Life on the Water

Part of the archipelago of Bocas del Toro from the tower at Tranquilo Bay Lodge on Isla Bastimento, Panama

Family transportation in Puerto Almirante, Panama

Bocas del Toro Taxi, Panama

Homes and businesses on the water, Almirante, Panama

“Bocas Town” on Isla Colon where our first boat met the boat from our lodge, Panama.

Arriving at the dock of Tranquilo Bay Lodge, Isla Bastimento, Panama.
The little girl is part of the family of 5 that arrived with me from Nashville of all places!
Small world in Bocas del Toro, Panama

Our welcome guide Joel leads us into property as one
of the owner’s sons in blue shirt come out too welcome us.
Tranquilo Bay Ecolodge, Panama

The Tranquilo Bay Ecolodge private dock seen from the birding tower.
Tranquilo Bay Eco Lodge, Bocas del Toro, Panama
This lodge is a family operation by two families from Texas with teenagers who are part of the operation. Two teen boys (1 from each family) are both excellent birders and of course many local Panamanians have been hired to help in various ways. There are less than 30 of us here and we are like the personal guests of Renee Kimball who works out everything for each of us, mostly family groups. It is a very casual, relaxed atmosphere which I like. And they have lots of local challenges with poor air and other transportation to get here and weak government to help with other issues. 
I’ve already got lots of bird photos which will be shared later. Internet is very slow and I will do fewer photos on future days. Mainly relaxing and enjoying the rare lodge room for me to have air conditioning! Birding around here today, Friday. 
Bocas del Toro Archipelago, Panama

Enroute to Paradise

Today (Tuesday) I used my local preferred driver (Walter) to take me to Hampton Inn Airport San Jose/Alajuela where I sleep tonight (free HH room) for a very early pickup tomorrow (Wednesday) by Caribe Shuttle, my favorite tour company on the Caribbean side, headquartered in my favorite Caribe hotel, Banana Azul.

I’m using them because the only airline flying to Bocas del Toro (Nature Air) went bankrupt after their serious crash in December (and they still haven’t refunded me for my planned airline ticket!) But this will be a different kind of adventure and we stop for lunch at Banana Azul enroute to Tranquilo Bay! I may be traveling with surfers or businessmen, you never know on this daily shuttle bus run. Tomorrow night I will have dinner overlooking the ocean and archipelago of islands in the Western Caribbean Sea and birding the next morning!

Tranquilo private beach, dock, boats, kayaks, snorkeling
and of course lots of birds on our island and others!
Bocas del Toro, Panama
Bocas del Toro Archipelago, Panama

Two More Trips Added for This Year

A follow-up to my earlier post:  Next 4 Months of Trips Planned – Retired in Costa Rica!
First to the Costa Rica South Caribe again:

“The Howler Suite” at Banana Azul Hotel
I wanted this room last September but not available – very popular!
So I now have it reserved for 5 nights this coming September!
Planning ahead sometimes pays off!  🙂
Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica

Also on the Caribbean side, across the border in Panama is the popular tourist area of Bocas del Toro. I now have a full week or 7 nights in June at Tranquilo Bay Eco Adventure Lodge:

In addition to BIRDING there are beautiful BEACHES & ISLANDS to visit by boat + SNORKELING
Tranquilo Bay, Bocas del Toro, Panama

KAYAKS available at all times for bay & rivers + miles of HIKING TRAILS for more birds!
It’s the kind of place with plenty for me to do just on the hotel grounds. Great anticipation!
Tranquilo Bay, Bocas del Toro, Panama

See this cool video about Tranquilo Bay

And keep reading this blog RETIRED IN COSTA RICA as the adventures just keep getting bigger and better. I will truly never be bored here and never run out of something to do or photograph! I don’t understand why everyone doesn’t retire here! I’m sure having fun! And seldom repeat a place!

And I will keep adding photos to my gallery:  Charlie Doggett’s COSTA RICA

Kind of funny: The other day some new students of Spanish at Su Espacio were in class and saw one of my photo books there. One student said “I know him. I read his blog about Costa Rica!” So David enjoyed telling me that I am now famous!  🙂  This blog has only 80 subscribers plus drop-in visitors vary from 50 to 300 a day, so really not that big, but I’m glad that some considering retirement here are reading it plus others and hope it is helpful in your “Costa Rica decision process.”

¡Pura Vida!

Costa Rica vs Panama for Retirement

I’m not a huge fan of “Happier Than a Billionaire” blog and books, but they can be fun reading since Nadine has a good sense of humor. Her latest post Costa Rica vs Panama really doesn’t give her reasons for Costa Rica because I don’t think they even tried Panama, like I did. But her post is still interesting, especially some of the reader comments! One way she and I differ is her goal is “happiness” and mine is more “meaning” or even “purpose” in life which is what I think gives real deep happiness.

Several of my early blog posts discussed my consideration of Panama based on two trips there which I agree is limited. Those posts:

26 June 2014 – Websites, Blogs, Books and Tours

28 June 2014 – Why I’m Considering a Move to Costa Rica  (Your reasons are first in choice)

29 June 2014 – Seeking God’s Leadership is First Priority  (Not where everyone is in life I know)

30 June 2014 – Why Doing This? And Why Not Panama?

23 May 2017 – Better Healthcare in Costa Rica

Now if I told you off the top of my head why I chose Costa Rica over Panama after nearly 3 years after making the decision, I think I would say:


