There are few places on earth where one can live and work in a cosmopolitan city during the week and spend your weekends by one of two great oceans. Panama is one of those few places. With approximately 50 miles by land separating the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, the Isthmus of Panama is a recreational paradise. Within a reasonable driving distance from Panama City, you can enjoy oceans, mountains, lakes, islands, golf, boating, fishing, horseback riding, hiking, birding and more. For those of us who live in the city, getting away on the weekends is helpful to “recharge the batteries” and connect with nature. The reverse is also popular with people who choose to live outside of the city in a mountain, beach, or lake area and visit the capital on the weekends for some nightlife, shopping, culture, and city fun.
Panama has been my permanent home for over 33 years. In 1985 I was offered a teaching job with the U.S. Department of Defense Schools on the Atlantic side of Panama. It was literally love at first sight and I have made Panama my home. As a native New Orleanian, Panama very much reminded me of the city I left behind. Friendly people, a laidback lifestyle, fun culture, warm weather, and outdoor recreation are all part of a full life here.
Panama City is a thriving, bustling, commercial metropolis with all of the entertainment and social offerings of any great city in the world. My husband and I can fill our evenings with free cultural events such as art exhibits, museum openings, concerts, ballet, and more. This cuts our entertainment budget to a few hundred dollars monthly for dining out (with the jubilado discount) and local weekend travel. Our favorite city restaurants are where we eat well for under $30 (with wine).
There is nice variety for choosing a place to live within Panama City itself. Options to rent or buy abound in historic areas, modern high rises, suburban homes, gated areas, and more. City rents can range from $700 monthly in a modest neighborhood to well over $2,000 for the luxury properties in the fancy areas. Our city life is quite urban in the older, established Panama City neighborhood of El Cangrejo, with a park, local shops and restaurants, conveniences, and public transit within walking distance. In 2000, I started a charity shop called “Promises” in the San Francisco area of the city, which is also full of restaurants, residences, galleries, and attractions.
Our weekends are mostly spent on the Atlantic coast which fronts the Caribbean, and is less than two hours’ driving time from Panama City. Back in the 1980s, we built a small beach home to stay on weekends, and the area has now become quite popular for boating, fishing, diving, and tourism.
This has been our family routine for over 25 years now as our two children we raised in Panama are now living and working in the States. They grew up in Panama City during the week and on the beach at weekends.
With so much to do in our small little country of Panama, it is not surprising that it has become a popular place for part-time and full-time residents who enjoy the city, country, beach, nature, and tropical experience.