The second in a series of articles comparing Central America’s two leading expat and retiree destinations. Costa Rica is the more established of the two, but Panama is the upstart new kid on the block with a full head of steam and a pocket full of dollars. Who will come out on top? Read more and find out.
Click here for Round 1: Retirement Benefits
Click here for Round 3: People and Culture
Click here for Round 4: Things To Do
Round 2: Climate
A major consideration for any prospective retiree or expat wanting to relocate to Central America is climate. No where in the U.S. or Europe does the climate change so rapidly, even within an hour or two by car. Let’s take a look at the climates in each country and see who comes out on top. Round 2, begin!
What happens when decide to build your capital city in the rainforest? A metropolis that is hot as hell. That’s precisely what Panama (well, the Spaniards) did and the result is a swealtering, humid city where it is impossible to stay dry, especially if you are a gringo. That, coupled with the Panama City penchant for always wearing collared shirts and suits, and it is nearly impossible not to sweat out every toxin in your body. I lived there, and needed a shower after my walk to the university at 7:30 in the morning.
Outside of the city things change dramatically. The coasts, especially the Pacific, enjoy a nice ocean breeze that keeps things comfortable, and this is where many foreigners spend much of their time. The rainforest – and Panama certainly has a lot of it – is hot, muggy, and wet (duh) but I found it to actually be cooler than the burning concrete of the capital. Conversely, the awesome Azuero Peninsula is much like southern Spain: hot and arid.
The mountains, of course, are much more temperate. Thus the reason Boquete feels like a suburb of a U.S. city. El Valle de Anton is also a quaint mountain hamlet within striking distance of Panama City But Panama just doesn’t have the mountains that Costa Rica does.
There is a reason Costa Rica has been the expat and retiree haven for 30 years. The climate is quite incredible, extremely diverse, and for the most part predictable. The rainforests are hot and sticky, which of course is what makes them rainforests. The central mountains (including San Jose) are cool year round (60′s and 70′s) with moderate rainfall, providing the climate needed to produce the famous coffee. The nights are cool here and light jackets are fashionable. The beaches, like Panama’s, benefit from the seabreeze; however, the Caribbean can get sweltering and it can rain like hell.
Round Two Winner: Costa Rica. While Panama City may rule in terms of nightlife, diversity, and commerce, its like an oven. An oven with a rainforest in it. San Jose’s mild climate and close proximity to rainforests and beaches gives it the edge in terms of climate. The mere fact that Costa Rica has more mountains, thus a milder climate, makes it the winner in round two.
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