Volcan, Panama, WRITTEN Report

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The Little Switzerland of Panama — Volcan, Where the Temperature and the People are Cool

The second largest city in Panama is David, a not-so-hectic alternative to the bright lights, construction noise, and traffic congestion of Panama’s main business hub. Perhaps the greatest thing about the area around David, is the option to escape the city all together and move to one of the smaller towns that dot the country’s interior. 

Closer to Panama City, you have fewer lifestyle options, and definitely less high-elevation towns (I’m not saying there aren’t any—just less). Once you pass Santiago on the Pan-American Highway, you find great places to base your new lifestyle from; towns like David, Boquete, Las Lajas, Dolega, Bocas del Toro, and this month’s feature destination, Volcan.

Volcan Map

Don’t worry, we’ll touch on all those other towns mentioned in later addtions of Panama For Real.

This month, we’re taking you about an hour and a half drive farther than David, to the mountain town that, to me, looks a lot like a small Colorado town, minus the snow capped peeks.

Getting There

To get to Volcan, you’ll pass David on the Pan-American Highway. Just keep going straight. Don’t turn towards Boquete. Maybe twenty minutes outside of David, you’ll come to the small town of Concepcion, and you’ll see the signs telling you that Volcan is to the right. Follow the signs and make your turn. From there you’ll have about a thirty to forty-five minute drive up to Volcan.

Turn right here to go to Volcan

The main road leading to Volcan, Cerro Punta, and even towards the new road that can take you to Boquete, is very smooth and gentle on your car. Unlike some of the other mountain areas I’ve visited, there were no seriously steep inclines on the way into town. This is a plus when you have a car, like to ride a motorcycle, or want to rent your wheels, but don’t feel like splurging on a 4×4 vehicle. 

It’s smooth sailing all the way to Volcan

I’ll talk more about the roads in town later, some of which are in pretty bad condition, but you can easily get to town, in a regular car. We drove a Suzuki Swift, which if you’ve never seen one, they’re like little go-karts. I love the car, especially when searching for parking in Panama City, but it’s not what you’d expect someone to be driving when they say they’re headed up into the mountains. 

Speedsters, usually young teenagers from the area, tend to zip their way back and forth from one lane to the other, as they’re headed home or down towards David, so keep your wits about you as you travel the main road. I’d been to Volcan once before making this PFR trip, but still, I drove slowly so I could take in the beautiful scenery. Apparently this frustrated people behind me as they whipped around me every chance they could get. Don’t let it piss you off. Just let them go. Take your time.

This is cattle country

Something else to keep in mind as you’re headed uphill is that this is cattle country. Marlene and I realized on this trip, that every milk producer in the country has a farm or two or eleven somewhere along the main road. We saw La Chiricana (my favorite milk), La Estrella Azul, Nevada, and Bonlac farms alongside the road. We even had to stop at one point for farmers leading their herd across the road. 

The lack of guardrails on many parts of the road is another concern. It’s not a dangerous drive. Not at all. Not if you drive like a normal, sane person, but it’s good to know that some of the turns should be taken a little slower than others. 

An important pit stop is El Mirador

Since I’m talking about getting to Volcan, I have to mention El Mirador, an important pit stop and restaurant you’ll find just before you reach town. It’s a large, white and brown building on the left hand side of the main road. It’s one of those places all locals stop at on the way to Volcan. Usually the place is jam-packed. Just a heads up, when you enter the building, you’ll find two lines. If you’re facing the counters, the line to the right is just for empanadas, tortillas, and things like that. 

My lady’s all about the shake

The line to the left (where you see Marelene standing in the photo above) is where you want to go for one of their delicious strawberry shakes (batido de fresa) or their cheeseburgers, which are also very good. The burgers aren’t “Man Vs Food” great, but they’re a good snack, and they’re quite inexpensive, at only $1.25 apiece. They’re simple; just a patty, cheese, and lettuce, on a bun that’s squished down and grilled. The pineapple shakes are great too. 

Lunch at El Mirador

Before reaching Volcan, you’ll come to a small town called Cuesta de Piedra, where you’ll have the option to make another pit stop and check out Cañon de Macho de Monte. We did this on our trip, and I’m glad we did. It was awesome. 

Turn right at Cuesta de Piedra to find the Cañon de Macho de Monte

To get there, all you have to do is follow the signs. Turn right off the main road, then make another right and keep going. Parking at Cañon de Macho de Monte is a bit scary though. You’ll need to park roadside and just make sure you’re far enough away from the curved road so that no one barrels into your car. I was amazed by where some others were parking. 

I was with my wife, her sister, and my four kids, so we weren’t going to try to figure out how to climb down into the canyon, but as you can see from the following photo, it’s definitely possible to get down there. These guys were wading through the water, having a great time. 

These adventure-bound buddies were having a blast

Across the street from the little bridge, you can actually walk out and look over the edge of what is a waterfall during the winter season. In April, when we visited, it’s dried up, which allowed us to get closer to the edge and see the beatufiul, water-filled, rocky canyon below. 

