Discover the charming neighborhood of El Dorado, Panama City, offering a suburban escape from the hustle and bustle. In this article, you’ll explore the allure of El Dorado, with its mix of local culture and vibrant community.
The air conditioning had been on all night, leaving the room refreshingly cool, but nature’s call beckoned. As Karen and the kids slept soundly, I silenced the AC and stepped out onto the balcony overlooking the Panama City neighborhood of El Dorado.
Through the morning haze, I wondered whether we had made the right decision in moving to Panama. We’d been here for a few months and were still bouncing around the city, looking for our favorite spot to settle in.
When we first arrived, we knew we needed a central base. Somewhere close enough to everything, where we could acclimatize, navigate the city, buy groceries, and learn the ins and outs. It was essential to understand which area of Panama City suited us best, or if living here was the right fit at all. While we had identified a few potentially appealing neighborhoods, we realized we needed more time to find the ideal apartment, considering the financial and immigration aspects ahead.
We decided to set up a base camp in a hotel with a reasonable price, and the Central Park Hotel in El Dorado worked for us. El Dorado is located in the northeast of Panama City, just south of the Corredor Norte highway. The neighborhood is home to a mix of businesses, restaurants, and homes. It’s far away enough from the city center to not be a tourist trap and close enough for easy access.
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Now El Dorado wasn’t on our radar as a potential settling place, but the hotel’s location checked all the right boxes
It was local, and the guests, when we stayed, were all Panamanians visiting family over the carnival period. We were still visitors, but we were out of the gringo bubble.
Out on the balcony, I planted myself down, flipped open my laptop and wondered if I had anything worth writing. Jay and Holly would soon wake up and want to get their armbands on and head to the pool.
The area was originally swampland, drained and developed in the early 20th century with the construction of the Panama Canal. The first buildings were mostly warehouses and factories, but as the city grew, it became more residential. The El Dorado Mall opened in the 1970s, and quickly became one of the most popular malls in Panama. The mall helped to spur the development of the area, and El Dorado became a major commercial and residential center.
El Dorado is an area where many aspiring, local middle-class families have settled. It has a vibrant culture, including a large Chinese community. You’ll find many Chinese restaurants and shops in the neighborhood, offering visitors an immersive cultural experience.
The reason Panama City’s original Chinatown in Casco Viejo is now devoid of Chinese people is that once they had some money, they came here. And so did many others, building themselves a middle-class enclave.
Avenida Miguel A Brostella cuts through El Dorado with the tip of the Metropolitan National Park to one side of us, and El Dorado Mall the other. This area is a hybrid. All safe and genteel. You’ll see neighborhood watch signs at the end of the streets.
What may seem like the poorest area a few blocks south is now home to up-and-coming Panamanians who have bettered themselves. If we could afford a family house rather than an apartment – this is where we would have settled, on the edge of the city with easy transport in.
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Later that morning, we crossed the road for coffee
Grand Deli Gourmet has a café with great panini, croissants, and good coffee. Their bakery and shelves have anything you can imagine from Europe.
After coffee, we grabbed a picnic and walked a block to Parque Recreativo Las Mercedes. Always busy with local kids playing ball and hanging out, this park backs right onto the Metropolitan National Park. If you’re lucky, you can spot monkeys in the rainforest through the fence.
Although Panama City has pretty much everything a homesick expat could want, it’s all spread about. But in El Dorado, it’s all here! TGI Fridays, Papa Johns, Subway, Sushi Express, McDonald’s, KFC, Taco Bell, and more. And you’ll find plenty of international brands in the aforementioned El Dorado Mall. The food court and movie theater make the mall perfect for families.
If you’re feeling overfed with gringo food from the mall, El Dorado has easy access to the Corredor Norte, lined with parks and gardens. It’s a great place to get some exercise and enjoy the outdoors.
We sat in the park with our picnic while the kids played with the locals. The sun was up and it was hot. I was content and feeling the calm vibe of El Dorado. All in all, for expat families seeking a suburban feel in Panama City, outside the hustle of the center, El Dorado is worth considering.