The International Living Podcast

Episode 36: Panama's Wild West—Expat Living from the Mountains to the Sea

August 02, 2023 International Living
Episode 36: Panama's Wild West—Expat Living from the Mountains to the Sea
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The International Living Podcast
Episode 36: Panama's Wild West—Expat Living from the Mountains to the Sea
Aug 02, 2023
International Living

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This week, the Bigger, Better World podcast takes a trip to Panama, talking to International Living Overseas Editor Jessica Ramesch about her recent scouting trip to the westernmost edge of Panama—the province of Chiriquí.

Although it’s a small country, Panama is a big destination in the world of overseas retirement and relocation. Just three hours’ flying time from the U.S., with a dollar economy, year-round warmth, a busy metropolitan city, and two glorious tropical coastlines, the Central American nation is one of the most popular settling points for in-the-know expats.

While many of those adventurers concentrate themselves in Panama City, or in the beach towns and resorts close by, there’s a growing number of retirees, digital nomads, and work-from-anywhere professionals who explore a little farther, and find exactly what they were looking for in the Chiriquí region.

That shouldn’t be a surprise. Snuggling right up to the border with Costa Rica, Chiriquí is a mountains-meets-sea region, with enough altitude in the highlands to create its own cool microclimate, sweeping right down to the Pacific Ocean with its wild waves, tropical beaches, and secluded bays. Diversity is the key to the landscape here, with productive farmland up in the high spots giving way to deep jungle and green grasslands at lower levels.

It all means that the prospective expat can pick and choose from a range of microclimates, finding the exact match for their personal preference.

In her article for International Living magazine, and in her discussion with podcast host, Jim Santos, Jessica explores the many options for expats in the Chiriquí region, from the beaches of Boca Chica and Las Lajas to the city in David, all the way up to Boquete—one of the world’s premier expat destinations. She paints a glorious picture of small farms, fishing villages, lush coffee plantations, deserted beaches, and horseback ranchers living a life that looks like something from centuries ago.

Join host, Jim Santos, as he meets Jessica Ramesch in the latest episode of Bigger, Better World.

If you’re enjoying the podcast, we would really appreciate it if you could leave us a review on your favorite podcast platform: https://lovethepodcast.com/internationalliving.

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Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Send us a Text Message.

This week, the Bigger, Better World podcast takes a trip to Panama, talking to International Living Overseas Editor Jessica Ramesch about her recent scouting trip to the westernmost edge of Panama—the province of Chiriquí.

Although it’s a small country, Panama is a big destination in the world of overseas retirement and relocation. Just three hours’ flying time from the U.S., with a dollar economy, year-round warmth, a busy metropolitan city, and two glorious tropical coastlines, the Central American nation is one of the most popular settling points for in-the-know expats.

While many of those adventurers concentrate themselves in Panama City, or in the beach towns and resorts close by, there’s a growing number of retirees, digital nomads, and work-from-anywhere professionals who explore a little farther, and find exactly what they were looking for in the Chiriquí region.

That shouldn’t be a surprise. Snuggling right up to the border with Costa Rica, Chiriquí is a mountains-meets-sea region, with enough altitude in the highlands to create its own cool microclimate, sweeping right down to the Pacific Ocean with its wild waves, tropical beaches, and secluded bays. Diversity is the key to the landscape here, with productive farmland up in the high spots giving way to deep jungle and green grasslands at lower levels.

It all means that the prospective expat can pick and choose from a range of microclimates, finding the exact match for their personal preference.

In her article for International Living magazine, and in her discussion with podcast host, Jim Santos, Jessica explores the many options for expats in the Chiriquí region, from the beaches of Boca Chica and Las Lajas to the city in David, all the way up to Boquete—one of the world’s premier expat destinations. She paints a glorious picture of small farms, fishing villages, lush coffee plantations, deserted beaches, and horseback ranchers living a life that looks like something from centuries ago.

Join host, Jim Santos, as he meets Jessica Ramesch in the latest episode of Bigger, Better World.

If you’re enjoying the podcast, we would really appreciate it if you could leave us a review on your favorite podcast platform: https://lovethepodcast.com/internationalliving.

Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | YouTube


Jim Santos 00:09 

Greetings, everyone, and welcome once again to Bigger, Better World. Today, we're returning to the number two country in the 2023 International Living Global Retirement Index: the country of Panama. Our guest today is the go-to person for all things Panamanian, International Living's Panama Editor Jessica Ramesch. She'll be talking to us today about the Chiriquí province of Panama, as detailed in her feature article in the July 2023 issue of International Living magazine: ‘Panama's Wild West—Expat Living from the Mountains to the Sea. Jessica, welcome once again to Bigger, Better World, and thanks for joining us.

 

Jessica Ramesch 01:17 

Thank you, Jim. Great to be here again.

 

Jim Santos 01:20 

Now, last time we talked to you, it was about the Playa Coronado area, just a little bit west of Panama City. But now we're talking about province of Chiriquí, which is about as far west as you can go in Panama without actually being in Costa Rica.

 

Jessica Ramesch 01:35 

That's right. It's one of our two westernmost provinces on the Pacific side.

 

Jim Santos 01:41 

I think it's interesting because usually when I talk to people about Panama, they talk about Panama City or they talk about beaches. And this area seems really diverse, for one thing, and really completely different from what you may think of when you think of Panama.

 

Jessica Ramesch 01:56 

It is, it is, really. I think quite a few of our readers probably do know about the most popular spot in Chiriquí, which is Boquete. It is one of the top retirement destinations in the world, but certainly in our world, our retire overseas world. Typically there's a lot of focus on the warmer beachier areas and the ones in Panama that are closer to Panama City than the ones that are in this western province. And then the mountains tend to attract just the people who find it a little too warm for their liking on the beach.

 

Jim Santos 02:34 

It sounds like there's a lot of history in this area, too. You started the article talking about some expats from France that you met. 

 

Jessica Ramesch 02:46 

I did, I did. I had this wonderful experience, and this is the type of thing that sometimes happens to you where I'm there. I've rented an Airbnb and you'll be just out taking a walk, particularly in some of these smaller friendlier towns. And if somebody else is there walking, you might say hello. Or if they have a dog, you might stop and ask about the dog and chat for a bit. And the next thing you know, they're saying, well, why don't you come over and have a drink with us while you're staying in this area? Come over tomorrow, meet the family. 

 

And that's exactly what happened, and it ended up being just such a wonderful connection. We're still in touch today. You sometimes end up making too many friends doing this.

 

Jim Santos 03:28 

Now, this area sounds really pretty rural, but you describe it as going from mountains all the way down to the beach.

 

Jessica Ramesch 03:36 

Yeah, the great thing about this province is that you have all of that. Sometimes we'll talk to people and it'll be a potential expat couple, and one person prefers the beach, one person prefers the mountains, and it's sort of like, well, how do we figure it out? Right? And if you're living in Chiriquí, you can choose one or the other and then spend your weekends in the opposite destination. 

 

So you can make a decision that, okay, we're going to live in the mountains so that we have cool weather all week long, but then maybe we'll spend our weekends down on the coast. Right. In this province, you don't have to go very far at all.

 

Jim Santos 04:15 

And some of these areas are quite rural. You mentioned being able to see the stars and walking unafraid, although you also mentioned jaguars in the same sentence.

 

Jessica Ramesch 04:26 

Yeah, I mean, there's wildlife. You got to hope that there's not going to be one around you. But they tend to avoid humans as much as we wish to avoid them. But yeah, Volcan specifically Boquete, is the more popular destination in that highland region, that cool weather region of Chiriquí. And there's a reason why more people will choose Boquete than Volcan. 

 

But my favorite really is Volcan, and it's a little bit smaller, it's a little bit cooler. It's a little bit rainier, too, even though you still do get a lot of sunshine. The rain didn't bother me at all. I was there during the Panamanian summer. But it's such a nice little town, especially now because the roads are looking so great and the sidewalks are looking so great, and so it's kind of upped its game a little bit, but it's still the kind of friendly little town where there's no foreigner fatigue. 

 

So locals are still very friendly, saying hello, interested, wanting to hear where you're from. You don't have any sense that it's been overrun. And yet I was meeting all of these interesting people. Like you said a moment ago. I was meeting people not just from the States, where I grew up, but from Canada, from Europe, from other you know, we went to the Mexican restaurant and just had a great conversation with the proprietor of the restaurant who had settled in Volcan from Mexico.

 

So lots and lots of interesting people and still a very small town feel, which I spoke to some of the younger local kids, and they were like, yeah, we don't always think that it's great that this is a more old fashioned town, and yet they still had to agree with me that it was a really great place to grow up.