Cañon de Macho de Monte

My sister-in-law, Darlene, is a doctor in David, and she’s spent quite a bit of time in the remote medical stations set up to allow people from small towns in Panama’s interior to get medical care. One of these small stations is parked between Cañon de Macho de Monte and Volcan, on a back road. Darlene told us to keep going straight, past the canyon, if we wanted to get some spectacular photos. She wasn’t kidding. I’d taken the main road into Volcan before, and it’s beautiful, but if she hadn’t taken us the back way in, we would have missed some amazing photos. 

On the road to Volcan

Since we’re talking about getting to Volcan, let me back up a bit and just tell you that if you keep going straight past the turn off we made at Cuesta de Piedra, you’ll run right into the huge sign that says Bienvenidos a Volcan (Welcome to Volcan). So it’s not necessary to take the back way I’m talking about now. And actually, it’s not even a back way. It ends up leading you out to the main road again, just before the “Welcome to Volcan” sign, so I guess you can say it’s really just a scenic detour. 

Taking the Scenic Route

You’ll find several steep inclines on this scenic route, but again, we were in a Suzuki Swift, and we were fine. That said, this was a beautiful, tranquil drive into Volcan. I’ve never seen anything like it. Being a country boy, born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, every open field or prairie is like comfort food for my soul. 

Look at this photo we took on the way into town. It’s so simple. It’s nothing but a small shack-like house at the end of a field, with mountains rising up in the background, but it caught my attention enough to make me stop the car and tell everyone to get out. It was the perfect place to do a little filming and for snapping a family photo.

The “sun-in-the-eyes” torture I put my family through for a photo

I wouldn’t recommend taking this back-road route at night, as we only passed a few people while on the road, so a late night break down could mean being stranded for a little while, that or a long walk back to the main road. 

At one point we passed a group of young twenty-somethings who’d parked their truck on the shoulder of the road, dragged some lawn chairs under the shade of a tree, and were drinking beer out of a cooler. I swear it’s something I’d expect to see back in Oklahoma, or in Texas somewhere, but they get down like that in Panama too? As Tim McGraw would say, “It’s just country boys and girls gettin’ down on the farm.” 

Take me home country roads

I had to stop the car a second time when we saw this pond. One thing I have to say about the entire Volcan area is the clouds seem so alive. I don’t know how to explain it. In every picture taken, the clouds stand out as much as the mountains. They’re stunning. 

I wished we could camp out here

No matter which route you take, you still end up in the town of Volcan, a spread out village located at 1,400 meters (4,617 feet) above sea level. It’s been described as similar to Boquete, but much less congested. I’d have to agree. I’ve read in a lot of expat blogs that more and more foreigners have settled down in Volcan, but suprisingly, I didn’t see as many as expected, which definitely wouldn’t be the case in Boquete. 

Bienvenidos a Volcan

As you enter town, after passing under the welcome sign, you’re greeted with a few small homes and businesses on both sides of the road. It’s all green land until you reach what’s considered the town center, where even there, things are pretty spread out. 

You could easily walk around the main part of town, but what makes it a little bit different from most other towns, except maybe El Valle, is its lack of an established, nailed down town center. What I mean by that is there’s no huge church with a gazebo, where everything is set up in a square, to mark the…well…town square. 

The town center park

Some might argue that the park (near the firehouse) is kind of a square, although it is technically a square, by shape, and it does have a gazebo of sorts, there’s no significant anchor to establish it as the main town center. You won’t find a town hall or anything like that there. Surrounding that park is a fire station, a hostel, and a store that happens to sell 5 pound bags of rice for $1.50. Now, that’s a bargain. 

See? Five pounds of rice for a buck fifty

With plenty of small businesses lined up on both sides of the main street, you see locals and foreigners alike walking and riding bicycles through town. I spent some time on foot and in the car navigating the streets, and although the main road through town is well paved, the side streets can be a bit iffy. Some are downright dangerous for a small car. 

This is one of the “Suzuki Swifts are not welcome” streets

Some streets are completely paved and smooth, some are full of potholes, many are only half-paved and then suddenly end in a dirt, rocky mess, and some are completely unpaved. On a few of the side streets, I attempted to make my way through, but then feared for the safety of the little Suzuki and made a U-turn. Even the smallest of rocks takes a chunk out of the bottom of that thing, and I wouldn’t describe many of the Volcan roads’ rocks as small. Little boulders is more like it. 

The Volcan Western Union

You won’t find a Rey, Super 99, Xtra, or El Machetazo, which are the main supermarkets in Panama City, but Volcan has several mini-supermarkets and a couple of fairly large supermarkets. We stopped by the Berard grocery store while we were there, and it’s not a huge mega-store like the large supermarkets in Panama City or like you’d be used to in the States, but it sold all of the necessities, and even bicycles and some hardware items. 

Inside one of the larger supermarkets

At the back of the store there was a butcher area with all the main cuts of meat you might want to buy. For the most part, you should be able to get any foods in town. Not to mention the fresh fish you can buy, right in town, or that you might catch yourself at one of the Volcan-area rivers.

