Location. Your balboa won’t stretch as far in some places as in others.
That is why the “Your Monthly Panama Budget” series, focus on location.
In Part 1, we looked at the living costs in Panama City.
In this post, Part 2, you will find out about the cost of living in popular expat towns.
In particular, these 3 popular Panama towns
- El Valle de Anton
The higher costs of Panama City seem to radiate out. The costs of Coronado and El Valle, which are both fairly close to Panama City, are significantly higher than Boquete’s, which is much further away from Panama City.
Brief Background on the 3 Towns
You should know that Coronado and El Valle have been the playground of wealthy Panamanians for generations.
Typically, a wealthy family will live in Panama City. But also own a beach place in Coronado and a place up in the cool mountain air of El Valle. So El Valle and Coronado have always had more of a resort or vacation town feel.
While Boquete, until about 15 -20 years ago, was a simple agricultural town.
Coronado is on the Pacific Ocean about a 1 hour drive from Panama City.
Coronado is a very easy entry point for expats. It is all ready to go with many of the amenities you are used to easily available. You will love Coronado if that is what you want. You will hate it if you want to move to Panama to live “with the peoples” and have a different-from-home lifestyle.
The town is gated. You must be okayed to go through. I’m not sure what qualifies as being okay. Last time I went, which was awhile ago, I don’t recall the gate being manned.
We have never stayed in Coronado. When we drove through, it seemed like a ghost town. Lots of empty houses. We found it hard to find a way onto the beach. Of course, we were there in the off-season.
Another Panama site, PanamaForReal.com, did a post describing Coronado. Chris, the author, stayed in Coronado for a few days. His impression is of a much more vibrant town. You can see it here.
Cost of Living
Costs in Coronado are similar to costs in Panama City. Coronado presents many of the same temptations to spend money that Panama City does. Plus, it is only one hour from Panama City.
Some people report that the overall atmosphere is full relaxation & indulging the senses.
Coronado many ways to spend money
- Grocery stores, like Riba Smith, that offer luxury items
- Expat get togethers for dinner, happy hours, etc
- Golf Course
- Yoga classes
- Equestrian club
- Hot weather (increasing your use of AC)
Of course, you can spend less. But if that is your goal I would suggest living some where else. Somewhere that you won’t be surrounded by so many opportunities to spend more.
You can find a more detailed cost breakdown for Coronado towards the bottom of this page.
El Valle, as the name states, is in a valley. It is at 3,000 feet and about 2 hours from Panama City.
It is a quiet town that comes alive on Sundays. On Sundays El Valle has a very popular market. Unlike most markets in Panama, this one features Panamanian handicrafts.
Cost of Living
Cost of living in El Valle is less than in Panama City. For instance you can hire a maid for less and housing can be, but is not necessarily less. You will also not need to use your AC much, if at all.
I have read reports that the cost of living in El Valle is $3000 a month, but looking at costs it seems like you could comfortably live there for less than that.
You can find a more detailed cost breakdown for El Valle towards the bottom of this page.
I am more familiar with Boquete than with El Valle or Coronado. I go up there
occasionally. I was just there 2 weeks ago to go zip-lining for my daughter’s 13th birthday. It was a blast. They had added 2 new lines since we were there last.
Every time I go to Boquete it has more things to do both for tourists and ex-pat residents.
- More and more western-orientated re restaurants
- Tuesday market that is very popular with expats, both as venders and customers.
- A wonderful new library,
- A playhouse theater
- Annual flower festival
- Annual jazz festival
Cost of Living
The influx of foreigners has made Boquete more expensive than other towns in Chiriqui.
However, if you don’t have to pay rent or a mortgage you can still live there comfortably for about $1600 a month.
You can find a more detailed cost breakdown towards the bottom of this page.
A Closer Look At Housing
One of the biggest costs you will have is housing.
Renting vs. Owning
I am only going to examine rents here, not homeownership.
Typically, if you buy, you will pay in one lump sum, or maybe over 2 – 3 years. Which means, once you have paid for your home, your monthly cost of living will be much less. You, of course, will still need to pay utilities.
Also, if your house is titled, you will also need to pay property taxes. Property taxes are low, a maximum of 2.1% of the value of the property. Usually that means 2% of what you paid for the property. Of course, if you qualify for the tax exemption, you won’t need to pay that either.
In Coronado, rents can be quite high – $1000 to $5000 a month.
I am assuming that most of you reading this are not going to be springing for the $5000 month rental. The fully furnished condo, right on the beach, with pool, sauna, for $2000 month seems like a pretty luxurious option.
Cost of Living – Rent Assumptions
To get a reasonable cost of living estimate, I am assuming both a maximum and minimum costs
- Max of $2000 a month
- Min of $800 a month in both Coronado and El Valle. You can always find cheaper rentals thru word of mouth.
Real Rental Costs
To check out the rental prices in Coronado, click this compreoalquile.com link.
Compared to Coronado, Boquete is a bargain with rents from $600 to $1800 a month. You can look at Boquete rental prices here.
When I looked there were only 2 rentals listed in El Valle. One with a 6 month lease, was $1000 a month. There was also a house for $2500 a month. You may find more rental options in El Valle, when you click this rental listing link.
Why Live In A More Expensive Place
People chose to live in these “more expensive” places for a number of reasons.
- Community. More people like you probably live there.
- Activities. Without a doubt as the number of expats rise, it seems to result in more things to do.
- Shopping. More expats = more shopping opportunities, esp. with more western brand name products
- English. The more expats the more English is spoken by locals, and of course by most expats.
Of course, towns with lots of expats are not for everyone.
If not, you can choose a town in which expats live, but not in overwhelming numbers.
For instance, Volcan or Puerto Armuelles. Or you can choose a place that is completely off grid.
There are plenty of places well off-the-beaten-path in Panama.
If you missed my 1st post on your monthly Panama budget,
click here for cost of living in Panama City.
To see a video and results of Panama Guide’s cost of living survey,
visit my Cost Of Living Page.
As always you can browse our property listings at
affordable Puerto Armuelles real estate.
Detailed Cost of Living Estimates
Below I have a line item cost of living charts for each of these 3 towns. Use these as a jumping off point for your own calculations.
As you will see some items like internet, cable, water and garbage are basically the same where ever you are. It is mostly food, entertainment and housing that vary.
Keep in mind that if you will buy your house without a mortgage you will have a much lower monthly budget in Panama.
Coronado’s Cost of Living Chart
El Valle’s Cost of Living Chart
My wife and I are possibly interested in retiring in Panama in about 4 years, and would like to visit their at the first of the year to see if it’s something we would like. I’ve been searching the web for any and everything I can find about Panamá for about 6mo. and we like what we’ve seen and read so if the pandemic can improve maybe we can get down there to see in person. We are from the US and are currently interested in Boquete and El Valle. We would love a cooler climate to live in, but… Read more »
Your post was very informative.
My husband and I visited Boquete last month. Can you share a comparison between Boquete and Volcan? Does it make sense to invest now in Volcan? Is it the next Boquete?
Which of these three towns is the safest in terms of crime? Where are we more likely to find a home with a large yard for a dog?
Hello! We are looking to come to Panama for 3 months, Jan-Mar, what would your top 3 towns be for a family (kids ages 9, 7, and 3)? We speak Spanish, want to be immersed in the culture, but also need good internet and access to shipping/receiving. Thanks!!