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Panama is a beach and island lover’s paradise, with its two long coastlines and more than a thousand islands. Where else on earth can you surf in the Pacific Ocean in the morning and take an evening dip in the Caribbean Sea, all in the same day?

We’ve scoured the best beaches Panama has to offer. Here are our top 12, in no particular order. Since each beach has its own charm and unique characteristics, it would be almost impossible not to be able to find the tropical beach atmosphere you seek somewhere along the coast of Panama.

Panama best beaches

Ceclia Beth

1. Santa Clara & Farallón, Pacific Coast: These two are the most appealing beaches along the Pacific Coast, and the best for swimming. Best of all, they lie within a 2-hour drive of Panama City. Here the water is bluer and the sand is whiter than what you’ll find in many neighboring beaches closer to the city.

panama best beaches


2. Isla Bastimentos National Park, Bocas del Toro: Cayos Zapatillas, or the “Slippers Islands” (so-called because they resemble footprints), not only fulfill the beach lover’s fantasy with their soft sand backed by a tangle of jungle. They are also surrounded by a rich display of coral that attracts hordes of fish, which makes for some excellent snorkeling.

Panama best beaches


3. Boca Chica, Chiriquí: We are a bit partial to Boca Chica, which offers pristine ocean views of tropical blue seas, lush vegetation, and remote islands with white sand beaches and swaying palms. Not to mention, this area also offers world-class fishing, diving, and snorkeling.

panama best beaches

Michael McKenzie

4. Santa Catalina, Veraguas: Originally a highly coveted secret surf spot, Santa Catalina probably has the most consistently great waves in Panama. It is the closest access point to Isla Coiba with its world class diving, pristine beaches, and nature reserve.

panama best beaches

César Duarte

5. Contadora Isand, Panama:  The beaches here are sandy brown, with warm waters suited for snorkeling and swimming. Contadora Island is one of Panama’s more affordable beach destinations.


Haakon S.Krohn

6. San Blas Islands, Guna Yala: This is by far Panama’s premier beach destination with with powdery white sand, extensive coral reefs, piercing turquoise water, and clusters of enticing palm trees. The indigenous and colorful Kuna population administers this province, and their unique culture is one of the best reasons to visit the region.

panama best beaches

Gaspar Serrano

7. Las Perlas Archipelago, Panama: The Pearl Islands are a relatively unsung beach destination, despite the fact that this Pacific archipelago is close to Panama City, has some of the country’s best snorkeling, and boasts white sand beaches and calm waters. Outside of holidays and the hard-core summer, you won’t find crowds here, even during weekends. It’s well worth a short boat ride to enjoy solitude at one of Panama’s best beaches.

Chuck Holton

Chuck Holton

8. Isla Coiba National Park, Veraguas: This island is Panama’s number one diving site. It’s rather remote, but its incredible beaches and the Isla Coiba National Park make it worth the excursion. If the main island is too crowded, try venturing to Granito de Oro where the beaches are so idyllic that midsize cruise ships make stops here.

panama best beaches

Andy B.

9. Las Lajas, Chiriquí: One of the lesser known beaches in Panama, Las Lajas is worth a visit, with its swaying palm trees and perfect water temperature. This beach is known for having just the right amount of waves for bodysurfing. Given that the beach stretches for more than 8 miles, it is also the perfect walking beach as well.

best panama beaches

Manuele Zunelli

10. La Barqueta, Chiriquí: Strong currents at this black sand beach mean the water is not ideal for swimming. However, like Las Lajas, it is lengthy and good for walking. It’s also home to an impressive nature reserve.

panama best beaches

Roman Königshofer

11. Playa Los Destiladores & Playa Venao, Azuero Peninsula: There are a multitude of beaches lining the coast of this peninsula, but these two are the best. Located within a 20-minute drive from one another, you can surf both in one day. Not into surfing? Try the protected cove at Playa Venao, where it is calm enough for a swim, or travel a bit farther east for the best beach surfing hotspot.

Burica Panama

Emerging Terrains

12. Burica, Chiriquí: Looking for an underpopulated stretch of some of Panama’s best beaches? Burica, apart from a few small towns and one accommodation, is absolutely desolate. So what is its attraction? Lots and lots of isolated beaches, rows of palm trees, and at times surfable waves. The beach is formed with gray sand and striated rocks that stretch all the way out into the sea.

Which of these Panama beaches is your favorite? Are there any others you think we should have included? Comment and let us know!

Living in Panama today can provide a wide variety of options for those seeking opportunities outside the U.S. and Europe to live, retire, and invest. Ranging from big city living to secluded mountain villages, Panama offers a selection of lifestyles that is second to none in Central America.

Living in Panama

Panama City at Night

Panama’s Past Is the Cornerstone of Its Future

Panama’s history is one of change and growth. From its earliest colonial beginnings, to the construction of the Panama Canal, the turmoil of the late 20th century to the revitalization of today, Panama continues to thrive and offer fresh opportunities to live and immerse oneself in the diverse culture of Central America.

One of the major attractions in Panama is the lower cost of living throughout the country. With reasonable rents, lower food and medical costs, and a continuing growing standard of living, it is small wonder that Panama is viewed by many as picking up where other Central American countries have left off.

Living in Panama today provides a cultural and economic opportunity to share in a rich historical tradition while exploring and becoming part of a vibrant and exciting future. In a real sense, Panama’s past has become the cornerstone of the future potential as the country continues its course to becoming a premier expat destination in the 21st century.

Living in Panama – A Wide Choice of Locations and Climates

Panama is fortunate in that it offers variety in both climates and locations.  Though located in tropical Central America, Panama has several “micro-climates” that reflect the many regions in the country.

For those seeking the energy and excitement of a modern city, Panama City is the place to be. The skyline along the beaches of the Pacific Ocean is more reminiscent of South Beach than an emerging nation.

The cool climates of the mountains in such locations as Boquete, Sante Fe and El Valle offer a nice contrast to the hotter, more humid beachfront locations. The La Armistad Biosphere Reserve, at Volcan, demonstrates both the geographic and meteorological diversity that can be found in Panama.

