You’re at the heart of it all when you’re on Balboa Avenue. A short walk from Calle 50 and the Banking District, Balboa Avenue is a place to see and be seen. It’s where the modern, cosmopolitan city meets local traditions and the reason it consistently tops expat lists on where to live in Panama City.
Balboa Avenue is a place of seeming contradictions. It’s a hub for the city’s commerce, home to its new architectural landmarks, a glistening scene of world-class dining and a shopping mecca for fashionistas from Paris to Palm Beach. But it’s also where local fishermen unload their catch at dawn and serve up the freshest ceviches at the Mercado de Mariscos. And, next to the dressed-to-impress crowd, the Cinta Costera draws all those looking to get sweating along its wide, palm-tree lined bike and jogging trails. It’s this eclectic energy that keeps Balboa Avenue buzzing.
The Action’s On Balboa
Balboa Avenue and the surrounding area is a focal point for all the big-name events in the city, drawing crowds from all over: from giant conventions and conferences to electronic dance parties, ballet performances, triathlons and more.
Get Active On The Cinta Costera
The Cinta Costera is THE place to get active in the city. Look out at the Pacific as you jog, roller-blade or downward dog – you’ll be doing it on 9km of the widest and nicest trails and newest workout equipment. Nestled amidst the palm trees, you’ll also find a state-of-the-art skate park, brand new kiddie playgrounds, workout stations, and tennis, volleyball and basketball courts. And once your heart rate’s ready to come back down, sit back and enjoy a freshly squeezed juice or sliced fruit from a street vendor.
Shop Til You Drop
Balboa Avenue is at the heart of Panama’s luxury new retail infrastructure, which is saying a lot in a country that has become the new Miami for Latin America’s fashion elite. Sparkling new Soho Mall and Multiplaza Pacific Mall feature designer labels from Paris, Rome and New York, as well as award-winning Panamanian names, while Multicentro down the road is a fun mix of high-street labels. (Read our Guide to Living On Balboa Avenue on how to get the best deals once inside). And, since the city’s fashion design school is just up the road, keep an eye out for pop-up designer sales featuring both established and emerging names in Panamanian fashion, jewelry and accessory design. Don’t say we didn’t warn your wallet.
Wining and Dining Around Balboa
The area around Balboa Avenue is chock full of excellent restaurant options from vegan and gluten-free to Italian, Brazilian, Mexican, French, Argentine, and the list goes on. If you’re in the mood for a fresh ceviche, octopus or lobster fix, the famous Mercado de Mariscos fish market is an easy stroll down the Cinta. A paper cup filled with shrimp, octopus, corvina or black conch ceviche will set you back $1.50 (pair it with a cold beer for $1.25). At the high-end, Makoto (sushi), Segundo Muelle (Peruvian) and Cabana (Italian) dazzle diners with cutting-edge cuisine and views of the sun setting over the Pacific. Lying low tonight? You’re in the right place. Most restaurants in Panama deliver to Balboa Avenue and your options are endless.
Get Front Row Seats to Parades
Year round, Balboa Ave takes pride of place for the city’s best parades. Salsa with the crowned Carnival Queen during the biggest week-long party, fly your superheroes at the giant balloon parade, mingle with Mickey at the Magic Moments Disney parade, get your groove one at the Pride Parade, and sit with Santa on the Christmas themed floats. Panamanians LOVE their parades.
Living It Up At Night
While it’s not Casco Viejo or El Cangrejo, Balboa Avenue still has plenty by way of entertainment. Don’t spend it all at the 45,000 sq ft Majestic Casino at Multicentro, which also has live salsa music and karaoke, or catch a movie at the luxury VIP Cinepolis movie theater at Soho Mall (3D and 4D). Bars are aplenty (we like Panama Brews, a hidden gem offering over 35 local craft beers on tap), or check out BITS Roof Lounge, which, on the 62nd floor, is the highest nightclub in Latin America and has 360 degree views of the city. And it gets even better: Balboa is home to the Theatre Guild of Ancón, a Panama City institution that puts on productions in English and is a training ground for big-name actors in the making.
Raising Kids On Balboa
While Balboa Avenue might not spring to mind as the ideal place for kids if you’re moving to Panama from the American suburbs or a leafy European neighborhood, it’s actually a surprisingly great choice. There are several excellent daycares and bilingual schools (elementary through high school) in the area and the outdoor options for kids are possibly some of the best in the city. The neighborhood is very walkable (and stroller-, roller-blade- and scooter-friendly), drivers are respectful and police is omnipresent, making it one of the safest parts of the city. And… the Cinta Costera is closed to cars altogether on Sundays from 6am to noon, making the widest, cleanest, most pot-hole free sidewalks in town an even bigger draw.
Check out our Guide to Living in Balboa to read more about raising kids around Balboa Ave.
More Fitness, Spas & Pampering
If you didn’t get enough of a health fix on the Cinta, Balboa is chock-full of hip gyms, yoga, pilates and dance studios, and the whole spectrum of specialty fitness techniques, with instructors on hand to tailor it to your body type. You’ll also find the classiest spas, hair studios and pampering places in the city.
Location, location, location
And, last but not least: from Balboa Ave you can get anywhere you’d need to in Panama City within minutes. You’re right at 50th Street and the Banking District and next door to the best malls in town. Walk, ride a bike or rollerblade to run errands and go out at night, or hop in an Uber or the Metrobus or Metro right up the street, which will even take you to Tocumen Airport. You can say “I’m almost there” when you’re still at home, and it’ll be almost true.
Ready to move to Balboa Ave? We hope you liked our 10 Things to Love About Living On Balboa Avenue. If you have any suggestions, please leave us a comment, we’d love to hear from you!