I received the following question and I thought it deserved a blog post of its own:
Hi and thnx for your blogging! Friends were talking about Panama as a retirement option. We live half the year in Arizona but avoid the hot summer. We too wondered if Panama was a fit, for us and the dogs, year round. Being from the Pacific coast, in Canada, we can seem too get the real facts on the weather. Yes it should be warm but, being in a rainy climate in Canada, what is your take on how much rain is there? I read other stories, I believe were yours, and it seemed the volume of rain may deter a lot of outside activities?? There is also mixed information when comparing the Caribbean to the Pacific sides, of Panama, regarding rain and cloudy skies. ??
Welcome to the big wide world of research on Panama! Although my in-laws also spent half of the year in Arizona to avoid the cold Alberta winters we immediately struck it from our list. Why? Because we could only stay there for six months of the year and we were looking for a more permanent escape. In Arizona there are also miles and miles of sand but not too many bodies of water to swim in, in other words we were looking for a place with a beach.
As with Canada, Panama has many places and climates to choose from. Yes, it rains here but in varying degrees in each area of the country. There are two seasons, Wet Season and Dry Season. Wet Season is just beginning again in some parts of the country and will continue until about mid-December when the trade winds shift and it becomes Dry Season once again.
We live on the Azuero Peninsula part of the “Dry Arch” of Panama. This is one of the driest areas of the country; for comparison think of Saskatchewan in the summer. Our Wet Season is shorter and of course that makes our Dry Season longer. Our temperature stays around 30° C year round but wind and humidity vary depending on the season. During Wet Season the humidity climbs significantly and everything becomes lush and tropical and well, wet. During Dry Season everything is mostly yellow, brown and dusty and dirty like a prairie summer. On the other hand we do get some nice breezes over the ocean that cools the air down somewhat. When it rains in our area the temperature doesn’t change, unlike the rains in Canada it stays warm enough that one can walk outside with an umbrella (a rain coat would be too warm), shorts and flip-flops.
The Caribbean Coast has more rain year-round and is more of a ‘tropical’ climate than a ‘neotropical’ such as ours. The population is much sparser there also with mostly indigenous people and pockets of tourism. This area is hot and humid and gets pretty steamy.
Some of the places that are cooler and similar to the West Coast of Canada with more rain year round are the cooler mountainous regions like El Valle, Boquete, Volcan and Cerro Azul. Someone once told me that the temperature in Bouquete during Dry Season reminded them of Summer in Canada. I do know that most homes in the higher elevations have fireplaces in them and that long sleeves and long pants are sometimes required when the temperatures dip to a balmy 18° or lower.
When one is researching for a place to live for part or the entire year one of the criteria you have to look at is the weather. But there are other things to consider also such as access to services such as shopping, health care and entertainment. It’s always best to visit at least once during each season and investigate several areas of the country to see what the climate is like and what services are available. In all honestly a little rain was one of the least of our concerns when looking for a place to live.
The skies the last few days are trying to fool us. We wake in the morning to the gray that quickly turns to blue as the sun rises. During Wet Season rain fills the rivers once again. Rain brings the green lushness of the tropics and helps the crops grow. Rainy season means the return of the whales along our coast. Bring on the rain…in the campo.