What Is Balboa Avenue All About
The city’s at your fingertips on Balboa Avenue. Within walking distance from Calle 50 and the Banking District, Balboa Avenue is the place to see and be seen. Running over 3km along the Pacific, Balboa Avenue is named after Vasco Núñez de Balboa, the first European explorer-conquistador to cross the Isthmus to the Pacific Ocean in 1513. Balboa Avenue, though, is anything but a relic of the past. It’s where global modernity and local tradition intersect and the reason it consistently tops expat lists on where to live in Panama City. It’s a glistening scene of world-class restaurants overlooking the Pacific, a shopping mecca for Latin America’s fashionistas, and cranes reshaping a skyline that seems to grow before your eyes. But it’s also home to the famous Mercado de Mariscos, where local fishermen unload their wares at dawn and serve up the freshest octopus ceviche for those in the know. And, to top it all, it boasts the Cinta Costera, the city’s new beautiful waterfront boulevard, loved by all ages (and all fitness and energy levels).
Get Moving On The Cinta Costera
Jog, roller-blade, downward dog, move and shake it however you want – you’ll be doing it looking right out to the Pacific, all the way from Paitilla to Amador. There’s something for everyone on the Cinta: 9km of wide, palm-tree lined trails and bike lanes await the fast, the furious, and the slow (ie: strollers too). A state-of-the-art skate park is a favorite stomping ground for teenagers and brand new kiddie playgrounds, workout stations, and tennis, volleyball and basketball courts are all nestled in between the landscaped green spaces. Or just sit back and sample authentic Panamanian fare at Sabores del Chorrillo (try the fried fish with patacones), followed by a raspado (snow cone) before you head to a game at the Maracaná soccer stadium. Or ice-skate. Yes. Ice-skate on the Pacific as you breathe in the festive air during the Christmas parades.
Learn more about the Cinta Costera
The Riba Smith supermarket chain offers a wide selection of fresh produce (including organic), in-house bakeries and great fish and meat counters — and two stores are right within walking distance, one inside the Multiplaza and the other by Urraca Park.
PTY Local is a locavore’s dream that brings produce, meats, delicious prepared meals and handmade cosmetics and household products right from the farm to their table – or your table, if you prefer to order online and have it delivered. Foodie stocks specialty hard-to-find produce and spices like fresh yellow dates and dragon fruit, and Rincón del Chef also lives up to its name by offering a great variety of gourmet products, both local and imported, as well as hydroponic and organic produce. Inside the Multicentro Mall, Deli Kosher Market has a DeliKafe counter that sells ready to go take-out kosher meals too.
And of course the Mercado de Mariscos is THE place for fresh seafood in the city. Browse the endless counters spread with lobster, oysters, octopus, white bass, sawfish, mackerel, grouper, salmon and fish we’ve never heard of State-side. The restaurant upstairs will cook your lobster or fresh fish for a modest fee too.
Shop Til You Drop Avenue Balboa
As you – or your wallet – might have gathered by now, Panama is a shoppers haven and a hub for shopaholics from all over Latin America, given its competitive tariffs, VAT and taxes. Over 40,000 shoppers land in Panama just for the 48-hour frenzy of Black Friday Sales. And, you guessed it: Balboa Ave is at the heart of Panama’s luxury new retail infrastructure.
Sparkling new Soho Mall and Multiplaza Pacific Mall both feature designer fashion from Panamanian couture to Parisian runways, and high-end boutiques serving handcrafted chocolates, leather and home goods and everything in between.
Chanel, Burberry, Prada, Bottega Veneta, Dior and Valentino are right at home in Soho Mall, while its main competitor, Multiplaza is a fun mix of high-end brands like Hermès, Zegna and Gucci and high-street players Zara and Forever 21. When you enter, ask for the Panama Shopping Card at reception to get the best discounts and deals inside, including automatic tax deductions for foreigners at
many stores. Multicentro, a mall for the high street fashionista featuring Kenneth Cole, Clarks, Nike and the like, also hosts the Megapolis Convention Center, which can fit up to 3,000 guests.
For cutting-edge Panamanian fashion design, check out Edda Gonzalez’s gorgeous silk blouses at EG boutique on Aquilino de la Guardia and Susie Dávila’s beautifully crafted Panama hats, handbags and accessories inspired by the Guna Yala tribe inside Felix B. Maduro at Multiplaza. And, since the city’s fashion design school is just up the road, keep an eye out for pop-up designer sales featuring vibrant local labels Anna Francesca
Blaser, Soussa Pitti, Vero Angel, 1993 and many many more.
For jewelry, Reprosa, inside Multiplaza, is known for its ornate reproductions of pre-Columbian jewelry and artifacts, made in partnership with Panam’s Museum of Anthropology. The handicrafts are all one of a kind, and include gold-leaf and silver jewelry, as well as mola art and carvings from cocobolo wood and tagua nut.
