Houston we have a location: Panama President Ricardo Martinelli says the site of Panama’s new international airport will be the beach town of Rio Hato. The government has long been studying the viability of a new international airport in the Pacific coast region.
An international airport on Panama’s Pacific coast would make it easier for travelers to head straight to the beach without having to go through Panama City. Now, most beach-goers fly into Tocumen International. Late arrivals tend to spend a night in Panama City before getting ground transportation up the Pacific coast. Thus, visitors often “lose” a day they’d rather spend at the beach.
Rio Hato is approximately two hours by car from Panama City, and the district is home to many resorts and beach communities. According to Martinelli, the government selected Rio Hato because it was the cheapest place in the area to build. An airport anywhere else would cost an estimated $1 billion, while the government estimates it can build one at Rio Hato for $33 million, thanks to the existing airport infrastructure. Auxiliary construction, including an access tunnel from the PanAmerican Highway, will cost another $50 million.
Located in the province of Cocle, Rio Hato is known for it beaches and its car races…it is even known as a good place to skydive. White sand beaches in the district, from Punta Chame to Farallon, are often referred to as the “pearls of the Pacific.” Here you’ll find popular resorts like the Royal Decameron, Playa Blanca, Breezes, and Buenaventura.
Rio Hato owes its existing airport infrastructure to the U.S. military. In 1942, the U.S. built an airport here; World War II was drawing to a close and the aim was to help protect the Panama Canal. The land reverted to Panamanian control in 1970; it was used for military training until 1989, when the U.S. invaded Panama and destroyed the Rio Hato facilities. As Panama has not had a military since, the land fell into disuse.
The new airport at Rio Hato is just one of many big infrastructure projects on the horizon. Late last year, the prestigious Latin Business Chronicle (LBC) voted Panama number one in the Latin American region for infrastructure thanks to projects like the $5 billion Panama Canal widening and the expansion of the Tocumen Airport, the Colon Airport, and the Howard/Panama Pacifico Airport.
The LBC also reported that Panama would grow more than any other country in Latin America over the 2011- 2015 period.
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