A more rustic lifestyle awaits expats looking to the interior communities of David and Chitre. Being able to become part of daily village life may be an ideal alternative for those wanting to avoid the more frenetic pace of larger cities.

Island Life – A Uniquely Panamanian Alternative

Having more islands than any other Central American country, Panama can boast of some of the best beach living in the region. The Las Perlas Islands group on the Pacific side and the San Blas Islands on the Caribbean coast contain the best beaches in Panama and are more affordable than many oceanside locations elsewhere.

Panama Is a Land of Potential on Many Levels

The aggressive efforts of the Panamanian government in recent years to attract foreign investment and to make Panama a desirable location for expats and retirees is beginning to reap dividends. Changes in residency laws, enhanced benefits for retirees, and a pro-business and investment approach is making Panama a model for Central American vibrancy in the 21st century.

New Residency Laws Make Living in Panama an Easy Choice

In May 2012, Panama enacted the Specific Countries Program. Under this program, holders of passports from the United States, Canada and many European countries can become Panamanian residents in as little as six to eight months.

As Panama’s economy continues to grow, the need for skilled workers has led to revisions in the laws impacting those who may want to work in their new expat location.

The Highly Skilled Worker Permit is one of these new revisions. Under this program, which is exempt from quotas and sponsorship requirements, all that is needed is a Bachelor’s Degree (or higher) and a letter from the perspective employer.

Living in Panama – Retirees Are More Than Welcome

Panama is making a major effort to attract retirees with the Pensionado (retirement) Visa program. Any person over the age of 18, with a guaranteed monthly income of $1000 from a government agency, such as Social Security or the U.S. Armed Forces, can qualify for this type of residency.

Holders of retirement visas receive many discounts and benefits in the form of reduced prices for a wide variety of services and items. Some of the most attractive of these discounts are:

Entertainment (movies, sports, etc.) 50%
Airline Tickets 25%
Closing Costs for Home Loans 50%
Professional/Technical Services 20%
Dental/Eye Exams 15%

With the Retirement Visa, an individual is entitled to a one-time tax exemption on imported household goods (up to a $10,000 limit). Another important benefit is a tax exemption every two years for the purchase or importation of a new vehicle.

Living in Panama – Growing Pains

For all the positives and potential that Panama offers, it is important to remember that this is an emerging nation in the throes of development. As a result, some of the challenges that expats may encounter may not be a good fit for everyone.

Infrastructure Is Not the Same Everywhere

The modern and urban environment of Panama City does not carry over to other parts of the country. Less developed regions in the mountains and further inland are far more rustic in nature. If having access to modern amenities is a requirement, this could limit the choices for relocation.

Changing Legal Environment

Not everyone has welcomed the efforts of the government to attract foreign businesses and workers to Panama. As a result, changing laws and regulations could impact residency and tax matters. This potential for change can be a negative for some who would like a more stable, less dynamic environment in which to invest.

Improvement and Construction Versus Quiet and Established

The constant improvement of Panamanian infrastructure and amount of new construction is certainly a positive for the country. With this growth, however, comes the disruption of the tranquil nature of many communities in the country. Navigating through construction zones and dealing with the issues that this kind of development brings may be a negative to those seeking a more rustic environment.

Discover the “Panama Potential”

The emergence of a growing real estate market makes doing research on what is on the market more important than ever. Whether the desired location is big city or rustic village, looking at what is available can provide a perspective on the true potential that can be found in the various locations of Panama.

You may think that owning island property in the Latin tropics isn’t possible within the budget you’ve set for your expat home abroad.

Prepare to be pleasantly surprised.

It’s true that, due to its high demand, island property may tend to run a little on the pricey side.  (After all, there is only a finite amount of it available.)  But, depending on the level of development and the number of amenities you’re seeking, it’s entirely possible to find remote real estate to fit any budget.  

In fact, check out these 10 places you can own an island, or at least a nice-sized chunk of one, for $500,000 or less.


Alligator Caye, Belize: $99,000

Just reduced from $169,000, this property includes 10.7 acres on the southern end of Alligator Caye.  It’s off the coast of Belize, slightly north of the town of Dangriga.  The Belize Barrier Reef, the second largest in the world, lies just a few hundred yards in front of the property.

It can be reached by boat in 30 minutes from Dangriga or just 45 minutes from Belize City.  A lagoon on the back of the island, to which the property has access, offers sheltered boat mooring.

This completely undeveloped island is a blank canvas in a popular area near the country’s largest tourist attraction, the reef.  The area has been designated as a World Heritage Site due to its ecological importance.  It’s also a great spot for fishing.

Boca Chica, Panama: $199,000 – $449,000

Video of a Glass House for Sale on Boca Chica Island

Boca Chica Island is a gem of a destination located just off Panama’s Pacific Coast in the Gulf of Chiriqui. Surrounded by over 50 mostly uninhabited islands, as well as some of the world’s best sport fishing, it’s currently one of the hottest places in the country to buy property. And it’s our only island project.

This is due largely in part to the newly expanded international airport in David, a number of other large infrastructure projects, and some really incredible scenery.  It’s a beautiful place to call home, and it’s an even better place to invest in real estate.    

There aren’t a ton of lots still available in the island’s Adventure Colony development, but what’s left is still a great bargain.  You can get three acres full of old growth coconut trees, with a level spot that’s already been cleared for a home site, for only $199,000.  It sits at the corner of a sandy beach and offers access to a private dock, as well as its own fresh water well.

Also on the island is a contemporary home with three bedrooms and two baths that comes complete with a fully modern kitchen, a solar power system, premium finishes, custom furniture, and air conditioning throughout. Its private dock is right in front of the home, which sits on .75 acres.

It also has a freshwater spring, a large storage bodega, and mature fruit trees.  There’s even a caretaker who can continue to provide service to the property if you so choose.  All this can be yours for only $449,000.

islands under $500k

Belize Tropical Caye

South Saddle Caye, Belize: $300,000

Located off the southern tip of larger Saddle Caye, this island property offers a whopping 2.3 acres, making it a steal of a deal.  The island has tons of coral along its southern and eastern shore lines.

On the eastern side, there’s a steep drop-off to over 50 feet, making it great for snorkeling.  The western side has a shallow entrance that slopes quite gradually and is perfect for swimming in the beautiful water that’s characteristic of the area.

