Swapping Arizona for a “Hallmark Town” in Panama

Karen and Benny Graves moved to Panama from Arizona. Benny’s main criterion for a destination outside the U.S. was to live by the beach as he was keen to get back to his childhood love of surf fishing. They both wanted to get away from scorching 120 degree days.

They wanted to move out of the United States for a change and were considering Honduras and Bolivia. Then they attended an “empty nest party” where a fellow guest was talking about Panama. Karen Googled Panama, joined International Living, bought some books, read an article about Pedasí, and decided to visit both there and nearby Venao.

The couple took a trip to check out Pedasí and Playa Venao.
The couple took a trip to check out Pedasí and Playa Venao.

Karen’s an artist and through online research she found a group in Pedasí who were setting up a Cultural Center and joined their WhatsApp group. Even before Karen and Benny visited Pedasí, they were invited to join the committee. They both knew wherever they moved they wanted to be involved with the local community.

Unknowingly, Karen and Benny arrived in Pedasí during carnival. They thought carnival only happened in Brazil, they had no idea that the Los Santos province is the heart of carnival festivities in Panama.

The carnival procession, performances, music, and fireworks go on till the wee hours of the morning and the town square is transformed with revelers and water trucks spraying you until you are soaking wet. What a welcome!

Their bed and breakfast was in the center of the village, right on the parade route, so they had to trek through the crowds to get there. The B&B hostess looked at them oddly when they asked for blankets for the beds. With temperatures averaging 75 to 86 F, you don’t need blankets in Pedasí.

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After a short nap to recover from their flight from Arizona and then the five-hour bus ride to Pedasí, they went out onto the street at midnight. The carnival queens were still in the parade procession, excellent $3 street meals were being served, and much to their surprise all the beer cans and trash they had seen upon their arrival in the afternoon had been fully cleaned up.

Karen and Benny were scheduled for a sight-seeing trip to the nearby offshore national park, Isla Iguana, but when the trip was cancelled, they decided to visit with a local realtor instead. The available houses and building lots impressed them and got them seriously thinking about settling here.

As is standard in Pedasí, newcomers are always welcome and often invited to parties. Karen and Benny were invited to the birthday celebration of the Cultural Center’s Director, where they had a great time and connected with fellow artists.

For such a small place, Pedasí is home to a wealth of artistic and musical talent. Local artists of dance, sculpture, jewelry, watercolor, acrylic, and oil often showcase their art at vibrant galas.

Karen and Benny also visited Playa Venao but favored Pedasí because they both found its small town feel uplifting.

Karen and Benny love Pedasí’s small town feel and artistic vibe
Karen and Benny love Pedasí’s small town feel and artistic vibe

Both Benny and Karen always dreamed about living in a “Hallmark town” where they knew all the storeowners and most of the people on the street and Pedasí has fulfilled their dream.

Benny says they bought a house here because he “feels happy, good, and safe in Pedasí. You can come here and do anything you want, it’s socially safe”. Karen agrees. Her sentiment is, “you can be as involved or secluded as you want”.

Benny loves the thunder and lighting, the rain during the night, and rainy season in general. The couple had expected rainy season to mean total days of washout but were surprised that it is just cooler, doesn’t rain every day, and has a little cloud cover that makes for more comfortable walks on the beach.

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