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Well, we’re making it happen… we just finished booking our Panama vacation.
I’ve heard all kinds of good things about the country for retirees and it’s really peaked my interest… enough so that we’ve been digging into the idea for quite a while now.
We’ve learned quite a bit more about the country since I wrote my post “Is Panama the Right Place to Retire?“ a year and a half ago.
We’ve been reading everything we can find out about the country and I talked to someone who lives there to get some feedback as well.
Through our digging, we now have a better idea of the geography and the places that seem intriguing to live. We also have a somewhat better understanding of some of the pros and cons of living there.
Here’s the thing, though – it would probably be a bad idea to move to another country without first visiting it at least once! 🙂
So, now we’re ready to take things to the next level and make a trip out there to check it out.
This is no ordinary vacation – it’s going to be a reconnaissance mission of sorts. Yes, we’re going to have plenty of fun out there and enjoy the beach and the pools.
However, we want to spend a lot of our time exploring the areas as if we’re living there so we can determine if it’s truly a place we could imagine ourselves in. We want to eat the local food, hang at the local establishments, and immerse ourselves in the culture when possible.
So, that should explain the reason for the Panama vacation. Now let’s talk about the game plan for the trip.
Here where we live in the Midwest in the U.S., we have four seasons: summer, fall, winter, and spring. Panama really only has two seasons: a dry season and a wet season. Although everyone and their brother tends to define the range a little differently, the dry season basically runs from December through April and the wet season from May through November.
We’re heading there in June for a ten-day trip once our daughter is out of school so the wet season should be underway. The good news is that the really heavy rain season doesn’t usually take place until October or November. The bad news is that, at some point, it would be good to know what that heavy rainy season is like.
My brother and his wife will be heading in from Texas and joining us on this trip. They’re in the same mindset as us and interested in the possibility of this Panama vacation being a stepping-stone for retirement as well. I’m not going to count on anyone living there with us so I don’t get my hopes up, but it will still be good to have some other gringos with us for the vacation.
Here’s our itinerary for the trip…
First stop – Nueva Gorgona
After we fly into Panama City, we need to get the heck out of there as soon as possible. I’m not a busy city kind-of-guy and my understanding is that Panama City is a cross between New York City and Miami… count me out! You might already know my feelings about busy cities from my trip to NYC for my cousin’s wedding.
We’ll be getting our rental car from the airport and heading a little over an hour away to Nueva Gorgona for a handful of days – a beautiful beach on the Pacific right near Coronado, which is a place where a lot of expats live. My wife and my brother are interested in this area for retirement, but I think it will be too hot year round and a little pricey for my taste.
Regardless, it’ll be a great place to kick off our Panama vacation! We got a nice 3-room condo through VRBO right on the ocean. So we’ll definitely be enjoying the beach life and the pool some of the time, but we’re going to be sure to get out and explore the life of the locals. I made sure that we didn’t just book an all-inclusive vacation because I want to get out of our comfort zone – visit the places the locals go, meet the people that live there, and eat and drink some Panamanian food… no Domino’s pizza for us!
At some point, we’re going to make a day-trip to Anton Valley (El Valle de Antón). I don’t know too much about this area, but I’ve heard that this is another good place for expats, so I’m all for checking it out!
It’s only about an hour away from where we’re staying in Nueva Gorgona. Since it’s so close, it definitely makes sense for us to scope it out.
Not much else I can say about this area yet!
Now comes the part of the trip that I’m most excited about. After a handful of days in Nueva Gorgona (and the day-trip to Anton Valley), we’re heading to Boquete.
I’m not looking forward to the drive (about 5½ hours), but if the city lives up to everything I’ve read, this is where I can envision living my life.
It’s a smaller community near the mountains and is mostly expats (people from other countries) retired and living there. The weather is cooler because of its location, but it’s pretty consistent year-round… around 75-80° Fahrenheit year round with lows in the upper 60s.
On top of that, the cost of living is about 60% of where I currently live. It’s like San Diego weather except for a fraction of the cost and no hustle-bustle to worry about.
Now, that’s just what I’ve read so far, but this sounds like paradise to me. I hope that the city is as good as everything I’ve read. It’s also about an hour from David, which is another big expat city and right on the beach.
We’ll be staying at a really nice house with a pool and hot tub, but just like the other locations, we plan to get out and explore the area to see what it has to offer.
The Trip Back
Driving from Boquete back to Panama City would be about a 6½-hour drive. That would suck for our last day, especially before the long flight back.
So, we’re going to drive to David, which is only about an hour away, and we’ll drop off our rental car and fly from the small airport there to Panama City and then back home.
The planned cost
The part I’m not thrilled with is that this is going to be an expensive trip for us (and you know how I hate to spend money!!). Most of that is due to how we’re planning this trip. We’re flying into one place, driving all over the country, and then flying out of a different place. The good news is that some things will be split with my brother. Here are the costs for our Panama vacation that we know so far:
|Expense||Initial Cost||Splitting w/my brother?||Total Cost||Comments|
|Flights||$2,108||No||$2,108||The biggest cost of our trip|
|Lodging in Nueva Gorgona||$748||Yes||$374||Not bad for the great place we found!|
|Lodging in Boquete||$698||Yes||$349|
|Total||$3,031||I think I just threw up!|
Then there’s the cost of the unknowns. For budgetary purposes, here are my estimates:
|Expense||Initial Cost||Splitting w/my brother?||Total Cost||Comments|
|Food and drinks||$1,000||No||$1,000||I'm hoping this is on the high side!|
|Gas for the rental car||$150||Yes||$75|
|Activities||$250||No||$250||e.g. Horseback riding|
|Vaccines||$300||No||$300||Better safe than sorry!|
|Miscellaneous||$100||No||$100||e.g. SIM card for phone|
Total estimated cost: $4,756
Ouch! That’s one expensive trip!!! We’re trying to look at this as an investment, though. Considering the cost of living difference, if we decide to actually make this our early retirement, this cost would be recouped pretty easily.
Will our Panama vacation rock? I hope so.
Will it be our early-retirement dream place? This trip will be our first step in finding out. I’ll have a follow-up post after we get back with what we’ve learned – hopefully with a bunch of photos as well!
Have you ever considered retiring to another country? If so, which places have you considered?
Thanks for reading!!