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7 Best Places to Live on the Coast in Panama | Expat Exchange
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Bocas del Toro, Panama


7 Best Places to Live on the Coast in Panama

By Betsy Burlingame

Panama Legal Business (PANLEB)
Panama Legal Business (PANLEB)

Summary: If you're dreaming about living on the coast, here are the 7 best places to live on the coast in Panama.

Bocas del Toro

Bocas del Toro

Bocas del Toro, is a stunning archipelago located on the Caribbean coast, boasting a mix of pristine sandy beaches and rugged coastline. The region has a population of around 16,000 people and is situated approximately 190 miles from Panama City. Public transportation is available in the form of water taxis and buses, making it easy to explore the islands and the mainland. The climate in Bocas del Toro is tropical, with average temperatures ranging from 22°C to 30°C (72°F to 86°F). Recreational activities in Bocas del Toro are abundant, with a focus on water sports and outdoor adventures. Visitors can enjoy snorkeling and scuba diving at popular spots like Coral Cay and Dolphin Bay, surfing at Playa Bluff, or exploring the lush rainforests of Bastimentos Island National Park. Bocas del Toro is a popular tourist destination, attracting visitors from around the world with its natural beauty and laid-back atmosphere. Rental properties in Bocas del Toro vary in price, with a modern 2-bedroom apartment near the water costing around 1,200 USD per month, while a 3-bedroom property can be found for approximately 1,800 USD per month. Grocery shopping in Bocas del Toro is typically done at local markets and smaller stores, such as Super Gourmet and Isla Colon, where residents can find a variety of fresh produce and other essentials. People enjoy living in Bocas del Toro for its relaxed island lifestyle, friendly community, and stunning natural surroundings. The region offers a unique blend of Panamanian and Caribbean cultures, creating a vibrant and welcoming atmosphere for both locals and expats alike.

Insight from Expats in Bocas del Toro:

"Rent first before you buy. Your paradise today may not be what you will think in 6 months. Brings essentials and sell everything else, you can get it cheaper here," said one expat living in Bocas del Toro.

Local Recommendations:

Savor the flavors of Bocas del Toro at the enchanting El Ultimo Refugio, where Caribbean and international cuisine blend seamlessly to create mouthwatering dishes. Dine on fresh seafood and locally sourced ingredients while enjoying the waterfront view. For a more casual atmosphere, head to Bibi's on the Beach, a laid-back eatery offering scrumptious seafood tacos and ceviche, accompanied by stunning ocean vistas. After a day of exploring, unwind at the luxurious Azul Paradise, an eco-friendly resort boasting overwater bungalows and beachfront villas. Alternatively, experience the charm of the Caribbean at the boutique Gran Hotel Bahia, a beautifully restored colonial building with modern amenities and a prime location in the heart of Bocas Town.

Coronado

Coronado

Coronado, is a beautiful coastal town known for its stunning beaches and warm, welcoming atmosphere. Located on the Pacific coast, Coronado boasts a mix of sandy beaches and rugged coastline, offering a picturesque setting for both relaxation and adventure. The town is situated about 80 kilometers from Panama City, making it easily accessible for those seeking a peaceful retreat from the bustling city life. The climate in Coronado is tropical, with average temperatures ranging from 24°C to 30°C (75°F to 86°F), providing perfect weather for outdoor activities year-round. Recreational activities in Coronado are abundant, with options for everyone to enjoy. Golf enthusiasts can tee off at the Coronado Golf and Beach Resort, while those looking for a more leisurely activity can take a stroll through the beautiful Parque Nacional Camino de Cruces. For water lovers, the Coronado Beach Club offers a variety of aquatic activities, including swimming, surfing, and paddleboarding. Coronado is a popular destination for both tourists and expats, offering a range of accommodations and amenities to suit all tastes and budgets. Rental properties are available in various sizes and styles, with a modern 2-bedroom apartment near the water averaging around 1,200 USD per month, and a 3-bedroom property averaging around 1,800 USD per month. Grocery shopping in Coronado is convenient, with a mix of large chain stores such as Rey Supermarket and smaller, local shops offering a variety of fresh produce and household essentials. The town also boasts a selection of restaurants and cafes, catering to a range of international cuisines. People are drawn to living in Coronado for its laid-back lifestyle, friendly community, and beautiful natural surroundings. The town offers a perfect balance of tranquility and convenience, with easy access to Panama City and a range of recreational activities to suit all interests. With its stunning beaches, warm climate, and welcoming atmosphere, it's no wonder that Coronado, Panama, is a popular choice for both tourists and expats alike.

