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Five Up-and-Coming Places in Panama

Playa Burica

Playa Burica property in Panama

There are a lot of great up-and-coming places in Panama that are perfect for those who want to relocate to the tropics but don’t want to pay the hefty price for a place in an established area.  These locations are also ideal for any would-be pioneers who are looking for a rising hotspot that isn’t quite so “last week.”

So, whether you’re hoping to blaze a trail in an emerging area or just want to find your own piece of paradise with a slightly lower price tag, we recommend that you keep an eye on these 5 up-and-coming places in Panama.

1. Western Azuero

Unlike the eastern portion of the peninsula, the western coast of Azuero is much less developed.  Known as the Azuero Sunset Coast, this area is sparsely populated and home to very few expats.  While it has a couple of small towns–most notably, Torio, and Malena, a small fishing village–the region is mostly home to cattle ranches and those involved in other agricultural pursuits.

Situated on Panama’s Pacific Coast, the scenery on the Azuero is remarkable.  Lush mountainsides, with cascading waterfalls, give way to deserted stretches of beach where you could easily find yourself to be the only sunbather or surfer for miles around.  Speaking of surfing, this region, particularly Morillo Beach just south of Torio, offers some of Panama’s best and most consistent waves.

The Azuero’s western coast offers sightings of whales, dolphins, and sea turtles.  It’s also home to world-class fishing, with an abundance of tuna, sailfish, marlin, dorado, wahoo, and yellow tail.  And the rainforests of Cerro Hoya National Park are home to many endangered species.

Azuero coastal area does have some supermarkets and even a handful of new residential areas along the coast, but getting from point B to point B is indirect at best, however, if that doesn’t bother you, this area boasts one of the lowest costs of living in Panama.

With decent access to the larger city of Santiago, and even better access to more populated areas along the peninsula’s east coast (like Pedasi and Las Tablas), the western Azuero coast is a great fit if you want to live like a local without venturing terribly far away from modern conveniences.

2.  Caribbean Coast

In contrast to Panama’s often rocky and varied Pacific coast, its northern coast borders the Caribbean, which offers pristine white sand and shady palms.  Not to mention sparkling turquoise waters that offer crystal clear visibility.

Its beauty might suggest that Panama’s Caribbean coast would be its most desirable and home to many of its largest settlements.  Not so.

One reason is its inaccessibility.  The Pan-American highway, which stretches from Alaska down to the southernmost regions of South America (except for a brief gap through Panama’s Darien province), almost invariably clings tightly to Panama’s southern Pacific coast, making the Caribbean side of the nation much more difficult to reach by land.

Also, while there are areas such as Bocas del Toro that attract both tourists and expats in droves, they’re not the best bargains on the Caribbean coast.  If you’re looking for a bigger discount, Panama’s northern coast also boasts miles and miles of virgin beaches that are great for the more adventurous destination-seeker.

Along with the discounted price tag, though, comes much less in the way of infrastructure.  Think primitive roads, spotty internet, and fewer public water systems.

Additional challenges presented by Panama’s Caribbean coast include the large amount of protected land.  With many national parks and indigenous lands, property is quite difficult to come by.  Not to mention, the area gets a large amount of rainfall, roughly twice that of the Pacific Coast.

While the Caribbean coast offers opportunities to own stunning beachfront property at rock bottom prices, it’s not for everyone.  We’d only recommend this region if you aren’t afraid to hurdle some obstacles in the buying process and are willing to contend with a lack of conveniences.  At least, for now.

3.  Burica Peninsula

In Panama’s southwest corner lies the Burica Peninsula, which juts into the Pacific Ocean and divides its territory between Costa Rica and Panama, which claims about ⅔ of the landmass.  Accessible by a short scenic drive from David, the peninsula is home to Puerto Armuelles, which has shopping facilities and other modern conveniences.

However, Burica’s tropical wilderness, not its familiar amenities, are its real appeal.  Covered mostly in rainforests, it contains beautiful flora and fauna and is home to many endangered species such as the Panamanian Red Spider Monkey.

The area also contains fields, where cattle graze, and rolling hills that often drop off directly into the Pacific Ocean.  Its beaches are untouched and dotted with towering palms.  In addition to lounging in a hammock on an isolated beach, the area also welcomes you to experience some of the world’s best sport fishing and a few of Panama’s secret surfing locations.

