Close

Considering Bocas del Toro as a Retirement Location

Hi, my name is Sondra and I am a 52 yr. old single female currently living in Los Angeles, Ca.  I have a few years before retirement but I am attempting to gather as much information about several possible locations as I can.  I had settled on Ecuador but I have been reading about Bocas del Toro.  I love the Caribbean, Reggae etc and I definitely want to be be on or as near the beach as possible.  I want to live in a culturally mixed environment so absolutely no exclusively expat communities.

If there is anyone on this forum that lives in or has visited Bocas del Toro I would love to hear about your experience there, the people, the cost of living etc.

Thanks so much

I will let you know. I am arriving to live in Bocas on the 17th

janet119 :

I will let you know. I am arriving to live in Bocas on the 17th

Hi Janet, that is fabulous.  I will definitely be looking for your posts.  I've seen videos and pix and really love what I've seen so far.  I love the Caribbean feel that it appears to have.  Have you visited there prior to deciding to make that move?

janet119 :

I will let you know. I am arriving to live in Bocas on the 17th

I just noticed that you are currently living in Cuenca.  Ecuador is on my list as possibilities, although I like the "Look" of Bocas better.  Why did you decide to leave Ecuador?

Havent been to bocas yet. I am canadian living inecuador right now. I will let you know how it goes.

I find Ecuador REALLY polluted. I currently living in Cuenca. I have been to the coast many times in Ecuador. The coast here is very very dry. you can stand there and look at a beautiful ocean, and turn around and bump into a 10 foot high cacti. I want to live near a beach and Ecuador isnt it for me.

janet119 :

I find Ecuador REALLY polluted. I currently living in Cuenca. I have been to the coast many times in Ecuador. The coast here is very very dry. you can stand there and look at a beautiful ocean, and turn around and bump into a 10 foot high cacti. I want to live near a beach and Ecuador isnt it for me.

Ok, that makes sense.  I definitely want to live near a real beach also.  thanks

We spent 3 days in Bocas at koko resort. FYI Bocas town is a hopping place with bars and pricey restaurants teeming with surfer dudes and gals partying it up big time.  The shoreline stinks with floating garbage and homeless large dogs roam free. Such a beautiful place despoiled by careless greed. Others may disagree but this was not our jam. No reggae vibe at all. Tourist town. Ymmv.

What part of ecuador were you thinking of?

SunsetSteve :

We spent 3 days in Bocas at koko resort. FYI Bocas town is a hopping place with bars and pricey restaurants teeming with surfer dudes and gals partying it up big time.  The shoreline stinks with floating garbage and homeless large dogs roam free. Such a beautiful place despoiled by careless greed. Others may disagree but this was not our jam. No reggae vibe at all. Tourist town. Ymmv.

WOW! That's depressing. The videos that I watched showed a well kept area. Too Bad

You really have too evaluate for yourself. We really enjoyed Boquete while there are others we met who never wish to return there.

janet119 :

What part of ecuador were you thinking of?

Cuenca to land then once I was settled finding a beach town

I have been in Cuenca almost 18 months. Not as cheap as they say, except for fruit and vegetables. Very noisy, polluted and there is also tons of street dogs here. Dont get me wrong, I have had fun here. The people are nice. It is usually pretty cold here and dont see the sun very often. i need more sun than this. i guess there is no perfect place.

Some expats live in Cuenca part time and the beach part time. This time of year is pretty chilly in Cuenca. The beach towns I have been to are very dry, nothing is green.

janet119 :

Some expats live in Cuenca part time and the beach part time. This time of year is pretty chilly in Cuenca. The beach towns I have been to are very dry, nothing is green.

I've considered Salinas as the best option in Ecuador.  Your thoughts? 

I really like Panama City, but Panama does not have any beach community like Salinas, Ecuador (and others in Ecuador such as Manta and smaller beach communities) where one can live on the beach and walk or have very close access to many shops, restaurants and bars (of course) and other amenities.  Panama's large beach developments mean living back from the beach typically and definitely driving everywhere, usually to the over-priced, expat-targeted shops in Coronado.  There's no feel of living in a beach community - beach, malecon/boardwalk, condo building. Bocas is too small, lacks good infrastructure and reliable utility service and costs too much for budget conscious folks because of its remote location.  Listen to SunsetSteve.

sjpersonal :
SunsetSteve :

We spent 3 days in Bocas at koko resort. FYI Bocas town is a hopping place with bars and pricey restaurants teeming with surfer dudes and gals partying it up big time.  The shoreline stinks with floating garbage and homeless large dogs roam free. Such a beautiful place despoiled by careless greed. Others may disagree but this was not our jam. No reggae vibe at all. Tourist town. Ymmv.

