When dreaming of retiring in a tropical paradise like Panama City, your first thought might be about the year-round warm weather, stunning beaches, and affordable living cost. But the Panamanian capital isn’t only a place where you can build a healthy, laid- back life for yourself —it’s also a cosmopolitan center where modern skyscrapers and first-class restaurants, art galleries, theaters, casinos, and a bustling nightlife converge. These two worlds -the tropical bliss and urban life- coexist perfectly here. That is Panama City’s true allure —and the reason why it has quickly become a favorite destination for expats.
But because the city oﬀers such varied experiences, it’s essential that you choose your neighborhood carefully, and according to the life you want to lead there. Panama enjoys economic and political stability unparalleled in the region (for more information about moving to Panama, we recommend you read our article on 3 things you need to know before you apply for residency in Panama), a center for international banking and trade, and a quickly growing tech hub. Consequently, the capital, in particular, is experiencing a steady flow of investment, growth, and urban development, which means there are more than a few upscale neighborhoods to take your pick from.
A sense of community in Panama's Casco Viejo
Tradition and innovation align perfectly in this atmospheric neighborhood of narrow bricked streets. Founded in 1673, the Old City has been the heart of Panama’s capital for centuries. And much more so since the nineties, when UNESCO declared the Casco a World Heritage Site and investments started pouring in, breathing new life into the area while conserving the Spanish and French colonial architecture that gives this old city so much character.
One of the things that make life here so attractive is that everything here is within walking distance and that the streets here were made for walking. In Casco Viejo, you’ll easily find art galleries and artisanal markets, rooftop bars, coworking spaces, boutiques, and cafes —as well as most of the city’s best restaurants. A daily stroll through the neighborhood can also take you to historical settings like the Plaza Bolivar, with the 17th century San Francisco church on the eastern side of the square and the beautifully restored National Theater right across the street. This plaza is the perfect spot to enjoy an outdoor dinner or a mid-afternoon coffee break.
Due to its manageable size and government presence (on account of the Presidential Palace being located here), Casco is a very safe and friendly neighborhood. Most of its residents are familiar with each other, which helps create a true feeling of community. So if your ideal place to live or retire includes beautiful surroundings with historical value, a vibrant cultural and gastronomic scene, and a sense of belonging, then Casco is your best bet.
If you are thinking about moving to Panama, let us give you more information on Santa Familia, an oceanfront development in Casco Viejo.
For the business-oriented
Although also family-friendly and safe, what makes areas like Punta Pacífica and Costa del Este most attractive to newcomers is that they oﬀer easy access to the city’s business district. Costa del Este, in fact, has become one of the capital’s main business centers in recent years. With broad avenues and plenty of skyscrapers, it also has shopping malls, international schools, and plenty of restaurant options.
Punta Pacífica is one of the newest neighborhoods in Panama City, yet like Punta Paitilla, it has traditionally been the place of residence of the Panamanian upper class. Similar to Costa del Este, it has a modern skyline (which includes Trump Tower) and good schools, malls, and a modern hospital. It is also one of the most densely populated areas in the city.
If you’re looking to feel more in touch with nature, your best options might be either Clayton or San Francisco, although, in Panama, you’re never too far away from the ocean and the lush rainforest vegetation. A former US military base, Clayton is the greenest area in the capital, with Ancon Hill just a stone’s throw away. The highest point in Panama City, Ancon Hill oﬀers panoramic views of the Canal, as well as the perfect place for hiking or biking surrounded by tropical greenery.
Although San Francisco oﬀers a more urban landscape, with one of the city’s primary commercial avenues, Calle 50, at its center, this neighborhood’s jewel is the Omar Park. Originally an old golf club, you can think of the Omar as a Panamanian Central Park, as it oﬀers the city a green lung where families and friends can gather and play sports.
In short, Panama City is a multicultural capital where you can design a balanced life for yourself, whether that means enjoying the mix of urban amenities and community warmth of Casco Viejo or opting for the suburban setting of Clayton. Whatever neighborhood you choose in the city, there is always the added benefit of the country’s vast natural wealth: from the spectacular Pearl Islands to the enchanting Darien National Park and the Chiriqui Highlands. Take into account Panama’s simple residency laws, friendly people and great weather, and you’ll understand why so many expats have chosen it as their new home.
For more information on life in Panama, we suggest our blog post: Living in Panama: The Ultimate Guide for 2021.
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