Why I’m Leaving Panama City

I got up early for my bike ride along the bay. The sky changed from midnight oil to pewter to cornflower blue, the water sparkling underneath the rising sun. An hour later it was 81 F and I was thirsty. I couldn’t resist the scent of oranges being fed into a hand-press, so I spent a couple bucks on a big glass of ice-cold juice.

I sat on a bench, surrounded by flowering shrubs and trees, birds and bugs, and people of all ages, many with pets in tow. Others had sports gear and equipment. A group of toned 20-somethings flexed and took turns at the pull-up bars.

Soon, there they were: A motley crew, boogeying it up on roller skates. Old school. Seeing them always made me smile. What a great way to start the day.

It only took me 15 minutes to drive home, but I found myself wishing I lived closer. In an apartment overlooking the warm, tropical Pacific. Later that day, on a whim, I searched for property online. It was August of 2021, and I had never seen so many nice apartments in my target price range.

Getting a bit greedy, perhaps, I extended my search from Panama City to the beaches nearby. An attractive apartment listed for just under $160,000 caught my eye. I didn’t know what the building was like, or whether there was a view. (A well-written listing it was not.) But—another whim—I decided to make an appointment to see it.

When I walked into the unit, the floors were damaged and there was a pile of broken furniture in the main living area. (A well-planned viewing it was not.)

But the layout was great. There was one large bedroom and an ensuite bathroom with separate shower and tub—a rarity in Panama. The open kitchen had a surprising amount of counter and storage space. There was a spacious half-bathroom, a small laundry area… all I saw was potential.

And then the realtor led me onto the balcony to this view…

“I want it. This is my apartment,” I said.

I hope the seller isn’t reading this now. I would have taken the apartment as-is at that price for that view. But I’ve been writing for International Living for 16 years, and I’ve learned a thing or two. So I said I would buy—if they repaired the floors, and the sales rep agreed.

I was thrilled. A well-designed, ocean-view apartment for less than $160,000? What more did I need? Absolutely nothing.

But there was so much more.

The building is incredibly well thought-out, with several pools (one of them massive) and common areas. There’s a game room, a sauna, a gym, a party room, a playground, and plenty of spaces to sit and enjoy the bracing seaside air.

The building is a short drive from the beach, as well as several shops and restaurants. Some people forgo cars and walk, bike, or putter about in golf carts instead. The building also sits on a golf course—and though I don’t play, I love looking out at the vast, green, quiet expanse.

So yes, after 17 years of loving life in modern, cosmopolitan Panama City… I’m leaving for the coastal city of Coronado.

If I miss the nightlife, I can hop in my car and be back in Panama City in an hour. But I’ll be spending my days enjoying amazing ocean views.

Best part is, I won’t have to drive to get to them. Not anymore. I’ll just roll out of bed, pour myself a cup of joe, and step onto the balcony.

Hello sun. Hello sea. What a great way to start the day.

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