WOW! That's depressing. The videos that I watched showed a well kept area. Too Bad

To echo SunsetSteve's point, it is very depressing to witness the trash spewed all along the roads and streets, beaches and elsewhere.  Whether deemed ignorance, laziness, a cultural thing or simply poor trash pickup service (perhaps all), it is so sad to see in what is otherwise such a beautiful and lush landscape.  My unscientific opinion is that this culture or behavior is not limited to Panamanians, however, it seems less prevalent in Ecuador, but still much more than one would like to see.

I have not been to Salinas. Most of my friends have though and say it is lovely, though very very touristy. I have spent time in Montanita, puerto Lopez, puerto Cayo and Manta.  Out of those places the only one that has stores like grocery stores etc is manta....the only place I really didnt care for...LOL There is buses that will take you to inland towns like jijihapa for your groceries.
Puerto lopez and montanita has a bank machine, but puerto cayo does not. I think nobody actually lives in montanita, they lives in the town of olan right beside it. Mintanita is a surfing town. I love Montanita!!! But wouldnt live there.

janet119 :

I have not been to Salinas. Most of my friends have though and say it is lovely, though very very touristy. I have spent time in Montanita, puerto Lopez, puerto Cayo and Manta.  Out of those places the only one that has stores like grocery stores etc is manta....the only place I really didnt care for...LOL There is buses that will take you to inland towns like jijihapa for your groceries.
Puerto lopez and montanita has a bank machine, but puerto cayo does not. I think nobody actually lives in montanita, they lives in the town of olan right beside it. Mintanita is a surfing town. I love Montanita!!! But wouldnt live there.

I've read about Olan from other expats there.  They describe the town as being very nice, friendly with a lot of shops etc.  and clean beaches.  I have to land somewhere as there is no way that I am staying in the US after I retire.

And most Latin Americans would love to live in the US. The truth is that most countries in LA share the same problems. I am dreaming of having the chance to live in a place with a good trash pick up service and people who do not litter the street where they live, a place without tens of poor homeless dogs and cats, a place with law and order. And that definitely not in LA.

There are places in Panama where you will find that (Boquete being one). Bocas is NOT one.

Olan is right next to Montanita. I have also heard good things about Olan.

I have to tell everyone - again that wow - this stuff you see online isn't the real experience at all. I agree with whoever said Bocas del Toro is not the place. There are some great spots very close to me to get away from it all for $$$$ ( but not so bad thx to our Pensiondo discount) but to live there - no way IMHO.

On to Ecuador for a moment - if anyone read my post, this is IL and marketing!  I have a great friend and ex-collegue that was born in Ecuador. He came to the US, became a citizen, has advanced degrees from a prestigious school.  A true go-getter that made it happen.

Having said that, he (when I first met him he  didn't have much English), is now considering going back when he retires but wow is he doing well and a several years younger than me. He currently has a high level position in Panama and we laugh at the irony of how we both ended up here!

I have been to Cuenca - don't get it at all although I am sure it has changed since I was there but .. Quito of course.. you do the equator walk but don't get that one at all. Guayquil on the coast - one dangerous place and I doubt that has changed.

But I have never been to the new IL  "coastal area"  but have no desire to go either.  I can't belive the number of people I know that keep leaving for the next best place and yeah we all know Ecuador is on the radar.

My thoughts on this post but everyone has to have a clear goal of what they want and their expectations. Ecuador is a completely different place than Panama. That will never change! Not saying which is better than the other for most but don't try to compare them - I hope IL does monitor this - I paid my subscription too.

Please keep us posted on your impressions of Olan. Like Sawman,  I also wondered if Salinas was the best place for warm weather, the beach,  etc.  I understand Salinas is a surf destination, so this might encourage family members to visit!

Yes, but Boquete is an area of expats, most of them Americans, or maybe wealthy Panamenians. We also have nice areas in Caracas, but they are like ghettos, just like Boquete.

That was not my impression of Boquete and surrounding area, generally speaking.

I visited Bocas in 2014. First, you must appreciate that "Bocas" is more than Bocas Town, which I agree, lacks many basic services, trash pick-up being one of them. There are hundreds of islands, many uninhabited and isolated, without services (power, water). Expats we met typically lived in houses that were completely off the grid - solar powered and with fresh water catchment systems from rainwater.

But on the biggest island, Isla Colon (where Bocas Town is), I was struck by two things: first, medical care is very limited. There was a clinic, but if you were really ill, your options are few and you would need to be transported to David to get hospital care. And the second is the limited availability of food. Vegetable deliveries were (I think) once a week and it was impossible to get fresh fish -- crazy, right, on an island? We were able to buy some frozen fish from a market, but the selection was limited.

