Think of Panama and the world’s greatest canal, dapper straw hats and papers referencing fugitive capital instantly spring to mind.
But this intriguing country, wedged between Costa Rica and South America, is working hard to create a very different global impression as the new economic dynamo of Central America.
Thanks to the country’s political stability, dollar economy, relatively low cost of living, retirement and real estate tax incentives, developed healthcare and financial industries – as well as huge improvements in transport, logistics and communications – Panama’s gross domestic product is set to exceed an impressive six percent this year.
Add in a rapidly emerging tourism industry and exotic destinations, from the capital Panama City to lush coastal regions and spectacular offshore islands, and Panama is emerging as a very attractive option for savvy vacationers and real estate investors.
The country’s emphasis on private enterprise, a welcoming and common sense approach to foreigners and a small but hardworking population of around four million are also helping to fuel the nation’s powerhouse ambitions in the region.
While major hotels and upscale shopping malls are changing the skyline of Panama City, alluring natural attractions and real estate communities across the country are creating new luxury coastal lifestyle opportunities.
The Ritz-Carlton is leading the charge with a 220-room luxury hotel in Panama City opening in late 2016 and a second hotel on Pearl Island – a pristine private reserve about 45 minutes south of the city – slated to debut in 2018.
A new Panama City subway, a second terminal at Tocumen International Airport and other transport improvements are helping visitors move around the city and country more easily.
Outlying attractions range from the wonderful Gamboa Rainforest, about half an hour from Panama City; the colorful Taboga Island, an easy one-hour boat ride from the city; and the lush coffee plantations of Boquete in Panama’s mountain region.
The 365 alluring San Blas Islands, off Panama’s northern Caribbean coast, and Bocas del Toro, a cluster of nine islands also just off the Caribbean coast, will satisfy any Robinson Crusoe aspirations.
New resort communities in Bocas del Toro like Red Frog Beach feature luxury villas with private pools, condos, Residence Club units and lots set in a beautiful tropical landscape with water views.
This emerging nation may not be as well known as its Caribbean island neighbors just yet, but it’s definitely a secret worth keeping under your Panama hat.
For more information, visit visitpanama.com.
FIVE GREAT PLACES TO STAY
The Ritz-Carlton, Panama
Panama City (opening late 2016)
American Trade Hotel
Finca Lerida Coffee Plantation
& Boutique Hotel, Boquete
Red Frog Beach Island
Resort & Spa, Bocas del Toro
Ocean Properties by Villa
Image Credits: PHOTOGRAPHS COURTESY OF RED FROG BEACH.