Local Recommendations:

Savor the flavors of Coronado with a visit to these top-notch eateries. Start your culinary journey at Picasso Café, Bar & Restaurante, where you'll find a delightful fusion of international and local cuisine, served in a cozy atmosphere adorned with local artwork. For a taste of the sea, head to Luna Rossa, an Italian seafood restaurant offering a variety of fresh, locally-sourced dishes, including their signature lobster pasta. Finally, indulge in authentic Panamanian fare at Restaurante Cholo's, where you can enjoy traditional dishes like sancocho and ceviche in a laid-back, open-air setting. After a day of exploring and dining, unwind at one of Coronado's highly recommended hotels. The Coronado Luxury Club & Suites offers upscale accommodations, complete with a private beach, golf course, and spa, ensuring a truly relaxing stay. For a more intimate experience, consider the boutique-style Casa de Los Suenos, where you'll find charming rooms and personalized service, all within walking distance of the area's top attractions.

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Las Lajas

Las Lajas, is a picturesque coastal town known for its stunning beaches and laid-back atmosphere. The waterfront boasts a beautiful stretch of sandy beaches, perfect for sunbathing, swimming, and surfing. Las Lajas is located approximately 75 kilometers east of David, the capital of Chiriqui province, and about 360 kilometers west of Panama City. The town is easily accessible by car or bus, with regular bus services connecting it to larger cities. The climate in Las Lajas is tropical, with average temperatures ranging from 24°C to 30°C (75°F to 86°F) throughout the year. Recreational activities in Las Lajas include beach sports, horseback riding, bird watching, and hiking in the nearby hills. The town is not overly touristy, allowing visitors to enjoy a more authentic Panamanian experience. While there are no golf clubs or swim clubs in the immediate vicinity, the natural beauty of the area offers plenty of outdoor activities to keep residents and visitors entertained. Rental properties in Las Lajas vary in price, but a modern 2-bedroom apartment near the water can be found for around 600 USD per month, while a 3-bedroom house may cost around 800 USD per month. For grocery shopping, residents can visit local markets and small stores, as there are no large chain stores in the town. People enjoy living in Las Lajas for its relaxed atmosphere, friendly community, and beautiful natural surroundings. The town offers a slower pace of life, away from the hustle and bustle of larger cities, making it an ideal place for those seeking a peaceful and tranquil lifestyle.

Local Recommendations:

For a taste of authentic Panamanian cuisine, head to Restaurante Las Lajas, where you'll find a variety of delicious seafood dishes, including ceviche and fried fish. Another must-visit eatery is La Fonda de Don Chacho, which offers a mix of local and international dishes, such as sancocho, a traditional Panamanian soup, and mouthwatering grilled meats. After a day of exploring the beautiful Las Lajas beach, unwind at the charming Las Lajas Beach Resort, which boasts comfortable accommodations and a beachfront location. Alternatively, opt for the serene surroundings of Naturalmente Boutique Bungalows, where you can relax in eco-friendly bungalows nestled amidst lush gardens.

Pedasi

Pedasi

Pedasi, is a charming coastal town located on the Azuero Peninsula, known for its beautiful beaches and vibrant local culture. The town boasts a stunning coastline with a mix of sandy beaches and rugged cliffs, making it a popular destination for both relaxation and adventure. With a population of approximately 4,000 residents, Pedasi offers a small-town atmosphere while still being within a few hours' drive from larger cities like Chitre and Santiago. The climate in Pedasi is tropical, with average temperatures ranging from 24°C (75°F) to 30°C (86°F) throughout the year. This warm weather makes it an ideal location for a variety of recreational activities, such as surfing, fishing, and snorkeling. Some popular spots for these activities include Playa Venao, a renowned surf spot, and Isla Iguana, a wildlife refuge perfect for snorkeling and exploring. While Pedasi is not overly touristy, it has seen an increase in visitors in recent years, drawn by its natural beauty and laid-back atmosphere. There are no golf clubs or swim clubs in the town, but visitors can enjoy the local parks and beaches for outdoor recreation. Rental properties are available in the area, with a modern 2-bedroom property near the water averaging around 1,000 USD per month, and a 3-bedroom property averaging around 1,500 USD per month. For grocery shopping, residents can visit local markets and smaller stores, such as Supermercado Central and Mini Super Pedasi, which offer a variety of fresh produce and essential items. There are no large chain stores in the town, but the nearby city of Chitre has a wider selection of shopping options. People enjoy living in Pedasi for its relaxed pace of life, friendly community, and beautiful natural surroundings. The town's rich cultural heritage, including traditional festivals and events, adds to its charm and makes it a unique and welcoming place to call home.