Get your strawberry fix here

Fresh fruits and vegetables can be easily acquired in Volcan. We stopped by a small kiosk along the road that leads up to Cerro Punta, and it sold everything strawberry. If what you wanted didn’t require strawberries, you’d better gt on down the road. This place sold plain ol’ strawberries, strawberry sundaes, strawberry smoothies, and just about everything else you can imagine having strawberries in it. 

Other than milk and strawberries, the area is also well known for supplying cabbage, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, lettuce, corn, tomatoes, and the list goes on and on. It’s kind of a farmer’s paradise, and with spring like temperatures year round, it’s the perfect place to set up your own garden. 

Fresh produce from a street-side vendor

In Volcan, it’s common to see markets set up along the side of the road. You’d honestly never need to enter a grocery store for fruits and vegetables again. Just buy from the local farmers. The cool thing is some of these local entrepreneurs sell bags already filled with a mixture of their wares. You just drive up, throw your car into park, grab a bag, pay the man/woman, and be on your way. I’m a big fan of buying from street-side vendors. It helps buy dinner for a local family while putting food on your table at the same time. 

Infrastructure And Everything Else

To put it simply, Volcan is a place anyone can make an easy life. The infrastructure in town is great. Electricity, for the most part, is uninterrupted. In some ways it may be better than in Panama City, where it seems that power dips in and out whenever it gets the urge. Water is drinkable from the tap, and if you’re not comfortable with drinking tap water, bottled water is available at all of the mini-supers in town. 

Internet and Cable packages are available from all of the major suppliers, and you can usually pick up one of the combination packages that covers home phone, Internet, and Cable TV for about $45 per month. The main cable providers in Panama are:

I figure the best way is to just give you the websites, as listed above. Most of these sites have the option to be translated in English. Which is the best? I honestly don’t know. It seems, from what I’ve gathered from most of my English speaking friends, that Sky is one of the best. I’ve used all of them at some point, except Claro. I remember the only issue I had with Sky, being that it was satellite TV, was the amount of downtime whenever it rained heavily. All of these companies will have options for changing your channels over to English (for the most part). Some channels will remain in Spanish. My kids are frustrated right now with CableOnda because some of the cartoon channels can’t be changed to English. 

One of my favorite pictures from our Volcan trip

I’ve already written enough about the quality of the roads. The main streets are fine, but many of the side streets aren’t in the greatest condition. Banking can be conveniently taken care of in Volcan. I didn’t count the banks while in town, but I know there is a branch of Banistmo (was HSBC) and a Banco Nacional de Panamá, both with ATM machines, so accessing cash won’t be an issue either. Plus, as I mentioned before, David has all of the major banks in town, and with it being only a short drive away, you can plan a trip to your branch if needed. 

The Banco Nacional de Panamá on the town’s main road

As with most towns in the interior, you’ll have no problem keeping in touch with family in other countries. If you don’t care to have Internet at your home, you’ll find several Internet cafes in town. The Western Union, which you can see a few photos up, will allow you to send and receive money easily.

The Volcan public school

For anyone with school-age children considering this move, we did see a public school in town. This would probably be an all Spanish school though, like most public schools in Panama. What some expat families have done in other towns in the interior is send their kids to school half the day at the local, Panamanian public school, then have them finish the day with a stay at home program, usually computer based. So you can still make this move with young kids. 

What’s there to do in town?

Volcan definitely doesn’t have the hoppin’ nightlife of Calle Uruguay in Panama City, but compared to the other small towns surrounding Volcan, it has the best nightlife around. At least in Volcan you’ll find a couple of bars, a disco, and even a pool hall.

The town pool hall

The town pool hall

If you don’t need the bright lights or the chance to hop from taxi to taxi as you hit the main city street for great shopping, Volcan just might be the place for you. It’s a fisherman’s dream. Swarms of locals head to Volcan for the chance to relax on the banks of the area’s rivers and fish ‘till the sun goes down. It’s that kind of place. If a beer in one hand and a fishing pole in the other sounds like heaven, Volcan should provide just the entertainment you need.

A popular fishing spot

Other outdoors excitement like hiking the many trails in town, and of course, climbing to the top of Volcan Baru, will keep adventure-bound people busy for quite some time, and since there’s no threat of snow in this mountain area (although the top of Volcan Baru gets quite chilly) the fun is year-round. 

Volcan Baru was covered with clouds during our visit

Volcan Baru was covered with clouds during our visit

For anyone else, it might be considered boring. It really is a place to settle down and relax. You won’t find a shopping mall, fast-food chains, or a movie theater in Volcan or its neighboring towns. Restaurants and even small, charming cafes dot the main street in town, but everything there is very local.

Where you'll find Kid's World

Where you’ll find Kid’s World

If you have kids, you’ll be happy to know there’s a restaurant filled with fun things for the little ones. It’s called Kid’s World and it’s located right off the main street. The front of the place looks kind of like a charming old Western plaza, and inside is filled with video games, pool tables, and other entertaining items for kids.

