Medical procedures, no matter how big or small, always require a degree of preparation and, afterwards, recovery time. The required visit to the hospital or clinic, and then the required “downtime”, don’t necessarily inspire feelings of fun and relaxation– but it doesn’t have to be this way. Instead of spending your convalescence cooped up in your house, imagine yourself somewhere else. Imagine yourself in a hammock gently swaying in the breeze, sipping on a delicious tropical juice or perhaps some ice cold coconut water. Sound appealing? If you’re planning on undergoing a medical procedure– be it cataract surgery or body contouring– then consider having it done in Panama.

Health tourism, also called medical tourism, is a form of travel where people visit another country in order to get medical, dental, or surgical care while at the same time having a vacation. In the past few years, Panama has emerged as a leading destination for health tourism, and for good reason. There is a wide selection of U.S. trained, English-speaking doctors at your disposal, and the country’s hospitals and medical facilities rival those in the United States. Hospital Punta Pacifica, for example, is affiliated with Johns Hopkins Medicine, boasts ultra-modern facilities, the latest technology, and superb attention to patients– it has a 1 to 2 nurse to patient ratio in the general procedure ward, and a 1.5 to 1 ratio in the ICU.

One of the biggest advantages to having medical procedures done in Panama is the low cost. You will save anywhere between 40% and 80% of what you would normally pay in a U.S. hospital. For example, a pacemaker surgery can cost $40,000 in the states, but only $8,500 in Panama, representing a saving of almost 80%! If you also consider the convenience of having the U.S. dollar as the official currency in Panama, as well as the country’s reputation for being a safe and modern place, traveling to Panama for medical attention is an obvious choice.

With the warm, tropical climate and so many things to see and do, Panama offers you the opportunity to have fun and improve your health. The best time to visit is between December and April, which is when Panamanians celebrate summer by going to the beaches, rivers and mountains, and by hosting Carnaval and other regional festivals and fairs. Visitors can fly to Panama very easily, since it is only 2 and 1/2 hours from Miami, and there are daily flights to Panama City from Miami, Houston, Los Angeles, and New York, among others. Why not fly in, do some sightseeing– in addition to beaches and islands, there are many opportunities to do ecotourism, such as birdwatching and wildlife observation–  and then head to one of the country’s world-class hospitals for a knee replacement? Afterwards, you can rest and relax in style at one of Panama’s many hotels and resorts, arriving home a rejuvenated, healthier person. You don’t even have to worry about overstaying your visa, since the tourist visa U.S. citizens are granted upon arrival at the airport is valid for 90 days, and you can easily get an extension afterwards.

Popular treatments in Panama are both health-related and cosmetic. Frequent dental services include teeth whitening, veneers and dental implants. In the area of opthalmology, some of the most popular procedures are Lasik, cataract surgery, glaucoma surgery, and vitreo retinal surgery. Other treatments that draw flocks of visitors to Panama include cardiology, stem cell therapy, fertility treatments, bariatric and obesity surgeries, orthopedics (including hip and knee replacements), cancer treatment and oncology. And, of course, there is a wide range of cutting-edge cosmetic procedures including face, breast, and body contouring. The top hospitals for medical tourism are Hospital Punta Pacifica, Hospital Nacional, Clinica Hospital San Fernando, and Centro Medico Paitilla. All of these have highly-qualified doctors and staff, and boast state of the art facilities.

Whether you live in Panama or are just visiting, the country’s advanced medical tourism infrastructure offers something for everyone. Why not combine your health care needs with a much deserved vacation?