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Is Panama Truly a Retirement Haven? El Valle and Pedasi, Part 2 of 5

01/03/2014 11:26 am ET | Updated Mar 05, 2014

Our next stop in Panama took us to the mountain highlands of El Valle de Anton. Highlights include a small town vibe with ample hiking trails to waterfalls and a hot springs within walking distance of the town's small central area. El Valle's energetic marching band rehearsed in the evenings, adding a touch of culture and pep to the sleepy town ambiance.

In the morning we hiked toward La India Dormida, passing a few cascading waterfalls amidst a tranquil natural setting. The trail was well-marked but slippery in steeper sections. The day hike was pleasant, but nothing exceptional. At the hot springs we applied a mud mask exfoliate that dried as our feet dangled in a thermal heated tub. Once the mud hardened, we rinsed off in a shower and submerged ourselves in the warm springs. Later that evening, I strolled to the base of the mountains where the square-trunked trees are situated; unfortunately, I did not find them as night fell upon the area.

Our stay in El Valle was pleasant. We enjoyed tasty Panamanian food at Don Penas and watched the marching band practice for the upcoming festivals in November. Even though El Valle was a decent stop outside of Panama City, we found the small town noisy, as substantial traffic passed through the main street during all hours, making it unpleasant to walk along the road. Our conclusion is that El Valle is not a must-see destination and definitely not a place to retire abroad. We continued our search as we traveled onward within the Peninsula de Azuero toward a small colonial town situated near the coast called Pedasi.

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Our first impression of Pedasi was that of disappointment; after noticing that for the most part, Panamanians maintain their country free of rubbish, we noticed that the central petite colonial square was trash-laden. I left Lisa in the square as dusk turned to night. I located higher and lower end accommodations in our guidebook and entered the latter. The room was small and musty but after the proprietor dropped the price I was lured into staying there. After settling in we roamed the small town, enjoying the laid back ambience and the colonial architecture as well as the amiable locals. We ate dinner at an Italian pizzeria just on the square and consumed $1.00 tacos. After dinner we roamed around, but had already exhausted the town's central area.

The following morning, we noticed that the streets of the main square were cleaner. Evidently, a recent festival had been held. We headed straight out of town towards Playa Toro, the nearest beach to Pedasi proper. Once out of the town, the paved highway curved amidst green fields and lush farmlands. After a few kilometers, we reached the end of the road where Playa Toro was situated. The tan sand burned hot with little to shade beach-goers except a manmade tarp that was strewn over erect poles. Entering the sea, modest waves pummeled large stones over and onto my feet, leading me to exit the waters. Despite the evident drawbacks, the beach was attractive, especially the far end with greenery penetrating the coastline.

Returning towards town, we attempted to reach another local beach that was regrettably out of reach on foot. A moped would be a more appropriate means to get around Pedasi and the surrounding beaches. Once back in town, we were not sure what to do, having already strolled around town. The heat was punishing with little in the way of breeze, as Pedasi is located far enough inland to escape the ocean winds. We departed that afternoon toward Chitre and then onward to Santiago.

Pedasi was pleasant enough with a small colonial core and outlining wild rocky beaches strewn with driftwood. However, as we were uninterested after a brief visit, we wondered what retirees would do with their spare time. We certainly feel that Pedasi has merit but we were not yet prepared to unload our Los Angeles condo to relocate to Pedasi.

Is Panama Truly A Retirement Haven? Read Part 1 about Panama City Look for Part 3-5 coming soon from George Rajna.