Roll Over Led Zeppelin: Buying The Stairway To Heaven
In May’s issue of GPA, I wrote about a pre-launch project in Costa del Este coming from Evie Brooks at Access Panama on behalf of Empresas Bern (José Bern is one of the biggest of the big in Panamanian real estate development and has almost single-handedly built entire neighborhoods).
The project is a mixed-use building across the street from Town Center Mall in Costa del Este, Panama City, and due to be finished in 2021. At its base levels, it boasts a plaza, a hub for retail, restaurants, convenience stores, and office suites. Going up to floor five, you have a residents’ communal area, comprising an infinity pool, a meet-and-greet lounge and terrace, an outdoor movie theater, a games center, a jogging track, barbecue areas, and finally, a multipurpose salon.
Moving up the tower, you have a lounge with all the facilities fit for a contemporary executive. This building is for all ages: the young digital nomad looking for shared working space, the established CEO looking for swank executive private office suites, and the retiree with a lust for life.
Floors 9 to 40 offer fully furnished condo-suites ranging in size, and on level 41, the best views in town from the pool and bar—the Pacific Ocean and dazzling city lights in the distance. Finally, at the top of the stairway to heaven is floor 42—an oasis of tranquility offering an athletics club, wellness center, yoga studio, and tai chi garden.
This is the least expensive project in a very expensive and exclusive neighborhood. My GPA Members got first dibs on the pre-launch prices, but you too can claim your piece of the pie.
Wings, Wheels, And Waves—Getting In And Out Of Costa Del Este
Now I have told you how good Costa del Este is, and you definitely want to go… But how do you get there?
Of course, Uber will conquer—Costa del Este being no exception. But what are the non-Uber ways to get to Costa del Este?
Jet-Setting The Skies
Let’s start 007-style. The closest heliports are on the World Trade Center and Megapolis Torre 1. Both are in nearby Punta Pacífica. After you jump down from your helicopter, you can rappel the edge of the building or… just take the elevator! It is then a 10-minute drive to Costa del Este. Incidentally, Megapolis Torre 1 is the 50th tallest heliport in the world.
Helicopters and rappeling too choppy for you? Try flying to Tocumen International Airport (PTY). Although soon to be bigger and better, Tocumen airport has just one terminal at the moment. 2013 saw the beginning of an expansion project and in 2016 they were diligently beavering away. All going to plan, the end of 2018 should see it finished.
Costa del Este is 10 minutes from the airport and airport taxis will zoom you there in a jiffy. Expect to pay no more than US$20 for two people. There is also Metrobus for 25 cents (you will need a pre-paid Metrobus card) but it will drop you off on the side of the highway and leave you to leg it over the scrubland and schlep into the neighborhood on foot.
Copa Airlines and Air Panama are the two national airlines that call PTY home. Interestingly, the Motta brothers of Copa Airlines are also one of the developers behind Costa del Este. U.S. airlines that go to PTY are: United, Delta, American Airlines, and Spirit.
Air travel can also be national, as Tocumen connects to Chiriquí, just on the border with Costa Rica. Unfortunately, just in case you are coming over a little bit Phileas Fogg, Panama hasn’t commercial hot air balloon flights. Darn!
The Land Offensive
Let’s look at driving your own car from downtown Avenida Balboa. There are two routes you can take…
The Toll Road (That Is To Say, The Quick Way)
First, you can follow Avenida Balboa east to Punta Paitilla, going straight at every opportunity, including the massive roundabout just after the Multicentro shopping mall. Follow the signs for the main road, Corredor Sur (this is a toll road, you need a Panapass to take it). You then follow the highway for five minutes, the ocean beautifully stretched out to your right, as the road is built on reclaimed land. The entrance to Costa del Este is just as the water ends, again, on your right.
Panapass is a little like EZ Pass or Sun Pass in the States—a sticker that you put in the car window. If you own a car and need a Panapass, you can get them in the Panapass centers in Albrook Mall or the Atlapa Convention Center (massive blue building). When charged, the sticker automatically raises the toll gate as you approach.
Note that tolls do not accept coins or notes for security reasons. This also helps the traffic to flow more smoothly. Instead, you need Panapass and although most hired cars should come with it, you can double check when renting a vehicle.
ENA (the country’s highway authority) explains Panapass on its website and offers an online recharge service. You can also recharge at the Panapass centers mentioned above, in certain grocery stores and pharmacies, or via your online banking service.
The Non-Toll Road (That Is To Say, The Circuitous Way)
There is a non-toll route from Avenida Balboa to Costa del Este, but it takes quite a while and goes through residential neighborhoods.
To go this way, instead of passing the Multicentro shopping mall as previously explained, you turn left just before it and go up Calle Aquilino de la Guardia. At the top, go right onto Calle 50. Follow this road straight for a long way. Go until the very end; be warned, it will be far!
You will run below a neighborhood called Obarrio and then through a neighborhood called Villa Lucre. When you hit the end of the road, you will be forced to take a right onto a road called Avenida Cincuentenario. This is also an extremely long road and goes through Panama Viejo, so take a gander at the city’s colonial ruins to your right.
After a while you will see signs for Costa del Este. Go right when signed and follow a road called Avenida Centenario. This avenue leads into the neighborhood of Costa del Este, and you can follow it around, eventually circulating the entire neighborhood. At one point it changes to become Avenida Paseo del Mar.
Be warned; do not do this in rush hour! This journey can take absolutely ages.
By Public Transport
If driving isn’t your thing, Costa del Este is easy to access via public transport.
Start by taking the metro. When inside the station, take the train in the direction of San Isidro and get off at San Miguelito, colloquially called La Gran Estación. When you get out of the station, you will be faced with a whirlwind of traffic, market stalls, and people hurriedly running around.
Next you take a diablo rojo (a school bus left behind by the States after their occupation that locals now use as public transport). There are also minivans, called chivas (which, incidentally, translates to “goats”). The bus and minivans leave from in front of a gentlemen’s bar called La Bombonera. On the other side of the road is the supermarket El Machetazo. Both La Bombonera (translated to chocolate box) and El Machetazo are well-known landmarks so ask for directions if you can’t spot them.
The diablo rojos and chivas chug off and eventually hit Calle 13. The roads are narrow and pass through a residential neighborhood called Río Abajo. At the end, the bus will turn onto a main road called Vía España and continues until a massive roundabout where the Chanis neighborhood begins.
Instead of going into Chanis, you will turn right and eventually hit Avenida Centenario, the road mentioned in the driving directions above. The only difference is that the bus or minivan won’t be able follow the Centenario round, circulating the neighborhood and eventually going onto Paseo del Mar. They are not allowed into Costa del Este. The best they can do is run along the top of the neighborhood. However, this isn’t a problem, as the streets are wide and pleasant to walk along.
The whole thing should cost around a dollar.
For the Jack Sparrows among you, the nearest yacht club is in Punta Pacífica. As is the case with the heliports, you will need to dock and then drive 10 minutes.
For the Chuck Norris out there, you could parachute into the ocean directly in front of Costa del Este and then swim. Scaling the wall would be the next hurdle, but if you truly are Chuck-esque, it shouldn’t prove a problem. The only deterrent may be the copious amount of garbage in the water.
There you have it—all the über non-Uber ways to get to Costa del Este… and some just cost you a buck!