Great Panama City Neighborhoods

You may think Panama City is just another megalopolis of steel and concrete. But don’t be so quick to judge. Yes, it’s bustling. And yes, it’s booming.

Yet the Metropolitan Natural Park provides vast green space right in the city proper. Part of a Biological Corridor along the Panama Canal, the Metropolitano is one of Central America’s last remaining swaths of pacific dry forest. Its home to rare creatures like the titi monkey and rainbow-billed Toucan (just like the one in the Fruit Loops commercials).

A big chunk of the city’s population lives on the waters of a deep blue bay. In one of my favorite neighborhoods, you can watch yachts and cruise ships as you stroll along a palm-studded walk bordering the Canal.

No question: Panama City has its share of high rises. Yet you shouldn’t feel limited to a newly built condo when you consider living here. That’s just one option. Take a street-level survey, and you’ll find distinct neighborhoods, each with its own character and charm.

In addition to the high rises, there are elegant and historic colonials…exclusive gated communities…ocean-view residences…and “local” neighborhoods offering property bargains you won’t believe. In the area once known as the “Canal Zone,” some of the streets evoke the best of small town USA, with neat homes and lawns and even the occasional picket fence.

I recently wrote about my favorite Panama City neighborhoods for International Living magazine. These are the neighborhoods worth your attention first if you’re considering a move here. Places like San Francisco.

Close to Tocumen International Airport, on the eastern end of the city, is the San Francisco neighborhood. Several major thoroughfares cut through here, and on them you’ll find everything from cafés and supermarkets to banks and car dealerships. This is quintessential bustling Panama.

Nip into one of the side streets, though, and you’ll find some of the city’s old mansiones, or grand homes. They’re tucked in quietly among the modern apartment buildings, spas, restaurants and an occasional small school. It used to be an area that only Panama’s “wealthy classes” could afford. But now, middle-class Panamanians and lots of expats fill the residences.

These transplants have discovered what the locals knew all along: San Francisco is a convenient area, filled with modern conveniences and affordable homes.

A French expat I know recently bought a two-bedroom, two-bath apartment here with a large terrace for just under $150,000. The building has a doorman, visitor parking, and a lovely social area, gym and pool. It’s close to one of the city’s best supermarkets, an upscale mall, and restaurants like Jimmy’s, the city’s most popular Greek café.

Perhaps the biggest draw, though, is Parque Omar (one of the city’s largest parks), which borders one edge of San Francisco. The lush green expanse boasts a five-mile track, sports and events areas, and even a library. On the other side of the park, bargain hunters can find central city apartments and homes in the under-$100,000 range (some for as little as $70,000).

Figuring out which neighborhood is right for you is important for anyone who’s thinking of moving to Panama. This is something we’ll talk more about at the Live and Invest in Panama Seminar next month. If you haven’t booked your place yet, you can find out more here.

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