Safe And Separate—The Sweet And Simple Life In Panama’s Best-Kept Secret
We four adults sat on the big rock dangling our naked feet over the edge so that the cold water of the river flowed over them, mitigating the effects of the bright midday sun overhead. Out in the middle of the river, Jackson and his friend Valerian jumped and paddled, laughed and called to each other.
One secret to appreciating life in Panama City is escaping Panama City as often as possible. Panamanians figured this out long ago. That’s why all those Panamanian residents of this country’s capital who can afford it have houses at the beach or in the mountains where they spend weekends and holidays.
Thus our excursion this weekend. I write this morning from the little mountain town of Santa Fe, one of Panama’s best-kept secrets.
Lief discovered this highlands outpost about six years ago when he was scouting for “the next big thing” in this country. He and a friend spent about a year back then traveling Panama from end to end, coast to coast. Those travels yielded two big discoveries: The western coast of the Azuero Peninsula, where Lief and his partner eventually bought the land that they are today developing into the private Pacific Ocean-front community of Los Islotes.
And Santa Fe. The best of sweet, simple mountain country living. As a friend traveling with us this weekend put it over breakfast this morning, “The doomsday predictions could play out, the world could collapse, and the folks out here in this part of this country would be unaffected. Life here would continue on as it has for centuries…”
Much of life here centers around the river, which is wide and flows quickly at some points. Tourists navigate it in inner tubes. The locals bathe and wash their clothes in it. Children, like Jack and Valerian, delight in it on hot Saturday afternoons.
We’re well into the dry season, and the hillsides aren’t as lush and green as they were last time we visited. Still, bougainvillea, hibiscus, and jasmine are in bloom all around.
When the sun begins to set, temperatures fall, and, thanks to the elevation and the mountain breeze, evenings are pleasant and best spent out-of-doors.
Every time we visit, we’re tempted. We can imagine settling in here easily, removed from the worries and the troubles of the real world, savoring some of the best that Mother Nature has to offer anywhere.
Certainly wouldn’t cost much. You could live a simple but comfortable life in Santa Fe on well less than US$1,000 a month.
When Lief and his partner scouted Santa Fe years ago, they found a couple of pieces of property in and near town, both with long stretches of riverfront, that got their attention in particular and bought them. They had no clear exit strategy in mind at the time but recognized an appeal of the landscape and of the lifestyle in this part of Panama that, given the way world events have evolved since, resonates even more today than it did back then. Today, these little pieces of Santa Fe represent escape, from the heat, the traffic, and the chaos of Panama City, yes, but also, thinking more metaphorically, from whatever might lie ahead.
The simple life. Safe and separate. Lief, Jack, Valerian, a couple of friends, and I drove out from Panama City this weekend to soak it up.