Panama City: First-World, Cultured and Affordable

Eight years ago, I decided I wanted to live in Panama full-time. And though I’ve sometimes toyed with the idea of living in the cool mountains of Chiriqui or even on one of the Pacific Coast beaches, I can’t seem to tear myself away from Panama City.

From the steely, spiky skyline of the city…to the beautiful, perfectly preserved, colonial quarter of Casco Viejo, there’s so much to love about Panama City.

It’s a city that rivals any in the U.S. or Europe for culture, atmosphere and amenities.

The infrastructure is excellent in many parts of the country, but, as the only First-World city in the region, Panama City takes the cake.

There are a host of high-speed Internet and cell coverage providers offering increasingly competitive plans. (I pay about $25 a month for excellent Wi-Fi.)

Central America’s first ever metro line is under construction here. When line one is ready—it’s about 80% complete—I’ll be able to take it from right outside my house to places like the Via Argentina restaurant district and the massive Albrook Mall. No more worrying about parking.

World-class health care—both private and public—is right on my doorstep, too. Some of the top hospitals in the country—including the John Hopkins affiliated Hospital Punta Pacifica—can be found in Panama City.

And the city’s rapid development means there’s a hip, chic, cultured buzz to the place…one that’s incredibly infectious.

With it comes an art scene that’s beginning to explode. There are more plays, dances, art exhibits, and festivals than ever. From the Jazz Festival’s scholarship programs to the new International Film Festival, each new event is inspiring and encouraging a new generation of Panamanians.

Not only is it exciting to watch…it also means I’m spoiled for choice. Every week there are more activities than I can keep track of, much less go to.

Last weekend I splurged and attended a swish masked ball at the Panama Marriot—tickets were $85, making it an expensive activity for Panama City.

This weekend I don’t plan to spend much, if anything. I may attend the English language Point Break Live Panama show that’s currently running at the Ancon Theater Guild ($15). There are a couple of new art exhibits opening—I want to see Cementerio de Diablos, by Panamanian artist Sofia Verzbolovskis. Opening nights are usually free (and often include cocktails).

And there’s plenty more to do besides checking out the art scene: from mainstream English-language movies and bowling to outdoor activities like tennis or golf. You name it, we have it.

And when I do want to escape the city? I can easily hop on a plane locally to the Caribbean isles of Bocas del Toro… Or head to quiet mountain towns…clean, sandy beaches…and stunning, wildlife-filled National Parks…just a one- to two-hour drive away.

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