The western shore also has a great sandy area that would make a great beach after a bit of much-needed clearing.  There are large black mangroves in many spots across the island, indicating a solid footing for building.

islands under $500k

View from Cay, Satanoid

Secret Island, Belize: $350,000

Located just seven miles off the coast of Belize, Secret Island is a Caribbean getaway that offers loads of potential.  At 2.5 acres, it offers plenty of room to build a few houses.  There’s also a great beach and a deep cove to allow for a dock.  

You would likely need to sand fill the island, in order to have a solid base for construction.  Since it’s close to the mainland (roughly a 20-minute boat ride), the transport of building materials would be relatively simple.

The island’s landscape is remarkable with red and black mangroves surrounding it.  The water is shallow, only knee deep at 30 yards out in some places.  The island offers views of the mainland, as well as several other islands that are within a mile away, and the entire area is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

islands under $500k

Island in Lake Nicaragua, Kristian Golding

Granada, Nicaragua: $350,000

This small island is located in Lake Nicaragua, the largest freshwater lake in Central America.  At just under a quarter of an acre, it has just enough space to hold a large three-bedroom, four-bath home and gardens with mature coconut trees.

The home has several terraces and a system for heating water from the fresh water well.  There’s also a caretaker already on staff.  The home is just five minutes from the nearest dock and 45 minutes from the capital of Managua.

islands under $500k

Turneffe Point Caye, Serge Melki

Turneffe Point Caye, Belize: $350,000

With a whole acre to develop as  you choose, this island on the north tip of Turneffe Atoll is a real bargain.  It’s protected by the Belize Barrier Reef, which lies just 500 yards away.  As a result, the water around the island is calm, even on the windiest of Caribbean days.  

For access, the island is 28 miles away from Belize City, making it the perfect secluded destination.  In addition to exploring the reef, it’s also a great spot to enjoy flats fishing.

islands under $500k

Isla Paloma

Isla Paloma, Panama: $400,000

This .25 acre island is located in the peaceful Isla Paloma off Panama’s Caribbean coast, near Bocas del Toro.  It has a white sand beach and too many varieties of fruit trees to name.  It’s surrounded by a shallow lagoon and mangroves that help protect the island from erosion.

There’s little tide fluctuation and no history of hurricanes in this area.  The island enjoys a mild tropical climate (averaging around 80 degrees).  It’s also fully self-powered with its own water source, allowing for the possibility of year-round living or use as an income property.  

The home itself has two bedrooms and one bath, plus a loft space.  It’s fully furnished and includes all kitchen equipment, electronics, linens, and decor.  Outside there’s a beautiful garden, party shack, and swim dock for entertaining.

The boathouse has five boat slips (two covered) and includes a 26′ panga style boat with an 85 hp Yamaha engine.  There are also water sport toys and equipment, such as skiis, snorkel gear, ropes, life jackets, and a canoe.  The separate workshop also comes with all the hand and power tools you’ll need to keep up the property.

Supplies can be obtained from the local town of Loma Partida, which has groceries, hardware stores, restaurants, and some activities.  The nearest regional airport is 25 minutes away.

Roatan Beach for Sale

Roatan, Honduras: $469,000

Located on the popular island of Roatan, this property includes a well-constructed two-bedroom home, plus a separate apartment, that’s the perfect place to launch your very own sport fishing or aquatic excursion company.  In fact, the current owners have already laid all the groundwork for a successful tourism operation.

The home includes high end finishes and an updated kitchen with modern appliances.  There are two more bedrooms in the lower level apartment that has its own private entrance and patio.

As if this weren’t enough, the home also includes a tricked out boathouse, complete with a full kitchen and barbecue area, four private docks, and plenty of areas for lounging.  There are two boat lifts, an overhead deck, and tons of storage.

If a tourism business is in your plans, the owners have their successful charter business for sale.  Other income options include rental of one of several boat slips or of the downstairs apartment.  The possibilities with this property are literally endless.

islands under $500k

Bocas del Toro, Jacob Kirkland

Isle of Navarro, Panama: $500,000

This island is located out from Dolphin Bay near beautiful Bocas del Toro.  In addition to the generous nine acres of dry island, there’s also a 2800 square foot house that’s built out over the water in the popular style of the area.  There’s also a separate residence that can be used for guests or a caretaker.

The island is covered in lush vegetation, which includes pineapple plants, coconut palms, orchids, and banana and papaya trees.  It also comes with a 26′ boat with 40 hp motor as well as two generators for power.

Among its other amenities include the island’s proximity (only five minutes by boat) from Bocas del Toro, the country’s top tourist destination.

islands under $500k

Nicaragua Island, Steve Summers

Pink Pearl Island, Nicaragua: $500,000

One of the Pearl Cays, this two acre island is only three miles off Nicaragua’s Caribbean coast.  Although it could also work as a private personal retreat, the property is currently being used as a tourist business, making it the perfect turnkey property for the entrepreneurial expat.

The options are endless, as the area is great for both sport fishing and scuba diving.  It’s a beautiful piece of property with turquoise waters and white sand beaches.  It’s protected by the surrounding reefs and other islands and covered in lush flora and fauna.

Structures on the island include three cabanas, each with two double beds and a private bath, an eight-person bunk house with shower room, and a circular main house with a downstairs kitchen and living area and an upstairs master suite with a balcony that offers 360 degree views of the island.  There’s also a restaurant/bar with bamboo tables and chairs and a workers’ cabin with kitchen and bedroom space.

The island is easily accessible by boat, but you can also charter a helicopter from Managua or the nearby Bluefields or Corn Islands.  There’s a pier on the front of the island, and the purchase includes a 25′, 150 hp speedboat, “The Black Pearl.”

Other features include a heart-shaped swimming pool and a small bamboo beach shower.  The property is powered by a 5500-watt generator and is wired for cable and phone service.

So, don’t give upon your dream of owning an island just yet.  Check out our island real estate listings to see what’s available, or ask us how we can help.

Everyone who has ever dreamed about owning property has, at one point in time, dreamed of owning their own island. Who wouldn’t want to be a Richard Branson, David Copperfield, or Larry Ellison, king or queen of their own domain?

