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Where to live in Panama?

Panama City is the country’s capital and definitely place for those who like the stimulation of living in a modern cosmopolitan metropolis. It is home to more than half of the country’s population and a bustling center of international banking and commerce. Prestigious neighborhoods like Alto de Golf, Dos Mares abound with greenery and flowers. Other areas as Obarrio, Campo Alegre, Paitilla and El Cangrejo teem with interesting buildings and designs.

The city’s other treasures include a palm-lined Malecón (waterfront promenade) the historic ruins of Panama la Vieja and much more. There is even a rainforest reserve within the city limits at Parque Metropolitano.

Panama City has perhaps the best shopping in Central America. Therefore it attracts visitors from neighboring countries. Due to a long-time U.S. presence in the country, American products are easily found. Prices are similar to what they are in the States. Foreign residents can find many products from their home town. There are dozens of shopping centers to meet your needs. The stores that dot the Avenida Central pedestrian mall and Vía España offer first-class shopping.

The city’s infrastructure is excellent. This is primarily due to the long U.S. presence in the area. Most streets in the city are paved with concrete instead of asphalt. The downtown area has a real first-world ambience. Tocumen International Airport is located about 20 miles from downtown Panama City. It is easy to get around the city by using taxis and public transportation.

Here are some of the areas where you might want to consider living, taking different tastes and budgets into consideration. A three bedroom apartment in Panama City can be purchased for under $100,000; a home on a former military base may cost $70,000 to $150,000; and a new condo in a high rise in Punta Paitilla will go for around $150,000 to $175,000. Land in the countryside or a small town is much less expensive.

Balboa is the area of once called the “Canal Zone.”At one time it was the center of U.S. military activity in Panama. Balboa looks like a microcosm of the U.S. with its wide palmtree lined boulevards and streets and American-style homes. Many good housing bargains can be found since the U.S. pullout. Marbella is an area of exclusive high-rise living. Due to its convenient central location, many excellent services are found around this neighborhood. There are luxury apartments for rent and sale here. Punta Paitilla is another affluent part of town and very popular with foreigners. Housing here has all the amenities of the U.S., Canada or Europe. There are numerous high-rise apartment complexes with apartments for rent or sale.

San Francisco is a predominately middle-class Panamanian neighborhood. Affordable single family homes are for rent and sale in this area. It is less densely populated than some of the other sections which makes it suitable for living. Excellent shopping is also found there. The Obarrio area is found near the banking district. Single homes are plentiful and there is a foreign population living in this part of town. At present, there is a great deal of construction going on there. El Cangrejo is a pleasant hilly neighborhood with both single family homes, high-rise buildings and other housing options. El Carmen and Coco Bay are other areas you might want to consider for living in Panama City. Major services are found

If you don’t like the hustle and bustle and heat of Panama City there are mountain areas from which to choose.

About an hour’s drive northeast of Panama City is Cerro Azul. A housing development nearby with the same name. Prices start at about $80,000 for a three-bedroom home. Altos de María is another development 60 miles west of Panama City in a mountain area about 10 miles (as the crow flies) from El Valle de Antón. This place is perfect for anyone who wants to ”get away from it all” and still enjoy quality lifestyle. Chorrera, the quickest growing city in the area, is less than an hour away and offers good infrastructure including supermarkets, restaurants, shopping centers, movies and more. Beaches are accessible from this there.

The picturesque town of El Valle de Antón is another area to consider. This resort is located about 2 hours west of Panama City in a crater of an extinct volcano.

The Province of Chiriquí is considered to be the most beautiful region of the country. Boquete is a tranquil town in the heart of Chiriquí province. Lately much has been written about the town of Boquete as an ideal expatriate and retirement haven. In late 2001, Modern Maturity magazine rated Boquete as the 4th best place in the world to retire because of the excellent quality of life found there. The Town’s many American and European expats appreciate the modest cost of living (you will need about 25 percent less to live here than in a suburb of a medium-size U.S. city), the clean air, outdoor activities, river rafting, tennis and golf.

In Boquete land costs between $8 and $15 per square meter. A decent three bedroom home may be purchased for around $50,000. Of course, larger properties are more expensive. A three-bedroom house rents from about $450 monthly; a simple meal can be found for $4-5. There are a few restaurants, a pizzería, a bank, small hotels, a post office, and an a good supermarket.

Valle Escondido or Hidden Valley is a nice development with Spanish colonial style buildings located near Boquete. This gated community offers a whole slew of amenities including a 9-hole Executive Golf Course and Proshop, private country club with Tennis, swimming, beautiful parks and walking paths, jacuzzi and dayspa, a 750 seat outdoor amphitheater with year round schedule of events, a serviced equestrian center, Valle Escondido Pueblo shopping center with over 20 retail shops, services and restaurants and fully furnished two and three bedroom Golf Vista Residences.

Beach lovers will happy to know to know there are numerous beaches within a short distance of Panama City. Playa Kobbe is a popular beach just across the canal from Panama City. Playa Veracruz is another beach area. Afew hours west of Panama City lay some of the country’s nicest beaches. Astring of beaches extends from Punta Chane to Punta Corona. We have been told that reasonably priced home can be found in this area.

You also have the choice of living on a island. Isla Contadora (translated as “teller’ or “counting house” for pearls), located 20 miles southwest in the Pearl Islands in Panama Bay, is another place to consider. The island can be reached easily by ferry. There is
adequate infrastructure including, bars, restaurants, hotels, a medical center, and 9-hole golf course.

Isla Taboga, or “Island of the Flowers” as it is known, is a 90-minute ferry ride from Panama City. The island is a beautiful spot with nice beaches and surrounded by clear water.

A discussion of beach areas would hardly be complete without mentioning Bocas del Toro, located in the remote northeast coast. Bocas has some excellent beaches, a variety of water sports from which to choose, ample accommodations, restaurants featuring seafood and typical Panamanian cuisine, a marina and a lot of prime real estate. English is the main language of the friendly locals of Caribbean descent.

You will also find some of the most affordable and beautiful real estate along the beaches of Bocas del Toro. Houses rent from $200 to $1000 monthly. Lots go for as low as $20,000. You can even build your dream home for under $50,000.

We haven’t touched on every area of Panama. If you are seriously interested in exploring the country for living and retirement, we suggest you read Living and Investing in Panama guidebook, then contact us to show the areas where you think you may want to live.

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