 

Jim Santos 06:17 

Yeah, it sounds really interesting. You mentioned a lot of agriculture there and horse farms and people referring to the region as the Texas of Panama.

 

Jessica Ramesch 06:28 

Yeah, you do get that cheeky Texas of Panama reference talking to some of the expats that have settled there. And I totally get why they do. Interestingly. The Chiriquí region is a little hub for thoroughbred horses. There's the Aras Horse Farm, which is kind of famous in these parts for its horses. And so you have sort of the ranch land and the farmland. But then there's so much more to it, as you know, if you hear that Texas of Panama descriptor. Yeah. Okay. 

 

But keep in mind that there's way more to it than that. Although those farms are amazing and 80% of the beautiful produce here comes from that region. So you have this wonderful abundance of not just produce and vegetables, but also great fish and seafood. And the coffee. Oh, my God. The coffee.

 

Jim Santos 07:21 

Yeah. That is a big coffee growing region for Panama, right?

 

Jessica Ramesch 07:25 

It is. And that Jannsen coffee is one of my favorites. I don't know how easy it is to get. I know it's exported. I don't know how easy it might be to get for any readers, anybody listening that's interested in it. But if you come down here, do try it and let us know what you think because it's my favorite.

 

Jim Santos 07:43 

There's something that caught my eye about the Highlands area, as an aging bass player. You mentioned the Boquete Jazz and Blues Festival.

 

Jessica Ramesch 07:53 

That festival, I have to tell I typically, if I'm traveling somewhere new, I will look and see if there's a jazz or blues scene. I enjoy seeing small, intimate presentations or larger concerts, whatever I can find when I'm in a new place. And that has got to be one of the most magical ones I've ever been to. Just being outdoors in that sort of garden setting with that mountain backdrop and there'll be stuff during the day and then jam sessions at night. And so you get these different experiences. It's unbelievable.

 

Jim Santos 08:31 

Yeah. That's, again, something you don't normally associate with Panama or Central America is jazz and blues festivals. So it's great. I guess that's something to do with that diversity that you mentioned of the expats in the region.

 

Jessica Ramesch 08:43 

Yeah. And the diversity that you find amongst Panamanians as well. Because along the Caribbean coast we have a huge contingent of people who settled in Panama whose parents or grandparents or ancestors came here from Caribbean islands, from places like Jamaica and Barbados. And so we have a really varied music tradition just throughout the, you know, Panama City has an amazing jazz festival every year that's kind of born out of that tradition. 

 

Danilo Perez, one of the jazz greats of Panama is part of know, Afro Caribbean descendant population. And then that Boquete Jazz and Blues Festival you might not expect to find something like that in a Pacific Coast province. It's not on the Caribbean, but there you go.

 

Jim Santos 09:36 

Yeah. Sometimes when you're traveling, those surprises are the best part of it.

 

Jessica Ramesch 09:42 

They are.

 

Jim Santos 09:43 

That's one of the reasons I kind of avoid set tour groups because I find it so much more interesting, the things that you stumble across.

 

Jessica Ramesch 09:52 

Yeah, I find the set tour groups are great if you're apprehensive about travel, but if you have your own very particular likes and things that you want to seek out, it's nice to have the freedom to do it on your own.

 

Jim Santos 10:04 

Right. Or I guess if you have a brief time that you're going to be there and you want to make sure you see everything of importance too, then that could be important.

 

Jessica Ramesch 10:11 

For sure.

 

Jim Santos 10:12 

How about the real estate prices in that area?

 

Jessica Ramesch 10:15 

They have a great variety and great prices. And it's interesting that you ask that. I was just recently having a conversation with someone. Maybe it was at the Costa Rica conference that I was just at the International Living Fast Track Costa Rica conference and somebody came up to me and said, you know, we found the real estate to be really expensive. 

 

And I was like, But I was just there and I saw a really great variety of stuff in the budget range, in the mid-range, whether you're looking to spend $100,000 or between $150 and $250,000 or more, I saw a great variety in all of those ranges. And they said to me, yeah, well, we really wanted a place that was in a gated community and on a golf course with a view of the mountains. That was over $200,000. They list all these things and I'm like, well, if you want luxury property and you want it to cost $150,000, that's not really like, what I can get. 

 

What I've gotten for $155,000 is fantastic, but I've got just over 1000 sqft. Like, don't expect the luxury property to be at that price.

