6 retirement havens in Panama

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Panama is often recommended as a good choice for American retirees looking for a place that is accessible, comfortable, sunny and cheap. But the town you choose to live in plays a bigger role in your retirement lifestyle than the country you select. When retiring anywhere in the world, you've got to thin-slice your options. Here's a look at some of the regions of Panama where you might choose to reinvent your life overseas:

[See: 10 Affordable Places to Retire Overseas in 2016.]

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6 retirement havens in Panama
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6 retirement havens in Panama

Panama City. Panama City is no longer the bargain retirement option it was two decades ago. Panama City has evolved over the past 20 years into a global business hub that attracts investors, entrepreneurs, executives and opportunity seekers from around the world. Panama's capital is a competitive financial services center and a banking haven. Big businesses from Dell and Proctor and Gamble to Caterpillar, DHL and Dole Food have based themselves here, invested in brick-and-mortar operations and imported and attracted foreign workforces that total in the tens of thousands.

All this global attention and demand has translated into a steadily rising cost of living. It has also meant continued development of city services and of the available standard of living. Panama City now deserves a place among the world's brand-name cities for the luxury-level lifestyle it provides. While not all parts of the city are luxurious, Panama City residents can rent (or own) a Pacific Ocean-view penthouse apartment with a doorman, concierge, gym, spa and pools with poolside bar service.

(marshalgonz via Getty Images)

You can eat out in five-star restaurants every night of the week. You could spend your days shopping for brands like Hermès, Cartier and Jimmy Choo and your nights hopping from club to club or engaged in high-stakes poker playoffs. On weekends you can take off in your SUV for your beach house or hop aboard your yacht for a weekend cruise. This kind of jet-set lifestyle is increasingly common in Panama City. If that's the kind of lifestyle you dream of for your retirement, then put Panama City at the top of your list. Luxury living Panama City-style is a relative bargain and comes at a fraction the cost of a comparable lifestyle in, say, Miami.

You don't necessarily need to be wealthy to live in Panama City, but life in this city can become much less comfortable on a more limited income. Other cities offer a cosmopolitan retirement at a lower price. The biggest downside to Panama City living on any budget is the weather. It's hot and humid year-round.

[See: 10 Places to Retire on a Social Security Budget.]

(Christer Fredriksson via Getty Images)

City Beaches. The nearest beach destination to Panama City has become an extension of the city itself as well as a weekend escape. Coronado, the best known of the points along this stretch of coastline, is not a luxury living option. Coronado is mid-market and overrun with tourists, foreign and domestic. That's a good thing for the rental property investor, but doesn't make for an ideal get-away-from-it-all beach escape. However, other City Beaches spots offer both comfort and privacy at a fraction of the cost of a fully appointed coastal lifestyle in many other parts of the world.

(Jane Sweeney / robertharding via Getty Images)

East Coast of the Azuero Peninsula (Chitré, Las Tablas and Pedasí). The east coast of Panama's Azuero Peninsula has been attracting retirees for the past dozen years and remains an appealing option for a more rustic coastal lifestyle. The area is adding shopping and services, but doesn't yet have the variety of top-line condo and beach house options you find along the City Beaches coast.

(MarcPo via Getty Images)

West Coast of the Azuero Peninsula (Mariato, Torio and Los Islotes). The western Azuero coast remains a frontier, and life on the frontier isn't without challenges. This part of Panama is remote and undeveloped. Services can be unreliable and roads may be rutted.

The flip side of remote is private. If that is a priority agenda for you, this stretch of Pacific coast could be the paradise you seek. And it won't remain remote and undeveloped forever. Services are catching up, as are other foreign investors and tourists, especially fishermen and surfers. This is not only one of the most beautiful stretches of coastline in Panama, but in the world, and both the fishing spots and the surf breaks just offshore are world-class.

Wealthy locals feeling crowded at the City Beaches are beginning to move out to western Azuero. Those choosing to make the longer drive for their beach escapes are rewarded with more elbow room, lower prices and impressive land and seascapes.

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West Coast of the Azuero Peninsula (Mariato, Torio and Los Islotes). The western Azuero coast remains a frontier, and life on the frontier isn't without challenges. This part of Panama is remote and undeveloped. Services can be unreliable and roads may be rutted.

The flip side of remote is private. If that is a priority agenda for you, this stretch of Pacific coast could be the paradise you seek. And it won't remain remote and undeveloped forever. Services are catching up, as are other foreign investors and tourists, especially fishermen and surfers. This is not only one of the most beautiful stretches of coastline in Panama, but in the world, and both the fishing spots and the surf breaks just offshore are world-class.

Wealthy locals feeling crowded at the City Beaches are beginning to move out to western Azuero. Those choosing to make the longer drive for their beach escapes are rewarded with more elbow room, lower prices and impressive land and seascapes.(

West Coast of the Azuero Peninsula (Mariato, Torio and Los Islotes). The western Azuero coast remains a frontier, and life on the frontier isn't without challenges. This part of Panama is remote and undeveloped. Services can be unreliable and roads may be rutted.

The flip side of remote is private. If that is a priority agenda for you, this stretch of Pacific coast could be the paradise you seek. And it won't remain remote and undeveloped forever. Services are catching up, as are other foreign investors and tourists, especially fishermen and surfers. This is not only one of the most beautiful stretches of coastline in Panama, but in the world, and both the fishing spots and the surf breaks just offshore are world-class.

Wealthy locals feeling crowded at the City Beaches are beginning to move out to western Azuero. Those choosing to make the longer drive for their beach escapes are rewarded with more elbow room, lower prices and impressive land and seascapes.

(Brad Thompson via Getty Images)

Boquete. The tiny mountain village of Boquete was targeted for development for the foreign retiree market. Boquete is now home to one of the biggest communities of foreign retirees in the world, which has advantages and downsides.

More English is spoken on the streets and in the cafés of Boquete than Spanish, and there are plenty of other foreign retirees to pal around with. A retiree moving to Boquete doesn't have to learn a new language if he doesn't want to and can easily find a support network to help with all phases of the transition. That might sound like just the kind of place you're hoping to find for your overseas retirement reinvention or a place filled with other foreigners that you'd rather avoid.

[See: 10 Retirement Hot Spots in the U.S.]

(NTCo via Getty Images)
Santa Fe. Santa Fe is a lovely mountain village with a small local population and limited infrastructure and services. It is a beautiful, tranquil, picture-postcard highlands escape. As in Boquete, the climate is more comfortable than down at sea level. Life in Santa Fe could be simple, safe and affordable. This is a place where you could live on as little as $1,000 per month if you're up for going very local.
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Kathleen Peddicord is the founder of the Live and Invest Overseas publishing group.

Copyright 2016 U.S. News & World Report

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