Agreed Steve and still owe you a note. I have had major computer problems. All I have at the moment is my iPad- working with Aplle Support since Thursday.!

No rush Here4 . . . making plans for another visit in January.

Hi Laura,
Have you actually been to  Boquete? I have been to Caracas at least 10 times  - I would have to look at my passport - most during the Chavez days and right after the bridge collapsed going to/from the airport? This is just to let you know that I am not unfamiliar with Caracas. If I recall, the Spanish term used for the mountains that extend with shacks of very poor people are called "pobrecitos"? It is very sad for such a beautiful country. It upsets me every time I have been there because if it weren't for corruption, every person in Venezuela could live comfortably due to the oil.

There are are some great places in Caracas as you say - wow I loved the Hotel Tamanco for example and the numerous great restaurants.

I also by the way, have been in every country in Latin America except Nicaragua, Uruguay, and the 3 countries on the north east side of South America - I don't recall the names right now.   So I truly know the region.

If one has never been to Latin America, yes you will have culture shock I believe and it's not important which country it is. Now to finally comment on the ghettos in Boquete - I have not seen any - David yes.

IMHO, the Panamanians, in general are some of the friendliest people, at least here in Chiriqui, that I have ever met. Many are very poor but they are always clean, have flowers planted in front of sometimes houses constructed of bamboo, etc. So if you know where there is a ghetto region in Boquete, like the hillsides I described in Caracas, I would like to know.

I may sound a little strong, but that isn't my intention. It also could easily be that sometimes what we write can be interpreted differently by others. You are obviously 100% bilingual and I SO wish I could say that but unlikely that I ever will be - fluent but to write perfect Spanish like your English -wow I am impressed!

Saludos y buen dia de Panama

i have not lived there, but have visited. Personally it was not my "cup of tea".  prices on the main drag, were definitely tourists prices.  And I expected crystal clear carribean water, was not.  So I passed up, too touristy, and not much to do.

don't even think about it.

you will regret it. Bocas is not for you or me. trashy and got expensive. they want your money at all costs. no jobs so they steal from tourists.

all my Canadians friends sold and got out. scared of the home invasion and many other. Swindlers americans an others have murdered or disappeared tney. we had one case...his name Wild Bill...read about him...he vicicously killed amerricans just to get his hands on there properties.

Bocas is no mans land.!!!! Beware!!!

Hi! Single 51 year old female retired and currently exploring Panama. Was in David area, currently in Las Tablas and going to Bocas in a matter of days. I find David too congested, I grew up a country girl but had to live in a large city in the U.S. so I could have a job that offered a pension and am trying to get away from large cities. Some may prefer that. Boquete is nice. Las Tablas is a lovely peaceful town. Looking forward to Bocas del Toro for another new experience. Hoping to learn to cook the local cuisine, I have no kitchen here but that poor planning on my part. What I love about Panama so far is how nice the locals are and the racial diversity with no tensions that are common in the U.S.

Reminds me of a story. My neighbor came over one day. “I was watching tv, and there was a church and everyone was black, every person. Do they have churches in the US with only black people?” She thought that was the strangest thing ever.
Yes, you aren’t judged by your skin color or any of the other things we are used to in  the US.

Hi Candy! I’m 52 and my fiance’ and I are looking at an early retirement in Panama as well. We’re planning to do the relocation tour next July. Are you just traveling the country on your own, checking it out? So fun! How long have you been there?

I appreciate hearing about people impressions and experiences. We’ve also mostly lived in cities due to work opportunities (Phoenix, Minneapolis, San Francisco), but are looking to slow things down a bit. We don’t need a big house, finely furnished... a cottage with a guest room & a yard to garden where temps are cooler and the people both diverse & friendly would suit us just fine! I’m sure we’ll take jaunts to beaches, islands & the city but a cozy home base sounds like paradise to us!

That is one of the main things that drew me to panama. I thought that sounded too good to be true but it is a beautiful thing to see.

I have been here since October 16...on my own...did not plan e everything out...just wandering. I need to learn more spanish that is for sure. I use Google translate a lot a and everyone i have met is friendly and helpful. I have not yet felt unsafe at all. I have not been looking to buy as I am using this time to just explore and travel. Maybe next year...or maybe not. There is so much to see here I may have a hard time choosing one place.

New topic

Expatriate health insurance in Panama

Free advice and quotation service to choose an expat health insurance in Panama

Moving to Panama

Find tips from professionals about moving to Panama

Travel insurance in Panama

Enjoy stress-free travel to Panama