 

Jim Santos 11:31 

You raise a good point, though, about actually being there and looking at prices because my wife and I are about to this fall. We're taking a little trip to Europe for about nine weeks. And one of the places we're stopping first is Greece. And we'd been looking at property prices online and we found that they tend to list the most important or the most expensive properties online. And if you go through other resources where you're connecting with people who are actually in the area, you can find that the prices are much more affordable.

 

Jessica Ramesch 12:01 

Yeah. And again, it really does depend on what you're looking for. I've fashioned a beautiful life for myself in a beautiful apartment with great amenities, pretty views, all of that jazz. But I do think if you're expecting luxury property to be in that mid budget price range, then there's some adjusting expectations that needs to happen.

 

Jim Santos 12:26 

Yeah, those expectations can be a little too much sometimes. I know. I have talked to people who want a nice secluded beach without many people around that's within five minutes of a major hospital.

 

Jessica Ramesch 12:37 

Yeah. It's not always possible in Latin America to get, that's not going to be… sometimes you have to make choices. But again, what I get for my dollar here is unbelievable. It's just that when we say that some of these areas are really great value and really inexpensive, that doesn't mean that it's free. It just means that you're getting comparatively excellent.

 

Jim Santos 13:03 

Right. Now from the highlands. You also took a drive down to the coast and you mentioned two places to see and two to skip. Why don't we start with the two to skip? What were these places and why should you skip those?

 

Jessica Ramesch 13:17 

Sure. Yeah. Well, one of them was not on the coast, but the hub city of David, which is sort of between Boquete and the beach regions. And it is a city that has all the conveniences and that is very inexpensive to live in. I mean, you can buy property for much less than $100,000 still in the city of David. So it has attracted some expats. 

 

But for me, it's not on the water, it's not in the mountains. It's one of the warmest cities in all of Panama. I just don't see any reason to choose David when you can live somewhere with mountain views and you're still 20, 30 minutes away from all of those great amenities in David or vice versa. On the beach, you can be still within striking distance of David but have that beach setting. So I tend to know fuel up or buy some things I need and then keep going.

 

Jim Santos 14:13 

David is where the airport is, correct?

 

Jessica Ramesch 14:15 

If you're flying, that's where the domestic airport is, and you can land. And right at the airport, you can rent a car and then strike out for more interesting parts of the province, just as far as I'm concerned. And then the beach that I skipped is the closest one to David—La Barqueta. And it's a beautiful beach. It's home to a turtle refuge. 

 

By all means, if you're interested in being that close to David and on a beach, do check it out. But I like a place to feel a little bit more lively and happening and not just exclusively a weekender or snowbirder destination that feels dead outside of those times when there might be a few more people there. So for me, it's also one to skip.

 

Jim Santos 15:03 

Yeah, I can see the David objection, too. If you're going to relocate, move thousands of miles to a new country, you might as well go a few extra miles and get someplace that's really special.

 

Jessica Ramesch 15:13 

Yeah. And everybody has their requirements. And if you go to David and end up really liking it, that's cool. For me, I'm a very visual person, so I'm affected by what I see and I want things to look a certain way and I find that outside of David.

 

Jim Santos 15:33 

Now, what are the two places that you definitely are on your must-see list?

 

Jessica Ramesch 15:38 

I really love Boca Chica and Las Lajas. So the first one that I went to was Boca Chica. And you might think I'm crazy. As I said in the article that I wrote about this region, if you go there and just look at the little town center, there's almost nothing there. It's not beautiful at all. 

 

But just wait until you get to the water. Wait until you get on one of those fishing tours or just on the water. Even if it's just a boat tour to the outlying islands, it is one of the most raw, beautiful places I've ever seen. And you know, Jim, like you, I've traveled a lot. But it's absolutely stunning. Particularly the islands that people come and visit when they're touring the region. And it's very inexpensive, short little boat trips. And you suddenly find yourself on one of these islands that could have been the set for The Beach, one of these iconic films. And it's just you. It's not overrun, it's not full of beach towels and screaming people. It's just really quiet and pristine.

 

Jim Santos 16:47 

Yeah. I take it that these beaches are not the overly developed tourist type with the high rise buildings and vendors up and down the beach.

 

Jessica Ramesch 16:57 

Kind of amazing that there are still places like this in the world. I still get amazed by it.

