Choosing Among Panama City’s Many And Diverse Lifestyle Options

Trying Panama City Neighborhoods On For Size

These past eight years in Panama, we’ve been like Goldilocks, trying out not bowls of porridge but Panama City neighborhoods.

The high-rise tower where we lived first, in Punta Paitilla, was too sterile for our taste. The colonial-style house in Casco Viejo we rented next was full of charm and character, but we found living in Casco frustrating at the time. Today, seven years later, now that the Cinta Costera extension project to and around Casco Viejo is finished, coming and going from this old town is much easier.

Services and amenities on the peninsula Casco occupies are improved, as well. We spent a pleasant Sunday exploring the new and improved Casco a couple of weeks ago and were delighted by the developments. There’s a new high-end boutique grocery store and wine shop by grocery chain El Rey, plus more hotels, shops, cafes, and restaurants, including the posh American Trade Hotel, a great place to indulge in Sunday brunch.

From Casco Viejo, we moved to Marbella. We rented a house with a small front garden, a big back garden and patio, and private, gated parking. The house suited us well. We lived there three years and initially considered making an offer to purchase the property. However, over our three years in residence, we watched as the neighborhood around us evolved from mostly residential to largely commercial. Marbella is today the heart of downtown Panama City’s banking center.

By the time we decided to move from Marbella to Avenida Balboa (where we’ve been living since), we were frustrated by the traffic jams and general chaos of life in the heart of a thriving and fast-growing financial district.

In the end, like Goldilocks, we found a location that, for us, has been just right. Living in our 14th-floor apartment overlooking the Bay of Panama and the Cinta Costera, we enjoy fresh sea breezes and expansive views (from Punta Pacifica in one direction to the entrance to the Panama Canal and Casco Viejo in the other), and we’re buffered from the noise, dust, and congestion of life in much of the rest of this city. After suffering through evening rush hour some days, we find our high-rise bayfront location, when we finally reach it, an oasis of peace and serenity.

With our offices, too, we’ve sampled several very different situations from high-rise towers to the former private residence where we make our Live and Invest Overseas home in El Cangrejo today. This, we’ve decided, will be our permanent location. El Cangrejo suits us.

Before settling in El Cangrejo, we hung our hats in San Francisco for a couple of years.

San Francisco, the focus of my Panama Letter issue this month, is close to the downtown center and distinctly urban, but, asPanama Letter Editor Matt Chilliak puts it, “the metropolitan vibe is low-key and more relaxed than in other sought-after areas in the city center.”

There are skyscrapers here and there in San Francisco but many vintage homes, too, increasingly rare in central Panama City. There are pubs and bars but no nightclubs blaring music until the early hours of the morning.

As Matt concludes, “San Francisco is Panama’s best option for living a quiet, residential, urban lifestyle…”

We’d agree.

Panama Letter subscribers can read Matt’s full report on this appealing Panama City neighborhood in their current issue, in e-mailboxes last week.

Kathleen Peddicord