What is the Coronado Buzz All About?
Back in the 1940s, Coronado was a handful of sleepy ranches speckled along an unspoiled stretch of the Pacific. Given its picture-perfect location and its status as the least rainy spot in Panama (), those pirates, smugglers and fugitives sure picked the right spot for their principal trade route during colonial times. Even in 2005, Coronado was mostly a weekend-only destination, with few full-time residents, restaurants you could count on one hand and nowhere to shop.
Today, Coronado is the epicenter of beach life in Panama, offering great amenities amenities and the infrastructure to match the unrivaled natural beauty surrounding it. It boasts three shopping malls, a buzzing restaurant and nightlife scene with top-notch international cuisine, a clinic hospital hospital and several international schools. No wonder that expats in the know from the U.S., Canada and Europe have decided to make Coronado home and some run their businesses from this town — or on the beach.
Getting To Coronado
Coronado is the closest beach town from Panama City. Hop on the Pan-American Highway and you’re there in an hour and fifteen minutes with regular traffic and the government knows how to make it easy for drivers. Weekend visitors can escape the city Friday afternoon and head back on Monday morning on three dedicated lanes, although we always recommend jumping out of the city before 3pm. For $3 a bus will also get you there from the city’s Albrook mall.
And, after the roadworks are completed on the new Chorrera, San Carlos highway, road capacity will expand and traffic will ease up significantly, meaning weekenders who leave the city at 5pm can get to their beach houses well in time for pre-dinner cocktails on the beach. Metro Line 3 will also be a game-changer. That, combined with the new bridge over the Canal, are on track to be completed in four years, meaning a new route out of the city and a huge reduction in car volume as people opt for the faster metro. So hold your breath, because it’s coming!
Living an Outdoorsy Lifestyle… Year Round in Coronado
We know. This is the reason you’re actually here. We can’t think of what Coronado doesn’t offer expats by way of an active, outdoor lifestyle. Think of great surfing, deep sea fishing, stand-up paddling, kite-boarding, jogging on the beach, hiking on the Bosque Seco Park, golfing and more — on land and at sea.
Surf it up
If you’re into surfing, you’re in for a treat in Coronado. Last year, a new road was built to Playa Tetas (ignorance is bliss, don’t look it up in the dictionary) in Punta Barco, making it just a 5 minute drive from Coronado to one of Panama’s best surf spots. Surf schools, camps and shops abound in El Palmar and near San Carlos.
What’s your calling: deep sea fishing or dolphin spotting?
Charter a boat out from the Vistamar Marina for some serious deep sea fishing or head to one of the villages nearby and have real local fishermen take you out for $20/hr. Try your hand at reeling in a tuna, dorado, wahoo or sea bass to grill for dinner, or sip on a cocktail on board while you watch dolphins, sea turtles or humpback whales in the setting sun.
Coronado is for golf aficionados
Coronado takes Panamanian golfing to another level at four prime 18-hole, par-72 courses, all set within luxury communities with club houses and amenities to match. Picking the course really just comes down to your style.
The Buenaventura is a Jack Nicklaus designed championship golf course allowing for multiple tee placements to accommodate various skill levels. Pricing is reasonable too and favorable to residents and seniors.
The Decameron’s Mantarraya Golf Club is another beautifully landscaped course next to the Royal Decameron, designed by Randall Thompson and the American Golf Course Design firm. Next, the Vistamar’s J. Michael Poellot-designed course boasts ocean views at every hole (with good winds for those up for the challenge). Their prices are a bit steeper but might just be worth it for that star hole, perched on the beach for the perfect approach shot.
Or, head to Vistamar’s driving range and practice while looking out to the mountains. And finally, BlueBay, a historic club, which, given its narrow fairways, forests and winds, is not one to be taken lightly. For lighter days, it has a less challenging par-3 9-hole executive course in the same grands.
Head to the mountains
If you’ve had enough of the beach, Coronado is also a great launchpad for day trips to nearby mountain retreats nestled amidst Panama’s tropical dry forests. You might not even have to get into your car. Right next to the main gate to Coronado, the government has set aside 45 hectares of forest for preservation — its walking paths are loved by walking-enthusiasts and bird-watchers alike. 50 minutes away, the Altos de Campana National Park is a bird-watcher’s paradise and its trails open up to incredible views from lookouts if you’re less avian-enthused than your hiking partner.
Or, explore everything that Altos de Maria and El Valle de Anton, Panama’s prime mountain destinations, have to offer just 30 minutes away. The options are endless. For hiking, head to the Sleeping Indian Girl trail, the hot springs or the spectacular 35-meter El Chorro Macho waterfall, which has a natural, enchanted (or simply enchanting, if you don’t care for local legend) lagoon at its base, a perfect spot for a swim. Walk amidst hundreds of jewel-colored butterflies in the tropical forest. Or, rev the engines and hop on an ATV or buggy and head deep into the mountains, crossing streams until you bump up to the Tavida waterfall, ready for a dip.
