Expat Life In Pedasi, Panama

Like A Spanish Colonial Mayberry–Panama’s Coolest Beach Town

Editor’s Note: Kathleen remains incommunicado in Medellin. Filling in today is Panama Letter Editor Chris Powers.

Chris has just returned from a scouting expedition to one of Panama’s most appealing, most charming, most irresistible, and, as yet, still off-the-beaten-path beach towns…

Situated near the southeastern-most tip of Panama’s Azuero Peninsula, the small town of Pedasi is itself as much a character as are those living in it. You sense it as soon as you arrive. The relaxed, friendly village vibe seems to seep through your skin and settle deep down inside you, filling you with something…something that can’t be explained even by those who call the place home.

I reached Pedasi late on a Thursday evening, and my arrival by bus (from Las Tablas) gave me a hint of what was to come. It’s the first place I’ve visited, not only in Panama but anywhere, where the bus driver delivered each passenger to his or her doorstep. Pedasi is the 11th town down the coast from Las Tablas, about a half hour’s drive by bus. In none of the other towns along the way did the driver take the time to leave the main highway to drive to each passenger’s particular destination, but in Pedasi he did. What’s more, he seemed to know the way to each passenger’s home without being instructed.

The night I arrived, all was calm and dark, peaceful and quiet. The next morning, when I set out on foot, I was met by residents who, like me, had arisen with the sun and who waved and smiled as I passed. I was greeted, as well, by the town itself, colorful, bright, and clean. The architecture is consistent, and everywhere the care and imagination that has gone into building this little town is evident. The overall look might be described as Spanish colonial hip.

The people of Pedasi, both the locals and the expats who are migrating here from all over the world, take “visual pollution,” as they refer to it, seriously. They want to keep their town looking the way it looks now, at the same time classic and colonial and cute and fun. One Canadian company purchased a plot of land just outside the town center and built the first townhouse of their development, expecting to show it off and entice would-be customers visiting town. It was a modern structure, mostly of glass. It stood out like a sore thumb…and nobody was interested. It wasn’t Pedasi.

The original developers eventually bailed. Then, recently, a local purchased the place and fixed it. Now it’s another charming addition to the overall picture that is Pedasi.

As one expat who relocated to Pedasi about a year ago puts it, “This place is Mayberry meets Tuscany.”

The streets are clean, but it’s not like you see people walking around with brooms and dustpans. Everyone living here respects the community and tidies up after himself. This is rare in this part of the world and just one example of just how rare Pedasi is overall.

Sounds great, right? Maybe too great to be true. How could any place be so warm, fuzzy, and picturesque? What would living here really be like?

That was my objective for this recent visit–to find out what it’d be like to be a resident of Pedasi, not a tourist passing through.

Again and again during my time here, residents told me, in different ways:

“Just wait. You’ll see. There’s something about this place that you can’t shake. When you leave here, you’ll be called back. Pedasi is special. You’ll see…”

My conclusion? They’re right. Pedasi is special and living here would be pretty darn great.

I share my complete report, including monthly budgets, rental options, and details on medical care (a new hospital is being built) in the August issue of the Panama Letter, in production now.

Chris Powers

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