Downtown Panama: An Overview of Popular Residential Areas

By Andrea Cooper in Panama City andrea@ipreinfo.com

First-time visitors to Panama are always amazed by the capital city’s dramatic skyline. While the glistening condo and office towers that stretch along the Pacific coast may seem rather homogenous from afar, there are many distinct residential neighborhoods within the downtown core that appeal to Panamanian nationals and foreigners alike.  Here is a brief overview of five of the most popular districts in the nation’s capital:

Avenida Balboa

Bordering three neighborhoods (Marbella, Bella Vista and Caledonia), Panama City’s prestigious oceanfront boulevard is heavily favored by expat residents and tourists.  Modern hotels such as the 66-story, 1500-room Megapolis Hard Rock, a stylish Le Meridien boutique establishment and Central America’s first Waldorf Astoria are interspersed with impressive financial towers and high-rise condos

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Panama City from the Denovo building

panama usa europe real estate downtown

Executive condo in Bayfront Tower

The city’s entertainment district, Calle Uruguay, is also located here, with the trendiest bars and restaurants within easy walking distance of the oceanfront towers.

The eastern side of Avenida Balboa features smaller, executive-style condos that are popular rental units (particularly for banking executives who work nearby), such as Bayfront Tower. Glamorous rooftop social areas with swimming pools, gyms, party rooms and game rooms with stunning panoramic ocean views are pretty standard in this district!

As you head towards the historic city park, Parque La Urraca, the condo units become larger and the building amenities more family-oriented, such as the classic Vista Marina Tower or the architecturally stunning Allure on the Park.  The Riba Smith supermarket–popular with expats because of its large selection of imported food products–and Panama City’s finest butcher, Meats Gourmet, are both located a few blocks in from the waterfront.

In 2009, outgoing President Martin Torrijos inaugurated the Cinta Costera (coastal band) project, an ambitious expansion of the waterfront boulevard.

Millions of cubic yards of rock and earth were used to create additional vehicle lanes and a seven-kilometer network of parks connected by walking/jogging paths.  The Cinta Costera terminates at Casco Viejo, the historic center of Panama City and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Punta Pacifica

The site of Panama City’s original municipal airport, Punta Pacifica underwent a massive expansion and redevelopment process in the early years of this century and is now home to the downtown area’s largest and most luxurious condominium residences.  This opulent, 12,000 square foot penthouse was recently described as “Versailles in the Sky” by international financial correspondents Live and Invest Overseas, while this custom-designed, 7,000-square foot residence offers stunning views of the historic Casco Viejo district and the entrance to the Panama Canal.  The sail-shaped Trump Ocean Club International Hotel and Tower is perhaps the most iconic building in Punta Pacifica, boasting 369 guest rooms, 600 private ocean-view residences, gourmet restaurants, luxury boutiques and galleries, and a private pier for the new high-speed ferry to Trump’s private beach club in the Pearl Islands.

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Beautiful view from Allure on the Park

panama usa europe real estate downtown

Luxury penthouse in Punta Pacifica

Commercial development in Punta Pacifica is equally upscale.  Multiplaza Mall houses hundreds of retail establishments featuring well-known international brands, a cineplex with VIP theaters (think leather reclining chairs and bar service to your seat), restaurants and Panama City’s most exclusive (and expensive) discotheque, Isabella.  Numerous embassies, banks and multinational corporations are headquartered at the Torres de las Americas office towers across the street, adjacent to the country’s finest private medical complex, Hospital Punta Pacifica (the first in Latin America to be affiliated with Johns Hopkins Medicine International).

San Francisco

Hundreds of residential towers have been constructed in this neighborhood over the last 20 years, creating a “vertical bedroom community”.  While the quality of finishes and amenities is less than what you would expect to find on Avenida Balboa or Punta Pacifica, condos are generally large and affordable, which makes this community extremely popular with local upper-middle class families.

At the northernmost limit of San Francisco, you will find Panama City’s largest and most popular urban park, Parque Metropolitano, with expansive sports facilities, children’s play areas, a three-kilometer walking/jogging path and marketplace.

Due to the high density of construction in most of San Francisco, most condos do not have direct ocean views.  The exception to this rule is a small enclave of oceanfront homes and luxury towers in the Coco del Mar district.  This three-bedroom condo in the Bahia del Golf towers is located adjacent to the ruins of Panama Viejo, the site of the first permanent Spanish settlement in Panama City that was founded in 1519 and destroyed by pirate Henry Morgan in 1671.  Panama’s Ministry of Culture recently restored the site’s original watch tower and often hosts cultural events and festivals at the ruins of the original cathedral.

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Three-bedroom condo on the 18th floor of the Kubik tower

panama usa europe real estate downtown

The lovely view from the Brisas Obarrio condo tower

El Cangrejo

Located at the northern edge of the downtown core, El Cangrejo is perhaps Panama City’s most vibrant and pedestrian-friendly neighborhood. While most properties are art-deco-inspired low-rise condos constructed in the 1970’s, modern condominium towers like the Kubik have sprouted up in recent years, particularly in the areas adjacent to the Andres Bello City Park.  The tree-lined boulevard of Via Argentina features a variety of reasonably-priced cafés, restaurants and pubs, boutique hotels, mini-markets, health clinics, pharmacies and small professional offices, which gives the neighborhood its trademark “village feel” that makes it popular with local artists and expats of all ages.

Obarrio

Just south of El Cangrejo, the neighborhood of Obarrio was once home to Panama’s elite families, who built sprawling compounds on tree-lined boulevards.  Most of the district’s original inhabitants have moved to newer residential communities, and the stately mansions are now occupied by embassies, prestigious law firms, galleries and jewelers.

The main street, Avenida Samuel Lewis, features trendy boutiques and restaurants located on the ground floors of low-rise towers that house the majority of Panama’s insurance companies.  This is also home to the Santuario Nacional, one of Panama City’s oldest Catholic churches and a national historic site.  Only a handful of residential towers currently exist in this neighborhood: condos in Brisas Obarrio and Denovo offer spectacular city views and excellent proximity to the city’s financial district of Marbella and the new office towers that have been constructed on nearby Calle 50, the city’s most important thoroughfare.

Relocating to Panama City and need help finding the perfect condo or home to rent or to purchase? Contact Andrea Cooper, Director of Operations of our Panama City office, via E-mail andrea@ipreinfo.com.

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