You don’t have to leave town to stay in shape. Coronado has a bunch of gyms, studios and classes for all ages. Check out Lift Studio for weight training, zumba, yoga, children’s gymnastics, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, fencing and more. Or, head to El Litoral for every type of yoga you can imagine, fly yoga even. And, if you’re ready for a serious beach-butt bootcamp, Sano Fitness is ready for you.
The community events are even more fun. There’s beach volleyball at the Bahia Tower Thursday through Sundays, a group running club on Sundays and local marathons of all distances every few months too.
Chillin in Coronado
There’s something for every taste along the string of beautiful beaches in and around Coronado.
It’s no wonder that Coronado was built where it was. The beach is wide and a perfect spot for swimming, as the calm ocean laps at the shoreline, with the sand morphing from black-to-white-to-grey from the quartz and magnetite from El Valle’s now dormant volcano. Jet-skiing and kayaking are popular, and horseback riding and kids soccer games abound on the sand. And, although the coast is lined by million-dollar mansions, it’s still relatively uncrowded.
While the beaches in Coronado and resort-central Playa Farallon are the most popular, picturesque El Palmar, a short walk from San Carlos, is a favorite among surfers and locals. The waves are perfect for both beginners and the more experienced crowd, and a surf school rents boards and gives lessons. The white sands of Santa Clara and Playa Blanca are prime sunbathing and swimming spots — though, depending on what you’re looking for architecturally, know that the latter mushroomed from a sleepy fishing village into one of the biggest beach boom towns over the last ten years. Gorgona‘s beaches stretch over 4km of turquoise waters and from one of them, Malibu Beach (another surfing hot spot), you can walk for miles to reach more virgin territory.
Going extreme in Coronado
For adrenaline-junkies, Punta Chame is popular for windsurfing at the end of a long, thin peninsula lined by shrimp farms and mangroves. It’s a get-away-from-it-all type of destination, as there is little at land’s end. In hopping Nitro City, you can switch up the jet-skiing and stand-up paddling with some land-based fun at a flatland skate park, a paintball and archery field, race tracks for motocross, pitbikes and side-by-sides and more. The “City” also hosts some of the biggest events along Panama’s Pacific coast – from sports and big name concerts (Justin Bieber!) to Summer Live, where DJs and bands play
24/7 every weekend, all summer long.
At the other extreme, Buenaventura, an upscale gated community, is home to Panama’s well-heeled elite and a growing number of expat families who have made it their permanent or seasonal home. Since Buenaventura is one of the original planned beach communities outside of Panama City, its surroundings are rich in lush landscaping, mature trees and even underground electric lines, alongside all of the modern creature comforts. A five star JW Marriott hotel is a recent addition, with its own beach, golf, and equestrian clubs.
All-inclusive resorts & spas in Coronado
From affordable to luxurious, all-inclusive resorts in the Coronado area cater to all tastes and might be just the retreat from it all you’re looking for — from couples seeking a quiet getaway, to those in need of a family-friendly spot, Panama’s beach resorts pretty much have it all so you don’t need to venture outside the gates. They’re also a great way to get to know Coronado on a weekend trip. Sheraton Bijao Beach Resort, the RIU in Playa Blanca and Decameron next door are great places to start and you can often find all-inclusive discounts at ofertasimple.com. You can get a pasadia (day access at the Decameron, Playa Blanca and Blue Bay Coronado to try it out too. It really all just comes down to how many pools you think you’ll need.
And, for the best spas in town, you won’t have to venture far from the golf either: Buenaventura, Riomar, Bahia and Bluebay are your best and most relaxing bets.
Be a Part of the Coronado Community — Group Activities & Volunteering
Coronado has a busy social scene with book clubs, Spanish lessons, bocce ball clubs, mahjong and more to get you involved.
Given its large retired and semi retired expat community, it also offers many opportunities to volunteer. Spay stray dogs and local orphanages are the most popular options, but beach clean-up groups and a volunteer-run hospice care foundation have also sprung up recently. And, the rotary club is always a good way to get into new projects: they recently organized a fundraiser to buy 120 wheelchairs for locals lacking access.
Dining & Entertainment in Coronado
After a day at the beach, Coronado’s buzzing dining, nightlife and shopping scene await.
Coronado is Panama’s happy hour capital. Check out Picasso’s, an expat favorite, on Wednesdays and Saturdays for live music and to meet the newest residents, or head to one of several restaurants offering all sorts of dishes, from mediterranean to sea sea food or Loco’s Bar & Grill, which never fails to bring out the bring screens to cheer on your home teams. Bahia’s BluWater Bistro, which started as the gathering for the town’s beach volleyball games, quickly gives way to post-game margaritas and appetizers at George’s poolside on Thursdays. If you’re coming from the beach in Gorgona, check out the Tiki bar at Bahia Tower before heading back to Coronado for some real beach-side fun.
