Panama City, Panama is a diverse city with many different areas. So if you’re thinking of moving here, it’s easy to get confused about where you should settle. Here are six Panama City neighborhoods to check out as a potential expat.
With over 40 percent of its population living in Panama City, Panama has the largest urban population in Central America.
And once you get to know Panama City, you this little fact won’t come as any surprise to you.
Panama City is at the heart of Panama, the cultural, banking, business, and political core of the country. It lies at the heart of the Americas themselves. Panama City is a gateway between North America and South America, the Pacific and the Atlantic.
It’s this unique location that makes Panama City the most cosmopolitan city in Central America.
With gleaming skyscrapers, towering condos, and palm-lined streets, Panama City feels more like Miami or a modern South American city than anywhere else in Central America.
International restaurants, theater, cinemas, entertainment, and world-class nightlife are all here.
Panama City is made up of many districts, but there are some particular neighborhoods where foreign expats find more convenient.
Below you’ll find a quick rundown on some of the more popular neighborhoods in Panama City for expats.
Casco Viejo is Panama City’s historic and cultural center, with colonial architecture, bars/nightclubs, boutique hotels, and restaurants.
You’ll find Casco Viejo jutting out into the Pacific Ocean on the west side of the city, near the Panama Canal. Casco Viejo has undergone massive gentrification in recent years. This work has paid off and Casco Viejo is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
What was once a shady and run-down area is now one of the more expensive and exclusive neighborhoods in Panama City.
Many colonial apartments have been remodeled here and rent will range from around $1,500 to $3,000 and up a month.
These apartments usually have balconies overlooking the cobbled streets. You’ll be looking at a minimum outlay of $200,000 to $1,000,000 to buy a Casco Viejo apartment in the nicest locations.
Casco Viejo is easy to walk around, and accessible by taxi or Uber from the rest of the city. Many people come to Casco Viejo for the bars, restaurants, and nightlife so traffic can be heavy at night. The closest subway station to Casco Viejo is 5 de Mayo.
Punta Paitilla/Punta Pacifica
Punta Paitilla and Punta Pacifico are two adjacent neighborhoods on the southeast side of Panama City facing the ocean Both are easy walking distance from the popular Cinta Costera Park.
Filled with luxury apartments with fantastic ocean views, it goes with saying that Punta Paitilla and Punta Pacifico are expensive. These two neighborhoods are mainly residential with little commercial activity.
Rentals will go from around $2,000 per month all the way up to $10,000 for a multi-story penthouse, high-priced by Panama City standards.
Expect starting prices from around $250,000 to buy in these neighborhoods, going up to $1,000,000 and beyond.
The man-made Ocean Reef Islands, separated from the mainland by a bridge, will also provide more living space in this part of town once completed.
As far as the Metro goes, these neighborhoods are slightly off the beaten track. The closest subway stations are Santo Tomas or Iglesia del Carmen, both a bit of a hike away. But if you can afford to live here, that’s probably not something that would concern you.
Not an actual neighborhood in itself, Balboa Avenue is one of the main arteries of Panama City.
It runs the length of downtown Panama City for six miles along the oceanfront, from Casco Viejo to Punta Paitilla.
This is where you’ll find many of Panama City’s most recognized buildings like the former US Embassy and various modern high-rises.
Balboa Avenue runs parallel to the popular Cinta Costera, a bicycle and pedestrian park following the coastal seawall. Apartments are expensive due to the location and ocean views. Expect similar prices to Punta Paitilla and Punta Pacifica.
The 5 de Mayo, Loteria, and Santo Tomas subway stations are all a few blocks off Balboa Avenue.
One of the city’s largest neighborhoods, San Francisco covers a large section northeast Panama City.
This is a family-friendly neighborhood with a good balance of commercial and residential properties. It also has one of Panama’s largest parks, Parque Omar, offering huge green spaces for people to hang out.
San Francisco is one of Panama City’s less expensive neighborhoods. You’ll find a variety of homes and apartments available in this part of town. Prices tend to be around 20 percent less than Avenue Balboa, Casco Viejo, or Paitilla/Pacifica.
With a slightly more suburban feel to it, San Francisco is one part of Panama City where you might need a car. It’s a little too spread out to be a real pedestrian-friendly area.
Metro stations are thin on the ground here, too. The closest one to Parque Omar is Fernandez de Cordoba.
El Cangrejo is a vibrant part of Panama City, popular with foreigners and locals alike. This is a diverse district with a range of housing options close to the hotels and casinos.
There are more bars and restaurants in El Cangrejo than in any other part of Panama City. Located north of the banking district, El Cangrejo’s central location makes it easy to access by bus, car, taxi, and Uber.
Two subway stations serve the area, Iglesia del Carmen and Via Argentina.
Amid the high-rise condos, you can still find some very beautiful private homes in El Cangrejo and apartment prices range from affordable to luxurious. Rental prices in El Cangrejo range from $850 to $1,500 per month. Expect to pay between $125,000 to $350,000 to buy here.
Costa del Este
Costa del Este is one of Panama City’s newest neighborhoods with a hot real estate market.
Full of brand new, towering skyscrapers built close to the ocean, Costa del Este is popular with residents and businesses seeking a luxury urban setting. Multinationals like DHL, Adidas, Nintendo, and Procter & Gamble have all made this area their home.
These companies attract residents, which in turn attracts businesses and shopping areas.
Another attraction of Costa del Este is its location. Set outside of the center of Panama City, Costa del Este is a convenient halfway point between downtown (10 minutes away) and Tocumen International Airport (15 minutes). This is a car/taxi/Uber area – no subway stations in Costa del Este!
Apartments are pricey here like the Paitilla and Avenue Balboa neighborhoods.
These are the main neighborhoods in Panama City currently most popular with expats.
They are all clean, safe, central (or close enough to central), and offer different features and amenities for various expat lifestyles.
If you’re planning on a trip to Panama City with a potential eye to moving down one day, you should visit these areas. Visiting will give you a better picture of the ideal neighborhood to fit your tastes and lifestyle.
What other Panama City neighborhoods would you recommend? Let us know in the comments below.
James Dyde is the editor of CentralAmerica.com. He lives in Escazu, Costa Rica.