Take a flight to Panama City, my friend, and see that it’s booming. Those who found Miami too costly, Costa Rica too dangerous,Â find this country a model of stability.
In fact, since Manuel Noriega was deposed in 1989 it’s booming.
There’s a huge expat community here who have been lured because of Panama’s easy access to both oceans, tropical valleys, a climate south of the hurricane beltÂ and most importantly the infrastructure.
It’s so easy toÂ Fly to Panama. Tocumen International airport has daily flights to 42 countries and that’s a lure for big multinationals and celebrities like Sean Connery and Mel Gibson. They’ve just bought properties in Panama’s Azuero Peninsula, an axe-head shaped parcel of land in Panama’s southwest jutting out into the Pacific.
Angelina and Brad have each taken a trip to Panama City to snoop around the Caribbean’s Bocas del Toro region and Pierce Brosnan is a huge fan. it’s easy to see why. The nature here is untouched, perfectly preserved and easy to get to. It all makes sense.
The country also provides some excellent incentives to attract foreign investors to the region. The banking is conservative and the economy stable, the balboa is pegged to the US dollar. In addition to this, the Panamanian authorities have waived property taxes on people investing in Panama for a period of 20 years as well as not taxing earnings made elsewhere.
In short, Panama has a slice of everything and something for everyone. There’s Escobal:
which lies between the Caribbean Sea and the Panama Canal andÂ is popular with adventure canoeists.
Or the cooler climes of the mountain town of Boquete:
Or the Miami-like Panama City:
The Caribbean islands of the Bocas del Toro:
Or the stunning Balboa, the heart of the former Canal Zone.
And after 9/11 Panama saw an upsurge in interest in people looking for first-world amenities, warm weather and security, and they found it here. And it’s easy to see why. Here the streets are wide, a breeze takes the edge off stuffy mornings, people still tend to their lawns and there is an appreciation of personal space. A basketball net adorns the eaves of a garage doors and there’s a toucan calling in the treest. It kind of sounds like perfection, doesn’t it?
And there’s pancakes. The three Americans who run the mini-empire of hostels in Panama that includes Lunaâ€™s. Emboldened by low costs, easy access to imported products and the power of strong word of mouth, new businesses founded by American expatriates are popping up all over the city.
Lunaâ€™s Castle Hostel (Calle 9na Este 3-28; 507-262-1540; lunascastlehostel.com), which opened in late 2008, is one such outfit. Flanked by crumbling, regal facades and colorful residences, with an unadulterated ocean view, it hums like the well-oiled machine that it is. The three original owners â€” Daniel Smetana, Daniel Saxe and David Harmatz, all 28 â€” have lived and breathed Central America for almost six years. Under their careful watch, Mondo Taitu Hostel in Bocas del Toro, off Panamaâ€™s Caribbean coast, has earned a cultlike following among backpackers. (They recently sold the place to a group of 20-something Americans, continuing the expatriate connection.)
â€śA hostel is a home away from home,â€ť Mr. Smetana said. And indeed, Lunaâ€™s offers amenities like a movie theater, a Ping-Pong table and that free pancake breakfast. Its recently opened bar, Relic, has quickly become a magnet for travelers and Panamanians alike.
In Panama Cityâ€™s district of El Cangrejo, the Arkansas native Jon Hurst offers a different taste of America. His shop, New York Bagel Cafe has fresh-baked bagels, bacon and eggs and bottomless cups of coffee. â€śPanama is a key location to open up a business if youâ€™re looking for something similar to the United States because you can get a lot of imported productâ€ť via the Panama Canal, Mr. Hurst said.
Blayne Ladner moved to Panama City from Mississippi in 2006 after losing everything in Hurricane Katrina, is also taking advantage of any imports he can find. His Super Gourmet is a deli/ grocery that stocks hard-to-find items like French marmalade, prosciutto, organic cereal and sushi rice, and serves homemade soups, sandwiches, and local Balboa beer on draft. And let me tell you he has a loyal fan base.