Panama's Riviera has miles of sparkling uncrowded beaches, a variety of beach hotels and resorts, retirement and vacation communities, year-round designer golf courses, good surfing and proximity to the picturesque mountain town of El Valle de Anton.
How To Get There
By car or bus on a beautiful four lane highway from Panama City. You can rent a car, or take a bus from Albrook Terminal for a couple bucks. The taxi ride will cost you about $70 one way. Major resorts usually have transportation services from the Tocumen International Airport in Panama City.
Where To Stay
There are now about close to a dozen major beach resorts close to Panama City. The first two, Playa Bonita Intercontinental and Westin Resorts, are just over the bridge of the Americas, about 15 minutes from Panama City. An hour away there are four more all inclusive resorts: Royal Decameron, Playa Blanca Resort, the Wyndham, and the Sheraton Bijao resort. The sophisticated Buenaventura complex is truly in a category all of it's own and has the best golf course in Latin America. The Coronado Hotel and Golf Resort and the Decameron also have excellent golf courses. Las Sirenas is a smaller hotel option and has cozy and romantic cabins right on the beach.
Where To Eat
Gourmet Dining: Vista Mar Resort community has a seaside gourmet restaurant called Terrazas del Mar run by one of Panama's best French chefs, with elegant decor and beautiful views of the ocean. Local Seafood is a specialty.
Great Views and Seafood: Pipa's Restaurant and Bar on Playa Blanca is right on the beach near the the Decameron Resort. Alse nearby is the excellent La Fogata.
Los Camisones, near Santa Clara, is a Panamanian favorite with an extensive seafood and Panamanian menu. Popular dishes include the Galician octopus and the jumbo prawns.
If you are looking for a a tasty snack, the "Quesos Chela" Bakery is about 40 minutes outside Panama City and has some of the best empanadas and chicha, fresh juice, in the country. Be sure to try the cheese empanadas which are made with the eatery's own home-made cheese.
What To Do
Most popular beach areas:
One of the best things about Panama City is you can get to the beach in 15 minutes to 1.5 hour. Beachside Playa Bonita Intercontinental and the Westin resorts are just 15 minutes from downtown. Their beaches are open only to guests.
1.5 hours from Panama City is Panama's Riviera which is perfect for a day trip or a vacation at the beach.
A pleasant surprise will be how warm the water is. The weather is also always warm, with a short afternoon tropical shower common from March to December.
Coronado: The first beach development in the area with a gated community with homes, condos and a golf course. It is also closest to Panama City. There's a small hotel and a couple of B & B' s. You'll need to pass through the main gain in order to get to the beach. Coronado is also the shopping hub for the beaches: three grocery stores ( El Rey, 99 and a small Riba Smith) services and a range of fast food restaurants.
The major attraction is the Decameron Resort an inexpensive all-inclusive. There are also some B & B''s good beaches a good selection of restaurants. Our two favorites are La Fogata with the best seafood in Panama and Pipa's with excellent sea food right on the beach.
This beach area is popular because it is the site of the most large hotels- including three all inclusives: the Wyndham Grand , the Riu and Playa Blanca. Our favorite is the Wyndham- beautiful architecture and facilities right on a great beach.
For a day at the beach the best place is Santa Clara beach. It's beautiful and has excellent day trippers facilities. For just $2 a person, you get access to bathrooms and showers. Another $10 will get you a palm shaded bohio with hammocks or a table and beach chairs. The onsite restaurant has reasonably priced meals and drinks.
For day trips we recommend going with Easy Travel Panama.
One of the best things about this area is that you can golf year round- the temperature doesn't change. The so-called rainy season is usually just a heavy shower in the afternoon—leaving every morning ideal for golf.
Buenaventura Golf Club at the JW Marriot Resort
Buenaventura raised the bar for golf in Latin America. Designed by Jack Nicklaus, this course is widely regarded as the best golf course in the region. Its signature hole cuts into the Pacific Coastline with stunning views of white sand beaches. From caddy concierges to specialized golf instructors, golfers have all their needs are attended to. Stay at the luxurious JW Marriot Resort with all the amenities you need—restaurants, spa and a beach club house.
Coronado Golf and Beach Resort
Panama's Riviera's original golf course, designed by Tom and George Fazio, this is an 18 hole, par 72 course. Stay at the adjacent Coronado Beach Resort with a private beach, fine dining, pools, jacuzzis, sauna, 4 professional tennis courts, 4 restaurants, beach club, equestrian club, full service gym and more.
Mantaraya Golf Club by Royal Decameron
Next to one of Panama's best beaches, an 18 hole, par 72 course designed by Randall Thompsen. Includes two driving ranges, a practice putting green, and 6 flood lit par 3 holes for after-dark enjoyment, as well as the all inclusive Royale Decameron Resort with 3 whirlpools, 8 specialty restaurants and pizzerias, beach, lobby and pool bars, gym, spa, tennis courts, convention center, casino and a discotheque.
In Panama's Riviera you can surf almost everyday. Serena, Palmar, and Malibu are the most popular surf beaches. Serena is better at high tides and caters more to long boarders. Palmar is a good beach for beginners, but with a good swell can get great peeling waves at its rocky point. Malibu is recommended for more experienced surfers—the current can get quite strong and the nearby river brings debris into the beach, but Malibu barrels like nowhere else in the area.
The best waves on the pacific are from May-September, but check the swell chart before you leave or it might be flat when you get there.
Palmar beach has a surf school that offers surf lessons with a certified instructor for a reasonable price. Tel:240.8004
Punta Chame is good for windsurfing Feburary-Apri, available at the the Nitro City Resort, which also has a cable park for wake-boarding.
Check out a Retirement and Vacation Community
An increasing number of American families and retirees are choosing to buy a second home and live in this area. The attractions: uncrowded beautiful beaches, competitive housing prices, proximity to metropolitan Panama City, year round golfing and surfing, two English language schools and an active community of foreign residents.
This area was featured in Business Week July 2009 in an article Panama-the Next Florida. Residents interviewed loved the peace and the fact that they could surf everyday.
Panama's Riviera has all the important services need for a comfortable life- cable TV, internet, two American-style supermarkets where you can find just about everything you can find in a US supermarket, restaurants, home supply stores and services and the San Fernando Medical Clinic, which is an extension of one of Panama's major hospitals.
Another attraction of the Pacific Coast beaches are their proximity to the cool picturesque mountain communities like El Valle de Anton and Los Altos de Maria, just half an hour away.