American clothes for sale

You won’t find major shopping centers or department stores in Volcan, but we did pass two stores advertising that they sold American clothing. You’ll have to head to David for your nearest shopping mall, but if you just need to run in and buy a pair of underwear, socks, a couple of bras and a few T-shirts, you should be able to accomplish that without leaving town. 

A roadside clothing store

If it’s souvenir-style digs you’re after, these can be picked up roadside from this vendor. Caps, T-shirts, sandals, backpacks, this dude has a little of it all.  

Places of worship

Catholicism is the most dominant religion in Panama. It’s probably safe to say that in every town in Panama, whether in the middle of the city, or in the deepest, most off-the-beaten-trail villages in the country’s interior, you’ll find a Catholic church. That holds true in Volcan as well, where the first church I noticed, was a small Catholic one.

We saw several churches in Volcan

In addition to the Catholic church, we also noticed a 7th Day Adventist, a small Evangelic (I think), and a large Christian center. We drove up and down every road, and walked many of them during our trip to Volcan, but it’s easy to miss things, so there may be other churches in town. We’ve noticed during trips to other small towns, that oftentimes people will simply gather in someone’s home to worship, instead of congregating in an established church.  

Would I need to leave Volcan to visit a doctor? 

Not at all. You won’t find a large hospital in Volcan. For that, you’d probably want to travel to David, where you’ll find several large hospitals. However, for routine doctor visits and most other medical needs, you wouldn’t need to leave Volcan.

Idaan, where you pay your water bill, is right next to the Centro de Salud medical building.

Volcan had plenty of pharmacies, a laboratory, and I saw one small clinic, plus a Centro de Salud, which is the social security clinic here in Panama. 

A large pharmacy off the main drag

I even saw a sign announcing that a new hospital was on its way to the area. I’m not sure when it will be built, but if it’s true, that would be great for this area, and would mean less trips to David.

Is this an affordable retirement haven? 

While there’s a lot of truth to what’s being said about Panama City not being a cheap retirement haven anymore, towns outside of the city offer a lot of what the city doesn’t, at a fraction of the cost. At the time of writing this, I found a two-bedroom home for sale in Volcan, with a fenced in yard, for $75,000. This was a 1,000m2 home (a little over 10,750 sqft.)

I love this picture

I love this picture

A different home, which was about the same size, but had a little more going for it with 3 bedrooms, 2 bath, 2 terraces, and a 2-car garage, was going for $165,000. Now, that’s not super cheap, but if you compare that to what the cost of a 3-bedroom condo is going for in Boca Raton, Florida, you’re getting much more bang for your buck in Volcan. 

Rentals in Volcan would start somewhere around the $850 per month range. Remember though, you probably wouldn’t spend much on electricity as the temperatures in Volcan are very comfortable all year long, meaning you won’t need to use an air conditioner. A ceiling fan would suffice.

A cabaña rental for only $150 per month

A cabaña rental for only $150 per month

I always tell people to rent before they buy. This is important anywhere in the world, and definitely in Panama. People read the Internet articles, see all the colorful photos, then come here expecting this place to be paradise. It has its ups and downs. Just check out the expat blogs and you’ll see that a lot of people come here with intentions to retire here, but after a week’s visit, they’re back home, writing about how Panama just isn’t for them. For this reason, you need to spend some time in the area you might be considering living. If possible, rent for a year. I know that’s a long time, but if you’re not willing to wait that long, at least rent for a couple of months. Make sure Volcan is the place you want to be. 

I saw the ad in the photo above posted inside one of the supermarkets in town. For only $150 per month, a couple (or two people willing to live together) can rent a cabaña (like a cabin) with hot water, electricity, and garbage collection included. Sounds like a great deal, but I’ve never seen the place, so if you’re interested, make sure you at least ask for a couple of photos before agreeing to anything.

Hotel Bambito Resort (www.hotelbambito.com)

Hotel Bambito Resort (www.hotelbambito.com)

Hotel Bambito Resort, one of the nicest hotels in the area can be found on the road that leads up to Cerro Punta. We also noticed many smaller hostals along the main road in town, and even a few signs advertising specials for cabaña rentals. Any of these could be good temporary housing while you spend some time in Volcan and make sure it’s right for you.

Hostal Las Molas near the town center park

Hostal Las Molas near the town center park

I’ve already written about the affordable cost of food in this region. Buy from the local markets and farmers as often as possible and your grocery cost should be on the low side. Your budget can increase greatly if you plan to eat in town restaurants all the time or if you travel to David constantly for a night out or to pick up imported goods. Spend most of your time in Volcan and you can live on a fairly low budget. Take a look at this chart I put together:

Monthly budget for a couple living in Volcan, Panama (Mountain)

Rent2 Bedroom house$850
ElectricityWon't need AC, only ceiling fans$75
GasFor cooking and dryer (2 small tanks)$10
Telephone/Internet/CablePackage deal$45
Phone card for calling the U.S. (if you don't use Skype/MagicJack)Telechip International, for 5 hours talk time$5
FoodFor 2 people$300
Entertainment Dining out, bars, playing pool, not much else in town to pay for$100
Routine Doctor VisitOnce per month for each person ($25 each)$50
MedicationVaries, but for my monthly high blood pressure and diabetes meds this is what I'd pay just to give you an idea$45
Getting around townBuses and taxis$20
Travel outside of town (to David once a week)By bus$40
ExtrasOther things you may need$50
Total Monthly ExpensesFor 2 people$1,590

Don’t forget, you can see all of the budgets we’ve put together for all of the locations we’ve visited by clicking on Budget Snapshot up in the main menu. 