Local Recommendations:

For a taste of authentic Panamanian cuisine, head to Smiley's Restaurant, where you'll find a laid-back atmosphere and a menu filled with local favorites like ceviche and patacones. If you're craving something a bit more international, indulge in the Italian delights at Pizzeria Villa Romana, where the wood-fired pizzas and homemade pasta dishes are sure to satisfy. For a more upscale dining experience, visit La Huerta, where the farm-to-table concept is taken to new heights with a menu that changes daily based on the freshest ingredients available. When it comes to accommodations, the charming boutique hotel Casa Lajagua is a top choice, offering a serene oasis with its lush gardens and inviting pool. For a more luxurious stay, consider the upscale Villa Camilla, where you'll be treated to stunning ocean views, a private beach, and top-notch amenities.

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Playa Blanca

Playa Blanca, is a beautiful coastal town known for its stunning white sand beaches and crystal-clear waters. Located approximately 120 kilometers from Panama City, it is easily accessible by car or bus, making it a popular destination for both locals and tourists. The climate in Playa Blanca is tropical, with average temperatures ranging from 24°C to 32°C (75°F to 90°F) throughout the year. The waterfront in Playa Blanca is characterized by pristine beaches, making it an ideal location for various recreational activities such as swimming, snorkeling, and sunbathing. The town is also home to the Playa Blanca Resort, which offers a range of amenities including a golf course, tennis courts, and a spa. Additionally, the nearby Farallon Beach is a popular spot for water sports like jet skiing and parasailing. Playa Blanca has a growing tourism industry, with numerous hotels, resorts, and vacation rentals available for visitors. A modern 2-bedroom rental property near the water can cost around 1,500 USD per month, while a 3-bedroom property may cost around 2,000 USD per month. The local currency in Panama is the Balboa (PAB), which is equivalent to the US Dollar. For grocery shopping, residents and visitors can find a variety of options in nearby towns such as Rio Hato and Anton. Supermarkets like Super 99 and El Rey offer a wide range of products, while smaller local stores provide fresh produce and other essentials. People enjoy living in Playa Blanca for its relaxed atmosphere, beautiful beaches, and friendly community. The town's proximity to Panama City also allows for easy access to urban amenities while still maintaining a peaceful, beachside lifestyle. Overall, Playa Blanca is an attractive destination for those seeking a tranquil escape in a picturesque coastal setting.

Local Recommendations:

Discover the culinary delights of Playa Blanca, with a visit to these top-notch restaurants. Start your gastronomic journey at Beirut, where you'll be treated to authentic Lebanese cuisine, including mouthwatering shawarma and falafel. For a taste of the sea, head to Los Camisones, a charming beachfront eatery offering fresh seafood dishes and stunning ocean views. Finally, indulge in a fusion of Asian and Latin flavors at Chiriqui Fusion, where you'll find innovative dishes like sushi rolls with a Panamanian twist. After a day of feasting, retreat to the luxurious surroundings of the Royal Decameron Panama, an all-inclusive resort boasting multiple pools, a golf course, and a spa. Alternatively, unwind at the boutique-style Playa Blanca Hotel & Resort, where you'll enjoy personalized service and a serene beachfront setting.

