Best Neighborhoods to Live in Panama City, Panama

Panama City is the urban hub of Panama, a small country located at the Panama Canal’s mouth. It is full of rich history dating back to just before the California Gold Rush blended with modern urban delights. With miles of oceanfront coastline, Panama attracts plenty of tourists and transplants.

The best neighborhoods to live in Panama City, Panama are well maintained and offer easy access to all that the city offers. Panama is culturally diverse and just shy of 1.3 million residents, so there will be areas of affluence and areas of poverty as with any city.

We have rounded up some of the more desirable areas of Panama City for prospective transplants looking for a place to settle in.

About Panama City, Panama

If you are new to the city, take some time to get familiar with what Panama City, Panama has to offer residents. Besides tropical, palm-lined sandy beaches and the sun’s endless rays, Panama City has some deep cultural attractions that may be of interest.

Panama Canal

The city’s namesake is also one of its largest attractions. The Panama Canal has been fully operational since 1914. It is a fifty-mile waterway that transports ships by raising them more than 85 feet from sea level through a series of graduated power locks. The city offers regular tours on foot, bike, and boat of the waterway, which is considered a world wonder.

Climate

Panama City, located in Latin America, has a tropical climate. The average daily temperature falls between 75 – 84 degrees Fahrenheit. While the city tends to have more humidity, the nearby mountains in Panama offer a cooler, less humid escape.

How to Move to Panama City, Panama

An image of Panama City sky scrapers and traffic.

Expats looking to relocate to Panama City, Panama, will need to apply for a visa. This government-issued document provides the legal right to live in Panama while you work towards obtaining citizenship. There are several programs available that may or may not require employment. For retirees, you only need to prove that you will be able to support yourself financially.

Casco Viejo, Panama City, Panama

The most historic, heavily touristed, and lively neighborhood is one of the best neighborhoods to live in Panama City. It is perfect for transplants who want to be where the action is. Casco Viejo is Panama City’s greatest social attraction. It features the city’s oldest architecture and authentic local flavor. 

This neighborhood is staying true to its roots while also getting a timely facelift, but it is very expensive, as you can imagine. You can expect to pay $365,000 and up for a 2 bedroom 2 bath condo (about 1200 sq. ft. ) in the old town, making it more expensive than other neighborhoods in the city.

Spanish is the official language in Panama City; the locals are fully bilingual, learning English during schooling. The Casco Viejo area is rich with the Spanish influence from Panama’s origins. While American influences are in more modern neighborhoods, this area is the best for the authentic look and feel of Panama’s life.

Pros:

  • Large selection of dining and entertainment
  • Old world charm; great for walking
  • Well-cared-for, fresh infusion of modern aesthetics blended with old architecture

Cons:

  • Very expensive
  • Very populated and busy; not for those who like things quieter
  • Traffic is always heavily congested

Avenida Balboa, Panama City, Panama

Avenida Balboa is a modern, spaciously designed strip in Latin America. It may be the most expensive road ever built at 189 million dollars. The neighborhood with the perfect blend of breathtaking ocean views and access to the charming historic district of Casco Viejo receives top billing for desirable neighborhoods in Panama. 

Avenida Balboa has many high-rise condos that look right out onto the canal. The neighborhood is perfectly landscaped with palm tree-lined streets to maintain the tropical oasis feel. There is a treasure trove of fine dining and nightlife a stone’s throw away in Casco Viejo. A 2/2 luxury condo on Avenida Balboa runs about $300,000. 

Pros:

  • Easy access to lively nightlife 
  • Gorgeous views
  • The up-and-coming neighborhood is competitively priced
  • Spacious and modern strip

Cons:

  • Heavy traffic plagues the area during rush hour
  • Since 2009, Balboa has been remodeled to appeal to tourists.
  • The influx of tourist real estate has inflated home prices.

The Beaches, Panama City, Panama

There are a series of small beach towns located just outside of Panama City that are popular weekend getaways for the locals who work in the city. Chame, Coronado, and Nueva Gorgona are the most popular for transplants and retirees. 

The popularity of the beach towns provides an ample selection of eateries and shops and a healthy real estate market. Access to the beaches is the biggest draw to this area. Most beaches in the area are clean, quiet, and lined with fine, yellow sand. As you get closer to Coronado, there is a line of dormant volcanoes that offer gorgeous views in the background to black; volcanic ash lined beaches.

The beaches are the perfect blend of quiet, small towns living with easy access to the city. Perhaps that is why they are so popular with retirees and those looking to escape the city on the weekends. Typical two-bedroom and two-bathroom condos in the beaches rent for $1200 – $2000 per month depending on finishes and amenities.

Pros:

  • Beach access
  • Quiet lifestyle
  • Abundance of housing options

Cons:

  • Less access to urban establishments found in the city
  • As the area becomes more popular, high rises rob the scenic views 
  • Traffic makes commuting awful

Punta Pacifica, Panama City, Panama

If money is not a limiting factor, many Panama transplants are flocking to the newest neighborhood, Punta Pacifica. This area is second to none in readily available luxury real estate. There are plenty of oceanfront homes to choose from that offer stunning views and convenient access.

Punta Pacifica is easily accessible to the highway, which makes travel around the city convenient. It also has a 24-hour supermarket and business district. Punta Pacifica is good for those who want to maintain their lifestyle, but it doesn’t offer many cultures, history, or social opportunities. 

Punta Pacifica is a luxury housing neighborhood with homes starting in the $500k territory and ranging up to the million-dollar mark. A typical 2/2 condo $3000 – $5000 per month.

