Retire on Social Security in the Highlands of Panama

The average Social Security check or pension is only $1767. Even if your house is paid for, that does not leave much to live on in North America.

With inflation increasing the cost of almost everything, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for a retired person to survive.

So, you have two choices: keep working f-o-r-e-v-e r —

Or, retire in Panama, where the cost of living is considerably less, and you can live well on your Social Security or pension.

How You Can Live in the Highlands on Social Security

If you live on the coast, you’ll probably need air conditioning. Depending on the size of your house and how often you use it, your electric bill could be $80 to $300 per month or more!

But you can drastically reduce your cost of living by living in the highlands of Panama, where you do not need an air conditioner.

My average electric bill is $20 a month. If you’re renting in the highlands, your electricity is usually included in your rent.

Not needing an air conditioner will save you an average of $100-$200 USD/month in Panama and give you cleaner air to breathe, too

More Ways to Save in Panama

Food is cheaper in Panama! Here are some examples of prices: Fresh fruits and vegetables are at least 50% less expensive in Panama. You can buy a huge pineapple for $1, two papayas for $1, and twelve bananas for $1. Fresh tuna caught today is only $4 a pound, and sea bass (corvina) is about $2 a pound in Panama. You can buy these huge bags of assorted veggies for $6 to $8!

volcan veggies $5 a bag
$6 Veggie Bag
farmers market el valle
Fresh fruits and veggies in El Valle de Anton

It gets even better!

A routine doctor visit without insurance costs $15 or $2 if you go to a public hospital. Most medications don’t require a doctor’s prescription, so that saves money and time, too!

You Can LIVE BETTER for LESS in Panama!

Many people live well in Panama on just their Social Security or pension!

In Panama, your cell phone service will be about $30 and includes free international calls and free roaming in the United States and Canada.

Internet service costs less in Panama, too. If you’re renting, it’s usually included in your rent. If you need to pay for internet, it’s about $30 a month, depending on which plan you select.

More Ways to Save

Panama offers discounts for retirees to help you save even more. Once you get a Pensionado visa, you can get:

* 20% off at restaurants
* 25% discount on utilities
* half price to go to a movie (costs about $2)
* 25% discount on airfare to anywhere in the world
* plus discounts at the pharmacy and many other places.

Panama rolls out the red carpet for retirees.

To qualify to retire in Panama, you only need to show a lifetime income of $1000 per month to get the Pensionado Visa. You’ll need an additional $250 a month lifetime income if you’re married.

Let’s Explore The Best Highland Towns

In Panama, the temperature is about 90F (+/-5) at the coast. The temperature drops 4 degrees for every 1000′ increase in elevation. So you can pick your ideal weather based on the elevation.


Volcan is located on the western slope of Volcan Baru. Its elevation ranges between 4,000 and 5,000 feet above sea level. This area is well-known for its perfect year-round weather, with temperatures between 60-80°F, and its natural beauty, which is often compared to the Alps.

Volcán is more affordable than neighboring Boquete.

Volcan has abundant natural beauty with rolling vistas and mountain views in the distance.

Volcan is a more rural mountain town; though it is growing in popularity quickly as many retirees feel they’ve been priced out of Boquete.

The population is about 15,000 people, with an estimated 1000 expats.

Prices in Volcan are much more affordable than Boquete or other highland towns. A friend is renting a furnished two-bedroom house for $550 with all utilities included.

Plus, there is a 24-hour hospital with an emergency room in Volcan. Volcan has several very nice grocery stores, doctors, dentists, pharmacies, and many excellent restaurants.

Everything you need is available in Volcan

You won’t find any gated communities, golf courses, or tennis courts in Volcan. Volcan has a much slower pace of life. There are still plenty of social activities, though, which tend to focus on outdoor activities like hiking. Pickleball is popular in Volcan!

Rentals Volcan Panama
$600 furnished two-bedroom rental

Just north of Volcan are Paso Ancho and Bambito, which offer an entirely different micro-climate and feel than Volcan. Bambito is lush and green all year.

If you prefer cooler weather, Cerro Punta is a bit further north of Volcan at a 7500-foot elevation. Cerro Punta is known for its agriculture and natural beauty, and Guadalupe, which is close to Volcan Baru National Park. These areas offer a variety of outdoor activities and are known for their rich biodiversity.

See this video about living in Cerro Punta. This couple rented a furnished 2600sf house with fantastic views for $600 monthly.

Another rural mountain area north of Volcan is Rio Sereno.

Volcan has a Friday Farmer’s Market, frequented by expats. It’s a good place to get organic produce, aquaponic products, home-baked goods, and crafts. The Friday Market is also an excellent place to meet other expats and Panamanians.

Volcan has several well-stocked grocery stores. Or, you can drive 40 minutes to David, where you will find more shopping options, including PriceSmart ( like Cosco).

