Facts About Panama: 10 Reasons Why You Should Consider Moving There
The nation of Panama has touted itself as “The Way.” The way to adventure, the way to realizing your dreams, the way to a dream vacation, or the way to whatever it is you may be looking for.
And it’s true.
Every year thousands of expats are finding exactly what they’re seeking in Panama. Whether it’s an opportunity to start their own business, the ability to experience new adventures with their family, or just a quiet place to settle down and enjoy the fruits of their labors.
So, what is the secret to Panama’s appeal? There are actually too many to name. But here are just a few facts about Panama and why expats continue to pick it as their destination of choice.
1. Panama has unmatched natural beauty and biodiversity.
Almost half of Panama’s land mass consists of rainforests, mountain cloud forests, and mangrove wetlands. And they’re all teeming with an abundance of flora and fauna. Not to mention all the aquatic species in the surrounding seas and coral reefs.
Much of the country’s biodiversity is due to its strategic position as a “biological corridor” connecting the Americas. Its Darien province, which is almost impenetrable and lacks much infrastructure, is considered by some as one of the most biodiverse areas in the entire world.
It’s home to jaguars, harpy eagles, American crocodiles, giant anteaters, and more. Among the country’s other species are over 10,000 types of plants (including 1,200 varieties of orchids and 1,500 types of trees) and over 250 types of mammals, several of which can be found nowhere else in the world.
2. Turtles and whales and birds…Oh, my!
Of all the animals to see in Panama, few are as prevalent and as fascinating as these. Five of the eight species of sea turtles in the entire world swim ashore to nest on Panama’s beaches. Several national parks encompass havens for these turtles that swim in by the thousands to lay their eggs in the sand.
Panama is also home to a whopping 972 species of birds, more than the U.S. and Canada combined. You can observe them in the mountains or in the mangroves. One of the best places is in Baru Volcano National Park, where you can spot the Resplendent Quetzal along with many other species.
Every year from June to November, humpback and sperm whales migrate to Panama’s Pacific Coast to mate. The sight of them leaping out of the water in areas like Coiba, the Gulf of Chiriqui, and the Pearl Islands is quite a sight to behold.
3. Finding the right climate in Panama is almost as easy as adjusting your thermostat.
In general, Panama has a warm, tropical climate with very little seasonal variation. Coastal areas are much more hot and humid, and the mountain towns are more temperate with less rainfall. The year is essentially divided into a rainy season (roughly April to December, give or take a month or two depending on location) and a much drier rest of the year.
Finding the right climate for you basically involves testing out spots on a sliding scale from Caribbean to Pacific and from lower to higher elevations. The Pacific coast is a bit cooler and drier, with a nice evening breeze. The Caribbean side, by contrast, gets significantly more rainfall and is a few degrees warmer.
Likewise, you can also adjust your temperature and humidity by moving further up into the mountains. It gets cooler and cooler (maybe even too cool for some), with areas like the Cordillera de Talamanca in western Panama even seeing a little bit of frost.
With such great weather year-round, Panama’s residents can enjoy its beauty and opportunities for adventure in every season! In other great news, while parts of Panama do see the occasional strong thunderstorm, it’s outside the hurricane belt.
4. Panama is an ocean lover’s paradise.
Panama is a narrow isthmus that connects Costa Rica in Central America with Colombia in South America. It’s lined by miles and miles of coastline on both the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea. Its coastal ecosystems consist of gorgeous beaches, rocky cliffs, mangrove forests, and coral reefs.
As a result, Panama’s coasts offer opportunities for every water sport and activity imaginable. Coiba National Park contains the longest reef on Central America’s Pacific coast. Both it and Chiriqui Gulf National Marine Park are great places to go diving or snorkeling or watch whales and dolphins.
The name “Panama,” in the Indian language, means “abundance of fish.” It’s a great place for sport fishing, as a number of world record fish were caught of its shores. Surfing is also popular in Panama, particularly in world-famous Santa Catalina. Other available water sports include paddle boarding, kayaking, and kite surfing.
5. Panama’s fun doesn’t stop at the shore.
Panama’s interior offers a wealth of other options for adventure. Many hiking trails wind through the country’s jungles and rainforests, including several that run through Metropolitan Natural Park in Panama City, the only protected forest in Central America that’s located within the city limits.
A hike to the summit of Volcan Baru, the country’s highest point, affords visitors the opportunity to simultaneously take in views of both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. The most intrepid adventurers often start this hike at midnight in order to reach the peak by sunrise.
Not far from Volcan Baru, also in the Chiriqui province, is the mountain town of Boquete which offers some of the world’s best zip lining tours through the canopy of the cloud forest. The area also has some first-rate places for kayaking and whitewater rafting, with rapids ranging from Class III to Class V, depending on the season.