More Fitness, Spas & Pampering
If you didn’t get enough of a fix on the Cinta, the Akila Yoga Institute, Electro-body Center or Udaan Fit Gym for aerial and functional training might be just for you — all with custom-made plans to get you looking your best. At Animo Express Gym, a spectacular $19.99/month gets you unlimited access to great, modern equipment, a real steal in the city.
Balboa Avenue is also home to some of the classiest spas in the city. Rossana Tabares Medical Spa, inside Balboa Boutiques, is favored by celebrities and others in the know. If you prefer to unwind in a less star-studded setting, the first Eforea Spa in Latin America opened up inside the Hilton, decked out with a couples room, steam, sauna, hydrotherapy and a whole host of treatments and services. Rock Spa does it all for a real rockstar treatment: with music on top, as sound vibrations and organic products (plus seaweed, clay, mud) apparently go hand in hand. Blending Hair Studio is our go-to for ladies cuts and color (as well as make-up and mani-pedis), while Salvador Uomo is an upscale barbershop and spa for men.
Balboa Avenue, being a waterfront district in the city center generally commands some of the highest prices in the city, especially in newer, high end buildings such as YOO Tower, and Allure. Balboa Avenue also has a few older buildings featuring very large floor-plans that can be purchased for less than the neighboring newer high-rises.
Sales and rental prices vary by the age of the building, the floor of the apartment (higher floors generally command a higher price), amenities, and overall construction quality.
There’s a wide range of property options on Balboa Avenue starting around $1,300/month for a one bedroom rental and $180,000 for a one bedroom studio purchase.
For more information on real estate options and property prices on Balboa Avenue, visit the Balboa Avenue section of our website.
Getting Around Balboa Avenue
Getting around Balboa Avenue is easy, it’s a hub for city transportation. The Metrobus ($2 for a card that also works on the subway, with each ride costing 35 cents) has multiple stops alomg Balboa Avenue and along the Cinta Costera to get you anywhere in the city. The metro stops in nearby El Carmen and Plaza 5 de Mayo.
Uber and Cabify (the Latin Uber) will cost you $2-4 for a ride to the surrounding neighborhoods and is a safer and much more pleasant option than the old yellow cabs, which often overcharge foreigners.
For that big shopping trip or a day trip outside Panama City, a host of car rental companies are located close by, including Dollar, Rent-A-Car and Budget. Renting a car will cost ~$40/day, including insurance.
And last, but certainly not least, the Cinta Costera is made for biking. Rentals are $3 an hour at Get One Bike and Urban Bikes near Casco Viejo, where you can also get a scooter or rollerblades for the day.
Eating Out On Balboa Avenue
For a post-workout health fix or vegan and gluten-free options, check out Hip Cuisine, or Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, which has excellent coffee and great horchatas and brunch options, both inside Balboa Boutiques. If you’re in the mood for a fresh ceviche, octopus or lobster, the famous Mercado de Mariscos fish market is an easy stroll down the Cinta. Buy a paper cup filled with shrimp, octopus, corvina or black conch ceviche for $1.50 (and pair it with a cold beer for $1.25).
To eat in style, head to Makoto and sample the exceptional sushi and hand-crafted sake, created by the award-winning Japanese chef Makoto Okuwa. Panama was Makoto’s first foray into Latin America, and he chose Panama for its novel, indigenous ingredients, which form the base of his menu here. Segundo Muelle (Peruvian) has gorgeous views over the Pacific and Balboa Avenue and is a perfect spot for a special occasion: any of the ceviches or the tacu tanque (stuffed smoked salmon and sweet banana covered with seafood gratin) and pisco sour are the best in the city, finished with a passion-fruit crunch for dessert. Cabana inside the Yoo Tower has a gorgeous terrace opening up to views over the bay, and exquisite Italian-inspired cuisine (try the various carpaccios or tuna tartare) and a full wine cellar.
The famous Boulevard Balboa is a local diner-like favorite, with great lunch specials and a delicious seafood stew. Gaucho’s (Argentine) is an establishment and serves up the best steaks and churrascos in town, while Da Stefano Trattoria is a home away from home for many Italian expats. Cafe Mar for sushis and cocktails is always a fun option, especially on Saturdays for karaoke. The restaurant is a true favorite among locals and foreigners alike, they all love the Gauchos steakhouse panama menu.
And since it’s Balboa Ave, the malls are always an obvious bet. The food courts and restaurants in the malls can be surprisingly good, especially in Multiplaza, where Leños y Carbón Gourmet (Panamanian fare), Tacontento (Mexican) & Tony Roma’s (ribs, seafood and steaks) are some of our top picks for pre-movie nights.
Was Balboa Designed With Kids In Mind?
