How’s the Beach?

Empty beach from balcony

Because we live right on one of the most beautiful beaches in Panama, we have a very good idea about how crowded our beach could be. From our 22nd floor dwelling, we have over 25 miles in our view and we can count the people on the beach for at least 3 miles! One of the questions we get over and over from callers who live outside of Panama is, “How’s the Beach?” This question and “How’s the weather?” need to be answered only once: Good, Good, Good, Excellent, Excellent, Excellent!

Now when it comes to the Beach–or more appropriately The Beaches–the situation does change with the seasons. High Season, which in Panama begins at the Christmas Holidays and runs to about the beginning of April, brings hordes of people to communities with beaches. When we went to Cafe Picasso some weeks back for Happy Hour, we had a really difficult time finding parking. The place was mobbed by expats and tourists getting ready for the Christmas season in Panama. Anyway, the next morning, before going down to the beach, I scanned the beach from the 22nd floor to see how crowded it was. I could not detect more than 3 or 4 people on a stretch of 1.5 miles! I will say that this was 6:30 AM, however, even when I continued my survey in the early afternoon, I did not see more than approximately 250 people on the entire beach!

The beach life around Coronado and Gorgona is very active, particularly dog owners and runners who know each other from frequent walks in the morning. People who are still involved in business meet at a beach restaurant every Tuesday to network and exchange business ideas.

Greeting friends & dogs at the beach

Greeting friends & dogs at the beach

One reason why the beaches in Panama are not mobbed like in Florida or California is that we have plenty of them, particularly in relation to the population and land area of Panama. Panama is the size of South Carolina (29,157 square miles) and the population is just under 4 million. The total coastline of Panama is 1,775 miles, 770 miles of which comprises the Pacific Coast all the way from Colombia to Costa Rica. The width of the Isthmus is between 80 and 192 km.

Considering the huge beach areas in Panama, there are still areas with no infrastructure, hence the beaches are completely untouched. There are areas between Panama City and Colombia which are completely inaccessible and have no infrastructure and no population at all!

BEACH LIFE

A substantial part of the beach life in Panama takes place 1 to 2 hours from Panama City to the west along the Pacific Ocean.

Whale watching group

Whale watching group leaving Amador

Boating activities, by contrast, take place mainly around the entrance to the Panama Canal. These include ferries to the islands, whale watching tours, fishing tours, etc. These leave primarily from the Balboa Yacht Club on the Amador Causeway.

For access to the beaches from Panama City, you need to go across the Panama Canal on the Puente de las Americas. One of the first beach areas is Playa Bonita, which has some first-class hotels. The beaches beyond here are between 45 and 90 minutes further to the West–keep in mind, however, that this driving time can increase substantially if you are driving at the beginning of a weekend or holidays, the favorite times to head to the beaches. Public beaches run along the Pacific Coast from Punta Chame to Rio Hato and are all accessible from the Pan American Highway. There are all different kinds of developments along the route, such as hotels, condos, gated residential areas, golf communities, sports facilities, etc. The “Capital” of the area is Coronado, which is the first and largest so-called gated community around here. All Coronado residential areas, condo developments, golf courses, beach facilities and the Cafe Picasso are within the gated area. The commercial areas, hospital, banks and shopping centers and mall are outside the gated area. Coronado/Gorgona have probably the best places to go shopping for your weekend needs.

Before getting to the Coronado area, there is Punta Chame. This is a peninsula and is approximately 20 km from the Pan

Punta Chame beach

Punta Chame beach

American Highway, with only a few developments and great areas for bird watching and spotting many protected species.

Another great attraction on Punta Chame is Nitro City, and action sports resort for kiteboarding, jetski tours, fishing, 4-wheeling tours, motocross and many other activities. It is also home of Panama Sky Dive.

