In the cool western highlands of Panama, among the misty foothills of Mount Volcan Baru, you will find the delightful town of Boquete. This town of about 20,000 is home to around 3,000 expats, drawn to the allure of this peaceful location. The locals farm coffee and other agricultural pursuits while digital nomads tap away in the comfort of their home offices and then come down to enjoy the fresh coffee in the town squares with the many expats who have simply chosen to retire there. Because of the number of expats, there is a thriving expat community to connect with. One can even get by speaking very little Spanish. The climate is always moderate (in the 70s – 80s Fahrenheit year round), and opportunities abound to hike, explore and enjoy the beautiful surrounding vistas.
Cost of Living
Renting a two-bedroom apartment in the town’s central area costs $800-$1200 a month, groceries will be $400-$500, high speed internet is available for $20-$45, and altogether monthly cost of living in Boquete is estimated at $1,553 – $2,600
Things to Do
By far I think the coolest thing to do in Boquete is climb to the top of Volcan Baru. It is a dormant (ie not about to erupt) volcano, the highest point in Panama and one of the highest in Central America. You can take a 4×4 up the very rough road to the summit in time to arrive for the sunrise. From the top of Volcan Baru; you can see both the Caribbean and the Pacific, which is not possible from anywhere else!
Tour Coffee Plantations
Visitors to the area also enjoy touring coffee plantations to learn where exactly this favorite beverage comes from.
If you’re living there, you might not summit Volcan Baru at sunrise or tour a coffee plantation more than once but there’s more than enough other things to do when you feel like getting out. There’s numerous hikes or scenic drives along the surrounding jungle valleys. You can also go bird watching, orchid spotting, horseback riding, or even white water rafting on the river Caldera that flows through town.
Art in Boquete
Boquete also has a very active arts scene to engage your creative energies. Many musicians, painters, photographers, actors and other artists are active in town. Every February the Boquete Jazz and Blues Festival takes place for five days, drawing visitors from all around the world. A group of expats formed the Boquete Community Players (BCP) group in 2005 as a theatre group but BCP’s mission is more generally “to sponsor, produce, and promote artistic events to enhance appreciation for and understanding of the arts, and to promote a cohesive sense of community.” Their “Tuesday Morning Meetings” have morphed into a general community-wide market and event. There’s also a photography club and classes available in drawing or painting or other art forms if you’re not proficient in them yet but would like to be! Or if you are just an appreciator of art, the public library has frequent exhibitions.
The Food of Boquete
In addition to having all the usual supermarkets, banks, hardware stores, pharmacies and other basic amenities you’d expect of a town of its size, the town hosts a hide variety of restaurants with good cuisine of all different kinds. You can get a plate heaped with food for about $4.
Swim in Boquete
About 45 minutes drive from Boquete is a great swimming spot called Los Cangilones de Gualaca. Here the river Esti flows through a narrow canyon and forms tranquil swimming holes people love to jump into or just lounge beside.
What’s Close to Boquete?
If you ever find yourself missing a larger city, Panama’s third-largest city of David is only 40 minutes away down the highway. In David (population 144,858) you can find the nearest airport as well as anything else that’s not available in Boquete. Additionally, if you miss the sea (which is the one thing that admittedly is not near Boquete), David is on the coast near many beaches on the Pacific Coast, so one can easily still spend a day on the coast if one wants.
In conclusion, if you want to settle down in a peaceful mountain town, where the climate is always perfect, the art scene is extremely active, and there is a very large and active expat community, Boquete is the place for you!