 

Jim Santos 17:02 

You also mentioned an island known as the Panama's Galapagos. Is that in that area, too?

 

Jessica Ramesch 17:09 

It is in that area, particularly for anybody who loves snorkeling or scuba diving. In particular, Coiba Island, which is C-O-I-B as in boy A, is known. That whole system, which is a protected system and has a lot of endemic species because it has been protected or isolated for so long. 

 

Tourism was not allowed there for many years when it was a penal colony. Notorious place to stick prisoners and forget about them on this island. And so it's really been untouched by any type of contamination for decades. And it's stunning. I'm not a scuba diver, though, so this time I did not go to Coiba Island. I went to three smaller islands that just have these hidden little coves and beaches and are, like I say, the stuff of movies for me.

 

Jim Santos 18:11 

There was a breakout in your article also about the cost of living for the area. Again, it seems like a really affordable.

 

Jessica Ramesch 18:20 

Is, you know, because the further you get from the capital, Panama City, the lower your prices are going to be. And like I say, it still amazes me that this region is still so relatively undiscovered that prices just have steadily remained low. We haven't seen this phenomenon in Panama where from one day to the next a bunch of people learn about a place and they flood in and prices go up. That doesn't happen here. It's very stable and you have trickles of people that come in as tourists or expats, but it's always very steady and so I don't envision that changing for quite some time to come.

 

Jim Santos 19:02 

Now, is this an area where you can find single family homes and condos or is it more of a rustic area?

 

Jessica Ramesch 19:11 

That's a great question. So you're seeing some more condos or apartments in Boquete proper, which is the most popular destination for expats in Chiriquí outside of Boquete and David, you're really not going to find as many condos. It's going to be more single family homes, but they're affordable. Again, in Panama City, single family homes really have gone up quite a bit. So for the average Panamanian, they're not affordable. 

 

Apartments are very affordable and great value. But in Chiriquí, single family homes are definitely affordable.

 

Jim Santos 19:52 

And I assume in an area that's an agricultural center and also near the water like that, there are plenty of local markets for your basic fresh vegetables, fruits, fish. You're probably going to see a lot of chicken and beef, that kind of stuff. But how about other services like major grocery stores and hospitals, things of that nature?

 

Jessica Ramesch 20:13 

So you've got your major grocery stores and hospitals in David, so I definitely recommend sticking close to David if you have any health issues, if you're comfortable. If where you live right now you're an hour or two hours away from a hospital, then certainly a beach region like Boca Chica might work for you. Or Las Lajas, which I mentioned in my article as well. 

 

With those beaches you can get to David in an hour and a half. So it's still totally doable. For people that live on the beach, many of them do it once a week or once every two weeks just to stock up on stuff. But your major medical is going to be in that hub in David. Now you have clinics all over the region, so you may find that you have a great general doctor that speaks English closer to you or a dentist closer to you. But for major medical you've got the hospitals right in David, which is sort of that center hub.

 

Jim Santos 21:13 

And how are the roads in the area?

 

Jessica Ramesch 21:16 

The roads were looking pretty good, which was amazing. I was just there this March, so I'd say upkeep has been really good compared to anywhere I've been in the States or out.

 

Jim Santos 21:29 

Is there a local bus system that will get you from the beaches to David?

 

Jessica Ramesch 21:35 

Yeah, you have local buses that will get you to David. If you're wanting to go from the beaches all the way into the mountains, then you're going to have to switch buses. They're pretty reliable. More and more of them are air conditioned nowadays as well. I said pretty reliable, but they're very reliable. There's a lot of service.

 

Jim Santos 21:55 

So this isn't an area where you could live and not have the expense of an automobile.

 

Jessica Ramesch 22:01 

I'd say that most expats would probably want one so that you can explore. There's so much to see on weekends or if you're retired any day of the week, but it's totally doable without a car. If you don't mind the local buses, you kind of have to see how you feel about that sort of thing. I'd say if you're living in the mountains, probably you're 90% going to want to have a car. If you're living in David or on the beaches, you might find that you don't really need one.

 

Jim Santos 22:33 

Yeah, it's interesting. I think you find out a lot about yourself when you live in an area where you don't have a car. It's interesting how much you rely on it.

 

Jessica Ramesch 22:42 

When you do have it, it's so true. And then when people are coming to visit, I'm kind of asking around because I have a car, so I'm not taking buses in my local area, but I try to keep that information for when people ask me.

