With a skyline that wouldn’t look out of place in Miami or Dubai, Panama City is the epitome of a modern metropolis. Impressive towers overlooking the Panama Bay are home to many well-heeled locals, as well as an ever-growing community of expats.
But this city has plenty of diverse neighborhoods to explore, each with its own flavor and appeal. Though those fancy ocean-view condos offer excellent value, you could save 25% or more by living a few streets away from the waterfront.
Take Avenida Federico Boyd to central El Cangrejo and you’ll find a bustling, walkable hub. This area is on Panama City’s brand new metro line and is filled with small hotels, cute eateries, and more. Take a morning stroll to Caffe Pomodoro for a cup of joe, then head to the small park on Via Argentina. You can walk to supermarkets and shops on Via España or hop on the metro to the national bus terminal and vast Albrook Mall.
If you’re looking for a more bohemian community, check out the historic Casco Viejo sector. Known for its nightlife, Casco is a small grid of brick roads lined with boutique hotels, outdoor cafés, centuries-old churches, and much more. It’s a busy nightlife and tourist hub—not the quietest of places. But it is also home to a welcoming, close-knit community. Socially active, artsy types from all over the world have settled here.
For greener—and quieter—pastures, head to the vast Ancon sector. Here, neighborhoods like Clayton are filled with houses, with nary a tower in sight. You’ll see lush rainforest and colorful gardens—it’s mostly residential, with just a few “tucked away” commercial areas. Near the Panama Canal’s Miraflores Locks, Clayton can seem a hundred miles away from the city hubbub. But this is Panama City, too. A short drive will get you to movie theaters, malls, hospitals—all the city conveniences you could possibly need.
For the best bargains, head north to middle-class neighborhoods like Betania. A hodgepodge of commercial and residential areas, Betania is an older community with plenty of good value homes and apartments. On its northern edge you’ll find the new Altaplaza Mall, the attractive Technological University of Panama, a fancy Riba Smith supermarket, and more. And like El Cangrejo, this area is on the metro line.
If you dream of living in a cosmopolitan city on the ocean, Panama City may just be your dream come true. On the surface, it’s a busy city with heavy traffic. But explore each neighborhood and you’ll find little oases that are attracting expats from all over the world. From the green rainforest sector of Ancon to the colonial charm of Casco Viejo, this city holds something for everyone.