One of the bonuses of living in Panama is that you’re never very far from the coast. Surprisingly, most of the Caribbean and Pacific coastlines are undeveloped or even inaccessible. But in Chiriquí Province, in western Panama, there are a few prime spots to hit the beach and enjoy the water.
Las Lajas is a favorite with locals and expats alike. It’s about an hour-and-a-half east of the city of David. After passing through the small town, you’ll drive past cattle pastures and continue to the end of the road. Las Lajas Beach Resort is the place to stay—a small, family-owned B&B right on the beach. Several shaded tables dot the grassy yard which leads down to the sandy shoreline.
During the week it’s the perfect quiet get-away, while on weekends and holidays it gets busier. Beyond the resort there are thatched-roof eateries serving fried fish and cold beer along the shoreline that stretches undisturbed for miles.
Rentals in the beach communities are sometimes available and one of the best ways to find them is to search rental sites online. Currently there are listings for as low as $40 a night for a room in a private home in Las Lajas. For a larger group, there’s a three-bedroom home with a swimming pool for $150 a night.
Closer to David, you can take the winding road off the Pan-American Highway to Boca Chica. Until recently this was nothing more than an out-of-the-way fishing village with a protected boat anchorage. Now a number of resorts, fishing lodges, and B&Bs have put Boca Chica on the map as a vacation destination, especially for water-sports enthusiasts.
Here you can reserve a fishing charter for big-game fish including marlin and sailfish. Water taxis and tour guides will take you to uninhabited islands…with perfect white sand, clear turquoise water, and palm trees waving across a bright blue sky. Grab a hammock and chill.
A few offshore reefs are great for snorkeling and scuba diving in the area protected as part of the Gulf of Chiriquí National Marine Park. It’s also a good spot for kayaking, with inlets and mangrove estuaries to explore.
For those who live in the highland towns of Chiriquí, including Boquete and Volcan, the closest beach town is Playa La Barqueta. It’s just southwest of David and easy to get to along a road lined with rice fields and overhung by mango trees.
The focal point of La Barqueta is Las Olas Resort, owned by the same family for generations. A condo complex adjoins the resort and two residential developments flank these properties. A new condo unit is under construction, bringing more residential options to this area.
There are more choices for rentals in La Barqueta because it is more developed with a larger number of residences. Currently, there’s a three-bedroom condo right on the beach for $142 a night. Once you get your feet on the ground you may be able to find a long-term rental through local contacts.
If your dream is to build your own beachfront home there are listings for lots in La Barqueta starting at $45,000. If you prefer to move in right away, you’ll find three-bedroom condos listed for around $200,000.
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