There are a lot of great places to live in Panama. What you want to do with your time and how close you want to be to a plane ride back home will influence your choice. With two sea coasts, a mountainous interior, a historical capital city and areas of pristine nature through, Panama presents the home buyer with the "chore" of having to travel through a tropical paradise in order to pick the ideal spot for a home. Beside the fun involved in choosing from a number of excellent locations the current home buyer or investor in Panama gets to pick from a large number of properties that are currently priced far below what they will be selling for in a few years.
Although the recession did not hit Panama in general the recession elsewhere reduced the number of foreign buyers and this depressed the high end housing market. Whether it is on Avenida Balboa along the Bay of Panama or out on the Pacific Beaches around Coronado there are properties for sale at what will be laughable prices in a few years. The buyer / investor will be wise to keep this in mind when looking at property in paradise. What follows is the author's list of favorites.
The Tuna Coast
The old name for Panama's Pacific is the Tuna Coast. There is an underwater mountain range that provides mountains places for coral reefs and supports a huge amount of marine life. The entire Pacific Coast from the Darien to Chiriquí has world class sport fishing, scuba diving and boating.
Isla Taboga or Isla Saboga
Isla Taboga is an island in the Pacific just half an hour from Panama City by ferry. The island, like the city, was inhabited by Europeans within a generation of Columbus' first voyage. The island of flowers has no cars, pristine beaches, a park covering the summit and most of the island's perimeter. This island is a gorgeous retreat within easy reach of the amenities of the City. Isla Saboga is equally gorgeous but lies farther out in the Pearl Archipelago. There are high end housing developments and there are older homes scattered through the islands. Ferry service and the airport can get you back to the city at your convenience.
Coronado and the Pacific Beaches
Just an hour up the Pacific Coast along the Pan American highway from Panama City are a string of beaches where Panama's elite had had their summer homes for decades. Coronado is growing into the commercial center with modern stores and a new shopping center. Whether a gated community or a little house tucked back under the trees is your wish this area has it. In addition, a right turn up the road take you to the well manicured town of El Valle de Anton, looking like an oversized broccoli patch in the caldera of an extinct volcano. If you like this area you will not be the first. There are ancient rock drawings giving proof of residents when North America was buried under a mile of ice.
The Azuero Peninsula
Farther along the Pan American Highway is the start of Panama's Arco Seca, the dry arch, the home of most of Panama's agriculture. The Azuero Peninsula is substantially dryer than most of the rest of Panama and is where cowboys herd cattle inland while fishermen land catches of huge fish offshore. Periodically throughout the year sea turtles nest along the coastal islands and whales breed in coastal waters.
Boquete, Volcan, and the Chiriquí Highlands
It is typical when speaking of someone about Panama that Boquete comes up. This town is an enclave for North American retirees nestled under the shadow of the mountains of Western Panama. Up the road is the alpine town of Volcán, nestled under the watchful eye of Panama's 11,460 foot peak, Volcán Barú. The Chiriquí highlands are spared the coastal heat, are rich in ecological wonders and are a great place for white water rafting, hiking and birding. In addition, this area is the far end of Panama's agricultural area and produces much of Panama's vegetable and flower crop.
Bocas del Toro Archipelago
Across the Isthmus of Panama from Chiriquí is the province of Bocas del Toro. The Bocas del Toro Archipelago is paradise for boating, surfing, scuba diving and enjoying nature. This area has a number of new, upscale developments allowing owners to enjoy nature and water sports and live in a home with all of the modern amenities.
Costa Arriba and Portobello
In the days of the Conquistadors Spanish gold came up the Pacific from Peru to the Pearl Islands where it was inventoried. It then passed to the mainland and crossed by mule train to the fortified city of Portobello. This area was named beautiful port by Columbus on his fifth voyage. With its natural harbor the city was the site of an annual trade fair. Galleons came from Spain laden with goods and mule trains bearing gold and silver met at Portabello for decades until pirates sacked the city. Today's Portabello is a historic site along the Costa Arriba (up coast from the city of Colon). This bit of coast of the Caribbean is ripe for new homes and developments as the cities are Colon and Panama City have just been connected by a four lane highway reducing the commute time to 40 minutes.
The first European settlement on the Pacific is a mix of history, commerce, old and new. It is a Latin American banking center and centerpiece of an economy that has grown as fast as China's in the last decade. Nightlife along Calle Uruguay goes on until dawn and the casinos are open 24 hours a day. Restaurants serving traditional Panamanian fare vie with kitchens manned by chefs trained in Europe and North America. The city sports places as upscale as those in North America. On one hand there are trendy cafés and boutiques with one of kind items in newly renovated buildings in the old city, Casco Viejo.
A Good Time to Be Looking for Property in Panama
Whether for a home or for investment, this is good time to look for property in Panama. Be it a condo on the 30th floor looking out over the Pacific or a little hacienda in the Azuero Peninsula overlooking the ocean prices are depressed but will not be for long. As the recession wanes and buyers return they will seek out these little bits of paradise.