by Richard Detrich
Today was the day to explore Boquete.
Yesterday afternoon, as the group drove in from David, they stopped at the Panama Tourist Board center just at the top of the hill as you come down into Bajo Boquete, or “downtown.” For at least one couple, the view alone sealed the deal and they decided Boquete was indeed the paradise of which they had been dreaming!
After breakfast at the Oasis Hotel the group boarded our private bus to explore the area around Boquete taking several of the “loops” out of downtown Boquete up into the hills. It’s hard to get lost in Boquete because many of the roads loop through spectacular scenery and then end up back in town. The group visited Jackie Lange’s $600 a month rental to get an idea of what you can rent in Boquete. The casita on our farm for example, although leased for a year and currently unavailable, rents for $650 a month. Because of all the micro climates in an area like Boquete, we recommend that if you are planning to move to Boquete, or elsewhere in Panama, you first rent for at least 6 months. Condo rentals in places like Valle Escondido run around $1100 a month and up and house rentals in Valle Escondido run around $2000 a month. So there really is something for everyone.
Lunch was typical Panamanian cuisine at a tiny little local restaurant in downtown Boquete called La Orchidia. You can get a good lunch for under $4 including beverage but you have to get there early because at 12 noon almost the entire office staff from the town hall will show up! In the afternoon the tour addressed the very practical challenge of opening bank accounts in Panama which can be easy or difficult in large part depending on who you know and your contacts. Check. Then it was on to visit Panama’s premier gated community, Valle Escondido and meet with an expat homeowner living in Valle Escondido.
Then it was off to Palmira to . . . my house! All tour participants have always received a copy of my book Escape To Paradise: Living & Retiring In Panama, so wine and cheese at our house has become a sort of tradition. It not only gives us a chance to visit, but gives folks a chance to see a beautiful coffee estate high up the mountain outside of town.
Then it was off to have dinner at The Rock, one of Boquete’s finest restaurants.
Tired but happy everyone retired to the Oasis Hotel, but just to ensure a complete Panama experience, we arranged for everyone to be rattled awake during the night with a 4.9 earthquake near the Costa Rica border, not worth getting up for, but enough to wake you up. And yes, we do have earthquakes. I believe I read that in Boquete we had over 50 in the first 6 months of 2013, but most of them you sleep through or hardly notice. We are in an active seismic area which reminds me that God is still working on his creation, giving me and the folks around me hope that God is not finished working with me either! Out in the ocean off David three tectonic plates come together so quakes aren’t that unusual. We have strict building codes for earthquakes. A typical Panamanian house is built like a highrise building with corners of cement and steel, and a “viga” or cement and steel framework around the roofline plus cement and rebar in ground, so the entire structure, even a tiny home, is all tied together structurally. Typically the walls, which really are just “fill” are concrete block (with cement and rebar) or M2 which is a Styrofoam and steel product. Unlike California, where earthquakes have a “rolling” action, generally a quake here feels more like the house is being rattled or like a car ran into the corner of the house.
Anyway, the Panama Relocation Tour does deliver a complete boots-on-the-ground Panama experience, earthquake and all!