6. Panama’s capital city is truly cosmopolitan.
Much of Panama enjoys great infrastructure for a developing country. In Panama City, it’s top-notch. There’s world-class shopping, fine dining, museums, modern medical facilities, and much more. And recent urban development has attracted even more residents to this thriving hub.
But it’s not all concrete and skyscrapers. As mentioned, Panama City has a 655-acre rain forest within its limits. There you can find a variety of birds and mammals, including toucans, parrots, and sloths.
There’s also a coastal strip with lots of green space that leads to the Old Town, Casco Viejo. This area, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is a unique blend of ancient and modern. With its boutique hotels, located in historic buildings, and open-air cafes it’s an eclectic mix of people and cultures.
7. Panama is a unique and diverse blend of people and customs.
Speaking of culture, Panama is a great place to go if you want to experience the real, authentic customs and traditions of a nation’s people. Panama is still home to 7 different indigenous tribes, although they represent only 6% of the country’s total population. They live in groups called comarcas, which are self-contained sovereignties, with many being very welcoming to visitors who want to observe how they live.
Among the cultural heritage of these ethnic groups are indigenous dances, like the tamborito and congo. They also produce a variety of handmade arts and crafts. These include molas (patchwork pictures that can be sewn to garments or used as pillow covers or wall hangings), jute bags, wood carvings, beaded jewelry, and woven baskets. (However, one of the most commonly mistaken facts about Panama is the origin of the Panama hat. It actually hails from Ecuador.)
Locals also celebrate a number of festivals, most notably Carnival which takes place four days before Ash Wednesday. Towns elect two queens to represent separate sections of the city. For five nights, the queens and their troupes entertain the crowds with parades, dancing, and fireworks.
8. The Panama Canal is an amazing piece of living history.
The largest contributor (directly and indirectly) to the nation’s GDP, the Panama Canal is such an integral part of the story of the country’s progress. And it’s currently undergoing a massive expansion.
The 90-year old waterway, which is already operating at almost 100% of its ability, will have doubled its capacity by the time its over $5 billion expansion project is completed in 2015. A new Observation Center gives visitors the opportunity to watch the construction, as well as take in views of Gatun Lake. Also available are full and partial tours through the canal, where visitors can experience the journey for themselves.
9. Panama enjoys a pleasantly low cost of living.
While it’s true that the cost of living is low throughout most of Latin America, it’s difficult to find a much better bang for your buck than in Panama. Costs vary, of course, from one area to the next (with larger cities requiring much more money to live on than more rural areas).
However, it’s within reason that a couple could enjoy a nice standard of living for $1,500 or less, including rent, in most parts of Panama. And that includes such luxuries as the services of a maid and gardener.
Other services that are quite reasonable in Panama include reliable high-speed internet, public transportation, and excellent health care.
10. Panama is an excellent place to invest or do business.
Not only is Panama a great place to visit or live, it’s very friendly to investors or those who want to open a business, particularly in the tourism industry. Its tax laws are favorable, and setting up a Panamanian corporation is relatively simple.
The government has also recently signed into legislation a number of incentives that make it even more attractive to invest in Panama.
Whether you want to start up an outfit that offers ATV jungle tours, or you just want to buy a piece of land and build your own little piece of island paradise, Panama is a great place to make that happen.
Bonus Facts About Panama…#11. Panama is home to two Adventure Colonies.
I know what you’re thinking. What’s an Adventure Colony, right?
Adventure Colonies are our one-of-a-kind developments that are specially tailored towards would-be expats like you who share our love for the natural environment and a life lived a bit more simply. After reading these facts about Panama, I’m sure you can see why we chose it for our first two projects.
Playa Burica is located on Panama’s Pacific coast on a peninsula the country shares with Costa Rica. Its oceanside lots are covered with untouched jungle, making it great for adventure lovers. It’s also a savvy investment choice, as several factors make the area prime for a boom in the coming years.
Our newest development, Boca Chica Island, is a 400 acre private island covered in jungle and rainforest. It lies 10 minutes off of Panama’s Pacific coast and is surrounded by about 50 other mostly uninhabited islands. We think Robinson Crusoe would approve.
If your idea of a dream destination abroad involves something more–or in this case, less–than a string of high-rise condos and all-inclusive resorts, then maybe an Adventure Colony could be right for you.
Map of Panama
Panama Fast Facts
- Population: 3.8 million
- Typical temperature: Temperature typically varies from 72°F to 91°F
- Nearest airport with U.S. flights: U.S. Bound flights leave daily from Tocumen International Airport
- Nearest U.S. consulate: Panama City