  1. Nature is my first love and Costa Rica easily wins out as more natural overall.
  2. Culture of Costa Rica is just more to my liking in so many different ways from being happier, friendlier, less Americanized, pacifist with no army, and more tranquil where I visited.
  3. Cost of Living is actually higher here than in Panama just a little, but overall less than the states and easier to live here without a car than it would be in Panama.
  4. Super bus system makes it easy for me to live without a car.
  5. Healthier place by my study and better healthcare system.
  6. It feels right to me which has to do with many things like nature, previous trips here, my sense of God’s leadership, a comfortableness with it. I love it here and that is important! And I was beginning to hate the United States! (And Panama is too much like the states.)
One couple friends of mine tried Costa Rica here in Atenas and then went to try Panama. They decided to stay there and though they did not say this, their blog descriptions made it sound like they preferred it because it was more like America within a pure expat community where most of their friends are expats. And that is what some people need. I am wanting more relationships with those in a different culture and try not to hang out only with expats. That is a difference in people, purpose, or why you moved in the first place. No two expats are alike! And Costa Rica and Panama are not alike either. So if you are considering a move south, I suggest you make several lengthy trips and get the feel of places before making the big decision! And if and when made, I hope you are as happy with yours as I am with mine!
All of this is why the original name of this blog was “Costa Rica Decision Process” and why that is still in the address. And I hope it helps others make their decision.
¡Pura Vida!
Tortuguero Sunrise by Charlie
A Photo Gallery

Will Costa Rica Be Surrounded by Canals?

Everyone knows that Panama is just south of Costa Rica with one of the busiest and most important canals in the world that many American businesses have greatly profited from. Now Nicaragua, just north of Costa Rica is planning an even longer and wider canal – or should I say that China is planning a canal there that will of course greatly help the economy of Nicaragua, but of China even more, just like the U.S. profited most from the Panama Canal. They break ground on the Nicaraguan Canal in December. 

It will go not far north of the Costa Rica border
through Lake Nicaragua, largest Central American lake.

Those of us who care about the environment and clean water are opposed to it, but “green” people still don’t have that much influence in the world, beyond Costa Rica that is. In contrast to the U.S., China and Nicaragua, Cost Rica is one of the greenest and most ecologically sound countries in the world with 25% of its land set aside as National Parks and reserves. They planning to become the first carbon-neutral country in the world and already produce about half their electricity with renewable sources. Ecology and preservation of nature is one of many reasons I’m moving there. Hopefully the neighbor to the north won’t let greed spoil our pristine Costa Rican environment with spillover affects through overlapping rivers and forests. 

Why Am I Doing This?

As I biked this morning, the thought came to me that friends when they first hear about this, will think I am crazy and wonder WHY I’m doing this? I’ll give today’s answer to three whys and those answers could change in the future. This whole idea is very fluid, but making it public because I like input.

Why are you doing this decision process in a public blog?

Most of my research is online and there are a lot of blogs about retiring or moving to Central America, most not too good. So I think my process could be helpful to someone else doing the same thing now or in the future, even if I decide not to move. 
Why would you want to leave the U.S, and move to a third-world country?
  1. Less than two years ago I made the big decision to move from a downtown Nashville condo to a retirement village with emphasis on the “independent living” part and especially since McKendree Village has 40 “cottages” which are two and three bedroom house, some very nice. I now live in a very nice two bedroom house with utilities, maintenance, twice-a-month maid service, and a meal ticket good for one big meal per day. There’s an indoor salt-water pool which don’t use, more activities than anyone could participate in, etc. Many think “Charlie has it made.” And in some ways I do if I wasn’t so healthy, active, and adventurous. One night it hit when stumbling over walkers and wheel chairs in the dining room, that I am almost living in a nursing home. That could get depressing! No one here shares an interest in the kind of adventures I like to do, other than to hear my reports. Now get this straight! I love everyone here and have no problem with the residents! Management is not targeting Baby Boomers who are more like me and I don’t see this changing anytime soon. I don’t want to become old and invalid like so many here. I’m determined to stay active to death. 
  2. I have been continuing my adventure trips like the January tour and bird watching in Panama. The problem is I really can’t afford such trips now. The retirement village gets half my income. I tithe to my church, I eat out, go to movies, the symphony, musicals, etc. and have the expenses of a car. I have no money left for trips and have been doing them from savings – bad choice
  3. If I move to the middle of the region I love best for adventure, nature photography, and a place that brings me happiness, I won’t have to take from savings for my trips
  4. Now I will make some of my friends angry, but I don’t like the directions our American culture and government is going and I’ve been very displeased with my denomination (SBC) for many years and now think my own local church (which I dearly love) is also headed the wrong way as it continues to be a suburban church located downtown while ignoring the downtown residents which I used to be one of. And I know that it is up to me to try and make a difference and I think I have tried and failed. 
  5. I’m a pacifist and Costa Rica is a pacifist country with no army and better general education than many get in the U.S, with one of the highest literacy rates in the world. They are also ranked as one of the happiest people in the world! Pura Vida!
  6. Though property value is increasing because of the thousands moving in, one can still live cheaper in Costa Rica and get as good a medical service at a fraction of the U.S. cost. The rich run the U.S. and only they get the good life, good medical service, good retirement, etc.  (There’s more, but I’m stopping for now.)
Why did you choose Costa Rica over Panama or other country? 
Well, I could make the above list longer and make an equally long list here. For now I will just summarize that in my own mind after research, Costa Rica offers more nature, more rain-forests, more beaches, more stable government, and less-expensive living than Panama. Panama is trying to be the retirement haven that Costa Rica already is. They are not there yet and I’m not sure I want to be one of their pioneers, though I have not totally ruled it out! Some say Ecuador is a little cheaper and beautiful, but I don’t see it as a stable government. Nicaragua is new for retirees and is a lot cheaper, but I would feel trapped in an expat community there and not as free to roam the country. So for now, Costa Rica is my focus.