I recently visited the retirement haven of Panama with its “pensionado” incentive scheme of program from the government, it is said to be one of the best retirement places in the world and ranks high on International Living's list of the best places to retire, indeed it was #1 for three years in a row. But I didn’t want the hustle & bustle of skyscraper Panama City and I didn’t want to be too remote from its excellent shopping and world class medical facilities. I looked at Bocas del Toro, Boquete and Coronado along the Pacific Coast but none of them really fitted my way of living. Either they were too remote as in Bocas (the Caribean side) or the beaches were not white sand and turquoise seas. I was beginning to think that I was asking too much when just before I left I discovered the ideal Panama retirement place, the beautiful island of Saboga which is next to Contradora in the Pearl Islands.
The islands of Contadora and Saboga are in the North of the Pearl Archipelago. They are serviced by two airlines, Airperlas and Air Panama; both have scheduled flights twice a day, morning and afternoon. It only takes 30 minutes and you are in the middle of Panama City with all of the facilities that you could ever want but at the same time you are living on a beautiful white sandy beach surrounded by turquoise waters and abundant interesting wildlife to keep you occupied all day... truly the best of both worlds.
"Las Perlas" is in the Pacific region of Panama, which has a lot of advantages over the Caribbean islands of Bocas del Toro and San Blas. Whereas the Caribbean islands are often soaked during the rainy season, the Saboga and Contradora are quite dry. During the rainy season it usually only rains for a few hours during the evening or at night. The rest of the day is sunny and ideal for a sun lover’s adventurers. This also keeps the humidity right down which is a big thing with me; I don’t want my Panama retirement to be uncomfortable.
Note of Interest: Besides being a resort for the whole year, some of the smaller islands in "The Pearl Islands" have been home for three seasons of "Survivor" popular CBS television series.
The two islands of Saboga and Contradora are located just under 33 miles from Panama City. The islands have many elegant large private houses, some well established and others under construction in Saboga. The two islands are known as Martha's Vineyard or Catalina Island of Panama for many of the wealthiest families in this beautiful country.
The only traffic jam you’ll find consists of three golf carts (the only form of transport) found at an intersection at a time. Saboga will soon have a stable of beautiful horses with hiking trails due to the eco development of the island in partnership with the government. The "green" developers seem very passionate to preserve and support the ecology and natural beauty of the island.
These islands have some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. The water is always warm, turquoise. On the south side are some very secluded and private beaches. If you want you can hire a "panga", these small boats with local workers who will take you to some of the uninhabited islands for a small charge. Here in the bay of Saboga you will see turtles, whales and dolphins every day.
While Saboga is less well known, in my opinion it is the far more beautiful of the two but as they are only 500 yards apart you can always get the best of both of them. There is a government controlled expansion with green boutique hotels and some limited exclusive housing developments. This is so that the island is not overdeveloped as I think its neighbour, Contradora, has been to some extent. The government seem very keen to preserve the special nature of this place and promise that over 70% will remain untouched in order to maintain the natural beauty and seclusion which is what attracts expats to this Panama retirement destination.
There is a planned marina and soon the exclusive Trump Ocean Club will be built adding to the elite brand. Contadora has several European and Panamanian local restaurants, also three markets, a medical clinic and a police station.
Quality housing in Saboga is surprisingly affordable and I have found my perfect Panama retirement home at last.