We are here to dispel the myth that you must be a billionaire or world-famous magician to own your own island, or a piece of one. You, too, can own a piece of paradise. Let’s take a look at some amazing island options, right here in Central America.

bocas del toro panama

Joy Drive

Bocas del Toro, Panama

You can own a piece of Isla Popa in the Bocas del Toro island chain off the Atlantic shore of Panama. Discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1502, this chain of islands features plenty of ecotourism opportunities, including Parque Internacional Amistad, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Whether you enjoy diving, surfing, or a beachside piña colada, Bocas del Toro has you covered.

What you can buy

A piece in Isla Popa will set you back $220,000, but that includes 9.1 hectares of land, a 30 ft. deep natural harbor, a two-story, two-bedroom wooden home, and a natural spring with swimming hole.

pearl islands panama

Gaspar Serrano

Pearl Islands, Panama

Shifting to the Pacific coast of Panama, we find the Pearl Islands. Only thirty miles off the coast of Ciudad de Panama, the most famous and most populated of these islands is Isla Contadora, which features white sand beaches, several bars and restaurants, and a great diving scene.

Want to Move to Paradise?

Think about Isla Del Rey in the Pearl Islands, which offers 130 acres of beachfront land, and can be yours for $4,500,000.

stann creek belize

Belizian Way

Stann Creek, Belize

Located in the southeast of Belize, the Stann Creek District features many beautiful parks and reserves, including the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary and Victoria Peak, the second highest mountain in Belize.

Go for the Whole Island

Little Coco Caye in Belize is for sale. This is a five acre island with great diving and fishing. The offer range for your own island is between $365,000 and $395,000.

bluefield nicaragua

Bluefield Nicaragua

Bluefields, Nicaragua

The actual town of Bluefields is very developed, with about 50,000 English-speaking citizens within its borders. It is located about 50 minutes by air from Managua, the capital of Nicaragua.

Rustic Island Living

Go rustic in Bluefields where you can purchase a two-bedroom home with generator, septic system, and water, as well as an infinity pool, small caretaker home, cement pier and white-sand beach. This island located an hour by boat from the town of Bluefields, Nicaragua offers up a fully-developed 2.5 acres for $560,000.

buy an island


Pink Pearl Island, Nicaragua

Again located off the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua, Pink Pearl Island features reefs, palm trees, and quite an impressive amount of infrastructure. It’s a great island retreat for a week, month, or as long as you like.

A Vacation Villa Like No Other

Three cabanas on the island can be used for tourism, a ‘shack’ with four bunk beds and a shower room, and a main house with one bedroom, living area, full kitchen, and wraparound balcony. There is also a bar and restaurant on the island. All of this can be yours for $500,000!

diamond caye honduras


Diamond Caye, Honduras

Shifting to the country of Honduras, Diamond Caye is located off the western end of Utila Island, and is non-developed. Like a clean island slate where your imagination can run wild. With 1.43 acres in the Bay Islands, the reef around Diamond Caye is some of the best diving in the Caribbean,

No Rules Apply

This island is only 20 minutes from East Harbour on Utila where you can stock up on necessities and take a moment to embrace society before heading back out to paradise. This tropical dream could be yours for $650,000.

isla golfito costa rica


Isla Golfito, Costa Rica

Departing from the white-sanded coasts of the other islands we’ve covered in this article, the Island Golfito is a jungled barrier island, located right in front of the town of Golfito.

Close, Yet Far Enough Away from Civilization

Over two miles long and one mile wild, the island listing offers 34.5 acres of decidedly off-grid living, with the island hosting ‘more monkeys than humans.’ Close enough to the mainland to require only a kayak or rowboat to shore, Island Golfito would be a perfect option for those wanting to get away from it all. And, at a $130,000, the patch of land is quite a steal!

So, What Next?

I’m sure many of you are much more interested in owning a swatch of your own island now that you’ve seen some of the options available all across Central America. Where do you begin?

Start by looking at some islands for sale!  And if you just aren’t ready to think about buying an island, here are a whole bunch more properties around Central America.

buy an island in panama

Mario Arias

Does your idea of owning property in the tropics involve a panoramic view of your own private beach, the presence of abundant exotic plants and animals, and the absence of annoyances like noisy neighbors, motorized vehicles, and tourist traps?

If so, then perhaps you should expand your real estate search parameters to include island properties or even entire islands for sale in Latin America.  And, for some really great island options, might we also suggest narrowing your search to Panama.

Off its Pacific and Caribbean coasts lie a number of spectacular, often uninhabited, islands whose ecosystems include rainforests, coral reefs, mangroves, cloud forests, and sandy beaches.  And these are home to tropical flowers, shady palms, ancient trees, and animals you’ve never seen in any textbook.

Once relatively unknown, Panama’s islands have been gaining popularity as the country’s government has taken a number of drastic measures to encourage both tourism and investment in the country and its many archipelagos.  

Today there are a number of private islands for sale, including some that are going for rock-bottom prices, making them primed for impressive appreciation as improvements to the country’s already good infrastructure continue to cause property values to climb.

While there are a few restrictions, it’s entirely possible for foreigners to own islands or waterfront island lots in Panama.  In fact, the entire buying process in Panama is relatively simple compared to many of its Central American neighbors.

We’ve written more extensively about the steps in our Panama real estate guide.  Here’s a quick recap, along with a few stipulations that apply specifically to island property.

Rights of Possession vs. Titled Property

In Panama, there are two types of property available for purchase.  The first is titled property which, once purchased, belongs to you and is titled in your name in the public registry.  You pay taxes on it and can do with it as you wish.

With Rights of Possession (ROP) property, the title is owned by the Panamanian government.  You can still use it however you’d like.  You just don’t hold the title and, consequently, you don’t pay property taxes.

Sound kind of cool, yet a little bit scary at the same time?  Yeah, you’re right on both counts.  ROP property can be a great investment.  It’s also one of the best, if not only, ways to get your hands on some really desirable real estate in Panama, as most (but not all)  islands and beachfront properties are ROP land. 

The way to eliminate any risks associated with this type of real estate purchase is to do your due diligence to research the ownership rights.  There may be conflicting claims to the property, involving multiple parties or even several generations of family members.  There can also be squatters who might make a claim for the land.

