bungle613 wrote:ok travellers... who can fill me in on Belize, Panama and Costa Rica. These are the 3 locations on top of our list to move to in the next year or two. Neither of us have been to any of them so anything at all in the way of info is appreciated. I know a couple of you military type guys have done some time down there so start talking. We are looking at several possibilites on how we are moving but the leading contenders are to move and my wife will work in management at a hotel and I will stay with our 4 y/o son and the other is to buy a business, a b&b, bar etc...
Color me jealous. I lived in Panama for 3 years (96-99) and that's where I first fell in love with the Latin culture and people. I lived in the Canal Zone, which no longer exists and my experiences were as a single 23 year old, so take that for what it is worth. But I can tell you that the people are friendly for the most part. There are two classes of people (as in most LATAM countries) - rich and poor. The poverty is mostly on the outskirts of Panama City but nothing like what you would find in Nicaragua, Guatemala, or Haiti. Panama City is nice and like any other major city - bigger than Pittsburgh, smaller than New York. Maybe about the size of Philly. Tons of restaurants, bars, clubs, movie theaters (where popcorn was still only 50 cents but the theaters were first class - this was before stadium seating was invented so who knows what it is like now). Services are super cheap; electronics and technology are super expensive (thank God for the internet and a credit card). Food - superb. Lifestyle - take it as it comes. Black sand beaches and white sand beaches in different areas. There are a few island resorts for quick getaways. SCUBA diving is very good and super cheap in Portobello where they also have "El Cristo Negro" or the black Christ. Great Story Here. Buy your gear and get certified before you go. We also spent some time in the country where they had some beautiful waterfalls, coffee plantations, and white water rafting. And then there is Carnival every February where the whole country celebrates for a week.
Where would you live? I might be able to tell you more.
Costa Rica. I spent four days there. Briefly - English is spoken much more, especially in the capital; country is richer; health care is more easily accessible and free for locals (which I think a Canuck like yourself would appreciate); tourist stuff is more predominant and there are more options, but also more catered to every tourist (in Panama things still have a homey feel); people are less friendly and look like a bunch of ugly Americans for the most part (also something a Canadian should be used to ) - the native Indian look has been bred out from what I could tell; coffee is incredible; food is delicious; beaches, islands, etc. Probably more safe in the rural areas of Costa Rica than in the rural areas of Panama, but that is just a guess. Romancing the Stone was shot there, but I think Kathleen Turner has moved on That's about all I know. I went as a tourist, so I've got a tourist's view point.
Belize. Best SCUBA diving in the Caribbean by reputation. Former British colony so they all speak English. That's all I know.