My overall gut feeling?

I liked Volcan a lot. You can feel the temperature lower as you reach higher into the mountains and get closer to town. It’s fresh air and spectacular nature all around, and that brings an amazing feeling. The main road is filled with people walking from storefront to storefront and once you get beyond all that, there’s nothing but raw beauty.  

This could be your daily afternoon drive

Pass straight through town and head up into the mountains. First, you’ll cross a bridge and cows grazing on the side of the road, then you’ll find yourself climbing steeper and steeper up the mountain. We did this, and at one point, we just stopped our car, climbed out, and snapped a few pictures. We had no idea where the road was going to lead (I think it’s the road to Boquete, forgive me if I’m wrong), so we stopped and enjoyed the scenery before heading back down, as this trip was only for focusing on Volcan. The view from up there was amazing though. 

See what I mean?

A short drive up one of the other roads in town will lead you to Cerro Punta, another beautiful, super-chill town in Panama. I’ll be visiting Cerro Punta in a future issue of Panama For Real. It’s just so amazing to me how extraordinary the views are from both Volcan and Cerro Punta. It’s truly incredible. 

The view from Las Tierras Altas, the home of a future real estate development

l can definitely imagine settling down here with my wife, and a couple of dogs, later on in life. Right now, it wouldn’t make sense for me, having a young family. There’s just not enough to keep my kids amused and I think schooling my children would be a bit of a hassle. Sure, as I mentioned earlier, I did see a school here, but I’m not ready to put my kids in a public school at this point, and I’m not ready for homeschooling or computer-based learning either.

Like autumn in Ohio

However, if you want to be surrounded by nature, in a place where you’d rarely, if ever, need an air conditioner, where you can sit out on your front porch with a book and relax in a the brisk breeze, then Volcan would be a great place to retire, and the best thing about it is that it’s not far from David where you can escape the seclusion and dip into the city from time to time. It’s mountain living, minus the snow.

I loved Volcan, and I think you will too. 

To see the Volcan Video Report click here. 

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28 Responsesso far.

  1. Marlene Barnes says:

    Chris
    I will be visiting friend living in Volcan in June. Is this area considered high elevation? I’m concerned since i take meds for high blood pressure. Thanks for your input.

    Marlene Barnes

    • Chris says:

      Hi Marlene,

      Yes, I’d say it’s definitely a high elevation town. I don’t know how that would affect your blood pressure. I have slightly elevated blood pressure and I was ok with my normal meds. It’s definitely a beautiful place to visit though. Actually, I’m just realizing you said you were visiting in June and I’m still cleaning out over 13,000 spam comments so I’m replying to this in August. I hope you had a good trip. Reply and tell us all about it.

  2. Gary Hill says:

    I don’t know if you are continuing with your blog but what I have read is very helpful. You mention that you have written about other towns and I am anxious to read them, as well.

    We haven’t been to Panama but we are hoping to make it down next year.

    Thanks again for your excellent writing!

    Gary

    • Chris says:

      Hi Gary, I know you commented a long time ago. I just wanted to let you know that I will be getting back to blogging soon. Thanks for checking out the site.

  3. Serena Raymer says:

    Chris,
    My husband and I have lived in Mexico for the last four years. The cartel situation is getting no better.

    We are very interested in Volcan. We are not wealthy people. We have $3200.00 pension to live on. Is that even feasible.

    We would like to drive our own car down from Mexico. Is this allowed?

    You have a wonderful blog, I enjoy it very much. My husband does also.

    Thank you so much for your response.

    • Chris says:

      Hi Serena,

      By now you’ve probably already started your move. $3200 is definitely doable if you live in one of the smaller towns. I think you’d be fine in Volcan. I’ve never driven down into Panama but I know it’s definitely possible. People do it all the time. Good luck!

  4. Janet puddicombe says:

    just reading your website, very informative. Thank you.
    My room mate and I are currently in Bocas Del Toro looking to relocate to Volcan, IF we can find a place online first. You paint a lovely, cool picture.

  5. Helena says:

    Hi, really enjoyed reading your blog…my husband and I have lived in Volcan for 7 month now, we love it!
    I though the budget was a bit exaggerated.
    We lack nothing and yet we live here with a budged of $850 a month and that’s including $ 200 for gas(car)
    Our rent is only $200.
    We live in a very comfortable (small) house. Like a town house…2 bedrooms
    Our electric bill is between $14-25 a month depending on the season and guests, and we always have the computers on. We have friends that live here from Spain with 2 kids, they live in a big house 3 bedrooms 2 full baths… $250 a month. Deals can be found.
    I agree volcan is like a small Switzerland…especially if you go to Alton, it’s between hotel bambito and Cero punta, it’s a rough drive, you need a 4 wheel drive or walk…it’s breathtaking!