A drive down the recently completed road that leads all the way to the tip of the peninsula affords views of Volcan Baru, the country’s highest peak.  You’ll cross a river and drive out on the beach, along the surf, to reach the Playa Burica community at the southernmost point.  But only at low tide.  Otherwise, you’ll need a boat to get there.

While this area is still up-and-coming, it likely won’t be for long.  If you’re looking for an elusive destination that offers a remote feel, just a short distance from civilization, take a look at the Burica Peninsula.

Note: Article 121 is something one needs to research before buying here. Despite this Law most of the coastline is currently owned by foreigners.

4.  Santa Fe

So, those are some beach areas.  What about something for the mountain-goers?

The relatively small, albeit growing, town of Santa Fe, nestled into the Veraguas mountain range about 5 hours from Panama City, is a place we think you should watch.

Although surrounded by much higher mountains, Santa Fe sits at an altitude of just 1350 feet.  That’s high enough to escape the heat and humidity of the lowlands, yet low enough to experience some nice warm days and no breathing problems.

While notes of traditional Panamanian culture still ring throughout, the city enjoys many modern conveniences such as clean drinking water and high speed internet.  However, perhaps its biggest draw is its opportunity for adventure.

Santa Fe offers horseback riding, bird watching, and exploring…from mountainside coffee farms to waterfalls to orchid gardens.  Among the town’s inhabitants are toucans, hummingbirds, and rare butterflies.

Also relatively rare in Santa Fe are expats.  Sure, there are some.  But rather than living isolated by themselves in gated communities, expats in Santa Fe often reside on large plots of land that they can use for coffee farming, reforestation, or even simply growing their own organic fruits and vegetables.

Santa Fe is a great value if you’re an outdoor enthusiast who wants community and conveniences, but in a place that’s rich in authentic culture and relatively unspoiled by developers.

5.  Ruta Sur

Ruta Sur refers to the new stretch of road that was built to bridge the gap between Boquete and Volcan.  Meaning “Southern Route,” it covers what is essentially 15 miles, as the crow flies, in many more winding miles of unmarked (and sometimes unpaved) roads.

Much different from the highly-developed and densely populated towns it connects, areas traversed by the Ruta Sur are rural and contain few inhabitants.  The route takes you past miles of coffee and vegetable farms, by orange groves, past Volcan Baru, alongside waterfalls, through canyons and lush valleys, and finally to fields used for cattle farms and greenhouses.

Once fairly unknown, this region offers, not only new and improved access, but many opportunities for enterprise.  Residents of this area are able to enjoy the breathtaking scenery and also earn a living operating a dairy farm or a spa retreat high in the mountains.

As the road begins to become more traveled, the region will likely gain popularity.  However, it could take a while.  The route is largely unlabeled, with only a telltale painted yellow stripe marking the way, much like Dorothy’s fabled quest for the land of Oz.

The areas along the Ruta Sur are perfect if you want to enjoy a life lived a little further off the beaten path and use your land as your livelihood.  Shop for property along this stretch of road if you want to embrace life along the journey, not at the destination.


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8 thoughts on “Five Up-and-Coming Places in Panama

  1. 1

    Ummm. . . last time I checked there was NO DIRECT ROAD from Eastern Azuero towns like Las Tablas and Pedasi to the Sunset Coast. To get there from here (I live in Las Tablas) I would have to drive up to Santiago, then down the other coast. A lot more than an hour away unless you’re a flying crow. . .

  2. 3

    Normally I do not study post for sites, even so would like to express that this write-up really compelled us to take a look from as well as practice it! Ones way with words is pleasantly surprised myself. Thank you, really excellent content.

    • 4

      My husband and I do live in the western azuero for about 7 years and own a small bed and breakfast there, Hotel Heliconia. For people that want to settle there, beware, there are many that came and left! It has been said to start booming and still has not boomed… I is nice and quiet. But for many the quiet also means too quiet. No clubs exists. The 2 supermarkets are not the type of supermarkets but mini supers. They do not specifically cater for the foreigners who tend to go shopping in Santiago. So make sure if you intend to buy land here that you first come and explore it. If you want to live there full time, make sure you come by in the rainy season, like september and october and november….

  3. 6

    Santa Fe, Panama is a village isolated from Santiago by a winding narrow road. Sorry, but it doesn’t qualify as “up and coming”.

  4. 7

    What about insects? Mosquitoes?

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