Pros:

  • Modern, curated neighborhood with low crime
  • Abundance of luxury real estate
  • Ocean views
  • Marina access to Panama sailing trips

Cons:

  • High-end neighborhood means expensive
  • Not as convenient to the cities nightlife
  • The more commercial and less authentic atmosphere

San Francisco, Panama City, Panama

Another up-and-coming neighborhood that is popular with all types of Panama City transplants is San Francisco. Instead of the luxury-end exclusives like Punta Pacifica, San Francisco offers a wide variety of housing options. The diversity in the San Francisco neighborhood draws plenty of options for local eats and socializing.

The San Francisco neighborhood has all of the fixin’s to keep a transplant from almost anywhere happy. Parque Omar is a large public park that offers plenty of green space to the neighborhood. It may not be as big as New York’s Central Park, but it offers the same escape from the city without leaving.

Cinta Costera is a popular walkway that goes through the neighborhood’s edge, providing a scenic walkway for walkers, joggers, and bikers. In keeping up with urban trends, this neighborhood is full of food trucks offering tasty local flavors.

The San Francisco neighborhood offers the most affordable housing with typical two-bedroom apartments starting at $850 per month. The range in San Francisco is a bit wider with properties ranging from a modest $800 per month to upwards of $2000 per month.

Pros:

  • Large range of options to rent or buy housing for almost any budget
  • Plenty of options to eat, drink and socialize
  • Large neighborhood park
  • Access to shopping malls 

Cons:

  • The neighborhood is diverse, some have money, and some have less.
  • It is a little more active than some of the quieter retiree communities.
  • More urban areas lack beaches and ocean views.

Pros and Cons of Living in Panama City, Panama

If you wonder how much your life will change with a relocation to Panama City, the answer is not that much. Rest assured that you will not have to give up access to quality medical care, shopping, or entertainment. 

Panama City is home to the best medical services in Latin America. One of the hospitals is a Johns Hopkins affiliate, and many are managed by medical tourism companies who specialize in providing American-quality medical services at more affordable prices.

Officially, Panama’s currency is the Balboa. However, it is equal to the American dollar (i.e., 1 Balboa equals 1 US Dollar). They have stopped printing their currency and now rely heavily on the US Dollar.

There are plenty of options for shopping in Panama, including three large malls. However, you will not find as wide a selection of groceries and goods. The region is home to plenty of fresh foods, so don’t expect to go hungry, but specialty foods from outside of the region will be hard to come by.

Panama City has only recently become a mecca for tourism and retirees. In many areas, the region is still playing catch up to this dramatic change, and they may not meet your hospitality expectations. The rapid growth in the area has exceeded the city’s infrastructure, which puts a strain on the cities water and sewer resources.

The culture and lifestyle in Latin America are very different from most US cities. The locals live carefree lifestyles without the push to slave away, making money. The calm, relaxed atmosphere is what draws many retirees to the area.

What to Consider Before Moving to Panama City, Panama

Panama City and the surrounding areas have become increasingly popular among American transplants and retirees. There is an impressive amount of biodiversity in one region, from rain forests to mountains and beaches, the travel is never very far to change scenery.

Is it Expensive to Live in Panama?

Panama City is the most expensive place to live in Panama, but it is pretty affordable compared to the rest of the world. They use the American dollar as currency, so the plus side is that there are no conversions to figure out.

Monthly rent for a typical two bed, two bath dwelling ranging from $937 per month is typical to $1296 per month in more affluent areas. The biggest challenge is that the wide selection of goods found in the United States’ mainlands is not available. You can still buy eggs, milk, bread, and other staples. However, don’t expect as wide of a variety.

Is Panama a Good Place to Retire?

Panama City is an excellent choice for retirees looking for a better climate and a nicer view. The transition is easy, and the cost of living is affordable. There is plenty to choose from, including affluent, oceanfront properties, small beach town dwellings, and even urban condos for those who are not ready to leave behind the city life.

Where do Most Expats Live in Panama City?

There are several popular areas for Expats living in Panama City. The area likely depends on your lifestyle and finances. For city dwellers with deep pockets who are looking to be well-connected to the city’s historical roots while having easy access to entertainment, there is Casco Viejo.

There is a newer Pacifica Punta neighborhood for retirees who want a luxury home with an incredible ocean view. And for those looking on a more modest budget, the San Francisco neighborhood has a little something to offer everyone.

Senior Living Communities for Expats in Panama City

With the popularity of Panama City among expat retirees, there are several options for senior living communities. Whether you are looking to settle into an assisted living facility or just want to connect with other seniors in a planned community with plenty of activities, Panama City has plenty of options to choose from.

The Takeaway on the Best Neighborhoods in Panama City, Panama

There are many options to choose from in Panama City, from the bustling city life to upscale to beachfront luxury. Younger transplants looking for an up-and-coming social scene will settle happily in the San Francisco neighborhood. Middle-aged transplants like empty nesters who still have an active social life and enjoy the rich history of the region will enjoy Casco Viejo.

Luxury retirees looking for a change of pace without giving up their extravagant lifestyle will be happy to find upscale homes in Punta Pacifica. And retirees looking to unwind at a slower pace outside of the city life will fit in comfortably on the beaches.

Panama City makes a great retirement and transplant destination because it is full of Latin American culture, diverse geography, and beautiful scenery, all at an affordable price. While there are more expensive areas in Panama City, the overall cost of living is comparatively lower than most areas in the United States.

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