    • Harry Bruce says:

      We are coming to Volcan May 16/2016 looking for a long term rental.Can you email and we can chat.My wife and I have 2 small dogs that will do the return trip with us when we find something. Need a furnished place.
      Thanks

  6. Des says:

    I’m also so glad I found you Chris! Thanks for a great article & website and I really love your video’s too! I’ve watched almost all of them, only have a few more to see! I find your info to be the “real deal” and unbiased and that’s exactly what I need before we make the move to find the town that will fit our needs in Panama, so thanks again so much for all your hard work getting the info for all of us! You rock! 🙂

    I also just read the comment above about the great work that Dottie is doing for the community of Volcan! Volcan is blessed to have a kind soul such as Dottie! Especially since it comes out of her own pocket! I hope there are plenty of kind-hearted expats in the area that will help her out and contribute where they can. Keep up your amazing work Dottie and I hope to meet you in the near future.

    I’ve read on Don Ray’s (an expat from David) blog about a veterinary clinic in David called Happy Pet -that he uses and says that are really great & can speak English. He mentions in his blog that they offer first class equipment & treatment and they are very reasonable too.

    Dottie, I’ve added the link below, as I think you want to check them out if it makes things cheaper for you, but I know that David is quite a distance from Volcan, so it may be easier to keep using the vet you have who comes out to you.

    http://www.chiriquichatter.net/blog/2013/02/09/happy-pet/

    Kind Regards, and God Bless you
    Des

    I myself have 14 dogs, all adopted from the street because my heart couldn’t say “no.” Most of them had serious injuries and/or illnesses – and all are healthy and happy today.
    My 14 rescued street dogs:
    http://tinyurl.com/24l4y49

    • Chris says:

      Hi Des,

      Thank you so much! Words like yours keep me doing this. I’m glad you’re finding the info useful and that you’re able to discover good folks like Dottie. She’s doing awesome things in her community.

      Thanks again, Des!

      Chris

  7. John O'Quin says:

    Hi Chris,

    This is “bad luck John”–you may remember me from my misguided treks up Cerro Azul back in September. Just a quick update–I finally made it to Volcan around Sept. 25th. Only had a couple of days to look around. Stayed at a real nice hotel there called “Dos Rios” ($75/ night), and found a local tour guide “Chaly” there who was off season and so agreed to drive me around to look at the town and places to rent, etc. I paid him $25 per hour, but him knowing the area like the back of his hand and speaking English, providing the SUV, etc. was well worth it to me. Anyway, I ended up renting 2 “cabins”–1 for me and 1 for my daughter–about 50 yards apart. They are $300 per month each and small, but will serve our needs as a “base of operations” on a 6-month lease. Meanwhile, we will scout out other locations nearby–and possibly also bus over to check out Ecuador. I figure that 6-12 months should be enough time for us to find out if we want to stay down there or not. If not, we can always come back to the States. But I think you were spot-on about the roads. As much as I will try to get by without a car, I may end up needing to buy one–or at least a scooter. The road branching off of the main drag down to my new place is crumbling pretty badly. Chaly said that was due to the rainy season and that they will repair all the roads in the dry season (January). But on the other hand, the weather and scenery and everything else there is as you described–beautiful ! I also saw at least 2 new subdivisions going up with 30 or so homes each–the place will be growing for sure. Take care, Chris !

    • Chris says:

      Hey John,

      Ha, Bad Luck John. Good to hear from you again, man. At some point we need to get together for a beer. Sounds like you’ve got a pretty good set up there in Volcan. That’s awesome. I wish you and your daughter all the luck in the world. Keep us posted.

      Chris

  8. Patti says:

    I just came across your blog and have enjoyed reading the article on Volcan. We are planning to visit Panama next year to see how it “feels”. Volcan was on my list of places to visit – but it’s moved up after reading your article. Thanks for all the good information!

  9. Aerin says:

    Hey your blog is amazing! My husband and I currently live in Georgia with our three young boys. Right now he works a factory type job and I stay home and homeschool my oldest son who is five. We have decided leave it all behind to stay in a quiet country and take the time to finish online school, pursue blogging, my husband starting a business, and I create music. This sounds like the perfect place for us. We wont have a lot of money to get by pretty much just school loans and what we get for renting or selling our home. Can you tell me what the deal would be for medical since we wouldn’t be residents there? The plan is to go on a tourist visa. Do I just pay out of pocket and what would that cost or do I need medical insurance in the U.S.? Your advice would be a HUGE help!

