Panama’s Top Beaches For Living and Investing
When I say Panama… crashing waves on a golden-sand beach… with not another soul around… may not be the first image that springs to mind.
But remember, this little country has two long coasts and several clusters of outlying islands… meaning lots of different beaches—Pacific and Caribbean, touristy and undiscovered, developed and emerging, accessible and remote.
My home in Panama City, up in the hills, serves me well for my day-to-day work. But any weekend we can get away, my boyfriend and I hit the beach… surfboards in tow… to enjoy the best of nature.
One of the best beaches I’ve been to is Morrillo on the Azuero Sunset Coast. This is pure escapism… an area I’d recommend if you want to experience all of nature and still have access to a small but growing community of like-minded adventurers.
If you love the beach—but would also welcome the advantages of being close to First World amenities—Panama’s “City Beaches” offer a great middle ground.
We’ll explore all your lifestyle options (beach and beyond) in more detail at our upcoming Live and Invest in Panama Conference, Feb. 15–17.
To give you just a taste of what’s on the menu, here are publisher Kathleen Peddicord’s top beach areas (for living and investing), based on more than 15 years of scouting in this country and eight years living here full time…
Best City Beach: Coronado and Gorgona
The strip of Pacific beach communities from Chame to Playa Blanca is referred to as the “City Beaches” because of its accessibility from Panama City. These are the beaches you can most easily escape to on a regular basis, and many Panama City residents do, driving out on Friday afternoons and returning Sunday evenings (making for mega-traffic headaches on the Pan-American Highway and crossing the Bridge of the Americas during those times).
The oldest beach community along this stretch is Coronado, about an hour from Panama City. It, along with the adjacent beach town of Gorgona, offers a high-quality beach lifestyle with all amenities and services you could want.
Coronado “town” has developed into a busy commercial center that makes for a turnkey retirement choice, and, indeed, this is the direction this former weekend retreat is evolving… into a full-fledged retirement community with an established population of full-time foreign residents supported by a developed infrastructure, including good medical facilities.
Coronado and Gorgona offer both older houses and newer condos. Some of the newer condo buildings along the beach are good choices for rental investment.
Most Affordable Developed Beach: Las Tablas
For a developed beach lifestyle choice that is still cheap, you’ve got to travel farther, to the east coast of the Azuero Peninsula, which is, depending who’s behind the wheel, a three to four hours’ drive from Panama City.
Your reward for going the distance is a quaint colonial town that is home to some of Panama’s friendliest and most welcoming population and where you can control your cost of living to as little as US$1,300 a month, give or take.
The cost of living in Las Tablas is remarkably low for two reasons. First, rents are cheap. You can rent a small house near the beach for as little as US$400 per month. Second, there’s not much here. Resident in Las Tablas, you won’t spend much money, because there’s not much to buy.
That said, a new mall and movie theater are under construction. We’ll soon have to increase the entertainment figure for our Las Tablas budget.
Unlike in Coronado, in Las Tablas, the population is predominately local, not expat, meaning that, living here, you’d have to embrace the local Panamanian way of life.
Most of the year, that way of life is slow and easy. During the two weeks of carnaval, this town of only 10,000 full-time residents will grow to 10 times that size.
Every year, Las Tablas sees the biggest carnaval celebration in all Panama when tens of thousands of carnaval-goers converge on this beach town that could best be described as sleepy the rest of the year. The descending masses bring with them tents, coolers, and the resolve to go as long as possible without sleep so as not to miss a minute of the action.
I’d find the crowds, the noise, and the garbage overwhelming, but, from all accounts I’ve heard over the years, the hundred-thousand or so crowded into the Las Tablas town square seem to revel in the experience. Maybe you try it once?
Best Beach Speculation: Puerto Armuelles
Even farther off the beaten path is Puerto Armuelles, in Chiriquí province, at the beginning of the Burica Peninsula, five miles from the Costa Rican border. From 1927 until 2003, this town was the headquarters of the United Fruit Company (Chiquita Banana).
In its heyday, this was a Gold Coast. That ended when United Fruit sold out to a local cooperative, and the employment opportunities evaporated. Over the years since, the city has suffered gradual decline.
However, it looks like things are finally about to turn around for this forgotten and nearly abandoned corner of Panama. Last month, food processing giant Del Monte’s plans to revitalize this once-mighty banana kingdom were approved. The company has committed to investing a minimum of 100 million dollars over seven years in a number of districts in Chiriquí—generating an estimated 3,100 new jobs.
Puerto Armuelles offers very different opportunities, both for lifestyle and for investment, than you find elsewhere in this country. It has been that long since this town’s boom economy crumbled. There is a fading charm about this place with its lovely seawall, walkway, and beautiful beaches.
Some of the houses of former Chiquita executives have been bought and restored, especially in the area known as Las Palmas. Here you also find private schools, a private swimming pool, and an established expat community.
Best Emerging Beach Community: Azuero Sunset Coast
The best beach in Panama today for my money is along the western coast of the Azuero Peninsula. The Pacific coastline here is dramatic and rugged, punctuated by cliffs and coves and backed by lush and rolling hillsides offering long-stretching views of the crashing surf.
This is the beach to seek out if you want elbow room and privacy. The beach road is paved and well-maintained nearly to the bottom of the peninsula. Otherwise, infrastructure is thin… but evolving.
Over the past three-plus decades, beach lovers from Panama City have pushed their way ever-farther westward along the Pacific coast, from the City Beaches to the east coast of Azuero. The next step in this migration is taking them to Azuero’s westward-facing coast, where a small expat community has taken hold and a handful of low-key, what I call “mom-and-pop” developments, are under way.
If you’d like to explore these beaches yourself—as well as other lifestyle and investment options in the city, the highlands, and beyond—don’t miss our annual Live and Invest in Panama Conference this Feb. 15–17.
Over our three days together, we’ll help you make the contacts and the connections you’ll need to realize whatever Panama agenda you imagine. We’ll lay out all the options and opportunities open to you. And you’ll have time to meet with the bankers, the attorneys, the visa specialists, the property developers… not to mention the expats—those folks who once sat where you are right now (with just a pipe dream) and who want to help you follow in their footsteps… with minimum hassle (avoiding all their mistakes).
When you book your seat today, you’re still in time to qualify for our Early Bird Discount of US$250… and you’ll save a further US$50 with your LIOS Confidential reader discount (use Coupon Code PTYCONFIDENTIAL).
I look forward to welcoming you to Panama.