Pedasi is a Wonderful Place to Live for Ocean Lovers
The town of Pedasi has been discovered by expats and the secret is out. Pedasi is on the tip of the Azuero Peninsula in the province of Los Santos on the Pacific Ocean. It’s a four-hour trip from Panama City—turning off the Pan American Highway heading south the drive takes you through the city of Chitre down to Las Tablas and it’s a further a 45-minute drive to Pedasi.
As a small sleepy town with a full-time population of around 2,500, Pedasi is rural living at its best. Surrounded by green pastures and grazing cattle and only a 10-minute drive to the ocean, you will find miles of unspoiled beach and little development.
The main source of income here for locals is fishing. Considered the “Tuna Coast” of Panama, the waters are filled with an abundance of fish. Sport fishing has become a pastime here, as you are almost always guaranteed a great days fishing.
Another attraction that has been gaining in popularity in recent years is surfing. Surfers worldwide have discovered Playa Venao, a surfing beach only 30 minutes away. In fact, in 2011 and 2012, Playa Venao hosted the World Surfing Championships putting this great surfing destination firmly on the map.
Tourists come too to enjoy the beaches and the coral reefs. Isla Iguana island is a local favorite for snorkeling, scuba diving, beachcombing, swimming, and relaxing. Five minutes from town, and El Arenal beach is the jumping off point for the 20-minute boat ride to the wildlife refuge.
Panama’s first female president, Mireya Moscoso was born in Pedasi and, made many contributions improving the infrastructure of the town during her time in office. Her efforts have given the locals a sense of pride in their town. The first thing you might notice when you visit Pedasi is how clean the town is, and that the homes are all well-kept and painted in bright colors.
Retire in Pedasi
Pedasi lies in the “Dry Arch” meaning it is in the driest part of Panama with annual precipitation of only 39 inches. Enjoyable breezes from the ocean keep day time temperatures ranging from 73 to 93 F. Evenings are cool and pleasant.
The town has all the necessary amenities for day- to- day living—the Minsa-Capsi hospital in Pedasi offers most services with a variety of specialists—there are a few grocery stores, gas station and even a public library. Las Tablas is the nearest city where you can find anything else you might need and it’s only a 45- minute drive away.
The safety of Pedasi is one reason why many expats move here. In Pedasi, there is little to no petty crime of any kind because it is not tolerated. Locals and expats all look out for each other, and locals welcome expats and expat businesses.
There are now about 200 expats who live in the Pedasi area. These expats are a mix of people from around the world. As the charm of Pedasi is resonating with more families and retirees, such as North Americans, looking for a simpler life, the expat population is growing. The rural feel of the town may not be for everyone, but resident expats love it.
Lifestyle in Pedasi
Pedasi is a wonderful place to live for ocean lovers. Scuba, snorkel, windsurfing, and deep-sea fishing are just some of the things you can find to do here.
The lifestyle is laidback, with locals and expats frequently mixing to enjoy holidays and special events, and expats try to get to know their Panama neighbors and make new friends.
Pedasi also has a variety of great restaurants which are open year-round. The expat-owned Smiley’s restaurant, (expat owned) is a local hang out where the expats gather to socialize and sometimes enjoy a night of bingo.
There are also plenty of volunteering opportunities in Pedasi, with several volunteer organizations where you can put your skills to work to help the locals.
If you want to get a city fix and enjoy shopping, Las Tablas and Chitre are just under an hour away.
So, what does a typical lazy day look like here? The day might start with a cup of great Panama coffee and a pastry at a local bakery, followed by a bike ride to the beach and a long walk, siesta with cool breezes in the afternoon, and lively conversation with friends at one of the local hot spot restaurants in the evening.
Real Estate in Pedasi
There are several affordable areas in and around Pedasi. With an increasing number of expats moving to Pedasi, new construction of homes is on the increase.
Most of the towns neighborhoods consist of typical Panama homes close to the town center. A typical two-bedroom, two-bathroom home starts at around $135,000. There are also a few upscale developments with homes built to North American standards. Two of these developments, are gated communities with ocean views and large lots and start at $275,000.
Many expats in this area prefer to build their own homes since there are several areas where lot prices are relatively low.
Cost of Living in Pedasi
Rents in Pedasi during high season (December through April) can cost more than $750 a month, as demand drives up the prices. Securing a rental for a lower price, will often require some boots- on- the- ground investigating with the locals. Pedasi does give you the choice of living on a small budget though—by making use of the local fresh produce, freshly caught fish of the day, and eating out at typical Panama fondas (small restaurants) you can live well on less in Pedasi. A local bus ride to Las Tablas for example will only cost you $2.45. A taxi ride to the beach $2.50 to -$3.00.
Here is an example of a monthly budget for a couple living in Pedasi:
|Rent (two-bedroom home)||$750|
|Electricity (using AC at night)||$75|
|Cell Phone (one smart phone)||$34|
Things to do in Pedasi
Located on the southern tip of Panama’s Azuero Peninsula, this charming town offers a variety of amenities and fun activities. The Azuero Peninsula enjoys some of the best weather in Panama and provides opportunities to enjoy an abundance of outdoor activities abound year-round.