A furnished one-bedroom rental in Volcan costs about $350, with all utilities included. Or, you can get a lovely furnished two-bedroom, two-bath home on a large property for as little as $550.

Volcan offers a peaceful, country lifestyle.


There are an estimated 3,000 to 4,000 expats in Boquete, which has a population of about 30,000 people in town and 60,000 in the district. Boquete is home to the largest expat community outside of Panama City.

It only takes one visit to understand why Boquete is an expat magnet. The high altitude of 3500 – 5000 feet and pleasant year-round weather in the mid-70s are only a tiny part of the picture. No air conditioner is needed here!

The expat community is active in this little mountain town, which is known as ” the little town with the big heart.”

There are several weekly markets where everyone can buy from local vendors.

Because of the large expat community, Boquete has many social activities. Live music is played at multiple venues several days a week. In addition, you’ll find card games, golf, tennis, and pickleball. Boquete has weekly bingo, trivia, and card games like Mexican Train. There are also art classes, yoga, meditation groups, cooking classes, and more.

Your social calendar can be as full as you want in Boquete.

Even though Boquete is a small town, there are more 50 restaurants, some are owned by Celebrity Chefs so your food choices are amazing in Boquete. You can buy a nice meal for $5 a plate at a Panamanian restaurant or enjoy a special occasion meal at a high-end restaurant for $15-$20.

Rental prices range from $400 for a furnished one-bedroom to more than $2500 per month for a furnished house in a gated community… and everything in between.

A simple, furnished two-bedroom house usually costs about $700 to $800 a month and includes electric, internet, cable TV, water, trash collection, and a weekly gardener. See this $695 furnished two-bedroom below:

boquete rental 695
$695 Furnished two-bedroom rental

Boquete also has several high-end gated communities, including golf, tennis, and pools. Rents in these areas start at about $1200 – $2200 monthly for a furnished two-bedroom. Sometimes, you can find a furnished one-bedroom for as little as $900 in these gated communities.

If you live closer to downtown Boquete, also known as Bajo Boquete, rents will be higher, and more noise will occur. However, you’ll be able to walk to restaurants and grocery stores.

Bajo Boquete is at a lower elevation of 3500 feet, so the weather will be a bit warmer, with highs around the mid-80s and lows in the mid-60s. However, if you live on one of the hills, for example, Volcancito or Jaramillo, you can expect the weather to change because of a higher elevation. For example, Volcancito (a neighborhood up in the hills of Boquete) tends to have drier weather, with highs in the mid-70s.

If that’s too cold for you, travel south about 15 minutes to several popular highland towns with a bit warmer weather. The town of Caldera is at 2000 feet. Just before Caldera, there is a gated community called Boquete Canyon Village. A little further South, at 1800 feet, is another gated community called Los Molinas, which has single-family houses and condos.

Caldera is a town about 20 minutes south of Boquete. It has warmer weather and very affordable rental prices.

You have many choices about where to live in the Boquete area. If the weather is too hot or too cold in one area, change your elevation to experience completely different weather.

$600 furnished two-bedroom house in Boquete

Santa Fe

There has been a lot of hype in recent years about this tiny mountain town, Santa Fe. Santa Fe is a one-hour-thirty-minute drive along a scenic winding road above Santiago. It’s a bit isolated, so it’s not a good choice for some who need social activities.

Santa Fe has a population of about 3,500 people, with an estimated 50 expats. Since there is a very small expat community here, you’ll need to brush up on your Spanish.

Santa Fe’s climate and natural surroundings are idyllic. There are beautiful mountain vistas, streams,

Because Santa Fe is at only 1400 feet elevation, daytime temperatures will be in the high 80s.

This quaint mountain town is rich with outdoor activities and is surrounded by the Santa Fe National Park on three sides (72.636 hectares), rolling hills, and valleys in every direction.

If you are looking for a place to “get away from it all,” this may be it!

You can access the necessities in a few small stores called an MS (Mini Super). Plus, there are a few small restaurants in Santa Fe. You’ll need to drive to Santiago for most shopping doctors, dentists, and hospitals.

There is a small public clinic in Santa Fe with limited resources. You would need to drive to a large hospital in Santiago for emergency services.

On Craigslist Panama, I’ve seen rentals for as little as $500 in Sante Fe.

El Valle de Anton

El Valle is about a 2-hour drive from Panama City. So, it’s a popular place for wealthy Panamanian families to have a weekend home to escape the city’s heat. It’s also popular with expats who prefer quick access to Panama City.

El Valle has a population of about 8,000, with an estimated 200 expats.

The town of El Valle de Anton is in the crater of an extinct volcano, surrounded by mountains and cloud forests. It’s the largest inhabited volcano crater in the world, but the volcano is extinct, so you don’t need to worry about an eruption.

