As you can see from the Panama map below there is a great deal of coast line, both on the Atlantic and the Pacific. But, but, but, but…..
So off we went with our trusty real estate agent. As we were driving he told us about fabulous properties on the coast that sounded perfect. “Let’s go see it.” Well, there is nothing to see. “OK” Repeat, again and again. The entire country is in the planning stage. The roads were really good and there was no traffic (even on a Saturday) so at least we were making good time. Since there was no real estate to see, yet, we checked out the areas. All the same – nothing to see. This is what I called the Pioneer stage of real estate development.
Out of desperation, our agent took us to a golf course community called Malibu although it didn’t sound like anything we’d be interested in. But being in the development end of real estate I thought it would be interesting to see this really affordable community. Tiny, but affordable villas under $200,000 for starters. For the economically challenged there is also a “Hut” model, pictured below. Room for two hammocks, outdoor shower, grill, a roof over your head. Low maintenance. Life is good! Looks perfect after a day on the links and a drink at the clubhouse. Home at last!
Malibu’s developers were working on roads and starting six model units. When we finally rousted someone to open the sales office door (another locked sales office with whoever inside) we saw what seemed like millions of red sold dots on the site plan. Who needed these gringos (us)? We drove down to the beach and were eaten alive by mosquitoes, each the size of a Ford. When we got back in the car the mosquitoes followed us. They seemed delighted with the prospect of new blood in the neighborhood. What a nightmare!
Further down the highway we were finally reaching our limit on “time from the airport” of two hours. “Stop the car!” We were at the outer limit and found ourselves at Playa Blanaca, “Beach Resort, Spa & Residences”. This development was well underway and there was a hotel. People were coming and going, mostly by hotel van, but this was somewhat promising. We were told that the existing properties had been “under-built” so the balance of the project was taken up a few notches to suit a higher-end buyer. BAM!
The only problem…To get close to the ocean it was $500 to over $1,000 per square feet and very small units…500 sq.ft. which included a good bit of terrace space. Ouch! There were some units in a high-rise and they were slightly less but still very pricey. It did hold some promise to become a very active, lively vacation spot. They have a really good, detailed web site so check it out.
On the way back to Panama, we stopped at the developed golf course beach resort of Coronado. This was a somewhat impromptu stop since we coerced our agent into showing up something built-out. Here we saw a finished condo building where there were several units for sale. Now we’re talking. These were large three and four bedroom units with panoramic beach views and above an expansive pool complex. The balconies were large and very comfortable. Price tag….$300,000 to $370,000 for a upper floor four bedroom unit with a glorious view.
The building had been recently completed and these units were owned by “investors”. We were told the price was negotiable. Front door to airport entrance was 1 hour, 10 minutes. All the right answers. A third condo tower of the same skew was going up next door.
Coronado was probably one of Panama's early resort developments. There were mostly single-family homes around the golf course and beach front. The homes ranged from modest but nice two bedroom to multi-million dollar mansions. There were a few “family compounds” that were exquisite. The community showed no signs of professional management.
We spent our last four days in Panama at the InterContinental Playa Bonita just a few minutes south of the Bridge of the Americas at the mouth of the Panama Canal. It was absolutely beautiful! I never saw anyone swimming in the ocean and guessed that it was still too close to Panama City to escape pollution and the cargo traffic from the Canal was also too close for clean water standards to be high.
But the place was heaven and the expanse of salt water pool systems left no regrets. We thought what a perfect place to have a condo. Just a few minutes from Panama City but yet it felt like a beach resort. Well someone already thought of it – the Bern family of developers. There new development at Playa Bonita (they were also the developers of the InterContinental) to be something really special! No news published yet, but stay tuned to the Bern web site.
If seclusion is what you want, head to the Pearl Islands. We went there fishing but it is not for the casual second home. It is remote, quiet, and expensive. We did not find the pearls or the fish. In one of the fishing and pearl capitals of the world and we found neither. It was, all-in-all, a frustrating day. The good news was that we came back to Playa Bonita and all was forgotten.
We did not consider any properties on the Caribbean side of Panama. After seeing the Punta Indian territories it spoiled us for anything more modern. If you will indulge me one more post on Panama, I want to relate our stay in the Archipelago of San Blas at the unique resort called the Coral Lodge.
Real Concepts’ Panama Real Estate Series: