Thinking of moving to Panama (Playa Bonita area)

My husband and I (a gay couple) are considering an early retirement in Panama (or Cartegena).  We will be in Panama in February 2017 and would like advice on the pros and cons as well as the opportunity to meet other expats while we are visiting to get a better sense of the community.

Advice is welcome.

I was wondering how you guys narrowed your search to Playa Bonita.  That's a bit of a surprise to me to be your presumptive favorite place to live in Panama.  Maybe others could contribute their thoughts, however, proximity to Panama City would be a plus, but maybe not such a high score on other factors.  Just curious as it may help identify what you're looking for.

The thought was it appeared to meet the desires:  Beach, moderate pricing, most modern conveniences and access to good medical care.  We welcome suggestions on places to look at.  We are going in February for a week and have not locked down an itinerary. We want a place that has good beaches and Panama City beaches are not that nice.  If there is a place relatively close with nice beaches and well priced we would go look.

Sounds like you're doing things right.  Renting for at least six months while you figure out what you can and cannot live with (or without) will be far more important than a single visit. 

Beach-wise, there is NO beach in Panama City and the beach areas to consider should include Coronado and locations in and around it, such as Gorgona.  Skip the Caribbean, in my opinion.  The area between, say, Sabanitas and Isla Grande is too undeveloped and what is there lacks amenities (e.g., Bala Beach Resort in Maria Chiquita.)  for fulltime living.  You'd hate it.  Bocas del Toro has its proponents, although I think most people conclude it is not appropriate for fulltime living.  Certainly should not be written off because of what I'm saying.  If being close to Panama City is important, skip Bocas too.

Some folks advocate living in cooler climates away from the beaches (but within decent driving distances) where other expats tend to locate, such as Boquette and David (although not close to Panama City).  Again, most people contributing to this forum seem to be in these non-beach/non-Panama City areas.

If urban appeals to you more than rural/isolation (e.g., walking vs. driving to shops, restaurants and bars) you MIGHT conclude that Panama City is more suitable, despite the typical drawbacks associated with city living, such as traffic, etc.  Would you enjoy the convenience of the city on a more regular, day-to-day basis than the solitude of a beach community?  Some say you can always go the city when you need to shop or seek medical treatment or fulfill other needs, while others take the approach that you can always drive to the beach when you want to.  You just have to figure out which location is the more suitable "default" location.  MIne would be Panama City knowing what I learned about Panama's beach "communities."

Again, no expert at all, don't live stay or travel there like I used to - just offering up some thoughts since the more informed members aren't doing so.  Good luck!

David area might be a possibility. It is a big enough city to have hospitals, shopping, etc and there are beaches not far away. For living at the beach though, there isn't much out there, not even a mini super so you'd be driving to town for everything.

Many beach loving people go to the Azeuro Peninsula, Pedasi and Las Tablas. The larger city of Chitre isn't that far away, and Panama City isn't out of reach. From what I hear Las Tablas is very affordable, but very Panamanian so some Spanish would be very helpful.

The Coronado area is  another possibility, or the nearby towns for something less expensive. With all the expats there, everything you need on a daily basis is nearby but I'm not sure about the health care in that area.

Bocas del Toro is a gorgeous area to visit, but I don't think I'd want to live there either. You have to drive over the mountains for health care and anything else beyond basic daily needs.

Thanks so much for the feedback.  All information is appreciated as we try to allocate where we scout our first visit in February.

All of your replys have given you excellent ideas......As for me, I have been here for 10 years.  I have lived in the Coronado area, visited virtually every livable area in Panama over the years.
None of the beaches in Panama can compare with the Carribean, Cuba, Domincan, Colombia, etc.  Colon area yes, but like the other posts say, not developed and not a good place to live.
As for me, I love living in Panama City.  It has everything. Restaurants, malls, supermarkets, all within walking distance from my area, (El Cangrejo).  Not to mention a great metro system.  I have a car and a motorcycle and use my motorcycle 90% of the time.  I also have friends who live close who have never owned an automobile and get around just fine.
By the way, I am 76 years old and understand a lot of people believe driving here is very dangerous.  All I can say is, 6 years careening the roads on a motorcycle in the heart of the city and never a problem. 
I should go to work for the Panama Chamber of Commerce.......jajaja

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