The hype for adults is obvious, but Balboa Avenue is also a great option for raising kids in the heart of the city. It’s one of the safest parts of town and its daycares, pre-K options and great quality high schools are right up there with the top options in other parts of the city. On weekends, the Cinta Costera is the obvious draw for families with toddlers all the way to skateboarding teens, with the cleanest, widest, safest and absolutely most pot-hole free sidewalks and respectful drivers (and bikers). On Sundays, the Cinta is closed to cars from 6am to noon.
Three great bilingual options are right in the area, including the Oxford International School, Panama School and the exclusive Instituto Alberto Einstein (which provides Hebrew and Jewish Studies), all offering well-rounded instruction from elementary through to high school. For daycares, Keydoh has fantastic facilities to keep little ones busy (magnetic climbing wall, mini sky trail), at Las Naciones you can watch your baby remotely at the rec park on the babycam from 0 – 6 years, and Born to Learn has great classes (aikido for tots), as well as behavioral and developmental therapists on site. They also offer drop-in care.
Nightlife, Entertainment and Culture-Vulturing in Casco Viejo
The sales are hard to leave behind, but after hours let the games begin at the 45,000 sq ft Majestic Casino at Multicentro, which also has live salsa music, karaoke or other on-stage entertainment, or catch a movie at the luxury VIP Cinepolis movie theater at Soho Mall (3D and 4D).
For after-work drinks, head to Inédito, a bar-restaurant inside Balboa Boutiques, where you can mix hookahs with arepas and bask in the sun setting over the Pacific. Panama Brews is a hidden gem offering over 35 local craft beers on tap. Order a six shot sampler for $3 (make sure to try their brown ales), but you can’t go wrong, as they all go great with their ceviche. For live music, check out El Apartamento-Sotano, a relaxed art and cultural space with a cocktail bar and restaurant, and host to great alternative music, from punk rock to hip hop. BITS Roof Lounge stands for “bar in the sky,” which, on the 62nd floor, is exactly what you get: the highest nightclub in Latin America opening up to 360 degree views of the city.
And the Theatre Guild of Ancón, a Panama City institution dating to the 1950s, is right on your doorstep for a more cultural soiree. Productions are in English at the art deco Teatro Balboa and run the gamut of the theatrical spectrum, from dramas to comedies and musicals. The Guild is non-profit and provides a training ground for actors in the making – its stages launched the careers of Robert Loggia and Rubén Blades.
Culture-Vulturing in Casco Viejo
For a really good time on the weekend, though, you’ll want to head out of Balboa and dip into history in Casco Viejo, the city’s beautiful colonial quarter, designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997. A short walk away, Casco Viejo’s colorful buildings have been newly restored and its picturesque cobblestone streets buzz with creative energy, the coolest bars in town and an after-hours avant-garde art scene. Enjoy pre-dinner cocktails at Lazotea for views across the city from the rooftop or at the more tropical-chic Barlovento, which overlooks a colonial square below. But at least you’ll know you’ll be coming home to no surprise power cuts or water outages on Balboa Avenue, where everything’s a little more 21st century.
Balboa Avenue is home to Mi Clinica Hospital, where an insurance plan for $25 Bs/month (and nice low co-pays) gets you coverage under their extensive in-house services 24/7, including primary care, urgent care, specialists, plus all labs, ER, hospitalizations and more, for kids and adults alike. The private Centro Medico Paitilla, as well as the public Hospital Santo Tomas and pediatric Hospital del Niño Dr. José Renán Esquivel are all excellent choices. Nearby, Punta Pacif ica Hospit al is also a great privat e opt ion. For pharmacies, Farmacias Arrocha and Farmaplus Panama in the main entrance of Multicentro mall stocks everything you could possibly need (generic and brand names).
Postal Service & Deliveries
If receiving stuff by mail is important for you or your business (Amazon packages and the like), be prepared: it’s a challenge, no matter where you go in Panama (or the region, for that matter). PO Boxes were introduced to solve the problem but it’s not cheap ($3-5 per pound). The good news is that there are plenty of options for this around Balboa Ave, at Mailboxes Etc (close to Urracá Park and inside Multiplaza, and in Paitilla, Casco Viejo and Trump Tower) and Airbox Express (nearby in La Cresta, 50th St and El Cangrejo). DHL has locations inside Multiplaza, and in Marbella, Bella Vista, Punta Pacífica and San Francisco, and FedEx in Trump Tower and Paitilla; and UPS close by in Bella Vista.
Hotels on Avenue Balboa
Needless to say, Balboa is also a hub for all the international hotel chains for business and leisure trips long and short. Le Méridien Panama, Golden Tower (Hotel Las Américas), Intercontinental Miramar, and Waldorf Astoria Panama and Hilton Panama are all there.
Panama Equity Real Estate
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