Resolving any of these potential issues on the front end is absolutely essential to purchasing ROP property and being able to walk away from the transaction with peace of mind, knowing no one else can come back and try to take it for themselves.

Don’t Even Start the Process Without Consulting an Attorney

At this point, it may go without saying (but we’re going to say it anyway)…you absolutely need to hire a qualified attorney who has experience with all types of real estate transactions in Panama, including island real estate and ROP property.  

And, by experience, we mean someone who has verifiable references or who comes highly recommended by another friend or professional whom you know and trust.  Not just the one with the best website or the neatly bundled real estate buying package with the price tag that ends in $???.99.

Even if your real estate transaction seems straightforward enough, we strongly suggest hiring a qualified attorney, realtor, and any other professional(s) you need to handle the entire process and save you a lot of headaches.  Having a team of professionals you can trust is the most important piece of the puzzle that comes together into a picture of you lying in that hammock without a care in the world.

The Buying Process

At the end of the day, the process of buying an island in Panama looks a lot like buying real estate pretty much anywhere in North America.  You’ll search online or with a realtor and look at places you’re considering.  Note: There’s no MLS in Panama, so you do have to get a bit more creative in order to find available properties. Our Panama Real Estate site is a good place to start.

Once you find the right one, you’ll sign a contract and pay a deposit, like earnest money.  Once the title or ownership rights have been researched (this is generally the longest part of the process and may also include a survey), you’ll complete a bill of sale and have it notarized.  Then a new title or certificate will be created and approved.

When all is in order, and not a minute before, then you’ll actually transfer the money to the seller from the bank or escrow company who’s been holding it in trust.  You’ll also pay any other applicable commissions or service charges, like closing costs.  If your property is titled, it can then be recorded in the public registry.

A Note About Waterfront Property

There is a specific restriction regarding beachfront property, which also affects island owners.  The first 20 meters from the high tide mark on all Panama beaches is public access.  So if you plan to build anything within this area, you’ll need to obtain a concession.  This applies to anything from a pier to entire home on stilts over the water.

This process can take a while, and unfortunately you’ll need the concession in order to get a building permit.  The good news is that this only applies to the public access area.  All that means is that you’ll need to build your house first, while your request is awaiting approval, and then the dock or waterfront gazebo can come later.

Panama’s Most Attractive Archipelagos

So, now that you know how, all that’s really left is WHERE you should search for your island home in Panama.  Here are a few of the most beautiful and popular choices.

photo by VivaTropical


Boca Chica

When we mentioned those areas where island real estate can be had for a bargain with some incredible investment potential to boot, this is the main place we had in mind.  Boca Chica, on Panama’s Pacific coast, is a true hidden gem that is just beginning to come into its own as a destination for island lovers, fishing enthusiasts, and investors.

With over 50 islands, boasting all kinds of ecosystems, this archipelago is absolutely breathtaking.  There’s currently little in the way of tourist infrastructure, which offers a practically blank slate for entrepreneuring expats.  

And tourists are definitely anticipated, as the nearby (less than an hour away) Enrique Malek International Airport in David will soon be receiving flights from the U.S. and other destinations for the first time ever.  These along with several other infrastructure improvements will mean big things for the Boca Chica area.

The islands themselves, including Boca Chica Island, a 400-acre private development and the home of our latest Adventure Colony, are wild and untouched.  Although only a few minutes from the mainland by boat, you’ll feel like you’re a million miles and several centuries away from civilization.  

photo by Gaspar Serrano

Gaspar Serrano

Pearl Islands

Located near the capital of Panama City, the Pearl Islands can be reached in 15 minutes by plane or 2 hours by ferry.  Once there, you’ll feel immediately a part of the rich history of pirates and treasures that gave the archipelago its name.

On the islands you’ll find secluded beaches, bird sanctuaries, coral reefs, and only a few small settlements, although tourism has been increasing as of late.  The islands’ beautiful beaches have formed the backdrop for the filming of several seasons of the hit series “Survivor.”

The calm waters surrounding the islands are ideal for fishing, snorkeling, and sailing.  The enhanced focus on tourism makes these islands another great investment opportunity.

The most visited of the Pearl Islands, Contadora (so named because it was the location where the pirates counted their pearls), is a resort island where many wealthy Panamanians and foreigners own second homes.  There are also a number of luxury tourist accommodations.

photo by Panapro


Bocas del Toro

On Panama’s Caribbean coast, is the archipelago of Bocas del Toro, Panama’s most visited tourist destination.  The epitome of the laid-back Caribbean lifestyle, its postcard-worthy skyline includes a number of dwellings and other tourist attractions built out on stilts atop the water.

This archipelago is a popular place for snorkeling and scuba diving, as well as surfing.  It has also hosted episodes of the “Survivor” series and as a result has been gaining even more popularity among tourists worldwide.

The six large and numerous small islands offer spectacular beaches that stand out against the thick rainforests, making it an ideal place for ecotourism.  However, it also has its share of development, particularly on Isla Colon, which has a fair share of tourist accommodations and a small airport that offers daily flights to Panama City and David.   

Although it’s the most developed of Panama’s archipelagos, there are still remote lots that can be found for a reasonable deal if you’re willing to venture away from the tourist areas.

photo by Seibert


Veraguas Islands

If you’re looking to get out…way out…then Veraguas Island and its surrounding area might be a good place to check out.  This remote group of islands is covered in lush jungles and offers proximity to Coiba National Park, which includes the largest uninhabited, forested island in the Americas.

The islands also boast a varied assortment of marine life, some white sand beaches, and a number of possibilities for their use.  They would make a great setting for a remote residence, an ecotourism outfit, or a private resort in an untouched natural setting.  

These ideas should give you a great start, but there are plenty of other islands to choose from in Panama and beyond.  Check back frequently to our listings of islands for sale throughout Latin America.

Tired of living or vacationing on the mainland and only enjoying the view of the islands from a distance?  Maybe it’s time you gave island life a try.

Island living offers all of the amazing things you love about being in the tropics.  Except it comes with a panoramic 360 degree view and without all the tourist traps and high-rise developments you might have to endure on mainland beaches.