    • Chris says:

      Hi Aerin,

      Thanks so much for checking out the site. So, a fellow blogger, huh? That’s great. It’s a lot of fun (and a lot of work) 🙂

      You have a few different options for medical care/insurance. You can go without like many people do. I’ve paid $1 to see a doctor in San Carlos, $5 to see a cheap doctor here in the city, $25 to see a doctor in one other town, $40 to $50 to see a specialist (dermatologist and orthopedic doctors). Or you can go with one of the large insurance companies, which can be rather expensive. Some of the hospitals and clinics offer their own private insurance, meaning you’d have to go directly to them for any medical care. So it’s kind of up to you. Having 3 young boys, you might want to get some sort of insurance just in case of an emergency. Medical insurance in the U.S. isn’t going to help a lot unless you plan to fly out to get care (or unless you’re on some sort of international plan). I see that this comment is coming in on the Volcan report. If you’re interested in that area, the closest big hospital would be in David (I think Boquete has a fairly large clinic too). The hospital in David might have its own insurance plan. When you come to visit/scout things out, and you have an idea where you’d like to live, you should definitely check out the closest large hospital to that area and see what they have available. Or you can go with one of the larger companies like Bupa (but it’s not gonna be cheap). Hope this helps a little bit.

      Chris

  10. John says:

    Hi Chris, enjoyed reading your article, we rented with buy option last year in Paso Ancho. We bought the house and return permanently June . We found your article accurate and would agree with the longer rental idea to get a feling of the area, wet & dry season. Suggest anyone considering getting a book “Living abroad in Panama” isbn# 978-1-59880-243-6, http://www.moon.com. A valuable mine of information. Regards John, good luck with future travels.

    • Chris says:

      Thanks John. Yes, renting first is definitely a good plan, no matter where you’re planning to move. Thanks for the heads up on the book.

      Chris

  11. Dean Yale says:

    Buenas Chris. Good website!. I live in Volcan after living in Cerro Punta for 6 months. Moved downhill because it was just too cold. This is as good as it gets.

    To touch on some of your talking points from my point of view: My rent is $175 per month for a casita in the center of town (have seen $130 per month) including water, trash, and secure parking. Last months electric bill was $8. I use Claro pre pay internet because it is the fastest and most reliable. I have a 4G modem which uses a band of the cell phone system. The monthly cost is less than $20. My favorite grocery store is Romeros as it has the most gringo stuff and is less expensive than Berards. SKY TV works best for me. No interruptions in any kind of weather, and has all the U.S. channels I want, although many are in Spanish. This is no problem as I speak fluent Spanish. The cost for the pkg I have is $32 per month.

    Hasta luego amigo, que le vaya bien.

    • Chris says:

      Hi Dean,

      Too cold in Cerro Punta? I love it! I miss the cold weather. Wow, sounds like you’re living way under the budget I put together. That’s awesome. See, folks? It’s not as difficult as people might think. People are living on very low amounts here. Thanks again, Dean, for filling us in on the real deal in Volcan.

      Chris

  12. Robert Gillies says:

    You have an interesting website and report about Volcan. I enjoyed the photos. I have lived in Volcan for 14 years but I am originally from Pennsylvania. I grew up on a small farm. I bought a 7 hectares property here in the year 2000 and built a house. We have a bunch of animals including a cow and a whole lot of parrots. The property didn’t have electricity so I had to have 17 posts put in to get electricity. I use Internet Activo which costs $58 a month. I am also married to a Panamanian girl. I have a 8 year old daughter and a 12 year old step-daughter. They attend the 7th day adventist school here in Volcan. It is supposed to be bi-lingual but they are not so great with English. We use Spanish in our home and nobody here speaks English but myself. I have become quite fluent with Spanish. Actually I don’t have many friends who speak English so I mostly just use Spanish except with the internet. My wife is from Volcan so this is her home town. I met her after I had been here for several years. Concerning rents I think you are wrong about the price. I have a very nice 2 bedroom apartment for rent for $300 per month. A nice place runs between $300 and $500 per month. There are cheaper places but most Americans wouldn’t be happy with them. I wouldn’t want to live here without a car so I would add that to your list of expenses. Actually I am 1 1/2 kilometers from the edge of town so I need a car. I don’t know the rest of Panama as well as you do as have spent all of my 14 years here in Chiriqui. I will explore your website some more when I get the chance.

    • Chris says:

      Thank you Robert, for checking out my website, and for commenting. I love hearing from people with their own stories and unique perspectives on life in Panama’s towns. Thanks for sharing your insights. So I was off on the rent? I figured you could probably find something for as low as $500, but $300, wow, that’s great. I usually overestimate a little to give people some wiggle room. I’d rather have people show up to town and say, “Wow, we thought we’d spend $800 and we only spent $500.” That’s much better than the other way around, ha. Thanks again for sharing. You made Volcan sound even more appealing 🙂

      • pam says:

        I am live in the mountains of colorado and I am very interested in moving to panama. Volcan is very beautiful. I am interested in your home building experience. I am looking to buy land and build an off grid home (earthship). I am interested if Panama is “green” friendly, that is having your own garden, living off community utilities, solar and wind energy. We are tired of being forced to purchase utilities and services we do not need or want. Was it hard to move from us to panama? Do you “work”? I am a dental hygienist. I have had my own clinic in colorado for 20 yrs now. It would be very satisfying for me to be able to provide services to more remote area of the country, perhaps volcan, if the venture is not to arduous or not allowed. Is there speed limits? Are citizens allowed to own firearms? Is it difficult to get work if you have skills?