Its elevation is just under 2000 feet, so daytime temperatures are in the mid-to upper 80s. With a nice breeze, you will not need an air conditioner.

El Valle has a daily farmer’s market that offers a variety of fruits, vegetables, and plants. There are several excellent restaurants in town. And, there are several excellent grocery stores in El Valle, so you can buy what you need without driving to Coronado.

For doctors, dentists, a hospital, or a movie theater, you’ll need to drive about 40 minutes to Coronado.

You’re only a 45-minute drive to a nice Pacific Ocean beach, too!

I lived in El Valle de Anton for a few months. My rent for a furnished three-bedroom, three-bath house was $1000 plus electricity, which was about $37 a month. My daughter also lived in El Valle for a while. She rented a furnished two-bedroom house with amazing views for $650 monthly.

It’s not easy to find a suitable rental at an affordable price in El Valle de Anton. Many rentals cost $2000 a month or more, so it may not be the best place for someone with a limited budget.

Grocery and restaurant prices were higher in El Valle de Anton compared to other highland towns.

The natural beauty, abundant birds, and other wildlife make this area a nature lovers paradise.

It is one of the few homes of the endangered Golden Frog. There are numerous hiking trails and waterfalls where you can take a dip. There are even hot springs where you can replenish your soul.

Golden Frog Inn in El Valle de Anton

El Valle de Anton could be ideal if you like a cooler-weather town that is still close to Panama City and Tocumen International Airport.

But keep in mind that prices are higher in El Valle, and it is difficult to find a rental. You must be “boots on the ground” and talk to people to find a suitable rental, as they rarely appear in online searches.

El Valle de Anton has nice sidewalks and bike paths in the downtown area.

Other highland towns, such as Sora, Altos del Maria, and Capala, are west of Panama City, and Cerro Azul is east of Panama City. These towns are more expensive, so living there on just Social Security would be harder.

Live Better For Less in Panama!

Living in the highlands of Panama can reduce your cost of living. You won’t need an air conditioner, so your electric bill will be very low.

With Panama’s lower food and medical costs, you can live well on Social Security in some of these highland towns!

Join us for an all-inclusive 6-day, 7-night Panama Relocation Tour to visit some of these highland towns.

Since 2010, Panama Relocation Tours has helped thousands of people have a hassle-free move to Panama. We can help you, too!

We have the experience you can trust!

panama relocation tour group
Happy Panama Relocation Tour Clients

See these videos about highland towns

Volcan is the most affordable highland town with plenty of amenities

Affordable rentals in Volcan

Boquete has some affordable options; this couple rents for $550 a month

Randy rents for $450 in Boquete and lives on Social Security

El Valle de Anton has majestic beauty and great sidewalks!

Jackie Lange

Jackie Lange is the founder of Panama Relocation Tours and lives in the highlands of Boquete Panama. She has helped thousands of people relocate to Panama.

Reader Interactions


  1. Danny Thomas says

    Sounds great but do you have to wear a mask ?!!

  2. Alicia de Quesada says

    Great information Jackie. We were there in a March tour and planning to go back at the end of this year for a month or two. We want to visit Bocas, Jaramillo, Volcancito, so probably we will take some private tours to decide where we want to move to.

    • Jackie Lange says

      A Private Tour is a great way to learn more about an area! Enjoy!

  3. Susan Bickel says

    Hi Jackie,
    I hope you are totally recovered. And thank you for this post about the higher elevations in Panama. I was on one of your May tours this year, and am hoping to return again in early 2021. My plan is to try to get some house sitting opportunities, so I can visit different areas and decide where I want to land. Thank you for all the work you have done to make it possible for me and others to retire in Panama, and create a new life filled with peace, joy, love and freedom.
    Susan Bickel

    • Jackie Lange says

      HI Susan

      Thanks for being on the May tour. Be sure to check out our private facebook group- that’s where we post house sitting opportunities

  4. Eddie Vargas says

    I will be in Panama City for a little over 3 weeks starting Feb. 19, then Bocas for three weeks, then 9 days in Bajo Boquete. I am interested in someone local to give me one of your day tours in Boquete so I can learn all
    I would need to do and where to go to get rolling on a pensionado visa.

    • Jackie Lange says

      HI Eddie

      We have exactly what you need. The Complete Panama Relocation Guide has information about relocating to Panama including a list of reliable immigration lawyers, tips for getting your visa FASTER, things yo must do before you rent in Panama, and much more. The Guide also has a list of Private Tour Guides in all the areas you will be visiting. See details at

  5. Edward Sage says

    Thank You Jackie for the Highland post, highlighting those area’s gave me an enriched understanding of where I want to tour when I take your Panama relocation tour.

    • Jackie Lange says

      HI Edward

      I’m glad you enjoyed the highland article!

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