It’s also entirely attainable!  

Whether you choose to find a quiet lot on a larger, more developed island or even go looking for an entire private island for sale, here are 20 pics to remind you what you could be waking up to every day if you decided to call an island your home.

Boca Chica, Panama

Boca Chica photo by VivaTropical


Off Panama’s Pacific Coast, in the Gulf of Chiriquí, lies an archipelago of over 50 islands, which National Geographic described as “myriad emerald isles strewn like jewels in a sapphire sea.”

Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

Galapagos Islands photo by Planet Gordon

Planet Gordon

Located roughly 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador, the Galapagos Islands were described by Charles Darwin as a place where, “in both space and time, we seem to be brought somewhat nearer to that great fact–that mystery of mysteries–the first appearance of new beings on this earth.”

Marietas Islands, Mexico

Marieta Islands photo by Khayla


Off the coast of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, lie Las Marietas Islands.  Now a national park, thanks to efforts first championed by Jacques Cousteau, they’re home to the island of Playa de Amor which is pictured above.  More commonly known as Hidden Beach, this area is accessible only by swimming through a short tunnel from the open ocean.

South Water Caye, Belize

South Water Caye photo by Jorge Torres

Jorge Torres

Belize’s South Water Caye Marine Reserve is another protected marine park.  It offers long stretches of white sand, some gorgeous views, and a resort with luxury accommodations.

Roatan, Honduras

Roatan photo by John Colby

John Colby

Direct flights from the U.S. make Roatan an ideal destination for tourists and expats alike.  It’s just developed enough to offer a wide variety of restaurants, bars, and other goods and services.  Yet it doesn’t suffer from the overcrowding that plagues a lot of islands that offer these same great amenities.

Little Corn Island, Nicaragua

Little Corn Island photo by August Gregg

August Gregg

Little Corn Island is one of Nicaragua’s best kept secrets.  It’s home to beautiful beaches, a number of diving and snorkeling spots, and some of the Caribbean’s friendliest folks.  It’s a great place to get away and relax, while still enjoying a few modern conveniences.

Utila, Honduras

Utila photo by Simon Hooks

Simon Hooks

One of the Bay Islands of Honduras, Utila is one of the most affordable places to enjoy a scuba diving vacation.  It offers over 60 dive spots on and around the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, as well as some amazing sunsets.

Isla del Cano, Costa Rica

Isla de Cano photo by Jason Barnes

Jason Barnes

Located near Costa Rica’s Drake Bay, Isla del Cano is significant for both its environmental and archeological value.  On land are headstones that are believed to mark the graves of pre-Colombian indigenous tribes, and in the waters surrounding the island are a wide variety of coral and a wealth of marine life.

Bocas del Toro, Panama

Bocas del Toro photo by Roman Königshofer

Roman Königshofer

The islands of Bocas del Toro are one of Panama’s most popular Caribbean destinations.  From lush rainforests to crystal clear reefs to thick mangroves to authentic indigenous villages to pristine beaches to a slow, laid-back lifestyle, they have everything they need to compete with the top spots in the region.

Isla Holbox, Mexico

Isla Holbox photo by D. Aniela

D. Aniela

Located in Quintana Roo, north of Cancun, Isla Holbox is a welcome break from the high-rise hustle and bustle.  Its sandy streets and open-air bars and restaurants offer a much more relaxed atmosphere.  It’s also a great place to see whale sharks, which feed in the plankton-rich waters that surround the island.

Laughing Bird Caye, Belize

Laughingbird Caye photo by D. Scott

D. Scott

Just over 10 miles off the coast of Placencia, Belize, lies the photogenic Laughing Bird Caye.  While no overnight stays are allowed on the island, it’s a popular stop for diving and snorkeling outfits due to its many unique coral formations.  Its picnic tables and grills make it a convenient spot to break for lunch.

Dunbar Rock, Honduras

Dunbar Rock photo by Sonja Stark

Sonja Stark

Dunbar Rock is a privately-owned island and home to Dunbar Villa, which offers gracious accommodations, amazing views, and a top-notch diving experience.  It’s also a great example of what you get when you combine island ownership with a little imagination and ingenuity.

Tortuga Island, Costa Rica

Tortuga Island photo by Mauricio Diaz E

Mauricio Diaz E

Tortuga Island lies off the tip of Costa Rica’s Nicoya Peninsula.  Its many opportunities for adventure make it a popular place for day tours.  These attractions include tranquil beaches, zip line canopy tours, snorkel and dive sites, and plenty of places for hiking or enjoying aquatic activities.

San Blas Islands, Panama

San Blas Islands photo by Ben Kucinski

Ben Kucinski

Also known as the Kuna Yala archipelago, these islands total 378 in number although only 49 are inhabited.  Located just east of the Panama Canal, they’re home to mostly Kuna Indians.  Visitors, however, are entirely welcome, with accommodations and meals consisting of small huts and the local fishermen’s catch of the day.

Cozumel, Mexico

Cozumel photo by Mega Udonitron

Mega Udonitron

Also located near Cancun is the island of Cozumel, which has become increasingly popular among tourists in recent years.  Mexico’s largest island, it offers attractions in every category, such as snorkeling, bird watching, and shopping. February’s Carnival is a festive celebration and a great time to visit.

Ambergris Caye, Belize

Ambergris Caye photo by Ian Morton

Ian Morton

Claiming over half of all tourists to Belize, Ambergris Caye was also named the #1 best island in the world by the users of TripAdvisor.  For the second year in a row. It’s convenient due to its proximity to the mainland as well as to the Belize Barrier Reef and some of the world’s best diving.  It’s a great place to live or visit.  Laid-back, but with all the modern conveniences.

Cayos Cochinos, Honduras

Cayos Cochinos photo by Dennis García

Dennis García

Also part of the Bay Islands, the Cayos Cochinos are two small islands and 13 small coral cays that occupy a land area of less than 1 square mile.  They’re part of a protected marine area, which National Geographic described as “a marine biologist’s dream:  protected by the government, off-limits to commercial divers and fishermen, and busy with creatures that may not yet have names.”

