What’s It Really Like To Live On The Beach?

I have quoted the prices for condominiums located in the towers of Royal Palm many times.

While the prices are very attractive, many people still ask “What’s it really like to live in rural Panama?” Immediately the word rural jumps out and I wonder if Panama’s largest beach community should be considered rural.

When talking to people who are interested in the new residential complex, I assume they have seen photos of the stunning views from the wrap around balconies and floor-to-ceiling windows. Maybe they have read about the five pools and the beautiful social areas that sit adjacent to the Pacific Ocean. Maybe they have even dreamed about what it would be like to fall asleep listening to constant sounds of waves coming ashore.

The Ever-Developing Beach Community

The Riba Smith, is a specialty market with plenty of North American brands. Plants and fresh flowers are also sold there.

It’s difficult to keep up with the ever-changing Coronado-Gorgona beach area. When attempting to paint a picture of daily living, I normally begin by pointing out its proximity to Panama City and Tocumen International Airport. “About an hour,” I say and then add, “but sometimes traffic can be difficult, especially if it is a national holiday and a lot of locals drive out to take advantage of the beach.”

“The area is very expat friendly so you have people from around the world. More Canadians than Americans,” I explain, “but you have Europeans and more and more people from South America moving into the area.” I always add that because there are so many non-Panamanians, English is widely spoken.

“There are four American-style grocery stores to shop at,” I continue. “There is the Riba Smith, which is the smallest and a bit more high-end with mostly North American brands. The Super 99 and El Rey are much bigger with a very wide assortment of goods including many of the exact same brands you’ll find in similar stores in the States and Canada. You will see lots of expats at both stores along with Panamanians. There is organic food, fresh meats cut by the butchers on-site, all types of cleaning and laundry products, a very large assortment of wine and liquor along with a deli and on-site bakery,” I continue adding that the wine is considerably less expensive in Panama than in North America.

A Store With Virtually Everything

“A great local option Is El Machetazo.” The Panama-based store is much like a Super Walmart with three floors of everything from groceries to washers and dryers and clothing. “You really can find everything at the Machetazo, and the prices are very reasonable.”

I explain you can buy reasonably priced products at El Machetazo, if you want higher-end products you should consider going to the Novey, which is a hardware store located in the same mall as the upscale Riba Smith. The other day, I told a caller my last purchase at the Novey was a Weber grill. I could almost feel the smile through the telephone.

Fresh Fish Every Day

Fresh fish is brought in everyday and made available for individual purchase at the fish co-op.

There is a fish co-op that is within walking distance of Royal Palm. “Every day, you will be able to watch the boats go out as the sun is setting over the Pacific Ocean and in the morning you can watch as the fishermen unload their fresh catch. There are lots of local restaurants who have purchasing arrangements with the local fishermen, but there is always enough for individual purchases. They cut it into fillets at the co-op. The corvina or sea bass goes for about $2 a pound and it’s always good.”

Farm To You Vegetables

I explain there are farmers who sell their vegetables and fruits on the side of the road and a short drive into El Valle will take you to an outdoor market that sells everything from vegetables just pulled from the ground along with art and freshly brewed coffee. I often mention that I like to go to the El Valle market about once a week, and everything is always so fresh.

The market in El Valle always offers fresh produce thanks to the fertile soil that was once a volcano.

Panama’s Convenient Medical Care

The friendly staff of the Felipe Motta Wine Store and Deli are very knowledgeable on wines, liquor and beer. At the store in Coronado, they also carry a wide selection of imported cheeses and fresh baked bread.

“There is a clinic if you need medical care,” I continue, “and all types of specialty physicians in Coronado. A visit will normally run about $15 and almost everyone in the medical profession speaks English. The pharmacies are incredibly inexpensive compared to prices in the States and you receive the exact same medication in the packaging from the drug company. Most of the grocery stores have a pharmacy, but there are also several free-standing ones.”

Giving Back

I explain there are all types of social activities in Coronado-Gorgona. “The expats you’ll find at the beach, generally love to give back. There are plenty of volunteer opportunities ranging from helping out at the local animal shelter to volunteering at a local orphanage,” I continue. “There are clubs like the Rotary and many people play golf daily,” I explain.

The closest large shopping area to Royal Palm contains a variety of restaurants such as the Grand Deli Gourmet shop and the Big Lobster restaurant. There is plenty of retail including upscale furniture and interior decorating shops.

“There are also all kinds of happy hours and special promotions aimed at the expats,” I tell people about the area. “There is a movie theatre and just about every type of restaurant from fast food to more upscale. There is a relatively new Greek restaurant and a fabulous Italian place called Luna Rosa.”

The beach community loves pets, especially dogs and cats. “The beach is perfect for long walks with your dog and there are many options for pet care including veterinarians and groomers.” 

I tell individuals their lifestyle can be very similar to what they currently enjoy. Some prices are lower and some things like milk and orange juice are about the same. Gasoline is a little more expensive in Panama, but you won’t have any trouble finding people to repair your vehicle or just put on new wiper blades.

Dry Cleaners, Massages and Ice Cream

I absolutely love a good gelato and there is a fantastic shop on the Pan American Highway outside Nueva Gorgona, where the stunning condos of Royal Palm are located.

“We have a dry cleaner, spas with inexpensive massages, tennis courts and ice cream stores,” I point out, “and the people you will find in Coronado-Gorgona are generally very interesting. You may meet someone who was born in the Himalayan Mountains and another person who is an expert in off-shore logistics, another who speaks six languages and a fourth who is a retired cardiologist and loves golf.”

I tell people the water is very clean and safe to drink, the electricity steady and the internet much the same as you’d have in the United States. We have cable television and good schools. Everyone has a smart phone, but our cell numbers have one extra digit—eight instead of seven and then the area code. Your experience with places like the dentist and hairdresser in Panama will be similar to that of the states. We have the clubs for jogging, ample cycling trails and beautiful golf courses to enjoy. That being said, we aren’t known for our snow skiing.

A Completely Different World In Just Hours

The other outstanding thing about retiring outside of Panama City and on the Pacific Ocean is that you can be in a completely different environment in just a few hours. “In addition to the cosmopolitan and cultural offerings of Panama City, you can take a 50 minute flight and be in one of the world’s best surfing spots, Bocas del Toro. You can hike to the top of a volcano, play a round of golf there and then get back on the road and find a lovely Swiss restaurant nestled next to the rain forest.

“Your daily life in this area is totally up to you,” I tell people. “There will be things you’ll need to get used to—like the fact we don’t have door-to-door postal service or that everyone is almost always laid back even when you think they should be a little more reactive. You can hire domestic help to clean for you very inexpensively and if you want to read all day you can. If you want to cook gourmet meals, you absolutely can. If you want to travel, Panama is a perfect base with international flights leaving every day for top spots in Europe, North, South and Central America. You can be as social or as alone as you desire. We really do have it all in the beach community in Panama. Come on down and discover the totally accessible residences of Royal Palm.

Bocas del Toro is an archipelago of islands located in the Caribbean and is on the other side of Panama from Coronado-Gorgonia. It’s much closer to Costa Rica than Panama City. There are hostels and stunning residences, luxury hotels and plenty of water-based fun.
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