For the best food in the area, don’t miss beautiful Luna Rossa (Tuscan cuisine cooked up by a Florence native, make sure to try their lobster crepes, finished off with the pannacotta!), Med Cafe (which serves up awesome fresh seafood specials in a cozy outdoor patio) and Nazca 21 (Peruvian).
For more casual options, Los Camisones in Santa Clara and the Tiki Bar Grill at Bahia always show a good time. Or sit tight right on the beach in El Palmar by the Surf Camp and watch the sunset over literally the best fresh fried fish or ceviche paired with a good cold beer.
Who wouldn’t want their kids to grow up in Coronado
Raising Kids in Coronado
Three excellent international options stand out for parents looking into Coronado area schools. The Coronado International School, right at the entrance to town, is the newest bilingual school in the area, catering to kids from preschool through to high school. Besides the core academics, the school is strong in sports: located on beautiful grounds spread across 5 hectares, swimming, tennis, golf and horseback riding are all on offer, making it as good as a country club. Tuition starts at ~$3K/year and goes up to $4K 7th grade and up. The Panama Coast International School in neighboring Gorgona was the first international school to open in the area, taking kids from kindergarten through to Grade 12. High-school students receive a North-American diploma, academic
activities are often project-based, and students are expected to participate in extracurricular activities including community service, the Science Fair, musical and theatrical performances, and journalism. Five Star Academy, 20 minutes away in Santa Clara, is attracting families from Coronado and Buenaventura (and from 25+ countries no less!) with its personal, hands-on, highly academic program from Pre-K to Grade 12. Tuition goes from ~$3.3K/year from Pre-K3 to $4000 Grade 9 and up. And, naturally, the school offers surfing, yoga, wood-working, archery, horseback riding, a swim club and more.
Shopping in Coronado
These days, you can find anything and everything you’d need in Coronado — it’s a welcome change from days of yore (read: five years ago), when you’d have to head to Panama City in search of basic hardware and home goods, new eyeglasses, or a mobile phone charger, even.
Two major new malls opened up over the last two years in the area — Terrazas Plaza lies just a mile from the main entrance to Coronado, and Ocean Mall in Rio Hato as you drive in to Playa Blanca and Decameron. Terrazas Plaza is a shopper’s (and new homeowner’s) haven, with furniture and hardware stores, a bakery, pharmacy, and several restaurants. Ocean Mall features a Super 99, Panama’s largest supermarket store, a Farmacias Arrocha, a Novey hardware store among other popular store chains
But there’s more (and much more than we’ll venture into here). Coronado Mall houses various fashion labels, a Crocs store, mobile phones and accessories, sporting goods, spas and salons and even a casino; Village Mall has an AC center, electronics, a party store. Bayview Center Mall stocks fresh seafood at Christians and pet and garden supplies at Melo. Westland Mall sells RL Polo and Tommy Hilfiger to Pumas and Levis.
El Machetazo, a real U.S.-style department store, sits on the mountain-side of the Pan-American highway. Don’t let the name fool you–it doesn’t sell machetes. Above the supermarket on the first floor, you’ll find everything home and garden related (appliances, furniture, kitchen items, home decor) on the second floor, and kids toys and sporting equipment on the top floor.
For grocery shopping, El Rey is the go-to for fresh produce 24/7, or head out across the street for fresh fruits and vegetables from local farmers. At the high end, Las Pergolas Mall is home to various speciality wine and meats stores and the upscale Riba Smith grocery chain, which stocks fresh meats and fish and has a great in-house bakery. Super99 stocks lower-priced good, and Supermercado Buen Precio, right next to the Coronado Golf Community, is a small but convenient option.
And, don’t leave town before checking out the fantastic fish markets in Gorgona and San Carlos.
Healthcare in Coronado
Coronado is home to the private clinic, one of the most recommended in Panama, Clinica Hospital San Fernando, an extension of it’s Panama City’s location. It offers an comprehensive care, and has a lab, ICU, radiology and even a maternity ward on site. Various other options exist, including for urgent or emergency care, including so-called polyclinics in nearby San Carlos. Pharmacies abound in and around Coronado, with a Farmacias Arrocha inside Terraza Plaza, Farmacias Metro in Coronado Mall and Farma express inside San Fernando.
Real Estate in Coronado
Prices in Coronado and the surrounding area have been pushed down with some brand new options hitting the market, so it might just be an auspicious time to buy – or rent, if you haven’t visited or made up your mind yet that Coronado is the right spot for you.
Panama Equity Real Estate
Panama Equity was founded on a commitment to deliver a professional real estate experience to all of our clients. Our real estate agents understand the concept of working hard, working smart, and always doing what’s right. We appreciate the trust that our clients put in us, and are always looking to improve the way we deliver the Panama Equity experience.