 

Jim Santos 22:59 

Now, of course, no place is perfect. And you wrote about some of the challenges of living in Chiriquí. What would you say is the biggest challenge?

 

Jessica Ramesch 23:08 

You know, I do think it's always important to look at the challenges in addition to the benefits, because there are always trade-offs. The having a car thing that we just talked about is one of them for sure. Something to keep in mind. Also, the further out you are, the more you're going to need Spanish if you're not in Boquete and even in Boquete, just talk to shop clerks and things like that. If that's a deal breaker for you, then you want to really profile yourself very honestly and admit to yourself if that's going to be a deal breaker. 

 

And then just like the shopping is amazing in David, but when you're outside of David during the week, in between shopping trips to David, you're going to be really limited in some of these smaller towns where you go to the general store and generally speaking, now they all have a pretty great selection of wine and beer and that sort of thing. But you might be more limited than in the States. You go into a supermarket and the produce is like all this imported produce in addition to what is grown right. And you're just you're not going to have that in smaller towns.

 

But then you have the beautiful local produce that's so inexpensive and generally you have access to really fantastic seafood. And like you mentioned before, chicken. A lot of expats don't like the beef here, but Panama's pork is known to be among the best. So those are very affordable.

 

Jim Santos 24:36 

And you mentioned it does rain a lot in that area as well.

 

Jessica Ramesch 24:40 

Yes, if you're in the mountains. So Boquete, Volcan, these are cloud forest, rainforest destinations, so you're getting 100 inches of rain on an average year. Could be a little more, could be a little less. This year, it's probably going to be a little less. And a lot of that is concentrated in the August through November rainy season months. But you do get sprinkles in the mountains throughout the year. I really like the cool weather. 

 

There's still a lot of sunshine, so it's not like Seattle, like gray all the time when it's raining, which is why they talk about that rainbow phenomenon a lot of the time because you have sun and the rain going at the same time sometimes. Yeah, but in the beach areas you're not getting that rainfall. So once you come down from the mountains onto the Pacific, you're looking at a lot less rain. 70 inches could be as little as 50 inches this year.

 

Jim Santos 25:42 

You also wrote about problems with the electric infrastructure in some areas. The thing that's just as important to people nowadays as electricity, of course, is Internet access. How about Internet options in the area?

 

Jessica Ramesch 25:56 

So the interesting thing is that you have little pockets. So when you come down to explore and you're trying to decide where to have your home, you really want to talk to the neighbors about their pocket. So the person next door to you is going to be able to tell you if you're in a really great pocket for electricity and WiFi, or if you're in a not so good pocket where you might want to consider having a generator or putting your Wi Fi router, whatever, on a battery so that you're not interrupted. 

 

Where I chose to stay in the teeny tiny mountain town of Volcan, I had great Internet, didn't lose power once. But I definitely was looking for when I was looking online for Airbnbs, I was looking for reviews that said that the Internet was good.

 

Jim Santos 26:42 

It sounds so diverse, not just with people, but with landscape and climates. You've got mountains and cloud forests and beaches. What do you suggest people do to try to figure out what's going to be right for them?

 

Jessica Ramesch 26:58 

I think if you're listening to this, you probably already have a sense of whether you prefer the beach or the mountains. But sometimes we're not quite sure. And I always say it takes most people two or three weeks to figure out whether or not they're going to acclimate. If you are going to acclimate, you spend two or three weeks in a particular location. It usually takes that long before you know, okay, I've acclimated. 

 

And now it doesn't feel as hot or cool to me, whatever it is. But if at the three week mark you're still feeling like it's too humid or too warm for you, then you might need to move from the beach up into the mountains.

 

Jim Santos 27:39 

Now, when you're coming into Panama, flying into Panama City Tocumen airport, how would you get from there then to the Chiriquí province?

 

Jessica Ramesch 27:49 

So if you really want to explore Panama, it's absolutely safe and wonderful to do the drive. If you're doing the drive, it takes about five hours from Panama City to David. Allow yourself a little more time if you're new, and then from David if you're going into the mountains or if you're going to the beaches. 