        • pam says:

          sorry questions were for Gilbert but any and all please feel free to respond. I cannot get mail at the above email.forgot password. I can only receive email at this one.

          • Dean Yale says:

            Pam. I live in Volcan and have been in Panama since early ’08 at various locations including living on my boat. I had all the ‘green’ stuff on the boat so I didn’t have to charge batteries with the main engine or the generator. However, when there was no wind, and no sun after 2 or 3 days I had to charge the batteries. If you don’t have refrigeration, you might get by with wind and solar alone.

            Solar panels, charger/inverters/batteries, and wind generators are available in Panama. I wouldn’t call this a ‘green country’, but you are free to be as green as you want. Burn trash, grow a garden as you like. You are not forced to buy any type of utility. Utilities here are very inexpensive. It doesn’t really matter where the energy/water comes from. Most comes from the community.

            There are speed limits. 110 KM per hr. is the max unless posted. Guns are legal with a permit for residents and legal foreign residents like me.

            Coming to Panama is easy. I came on my boat, then sold it, and moved ashore. I know many people who have moved here with and without their furniture.

            I am retired and don’t work so I can’t advise you on working as a dental hygienist.

            If you fix your email, you can contact me at: scizzorbill@hushmail.com if any questions. hasta luego, Dean.

  13. A really wonderful web site! Thank you. I’m glad I found you. I haven’t nearly explored the entire site but I live in Volcan (and have for 10 years) so I was especially interested in reading your report about Volcan.

    A few corrections: (1) The picture of the bank is not Banco General but BNP – Banco Nacional de Panama…and HSBC has (again) become Banistmo. (2) The church you pictured is not in Volcan but is in Paso Ancho – up the road toward Cerro Punta, past Hotel Bambito. (3)There are at least two private schools in Volcan which are more-or-less bilingual. One is owned by a friend, Francia Pinedo, who volunteers at our low-cost spay/neuter clinics….see my web site. It is a project that I began as a service to the community and which I largely finance from my own pocket. Thus far we have sterilized more than 2,500 dogs and cats. (If you had come to Volcan before, you would have been sickened by the sight of dozens of starving, mange-ridden, sick and dying dogs wandering the streets.)

    If you’d care to mention our clinics and give the URL for my web site on your Volcan report, I’d appreciate it. At the left on the main page there is a link to a page that has links to each of our clinics. On each of those pages I explain how many animals were sterilized that day, anything unusual that happened, a link to a Picasa web album of pictures taken during that day, and a breakdown of income versus expenses. I “import” a wonderful vet from Costa Rica for our monthly clinics because there are no competent vets in Volcan (and actually none in David that I trust either).

    I myself have 14 dogs, all adopted from the street because my heart couldn’t say “no.” Most of them had serious injuries and/or illnesses – and all are healthy and happy today.
    My 14 rescued street dogs:
    http://tinyurl.com/24l4y49

    Thanks again for your wonderful reports and I look forward to reading about other areas.

    • Chris says:

      Hi Dottie,

      Thanks so much for your comments and for your corrections. I don’t know how I messed up the Banco Nacional de Panamá one. It clearly says that right on the sign. Not sure why I wrote Banco General. I changed it though so the correct info is there now. And yes, HSBC is now Banistmo, so I changed that in the info in the article. Unfortunately for the photo (and the photo is in the video too) it will have to say HSBC.

      About the church info. I kind of lump a lot of stuff together when I do these reports. It’s kind of like the Furniture City that’s on the outskirts of Costa del Este. Some might say that it’s part of Chanis (or the neighborhoods on that side), but it’s right at the end of Costa del Este, so I put it in that report. So even though the church is technically in Paso Ancho, I’ll leave it as it is in the report because as you know, living in Volcan yourself, you could get to that church in a matter of minutes if you live there. I know there are several small towns that dot the road between Volcan and Cerro Punta. I’d consider anything in that area as an extension of Volcan, meaning it’s part of the Volcan lifestyle. So I think it’s okay.

      Thanks for the info on the schools. So would you say that someone moving to Volcan with English-speaking children would be fine with having their children attend the schools there? Or are they more like local Panamanian schools, mostly Spanish? My daughters are in a school like that here in the city, but they speak Spanish so they’re okay. I’m not sure their school would be realistic for most expat kids. It would be rough having to speak an entirely different language in every class except English class. I have to make sure I don’t set anyone with a young family up for failure, you know what I mean?

      Thanks so much for the volunteer work you do. That’s so important in Panama. I still see stray dogs everywhere and it’s really sad, so I’m glad your organization is doing so much to help. Thanks for putting your link in your comment. Maybe we can even put something together in the “Giving Back” section of the website in the menu up top. I’ll email you to discuss.

      Thanks again,

      Chris

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