A Wilder Retirement in Panama

Picture this: You’re sitting with an iced glass of banana/mango/papaya smoothie in your hand, in a comfy chair on the terrace. A slight breeze tickles your skin as you enjoy a symphony of birdsong, the chirping of geckos on the walls, and iguanas nibbling the grass in the yard in front of you. You might even see a giant green leaf bug perched on the chaise lounge.

Sound like a tropical paradise? It is…and it’s how my husband and I spend most of our mornings and many of our afternoons at our home—a typical Panamanian-style house, on three quarters of an acre of land, that we purchased for just $90,000—in the Chiriquí province of Panama. It doesn’t get any better than this!

In Panama, we have the kind of retirement lifestyle that most could only dream of on a very limited retirement pension.

We have everything we were looking for in retirement here: access to good, affordable health care…a very reasonable cost of living…a thriving expat community…and warm, friendly locals.

And yes, all of those things are great—but one of our favorite things about living here is the variety of wildlife on our doorstep.

In our own yard we observe several varieties of tanagers, hummingbirds, Tennessee warblers, and masked yellow throats, just to name a few. One of our favorites is the rainbow-hued motmot.

They make their nests in the trees and bushes bordering our terrace. We’re blessed to have the unparalleled opportunity of watching the entire cycle from nest building, to egg sitting, to hatching, to feeding time, to flying lessons. It’s nature at its finest.

Butterflies of every size and hue constantly glide through our yard, too…and there are geckos everywhere. We even share our house with these delightful little creatures! (One of them seems to have taken up residence in the window behind my computer desk and happily cavorts around while I write).

Probably our favorite pastime, though, is watching the iguanas.


If we need a change of scene from watching the wildlife from our terrace, we just drive a few miles up the mountain to the monkey rescue center where we can enjoy cuddly baby howler monkeys cavorting around and over us…

Panama has everything for a good retirement: affordable health care…a very reasonable cost of living…a thriving expat community…and warm, friendly locals.

…or else we go to the turtle reserve and watch the baby turtles hatching and rushing pell-mell to the ocean.

Another option is to visit the wonderful lady in Volcan who has befriended and raised several big, hairy sloths. Nothing compares to a big bear hug from these affectionate creatures. We can also take a trip to the Caribbean island of Bocas del Toro and go for a stroll through Red Frog Beach and nature preserve where the sloths hang lazily in the trees all along the trail.

The biodiversity of Panama is truly amazing. The country plays host to 218 mammal species including several different types of monkey, jaguars, puma, ocelots, margays, and sloths…226 assorted reptiles, and 146 amphibians. (One hundred and twenty five of these animals are not found anywhere else in the world.)

Oh, and then there are the 940 different types of birds, the largest selection in Central America. Panama is a bird watchers’ paradise and is considered one of the world’s best birding sites. Macaws, toucans, parrots, and the rare emerald green quetzal are just a few of the feathered beauties found here. If you’re lucky, you might even see the harpy eagle, a bird with a two-meter wingspan, weighing as much as 20 pounds. It is said that this raptor is the world’s most powerful bird of prey.

If you’re an animal lover, a bird watcher, or just enjoy nature at its finest, you’ll adore retirement in Panama.

This is our life and neither of us would trade it for anything.