Puerto Armuelles

Puerto Armuelles

Puerto Armuelles, is a charming coastal town located on the Pacific Ocean, boasting beautiful sandy beaches that stretch along its picturesque waterfront. With an approximate population of 20,000 residents, this quaint town is situated about 60 miles south of David, the capital of Chiriqui Province, and 225 miles southwest of Panama City. The climate in Puerto Armuelles is tropical, with average temperatures ranging from 24°C to 30°C (75°F to 86°F) throughout the year. Recreational activities in Puerto Armuelles are abundant, with a focus on outdoor and water-based pursuits. Popular activities include fishing, surfing, beachcombing, and exploring the nearby parks and natural reserves. While the town is not overly touristy, it offers a laid-back atmosphere that attracts visitors seeking a more authentic Panamanian experience. Rental properties in Puerto Armuelles can vary, but a modern 2-bedroom apartment near the water may cost around 600 USD per month, while a 3-bedroom house could be around 800 USD per month. For grocery shopping, residents can visit local markets and smaller stores, as well as larger chain stores like Romero Supermarket and Supermercado Barú. People enjoy living in Puerto Armuelles for its relaxed pace of life, friendly community, and stunning natural surroundings. The town's beautiful beaches, warm climate, and proximity to larger cities make it an attractive destination for both locals and expats seeking a peaceful coastal lifestyle.

Local Recommendations:

For a taste of authentic Panamanian cuisine, head to Restaurante El Buen Sabor, where you'll find a variety of delicious seafood dishes and traditional favorites. If you're in the mood for something more international, try Big Daddy's Beach Club & Hotel, which offers a mix of American and Panamanian dishes in a relaxed beachfront setting. For a quick bite, swing by Soda Italiana, a local favorite for pizza and ice cream. When it comes to accommodations, Heavenly's Hotel is a top choice for its comfortable rooms, friendly staff, and convenient location near the beach. For a more luxurious stay, consider Tsunami Inn, a boutique hotel with modern amenities, a beautiful pool, and easy access to the beach. Both options are highly recommended by travelers and will make your visit to Puerto Armuelles a memorable one.

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Santa Catalina

Santa Catalina, is a small coastal town known for its beautiful beaches and rugged coastline. The town is home to approximately 300 residents and is located about 5 hours away from Panama City. The climate in Santa Catalina is tropical, with average temperatures ranging from 24°C to 30°C (75°F to 86°F) throughout the year. The town is not well connected by public transportation, so most visitors and residents rely on private vehicles to get around. Santa Catalina is a popular destination for tourists, particularly those interested in surfing, scuba diving, and snorkeling. The town is known for its world-class surf breaks, such as La Punta and Estero Beach, and is also the gateway to Coiba National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that offers incredible marine biodiversity for divers and snorkelers to explore. Other recreational activities in the area include fishing, horseback riding, and hiking. Despite its popularity among tourists, Santa Catalina has managed to maintain a laid-back, authentic atmosphere. Rental properties are available in the area, with a modern 2-bedroom property near the water costing around 1,000 USD per month, and a 3-bedroom property averaging around 1,500 USD per month. For grocery shopping, residents typically visit local markets and small stores, as there are no large chain stores in the town. People enjoy living in Santa Catalina for its natural beauty, relaxed lifestyle, and friendly community. The town offers a unique combination of world-class recreational activities and a peaceful, rural atmosphere, making it an attractive destination for both tourists and residents alike.

Local Recommendations:

Discover the culinary delights of Santa Catalina, by indulging in mouthwatering seafood at Mama Ines Restaurant. This charming eatery offers a variety of fresh, locally-sourced dishes, including ceviche, lobster, and whole fried fish. For a more casual dining experience, head to Jammin Pizzeria & Restaurant, where you can enjoy delicious wood-fired pizzas and refreshing cocktails in a laid-back atmosphere. After a day of exploring, unwind at the highly recommended Hotel Santa Catalina Panama, a boutique hotel boasting comfortable rooms, a pool, and an on-site restaurant. Alternatively, immerse yourself in nature at the eco-friendly La Buena Vida, a charming bed and breakfast surrounded by lush gardens and offering yoga classes and surf lessons.

About the Author

Betsy Burlingame Betsy Burlingame is the Founder and President of Expat Exchange and is one of the Founders of Digital Nomad Exchange. She launched Expat Exchange in 1997 as her Master's thesis project at NYU. Prior to Expat Exchange, Betsy worked at AT&T in International and Mass Market Marketing. She graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University with a BA in International Business and German.

Some of Betsy's articles include 12 Best Places to Live in Portugal, 7 Best Places to Live in Panama and 12 Things to Know Before Moving to the Dominican Republic. Betsy loves to travel and spend time with her family. Connect with Betsy on LinkedIn.


Panama Legal Business (PANLEB)
Panama Legal Business (PANLEB)

Panama Legal Business (PANLEB)
Panama Legal Business (PANLEB)

Bocas del Toro, Panama

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