Ometepe Island, Nicaragua

Ometepe Island photo by Ashokboghani


With a name that means “two hills” in the native language, Ometepe Island houses two towering volcanoes connected by a small strip of land.  Its fertile soil and excellent fishing allow its local population to thrive.  They also warmly cater to tourists who come to the island, located in Lake Nicaragua, to enjoy its beautiful landscapes, rich archaeological history, and hospitality.

Coco Island, Costa Rica

Coco Island photo by Petrusbarbygere


Costa Rica is ripe with pirate tales, and none of its locales can top the rich history of Coco Island.  Dubbed the world’s most beautiful island by Jacques Cousteau, this destination was considered for one of the new seven wonders of the world.  It’s easy to see why its miles of rugged coastline might be popular among marauders or merely adventure-seeking vacationers.

Contadora Island, Panama

Contadora Island photo by Gaspar Serrano

Gaspar Serrano

Part of the Pearl Islands archipelago, Isla Contadora is a popular tourist destination located in the Gulf of Panama.  With regular flights to and from Panama City, it’s a convenient and easily accessible destination.  A resort island, it’s also dotted with impressive homes owned by wealthy Panamanians.

Living on or owning your own island may not seem like a possibility to you.  But the reality is, it’s easier than you think.

Depending on the level of development and amenities available, island ownership can be surprisingly affordable.  And Central America is a fantastic place to score a tropical island getaway for a fraction of the cost of what the rest of the globe has to offer.

To learn more check out our listings, updated frequently, of Central American islands for sale.

Not every tropical island looks like something you’d see on a postcard.  But if you’re looking for a destination that’s both picturesque and serene, then these five Panama islands are your hands-down best options.

San Blas Islands

photo by Ben Kucinski

Ben Kucinski

Although they’ve suffered a bit of an identity crisis (with the name being changed to Kuna Yala and then finally Guna Yala in 2011, although San Blas is still the moniker by which they’re best known), this archipelago is one of Panama’s most visually and culturally stunning destinations.

Made up of a total of 378 islands, of which only 49 are inhabited, the islands are almost entirely occupied by the Guna (or Kuna) Indians.  The hundreds of white sand islands, spread out across the turquoise water, are dotted with palm trees and the thatched huts of the local inhabitants.

The Guna people are welcoming to visitors, yet not to big business, which allows for an authentic cultural experience with no tourist traps or ugly hotels to spoil the vibe.  The islands have been featured numerous times in National Geographic for their perfect marriage of tropical beauty and bona fide culture.

Rated the #3 tropical paradise in the world by Lonely Planet in 2011, the San Blas Islands offer opportunities for snorkeling, diving, sailing, and kayak tours of the islands.  On land, you can also explore the dense rainforests or visit one of the Guna Indian villages.

Bocas del Toro

photo by Marc Wisniak

Marc Wisniak

The number one tourist destination in Panama, the islands of Bocas del Toro perfectly fit the bill of what most people are looking for in a Caribbean getaway.  They offer white sand beaches, towering palms, aquatic adventures, and the most adorable little clusters of cabins built on stilts right out in the water.  

Bocas Town, on Isla Colon, is a city of about 13,000 and boasts plenty of restaurants, hotels, bars, and other tourist attractions.  However, if you’re looking for a bit more solitude, there are plenty of places where you can find a practically deserted stretch of beach or hike through thick rainforests with nothing but a few rare birds to keep you company.

The islands also claim some of Panama’s best surfing, with a wide variety of surf breaks for all skill levels.  Catamaran tours are a great way to see the islands, as well as the mangroves, dolphins, manatees, and the red dart frogs that live exclusively on one of the islands.

Make sure you don’t miss the gorgeous Zapatilla Keys Beach where a whopping 18 different countries have come to film their “Survivor” series.  There are also a number of great spots for snorkeling and diving, as well as river tours that lead to an authentic Ngobe Bugle Indian village.

Pearl Islands

photo by Gaspar Serrano

Gaspar Serrano

Located in the Gulf of Panama about 30 miles from Panama City, the Pearl Islands archipelago includes about 100 islands, many of which are uninhabited.  Also home to three seasons of CBS’s “Survivor,” the islands offer some of the country’s most beautiful scenery.

The most popular of the islands is Contadora Island.  Its small airport makes it easily accessible.  And its luxury hotels, restaurants, and 9-hole golf course are conveniently tucked in among the island’s 13 beautiful beaches.

The island’s name means “counter” in Spanish, aptly named since the island served as a spot where Spanish conquistadors would go to tally their pearl harvest.  Thousands were found during the 16th century, including a 400-year-old, 31 carat pearl now owned by Elizabeth Taylor.

You can still buy pearls on the islands today, but their biggest attractions are their sparsely-populated, postcard-worthy beaches.

Isla Grande

photo by 2 BP

2 BP

Just a few miles off the coast of Portobelo, a picturesque town with rich Spanish history, lies Isla Grande.  Home to the popular Bananas resort, it’s a top destination among Panama City residents who want to get away from the hubbub of the city and relax on the island’s palm-lined beaches.  

The quaint little island is home to only a few hundred people who mostly earn their living off fishing and coconuts, trends that are evident in the island’s cuisine.  It boasts a relaxed vibe and a considerable amount of rainfall due to its location on the country’s northern Caribbean coast.

Isla Grande also offers some excellent snorkeling and scuba diving.  The waters between it and Portobelo claim a number of shipwrecks and coral reefs.

Boca Chica

photo by VivaTropical


Located in the Gulf of Chiriqui, Boca Chica boasts over 50 islands scattered throughout the gulf off the coast of the town of Boca Chica.  The islands are easily accessible thanks to a newly widened highway to the city of David, where the large international airport will soon be receiving flights from the U.S. and other destinations.

Newly emerging as an up-and-coming tourist destination, the area has a few lodging options, including a fishing lodge and an eco-boutique hotel.  But what it currently lacks in tourist infrastructure, it easily makes up for in impressive scenery and uninhabited islands waiting to be explored.

There are ghostly mangroves, otherworldly ancient rainforests, white sand beaches, and a myriad of flora and fauna.  On Boca Chica Island itself is Monte Vida Park, a 50-acre crowd-funded park that’s the first of its kind.

