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Punta Pacifica, Panama City / Bahia Grand Facebook page

Punta Pacifica, Panama City: Central America’s Mini-Dubai?

Punta Pacifica, Panama City is perhaps the most luxurious piece of real estate in Central America, home of the regions tallest building, and with its own Dubai-style manmade islands. Local expat Lee Elliott shows us around.

Moving to Panama and have some cash to splash? If you want an exclusive neighborhood, where better than the waterfront of Punta Pacifica, Panama City?

Punta Pacifica, Panama City, Panama

Punta Pacifica, Panama City, Panama / Punta Pacifica Realty Facebook page

Punta Pacifica is a subdivision of San Francisco, sitting next to the financial district and a mere 15 minutes from Tocumen Airport.

It has long served as an entertainment and retirement quarter of the city center.

Built on the reclaimed mudflats that make up most of the coastline around here, Punta Pacifica is now one of Panama’s most exclusive communities. In fact, during the development boom, realtors touted Punta Pacifica as the “new Dubai” of the Americas.

This ostentatious cluster of high-end condos juts out from the mainland and dominates the Panama City waterfront.

These high-rises huddle around their sail-shaped big brother, a Trump-branded hotel until recent legal, verbal, and physical tussles saw it stripped of its name and management by the new owners.

Looking up at the Bahia Grand, Punta Pacifica, Panama City

Looking up at the Bahia Grand, Punta Pacifica, Panama City / Bahia Grand Facebook page

Now a JW Marriott, this is the only true oceanfront hotel in the city. Oh – and it’s also the tallest building in Central America.

Boasting five stars, a casino, condominiums, restaurants, and entertainment venues, it even runs its own ferry service to Saboga Island. This offshore haven with its empty beaches and rainforest provides a perfect escape from the city for the day.

On the tip of Punta Pacifica is a bridge connecting Panama City to the Ocean Reef Islands.

Another nod to Dubai, these two artificial islands will be a collection of luxury condo residences with open areas surrounding a marina. Still a community in progress, these are the only man-made islands of their kind in Latin America and will be the height of exclusivity once complete.

Meanwhile, back on the mainland, you can wander the streets of Punta Pacifica knowing you are in the heart of luxury and safety.

Not least because you can gaze up at the skyscrapers free from any fear of injury. How so? Well, when exploring on foot in Panama City, you learn to do so while staring at the ground. You’re keeping an eye out for the inevitable potholes, open drains, and unfinished wiring and cables out to trap you.

Here, in Punta Pacifica, the sidewalks are complete. I can walk about in safety at last!

In fact, Punta Pacifica is one of the most walkable areas in Panama City. There are world-class medical facilities, amenities, amusements, and services all within easy reach. They even have a Super 99 supermarket for the budget-minded among us.

To the west, in neighboring Punta Paitilla, is Multicentro. And to the north you have Multiplaza. Both malls have everything you’d expect from a large modern mall, all the regular outlets plus more exclusive brands. Also movie theaters, restaurants, play areas, and the AC that is so good to walk in on a sweltering PTY afternoon.

The surrounding area has lots of kosher food available, from restaurants to supermarkets and bakeries.

Jeffrey’s Bakery is always worth a visit and has some nice home-baked bread and pastries, and its own in-house cafe. There are also vegan and organic outlets including Organica Store and Etika.

Everywhere is kid and family friendly and super-safe.

Punta Pacifica, Panama City: Parque Paitilla

Parque Paitilla, Panama City / Bayron A. Cordoba (Facebook)

Parque Paitilla is perfect for the kids with lots of good shade and play-areas with a great view of the Pacific and the city. If relaxing on the shore and watching the sunset is not your bag, you can explore the nightlife.

If you wander beyond Via Italia towards Avenue Balboa with all its bars and happy hours, you’ll find something. Just keep an eye on the ground as you’ll be back in the land of potholes and missing drain covers. Where the heck do the drain covers all go, anyway?

If you want to explore the opportunities Punta Pacifica has to offer, there are plenty of realtors poised with portfolios of condos awaiting your perusal.

For those wishing to dip their toes in the water and try it on for size, there are good-priced Airbnbs. For the price of a hotel room, you can find a nice condo with an ocean view and enjoy the area before deciding.

And if it all feels a touch too “city” for your tastes, you can always catch that ferry out to Saboga Island…

Isla Saboga - direct by ferry from Punta Pacifica, Panama City

Isla Saboga – direct by ferry from Punta Pacifica, Panama City / Isla Saboga Facebook page


Lee Elliott spends his time homeschooling his youngest children with his Chinese-American wife in Panama City, Panama while lying around in bed trying to get published to retain his international press card. Follow more of his musings on his blog.

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