Enjoy Some Sun on Your Choice of Beaches
Three beautiful beaches are only a quick five-to 10-minute drive away, making Pedasi the perfect base for beach exploration. Bring a picnic and plenty of sunscreen and soak up the serenity and sunshine. Don’t be surprised if you have the beach to yourself!
Playa el Arenal, Playa el Toro, and Playa la Garita are all easily accessible by car. The recently paved, country roads leading to these three beaches meander through grassy fields and clumps of trees and past brightly painted homes. Keep following the signs, though, and suddenly you will be rewarded with a stunning beach vista.
Playa el Arenal is home to Pedasi’s colorful panga fishing fleet. If you are here in the early morning you will see these local fishing boats pushing off the beach to return later in the day with an abundance of fish.
Have Fun on the Water
The local fishing captains are also found at Playa el Arenal, offering boats for hire. The quick 20-minute boat ride to gorgeous Isla Iguana Wildlife Refuge is a fun way to get out on local waters. And the wildlife refuge itself, is a truly memorable experience. Home to many types of coral and species of fish, black and green iguanas, quiet palm-dotted white sand beaches, a calm shoreline, and turquoise blue waters this is an idyllic destination for swimming, snorkeling, and scuba diving. Plan to go early and visit for the day.
From June to November it’s common to see huge humpback whales visiting these warm waters. Visitors and locals can watch them play, breed, and even breach, which is when they jump so high their entire bodies come out of the water. Although you can see them from shore, it is best to take a whale watching tour. Have your camera at the ready!
Known as the Tuna Coast, Pedasi anglers catch yellowfin tuna within 15 minutes from leaving shore. May to August is usually considered the best tuna fishing time, with catches of up to 200 plus pounds, but this popular fish can be caught year-round here. Fishing charter operators take visitors out and provide all the gear. Pedasi does not have a marina, so fishermen launch off boat ramps or the beach in smaller craft.
Visit the Sunday Market
For a change of pace in this outdoor playground, visit Jungla’s Sunday Market held just off of Pedasi’s quaint town square. Beginning at 9 a.m., enjoy a bite at Jungla’s Food Truck while stocking up on fresh, local vegetables and fruits, baked goods and desserts, and handicrafts and jewelry.
Explore the Town Square
After Jungla’s Sunday Market, stroll Pedasi’s tidy square and visit some of the other shops featuring local arts and crafts. Also located in the town square is the Mireya Moscoso Museum. Pedasi is the hometown of Panama’s former president, Mireya Elisa Moscoso Rodriguez (1999-2004), the first and the only woman to date to hold the presidency of the country. View photos and memories of the Moscoso family as you delve into a slice of Panama history. Entrance is free.
Pedasi is very proud of this heritage and there is a large billboard honoring Mireya Moscoso as you enter Pedasi from the north.
Enjoy Some Good Food
After a day of sun, sand, sea, and exploration, feed hungry appetites at a variety of Pedasi restaurants, ranging from casual to upscale. With over 50 restaurants offering everything from fresh sushi to traditional Panamanian sancocho, tasty pizzas to perfect pasta, barbecued chicken and ribs to home-baked breads, a feast of culinary options await. Many restaurants offer English menus and you can be assured of friendly service wherever you go.
Try Some Water Sports in Playa Venao
No visit to Pedasi is complete without a side trip to Playa Venao, Panama’s premier surfing beach. Surfing enthusiasts of all skill levels travel here from around the globe to catch that perfect curl in the warm waters and partake in the active surf culture found in the beach village. Board rentals and surf lessons are offered at most of the hotels, hostels, and surf shops that dot the beach. However, you don’t have to be a surfer to enjoy this laidback beach gem. Watch the action from one of the palapa covered restaurants or bars after a long walk along the expansive beach.
Visit Canas Island Wildlife Refuge
Just 15 minutes from Playa Venao lies the ecological jewel, the Canas Island Wildlife Refuge. This is Panama’s most important nesting site for sea turtles along the Pacific Coast, with July to November being the busiest nesting and hatching periods. Every year, hundreds of sea turtles come to nest on the beach and lay their eggs here. Take a tour to learn about this tropical island and its local community and witness the magic of Mother Nature at work, Other eco-tours include mangrove kayaking and paddle boarding adventures.
While exploring Pedasi be sure to keep an eye out for the many striking murals, hand-painted by area artists. Adding color and culture, they make for great selfie spots!
Home to vibrant Spanish colonial architecture, fabulous flora, and friendly locals, Pedasi weaves a welcoming tapestry where customs, cuisine, culture, and ecology intertwine with amazing activities to create a fun and memorable visit.
Rent for $500 a Month by the Beach in Pedasí, Panama
“In Pedasí, Panama, we live a life we couldn’t have had back home,” say Connie and Mikkel Moller. “If we were in the U.S., we’d both be working, at least part-time, and constantly worrying.”After visiting for a few days in 2012, the Mollers fell in love with Pedasí. “We loved it. We fell for Pedasí. The people, the ambience…everything about it.”
