Another Retirement City for Seniors: Bocas del Toro

Jul 28th, 2011 | By James E Becker | Category: Senior Travel

So I told you that I’d be back with more spots where seniors would enjoy retirement.  We are now in Bocas del Toro, Panama.  With an indescribable and overwhelming natural beauty, added to the great combination of races and ethnicities living in harmony with indigenous Western Caribe peoples, Latino’s and extraneros, Bocas del Toro(rough translation = bull’s mouth) is not just a beautiful archipelago lost in time, blessed by nature — Bocas del Toro is an example of coexistence and multi-cultural respect for everyone.

The Bocas del Toro Archipelago consists of nine islands, 52 keys and some 200 tiny islets. The largest and most developed island is Colón Island, where the capital of the province, the town of Bocas del Toro, is located. The total population of the archipelago is around 9000 people, of whom roughly half live in the town of Bocas del Toro.

How much time do you have? It would take months to explore all of Bocas del Toro’s 9 major islands, 50 cays (low, coral-based islands), and 200-plus islets. Beach-lovers and surfers (you’re in for a treat!) will be eager to begin their island-hopping as soon as their plane lands. However, Bocas Town itself has lots to offer, including the province’s best selection of dining, nightlife, and accommodations.

The islands are evolving rapidly from a backpackers’ destination into a more upscale resort area, so the sooner you get there, the less influenced the area will be by the outside world. There are a large number of hotels, restaurants, ecotourism and other adventures. Bocas del Toro offers white-sand beaches on the exposed Caribbean side, boat trips on the sheltered lagoon side, and everywhere opportunities for swimming, snorkeling, diving and sunbathing.

We have all heard of whale watching, but here what is big is turtle watching. Bocas del Toro, a province on Panama’s Caribbean side in western Panama, boasts miles of sandy beaches, turquoise waters and sprawling rain forests. It includes a forested inland area, a lengthy strip of coastline, and the Bocas del Toro archipelago, with Isla Colon and its capital city, Bocas Town, at the helm. English is widely spoken.

While Bocas del Toro  attracts more senior travelers every year, its ecosystem remains largely intact due to the admirable efforts of conservationists. In fact, the biodiversity of the Bocas del Toro region is so exquisite, it is internationally recognized as both a Biosphere Reserve and a World Heritage Site.

Population: 125,461
Proximity to major airport: It’s a one-hour flight to Panama City, where connections are available to the U.S.
Access to health care: There’s a public hospital on Isla Colon, the main island in the Bocas del Toro archipelago. It’s adequate and cheap, but most expats head to David or Panama City for checkups and planned treatments. Panama tied for 12th (with Portugal) out of 25 countries on International Living’s Global Retirement Index for health care.
Cost of Living: Panama tied for 13th (with Costa Rica) on the Global Retirement Index for cost of living. A retired American couple can live comfortably in Bocas del Toro on $1,500 a month.
The draw: Laid-back island living.

The currency is the U.S. dollar and, while Spanish is the country’s official language, English is widely spoken. Panama has a “pensionado” program for retirees that provides discounts on public transportation, entertainment and health care. Looks good to me. jeb

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