many restaurants in Volcan, both expat-owned and local Panamanian restaurants.
All in-town Volcan and most areas nearby and along the highway towards Volcan have access to high-speed fiber internet from more than one company.
The power grid and water are not perfect, but they improve yearly. They are currently four-laning the highway from Conception up to Volcan, including right through the main street in town, a much-needed addition to this town.
You will find the airport in Panama City and the private hospitals just an hour away in David.
The cost of living in Volcan
The cost of living in Volcan, Panama, can be surprisingly affordable, with rent for a one-bedroom home averaging around $500 per month. Food and transportation costs are also reasonable, with busses and taxis running you around town for under $1.
Because of the temperate climate, no heat or air conditioning will be required for your home. You will find your monthly utilities, including electricity, gas, water, trash, cell phone, and internet, could run you under $100 a month.
The Volcan area is where 80% of the vegetables are grown that Panama consumes, so the cost of fresh, healthy vegetables at the local public markets is very low.
Eating lunch at the local Panama restaurants will be under $5, and at the many expat-owned restaurants, under $10. Dinner at an upscale restaurant with a glass of wine is $25.
For an expat on a budget who still wants some good amenities and cooler weather, Volcan may be the right place.
Real estate in Volcan
The real estate market is very active, with many homes and lots available. There are also many excellent Real Estate Agents in Volcan who can help you find the perfect property.
A few weeks ago, I was with a group of expats looking at Volcan as a future destination. The real estate agent showed us two properties. A 1.5 acre, five-bedroom house, with a shop/craft building and indoor pool, for about $600,000. This property has stunning views of the City of David and the Pacific Ocean.
Then we saw a three-bedroom bungalow, on almost one acre, a simple but lovely home, for $160,000, furniture included. There is much to look at in Volcan for real estate and many good values.
Final thoughts on living in the mountain towns of Panama
After living in Panama for ten years, I have realized expats are divided into three types: beach people, city people, and mountain people. I suppose this may be what they are used to back home, or just the preference in weather.
These three Panama mountain towns, Valle de Anton, Santa Fe, and Volcan, plus the larger Boquete area, could be any “mountain outdoor-loving expat’s” dream. If this is the life you want, I recommend you check out all four places.