 

If you're going from David into the mountains, it really is only about 40 minutes. It's a quick short drive. If you're going to Boca Chica or Las Lajas, you're going to want to give yourself about an hour and a half, give or take. But if you don't have as much time or you're not interested in driving, seeing the countryside, making stops along the way, you can fly directly from Tocumen International Airport using Copa Airlines and that flight takes you to David. And like I say at the airport, you can hitch a bus or rent a car to get to your next destination. 

 

Now, if you're spending some time in Panama City, maybe you don't want to go all the way back to Tocumen International Airport. It's probably more convenient for you then to book a flight from the domestic airport in Albrook. Most people just refer to it as the Albrook Airport. Just go online to Airpanama.com and you can book your ticket from there. Now, those flights tend to be a little bit more expensive than the Copa flights, so choose accordingly.

 

Jim Santos 29:10 

What type of person… I mean, you talk about this being Panama's Wild West picture, a real cowboy kind of persona, but what kind of person do you think would be most attracted to this area?

 

Jessica Ramesch 29:23 

A lot of people who fall in love with Panama but find it just too warm at sea level do end up in this province because they really like the modernity, the convenience of Panama, but they just can't acclimate on the beach at sea level. You do see amongst the locals, you're going to see that prototypical dude on the horse with the hat on. But really it's a region that attracts so many different types. 

 

If you're into sort of holistic and naturopath type deals, this is an area that attracts a lot of people that are interested in everything from homeopathy to Reiki, all those types of things. People who are really into outdoors things and sports, people who really love to go on nature walks or hike or go rock climbing or whitewater rafting or horseback riding. So it attracts very athletic, adventurous people, too. You've got this whole spectrum of different types of people, remote workers that are attracted to this region. So I'd say it's pretty wide open.

 

Jim Santos 30:36 

It sounds like, as with most places, the best thing to do is to just actually come out and see for yourself and spend a fair amount of time there exploring the area.

 

Jessica Ramesch 30:45 

Yeah, and even if you end up deciding that it's not the area for you, it's so worth going and spending as much time as you can spend exploring because these places on Earth that are still so relatively undiscovered and beautiful and uncrowded. It's just to me, I love that and I feel like it's so worthwhile. Do it now while you can.

 

Jim Santos 31:10 

We've been talking with Jessica Ramesh, author of ‘Panama's Wild West—Expat Living from the Mountains to the Sea’. You can find it in the July 2023 edition of International Living magazine. And you can meet Jessica and other International Living experts, including, of course, your humble podcast host, at the Ultimate Go Overseas boot camp in Denver, Colorado, this September 2 through the 4th. 

 

You can get more information and make your reservations at Intliving.com/Denver. That's Intliving.com/Denver. 

 

Jessica, always a pleasure to have you on the show, and thanks again for taking the time to talk with us on Bigger, Better World.

 

Jessica Ramesch 31:46 

Thanks, Jim. I'll see you in Denver, and hopefully a few of the people listening as well.

 

Jim Santos 32:00 

The Bigger, Better World podcast is a production of international. Living. If you enjoyed this episode and you'd like to help support the podcast, please share it with others, post about it on social media, or leave a rating and review. If you have an idea for an episode or a question you'd like us to answer, email us at mailbag@internationalliving.com. And don't forget to put podcast in the subject line of your email. That's mailbag@internationalliving.com. We created Bigger, Better World to help showcase the ideas we explore at International Living each month, and grow our community of travel lovers, expats, and experts who believe, as we do, that the world is full of opportunity to create a more interesting, more international life. 

 

You don't have to be rich or famous to do that. You just need to know the secrets. And that's what we bring you at International Living. If you haven't become a member yet, you can do it today with a special discount offer for podcast listeners. You'll receive our monthly magazine, plus a bundle of special extras. You'll find the link in our show notes, or you can go to Intliving.com/podcast. That's Intliving.com/podcast.

 

Be sure to tune in next week for another brand new episode. Thanks again for joining us on Bigger, Better World. I'm Jim Santos for International Living. I'll see you next time, and until then, remember, there's a bigger, better world just waiting for you.

 

Chiriquí—About as Far West as You Can Go in Panama
Climate And Weather in Chiriquí
Why it’s Called the Texas of Panama
The Boquete Jazz Festival
Real Estate Prices in Chiriquí
City, Airport, and Hospitals—The Main Urban Hub
Boat Trips to Deserted Beaches and Unspoiled Beauty
What are the Challenges of Living in the Area?
Getting There From Panama City and Farther Afield
What Kind Of Person Is Chiriquí Best For?