Located five hours by car from Panama City (you can also fly; it’s just under an hour from Panama City in a tiny commercial plane), most days of the year are sunny. Average daytime temperatures are around 88 F, but evenings and mornings can be 10 to 15 degrees cooler, thanks to the ocean breezes.
“Since it’s a small town, everybody knows everybody. And everybody is friendly and helpful,” says Connie. Not just the locals, but the expats, too. From their first day, the Mollers were accepted and welcomed. People showed them around, helped them find a rental, and introduced them to other expats. Almost instantly, they were part of a tight-knit group they could count on for help or advice.
They rent a house right in the town center. Built in the local style, their home boasts a spacious terrace. It wraps from the front of the home to the back, where they have a small, exuberant garden. It is a deep jungle green, punctuated with slim coral-topped birds-of-paradise flowers. Here the Mollers grow all manner of good things, from aloe to papaya.
Living here, they no longer have to worry about a rising cost of living. “Our electric bill averages between $50 and $60—half of what it was in the U.S. Our water bill is $10 a month, down from $50. For trash collection we used to pay $17 a month…here we pay $14 a year!”
Their cell phone bill is about 25% of what it used to be. Their landline costs them just $14 a month. And they no longer shell out $80 every month for cable. In Pedasí, they opted for Netflix—$7.95 a month—over the local satellite plan. Their WiFi is $25 a month.
Rentals in Pedasí start at about $500 a month, though you can spend 50% less just 30 minutes away. “Our rent is about half what our house payment was in the U.S.,” they say. And cleaning ladies charge about $15 for a day’s work.
“The cost of healthcare is so low,” they add. They pay a few dollars to see the doctor at the centro de salud, a small, simple medical office. “The doctors are great and you don’t need an appointment.”
Once a month they drive to the hub of Chitre, about 45 minutes away, where large supermarkets are filled with familiar items from back home. Chitre also has shops, hospitals, and movie theaters…virtually anything they could want or need.
Though local buses are dirt cheap, they prefer the freedom of owning a car. “Our auto insurance is just $140 a year,” they say. Gas costs about the same as back home. “But we spend a third of what we used to. Here you can walk just about anywhere…even to the nearest beach, just over a mile away.”
Five miles off the coast of Pedasí, the Isla Iguana Wildlife Refuge boasts 9 kilometers of white sand beaches and one of the largest coral reefs in the Gulf of Panama. “We chose Pedasí for many reasons, but primarily because we love the ocean,” they add. “The beaches here tend to be uncrowded, unlike those in Southern California, where I grew up,” says Connie. On any given day, you may see a dozen people…or none at all. “The water is warm and usually clear. Hearing and seeing the endless ocean always revitalizes me,” she says.
“We are so blessed to live where we do,” say the Mollers. “Our stress level is like 10% of what it used to be.”
Video Tour: Picturesque Pedasi, Panama
by Jim Gault
The small picturesque fishing village of Pedasi is located on the tip of the Azuero Peninsula in the province of Los Santos on the Pacific Ocean. Just a five-hour drive from Panama City, it is best known for its expansive beaches just outside of town, and is regarded by many Panamanians to be among the nation’s most beautiful. Though Pedasí is conveniently close to Las Tablas and Chitré, it has all the benefits of a rural setting—quiet neighborhoods, gorgeous scenery, and friendly people. With a full-time population of around 2,500, there are estimated to be around 250 American, Canadian, and Israeli expats, amongst other nationalities living here.
People tend come for the beautiful empty beaches, and to enjoy an improved quality of life with a small-town country feel, embracing expat community, and enough conveniences and amenities to meet their daily needs.
Known as the “Tuna Coast,” Pedasí is a fishing paradise. Here the coastal shelf drops off suddenly to provide deep-water fishing a short distance from shore. Yellow fin tuna, sailfish, wahoo, and dorado, are among the regular catches, many of them massive by any standards.
Within an hour’s drive there are 11 different beaches, all clean and easily accessible. The sands vary from deep bronze to the sparkling black of volcanic matter. New businesses are springing up to offer fishing, snorkeling, and diving trips. Sport fishing has become a pastime here, as you are almost always guaranteed a great days fishing.
Other activities on the beach include, surfing and swimming. When you want a change from the beach, you can horseback ride in the quiet rolling hills near town, cross pristine streams, and never see a home or another person. Or you can ride a bike on miles of country roads with rolling hills and little traffic.
Activities in the town square include markets, art shows, and concerts, with Pedasi honoring many Panamanian traditions with festivals and parades. The largest festival of all is Carnival, held just before Ash Wednesday. This entails several days of parades with colorful floats, bands playing live music, and people dancing in the street.
Pedasi has several restaurants that serve tasty and inexpensive dishes. One restaurant plays live rock and roll music on Tuesday and Saturday and always draws a crowd. There are also two bakeries in town to satisfy your sweet tooth, three small grocery stores, and several affordable B&Bs. The Free Spirits is a group of expats that get together regularly and on a recent night at Smiley’s, gathered for a fun Ugly Dress contest.
With a few more hotels, restaurants, developments, and shops, growth is becoming more visible and the close-knit expat community is expanding. In Pedasi, you can be as busy or as relaxed as you want to be.