Geographically Panama stretches from Columbia in the East to Costa Rica in the West and borders both the Caribbean Sea on the Atlantic northern side and the Pacific Ocean on the southern side. By car it would take about 2 days to get from western border to the eastern border. The country has beaches, large cities, small towns, mountainous areas, and almost anything you can imagine in between each of these extremes. So making a decision depends more on your climate and lifestyle preferences. You are not limited to any significant degree by the country’s geography. You are certain to find some place in Panama in which you could be happy.
So let’s consider some possibilities. I will suggest a few towns and a little about each. Pick out 3 or 4, spend at least a week in each and it will help you to narrow your destination choices quicker. If you have the time to spend a week in all of them, your decision basis will be even firmer. We start with Panama City and move westward. All of these are within 4 hours plus or minus from Panama City. We will discuss others further west in another article.
Panama City: The city is bustling with activity, is the business and banking center of Latin America, and has living environments ranging from the high rises to the quaint old sections like Casco Viejo. If you like city living, you will love Panama City.
La Chorrera: About 30 km southwest of Panama City, just off the Pan American Highway. It is the second largest city in the country, and is a popular spot for expatriates. Another alternative for city dwellers.
Gorgona: Approximately 1 hour from Panama City. A hot spot for foreigners and locals for beach front and resort real estate. It has significant infrastructure in place, including supermarkets, medical clinics, pharmacies, hardware stores, etc. It is also about 45-50 minutes away from El Valle, another popular destination.
Penonome: Approximately 2 hours west of Panama City. Capital of Cocle Province, it has beautiful mountain views, clear streams and rivers, and is home to many orchards, farms, and ranches. The area has a small town atmosphere with friendly people, and sufficient infrastructure to live there full time.
El Valle de Anton: Located approximately 2.5 hours from Panama City, El Valle is located in a picturesque non-active volcanic valley and has the feel of a tropical paradise. It is a favorite expatriate spot and has great weather year round.
Las Tablas: Approximately 3.5 hours from Panama City. It is a recognized center for Panamanian folk culture. Its yearly Carnival is a competition between two parts of the city.
Pedasi: Approximately 4 hours from Panama City, the coastal city on Azuero peninsula, is in the forefront of tourism development. It is a low key area, noted for its excellent year round fishing.
Do some preliminary research before you make your trip to Panama to get a feel for the towns you might like best. This will not take the place of your personal visit, but might eliminate some area that definitely does not appeal to you. You might even try going to each town, spend a day there, and after seeing all of them, return to your favorites and stay for a week.