Idyllic Small-Town Living With Great-Value Real Estate in Pedasí, Panama

Before my recent visit, I’d heard a lot about the “small-town” feel of Pedasí, Panama. You hear that about a lot of places…and I’ve gotten skeptical over the years. But after a couple of days in this little fishing village on the Azuero Peninsula, I discovered it was true.

As I sat one morning on my hotel’s balcony, I overheard my host greet every passerby by name with a hearty “Buenos Dias.” Usually, there was a discussion of a family member’s illness or upcoming event. And when I ventured out myself, a stranger in town, everyone I passed had a smile and a hello for me, too.

It’s one of those places where everybody knows everybody. After an evening at Smiley’s, a local restaurant and expat hangout, I saw the same people again the next morning getting coffee at the local café and at the grocery store down the street. We had a friendly chat, and I got more than one invitation to come over for a party later that week.

I had a feeling that if I moved there, it’d be easy enough to make friends.

And you’d have people you could count on—refreshing when in the U.S. you barely know your neighbors. Probably the best example was on my last day, when the battery on the rental car died just as I was headed to Panama City. It was Sunday morning, early, so the roadside assistance hotline wasn’t exactly quick to respond. A local fisherman driving by offered to jump me. But his car wasn’t powerful enough to do the job…or, he admitted sheepishly, he had low quality jumper cables.

That’s when I called Steve, who I’d just met having breakfast. He drives a big Land Cruiser with a towing cable on the front. I figured he’d have better jumper cables. And when I called him, he interrupted his day at the beach to jump the car and send me on my way. He even texted later to make sure I made it.

People help each other; that’s life in Pedasí in a nutshell.

That small-town feel and friendly vibe is just one of the things that makes Pedasí special and a favorite destination of in-the-know expats. I say in-the-know because it’s not exactly making headlines. And at a four-and-a-half-hour drive from Panama City, it’s well off the beaten path.

As one expat I met at Smiley’s put it: “You have to want to be here.”

This is cowboy country, a beach town, a surfer haven, fisherman’s paradise, and center for local culture and folklore…all rolled into one. But the small number of expats have made it home and enjoy quality—and affordable—healthcare, warm weather year-round, lower cost of living, and good-value real estate.

Set on nearly an acre is a hilltop one-bedroom home on the road between Pedasí and Playa Venao with an emphasis on living outdoors courtesy of an open-air kitchen and living room—better to take in the 360-degree view of surrounding forest and farmland and the Pacific. It’s available for $199,000.

In a small community five minutes’ outside Pedasí’s town center is a two-bedroom home with plenty of tropical hardwood finishes—the handmade furniture comes with the house, as do the appliances. You’re also just five minutes from Playa Arenal, one of the best beaches in the area. The list price is $220,000.

In town, close to shopping and plenty of restaurants, is a two-bedroom home, set on almost half an acre, for $155,000. The yard is well-landscaped—the property used to be a plant nursery.

One of the great things about Pedasí is that no home is more than a 10-minute drive from the beach. And you can buy a property here, or even enjoy an ocean view, at a fraction of what it would cost in North America.

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