Relaxing in a hammock under a mango tree, a cool drink and a book in my hand, I am watching a black squirrel with a long, bushy tail chattering and jumping from tree to tree nearby. A hummingbird zeros in on a flowering bush beside me. It is Thursday and the cleaning lady is here for the day. She comes once a week to clean the casita we are staying in. This service is included in the $475 a month rent.
Rentals in this area are higher than where we were last. We are in the westernmost province of Chiriqui and have come to stay in Boquete, one of the most popular gringo towns in Panama. Close to Volcan Baru, the highest elevation in the country, the temperatures are cool (averaging between 20 – 25 degrees). Foreigners have flocked here in hordes to buy property and set up businesses.
Downtown Boquete comprises about 3 parallel streets full of shops, restaurants, gyms, supermarkets and hotels – all catering to both vacationing and residing Panamanians and foreigners. North Americans and Europeans have relocated here with expectations for the amenities they have always been accustomed to. It is a busy spot!
The area therefore boasts a variety of activities, health & wellness services such as spas, yoga and exercise classes, musical entertainment and real-estate developments. This is an adventure tourism destination and is famous for its gourmet coffees. Visitors take eco-tours to coffee plantations and enjoy river rafting, zip-lining, bird watching, kayaking, horseback riding, hiking, rock climbing and hot springs. They can also visit a monkey reserve, national parks, tropical gardens and waterfalls. An amazing, fun town of about 25,000 population!
We spent our first 4 days in town at a nice hostal by the river. We went to a gringo market on Tuesday and met ‘Panama Jim’ (who is actually from Canada!) and he told us about a private casita (small house) in Alto Boquete. This is a community on the outskirts of Boquete and on the bus route. The bus or a taxi both cost .60 to go into town.
We have our own kitchen now and lots of privacy, a nice garden with hammocks and a small patio. This place is also $25 per night (or $475 per month). There’s so much to see and do here, we will stay for 3 weeks in all, then head to the beach for Christmas.
Ted has discovered 3 things to keep him here: Kotowa Café – great cappuccino from the Kotowa coffee plantation, Pilo Gym – where he can work out, and Big Daddy’s – an American-style restaurant serving buffalo wings and fish to tempt the taste buds. Every time we go to Kotowa Café, we meet new gringos, who are all super friendly. They’re so eager to meet new visitors and have lots of tips and recommendations for us. Everyone seems so relaxed and happy here. They have retired from the rat race and are here to make their dreams of a better life come true! They have all the time in the world to talk and make new friends. The only problem? There’s not as much chance to speak Spanish because everyone is English. Even the Boquetenos want to practice their english. It feels more like a little town in the US rather than a Panamanian one.
In the Alto Boquete supermarket a liter of decent wine costs $2.39 and a beer 55 cents. Bananas are 2 for .15 and the most delicious pineapple you ever tasted is $1, in the market downtown. In town you can also get a cone of ice-cream for 50 cents and a cup of coffee for as little as 40 cents. You don’t see that in Canada anymore! People are retiring here because their US and Canadian pensions stretch much further than back home. One couple from the states we met has been living here for 7 years, another lady for 6 years, and another couple for 10.
We are getting quite the interesting comments from some of our followers…especially Mr. Gagne from Fredericton, complaining about the bleepity-bleep snowstorm in Canada! We heard about your snow day. While Canadians were all snowed in, we were busy looking around at apartment and house rentals and wearing shorts and sunhats. It is still rainy season here, however, and in between periods of sun, it pours now and then. December is when the dry season (their summer) starts.