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Another Perspective: Coronado ALtos

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veracruz
1/19/2011 10:31 EST

I am in Panama right now conducting some research on where I would like to live for six months in the year now that I am no longer looking for work or income. I paid a tour guide $125 to drive me from Panama city to Coronado where I understand is the hub of the expat community.

Lots and lots of traffic leaving the city, real third world driving, anything you can get away with applies. Traffic around Chorrera 50 min from Panama city on the Interamerican highway is a total choke point. If there is an accident or construction everything stops for hours--not a good experience.
Coronado is about an hour and half drive from the city, lots of new shopping malls and development going on right off the highway, the area is clearly experiencing a building boom.
Coronado is a gated community, so security is good the police station sits right on the edge of the property.
Beautiful condos available to buy or rent with lots of choice. There is a golf course $10,000 fee and an equestrian club. But where are the people I wondered? There is nobody there. I understand the full expat community is 1,500 at peak and dwindles to 500 at ebb. I walked the beach and did not like it. Black sand no shade trees and rough waves better suited for surfers.
Of course you can get all the amenities at the supermarket but my main concern is boredom. No one to talk to or no real activities where you can make friends. If you are coming to Coronado bring lots of friends and people so you can do things together or else you may be stuck in a beautiful condo looking at movies all day.
On the way back decided to visit Altos de Maria, even more isolated. It is a good 96 km from the main road to get to altos. Half way up the road I decided this is not for me who enjoy being around people.
A lot of the rosy descriptions of Panama are accurate to a point but if living is being part of a community it is difficult to see how you can achieve that in Coronado or Altos de Maria.
Tomorrow I leave PC for David Boquete where the annual flower fair is taking place this weekend. I have been briefly in both places a year ago this time and will report my impressions.

kimbo47
1/19/2011 20:22 EST

Veracruz,
very accurate narration. I had the same experience except I spent 3 weeks driving around in a rental and visited almost every place liveable certainly all the ones discussed on this forum.

I'm a beach person myself and didn't like the black sand, roughness and terrible dirt road access to beaches in the Azuero peninsula.

Lizzysmom,
may be right about a community if what you are looking for is to be locked up in a retirement community and engage in their activities which I doubt you will find many tennis or active sports candidates. But if you are looking at integrarting into a new culture and with the locals and looking for an active lifestyle you are right in your statements.
I also found the activities available very limited, at least to what I'm used to.
Swimming, biking, dancing, nightclubbing, casinos, bowling, concerts, football stadium games etc.

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lizzysmom
1/19/2011 20:20 EST

ADM is a gated community up in the mountains near Coronado. It is home to many expats, as well as Panamanians and has weekend homes for many Panamanians who live in Panama City. It is just past the little town of Sora, which has a convenience store, police station, homes, Chinese Restaurant, and further up the road is a nice little restaurant called Maria's Cafe. The closest big town is Coronado--which has supermarkets, gas stations, shopping mall, restaurants, beauty salons, banks, homes, and beach. If you are looking for an American style city, forget it! But it has everything you need for day to day. Many expats go to Panama City about once a month for night life or an American style mall (Albrook Mall). I agree that the beach at Coronado is not for swimming--more a surfer's water--but the sand is NATURALLY volcanic grey/black and not pretty like the beaches in the Caribbean or the Gulf Coast of Florida. None of the Pacific beaches in Panama are white sand--that is only on the Caribbean side (Bocas del Torro). However, the expats in Coronado have monthly dinner/parties and get togethers, too. The activities are there--but you just don't see them unless you look and ask around. I'm all for asking questions and finding things of interest...just takes a little effort. On the other hand, once you get to the town of David on the western side of Panama, it is a LONG trek up the mountain to Boquete, too. And, it too, is well worth the trip. I think you should at least 'go to the place' before you condemn it--not say--"Let's not, and say we did." You will miss a lot that way. Of course, it helps if you have your own vehicle, too. I hope you rent a car for your trip so you can get around to all the beautiful places in Panama. And, don't miss the Azuera Peninsula. It is totally different than any other part of the country.

deb747
1/19/2011 16:16 EST

lizzsmom,
Altos has been on our "to visit" list, so I'm following this with interest!
Is there anything like a town up there near Altos del Maria, or is the housing development pretty isolated? (If not, how far is the closest one, do you know?)
Thanks for any info you can give me!
Deb747

lizzysmom
1/19/2011 15:41 EST

I had to laugh when I read your post about driving up to Altos del Maria. Yes, it is quite a drive...but, well worth it! There is a whole community up there with very active residents. They have parties, classes, concerts, hiking, tennis, exercise classes, yoga, lots of things going on and beautiful surroundings. Oh, well...to each his own.

deb747
1/19/2011 13:10 EST

veracruz,
So good to hear your impressions! Please keep up the reporting. We'll be there in early April, and you just may save us from taking precious time to see an area which might not be right...
Thanks again --
Deb747

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