To me, there’s something almost magical about the beach. From the peaceful sounds of the surf breaking against the shore to the squawking of the gulls high above, it conjures up visions of simpler times when the only worry in the world was whether or not the water would wash away our sand castle.
For those of us on a budget, living anywhere near a beach is just not possible in most parts of the U.S. But in the tiny country of Panama—sandwiched in between two oceans—a beach lifestyle is still possible for less.
Whether you want to drift off to sleep listening to the surf or make an easy 10-minute drive to the beach, Panama has it all. Within an hour’s drive from Panama City, the Pacific coast beaches are home to many an expat, already living the dream.
Our favorite beach is just a 15-minute drive from our home in Chame, in the little village of Gorgona. Typically, my husband Clyde and I have the whole beach to ourselves with the exception of a few stray dogs sleeping under the palm trees. In Gorgona—a Panamanian style town, which has a few small stores and restaurants and easy access to the main highway—it’s still possible to pick up beachfront condos for $100,000 to $200,000. Homes a bit further away from the beach regularly go for under $100,000.
Nearby Coronado offers the security of a gated community and a large expat community with plenty of beach access—as well as golf courses, restaurants, and even an equestrian club. If you’re willing to pay a bit more for security, Coronado might be exactly what you’re looking for. Whether you want an oceanfront condo or a house to rent or buy, this development has plenty of choices. Prices to buy here range from $200,000 and up and the best bargains are found by driving around the neighborhood in search of for-sale-by-owner deals.
For those of us who don’t need to see the ocean to know it’s there, life in one of the many small beach towns is much more affordable. Panamanian-style houses can still be found for under $100,000. Clyde and I bought a 2,000-square-foot house on an acre of land in Chame for just $90,000. Since we bought our house directly from the owner, we were able to negotiate a better deal, and not pay realtor fees. Whenever we want, we can take a short 15-minute drive by car and can sink our toes into the sand at one of the many nearby beaches.
And since Panama has no hurricanes there’s no high-priced hurricane, wind, or flood insurance needed either. We live rather nicely on about $2,000 per month in a large house with easy access to the beach. But then everything costs less in Panama. Imagine paying just $30 per month for electricity, or just $5 each for water and trash pickup? And we can take our dog to the vet and the office visit is just $7.
Panama truly is the land of endless summers where every day can be a day at the beach with money left over in your wallet.
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