Going on from Coronado toward the west, the next town is San Carlos. There are several developments between Coronado and San Carlos, all accessible from the highway only. There is no road going along the beaches in Panama–no pollution or interruption of the beauty of the area with tons of cars snaking through the communities. Beyond San Carlos  proper, all of the developments are gated and have excellent reputations. They all have beach access and in general do not permit beach access to people who do not live in these respective developments, although there are some which will allow access to the public for payment. San Carlos also has a marina under construction which will be the first one along this coast. That facility will open this area for boat enthusiasts and also the possibility of boat rides to various areas and islands of Panama.

Continuing west from San Carlos and out to Rio Hato, there are at least 8 residential projects in various stages of completion. They are all gated for privacy and security and most of the properties are either right on the beach or are within walking distance. If you don’t own properties in any of these developments, you will have a hard time getting close to the

Black & white sand & surf

Black & white sand & surf

beach here. El Palmar, just past San Carlos, is open for the public and charges a fee to get there. There are several mid-priced hotels right on the water and, if you need to update your surfing skills, there are several surfing schools to get you ready for the great surf! On west of El Palmar, the next beach that is open to the public is Playa Corona. The Wyndham Hotel here offers day passes for a fee. A very popular place for weekend visitors is Santa Clara. Several establishments on the beach offer parking, restrooms and changing facilities. A few kms past Santa Clara is the Royal Decameron. The turnoff from the highway is right at the new Rio Hato airport, Scarlett Martinez International Airport.

– Just a note on that airport: This is a brand new airport, convenient to all of the beachfront resorts. The airport is so new that, as of the date of this letter, only one airline with one plane per week is taking advantage of this facility. There is just one charter flight per week which comes nonstop from Canada. What a convenience, to board your flight in snowy Canada and arrive 6 hours later right next door to your beautiful, sunny vacation location!

Anyway, back to Royal Decameron. If you take the turnoff right at the airport, you will travel down a nice road along a beautiful golf course to the Royal Decameron Hotel, an all-inclusive hotel with nearly 900 guest rooms and located right on the beach. This resort can accommodate almost every taste. Besides golf, all sports are available. And for those who are interested in winning money, they can visit the hotel-owned casino. Along the beach, there are several wonderful restaurants and mid-budget beach facilities which are part of the town of Farallon. Farallon is not only known as a beach town, it once was the exclusive area for the Panamanian Military under General Omar Torrijos and

Sting ray on the beach

Sting ray on the beach

was later taken over by General Manuel Noriega. For the record, Manuel Noriega is still around but living in much more modest digs–it’s called the Panama Federal Prison!

Adjacent to Farallon is Playa Blanca. The name comes from the white sand that is all over the beach in this area, whereas the beaches in the Coronado area have black sand as well.

Playa Blanca is a gated town with several large hotels on the beach and  also lays claim to having the second-largest swimming pool in the world, even though this is total defunct at this time. There is access to the beach for the public and there are also day passes available from one of the hotels to use their beach facilities. At the turnoff to Playa Blanca from the highway is a brand new shopping mall with large grocery stores and department stores opening any day now. All of this is just a short drive from the new airport. We are seeing the beginning of a massive urban development complete with tourism and organic agribusiness as the driving force in this area.

If you are into serious and large-scale investments, you should talk to us about the opportunities out there! Just  between this new mall and the beach, there is a JW Marriott Golf Resort and the Buenaventura Golf Club with high quality residential developments along the beach. This is the last beach development that is frequented by tourists and visitors and weekend travelers from the Panama City area. From this point, which is Rio Hato, the shoreline goes on with very few developments. These are areas where nature can be found completely undisturbed. Also there are areas where surfers and divers from all over the world come to enjoy the beauty this country has to offer.

We have covered only about 60 miles of shoreline in this newsletter, which leaves another 1,715 miles of shoreline even less crowded than the areas I am talking about. If you enjoy the ocean and water sports, this is the place to be. Besides quiet beaches and always-good weather, Panama is still very affordable. You could double your vacation time here and still be ahead moneywise!

Frank & Norma Backe

Frank & Norma Backe

We hope to see you here soon!

 

 

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