Also nearby are Coiba Island and Hannibal Bank, which are home to some of the best fishing in the entire world, as evidenced by the astounding number of world record catches that occurred in their waters.  Popular species include yellowfin tuna, blue and black marlin, sailfish, and dorado.

See our Panama articles for more information on these and other popular destinations.  You can also check out our listings of islands for sale if you’re interested in making your tropical paradise experience a little more long term.

Ambergris Caye photo by Anoldent


The beautiful island of Ambergris Caye, Belize, was recently named the best island in the world by the readers of TripAvisor.  The island takes top billing for the second year in a row, knocking out favorites like Bora Bora and Chile’s Easter Island.

When choosing it as their top pick, voters cited its beautiful natural environment, its perfect balance of quaint-meets-contemporary, and the myriad of activities the island offers.  Here are a few of the things that make Ambergris Caye such a great choice for tourists and expats.

It has a relaxing laid-back feel.

Despite being popular enough to rank tops with TripAdvisor travelers, Ambergris Caye has retained its quaint island atmosphere.  There are no high-rise buildings, no traffic lights, and nothing but palm trees lining the long stretches of beautiful beach.

Most everything is within walking distance, and most inhabitants do their walking in bare feet.  Beyond that, golf carts are about the most sophisticated vehicles you’ll see on the sandy roads.

The people are an eclectic mix of locals as well as expats from all over the globe.  Many residents come over from mainland Belize, but there are also immigrants from other Latin American countries, the U.S., and elsewhere.  They’re all helpful, super friendly, and eager to share their love for the island with other newcomers.

Yet it’s far from sleepy.

Even though Ambergris Caye can be peaceful and quiet, there’s no shortage of things to do, thanks to its well-developed tourist culture.  There are a variety of restaurants, due largely to its diverse blend of cultures.

You can visit a hot dog or burrito stand for lunch, snack on ceviche or stuffed jalapenos from a street vendor, and enjoy dinner at an elegant restaurant serving authentic Belizean cuisine.  The island also has a happening evening scene, with plenty of bars, beach parties, and more.

It offers some of the world’s best scuba diving.

Ambergris Caye is less than a mile from the Belize Barrier Reef, the largest in the Western Hemisphere and the second largest in the world.  It’s also a short distance from the Great Blue Hole, one of the world’s top diving sites.

The waters around the island are also great for snorkeling.  The fishing is great, and you can also sail to the nearby cayes, like Caye Caulker which is another popular Belize vacation spot.

Not to mention, the amazing scenery.

Ambergris Caye is much more than the sand and sea of your average beach town.  It does have some great sand beaches that have been cleared for the enjoyment of sunbathing tourists.  But what’s even more interesting are the other ecosystems on and around the island.

From the mangrove swamp that occupies the center of the island to the jungles on the surrounding cayes to the reef itself, there’s so much to observe in Ambergris Caye.  If you’re only looking for the white sand beaches with shady palms, you can definitely find them.  But don’t miss the other opportunities the island offers.

If you like Ambergris Caye, you’ll love these options…

Roatan photo by James Willamore

James Willamore

Roatan, Honduras

Located just off the country’s northern coast, Roatan is also only a short hop from the reef. As a result, it offers the same opportunities to explore seawalls and shipwrecks while swimming with dolphins and sea turtles in the warm waters of the Caribbean.

Except when there are cruise ships docked offshore, Roatan is pleasantly uncrowded compared to some of its Central American competitors.  Yet it also enjoys all of the same amenities tourists and locals seek, like great bars and restaurants.

It has equally friendly locals, many of whom speak English, and plenty of expats.  Prices there are also still relatively affordable.

Bocas del Toro photo by Roman Königshofer

Roman Königshofer

Bocas del Toro, Panama

Also located in the Caribbean is the archipelago of Bocas del Toro, Panama.  The country’s vacation destination, it’s popular among travelers from all over the world.

With its network of buildings built on stilts out in the water, it’s everything you picture when dreaming about a Caribbean vacation.  It also enjoys the same easygoing vibe as the other destinations.

Visitors to Bocas del Toro can participate in diving, snorkeling, world-class surfing, jungle hiking, or just relaxing on the beautiful beaches.

Nosara photo by Jackiemora01


Nosara, Costa Rica

A longtime popular choice among expats, Nosara is a great mainland beach option.  It’s known for its fantastic surfing and healthy, active culture.  It’s also gaining popularity among young expat families.

It’s a safe community that lacks the drug problem that plagues many other destinations. Its longstanding status as an expat haven has resulted in the addition of many amenities families seek, such as quality schools.

It also has some of the country’s most beautiful beaches, which are protected from the scars of any large-scale developments.  They offer nothing but shady palms, rocky cliffs, and long expanses of sand.

Boca Chica Island photo by VivaTropical


Boca Chica Island, Panama

Located in an archipelago in the Gulf of Chiriqui, off Panama’s Pacific Coast, Boca Chica Island is one of the country’s final frontiers.  Its sandy beaches give way to lush virgin rainforests, making it the perfect place to relax in a tranquil setting away from the crowds and noise.

From Boca Chica, you can hop to one of the over 50 surrounding islands and explore deserted beaches, eerie mangroves, and ancient jungles.  The area also offers some of the world’s best sport fishing.

While it sounds remote (and it certainly feels that way), Boca Chica Island is only a 10 minute boat ride from the town of Boca Chica on the mainland, and then it’s less than an hour to the city of David (Panama’s 3rd largest).

Because of its excellent location, plus the massive renovation of David’s airport that now allows for international flights from the U.S., property on Boca Chica Island is also a fantastic investment.  It’s the perfect place to enjoy an active tropical lifestyle without giving up any modern conveniences.

And thanks to our newest Adventure Colony development, you can still buy oceanfront lots in this up-and-coming area at unbelievable prices.  For more information on the Adventure Colony experience and its investment potential, here are some helpful insights and cool video of the area.


Map of Ambergris Caye, Belize

Belize Fast Facts

  • Population: 324,060
  • Typical temperature: mid-80s
  • Nearest airport with U.S. flights: Philip S. W. Goldson International Airport, Belize City
  • Nearest U.S. consulate: Belmopan‎, Belize