Panama City is the most international capital in Central America, with a slew of long-term travellers and entrepreneurs arriving in their droves, eager to capitalise on its booming economy, safety and stunning architecture. The city is increasingly becoming a hot spot for wandering professionals, as evident by the number of new co-working spaces popping up in recent years. From the various neighbourhoods to uber-hip hangouts and workspaces, here’s the ultimate guide for Panama City digital nomads.
Casco Viejo proudly wears the title of the coolest Panama City neighbourhood and all but some of the nightlife has moved here. In the day, your time will be spent taking in the beautiful narrow streets, endless viewpoints of the Pacific and a ton of attractions. Casco has several names (Casco Viejo, Casco Antiguo and San Felipe) and was bestowed with UNESCO World Heritage status in 1997 and is a place of contrasts, the juxtaposition of old and new. It’s experiencing a lot of regeneration and painfully quaint cafes are popping up at an alarming rate.
If you’ll be frequenting these said cafes and restaurants, it might make sense to situate yourself here in Casco instead of making the commute from downtown Panamá each day. Casco is also quite safe and has a robust police presence due to the president’s offices being located right here.
Staying in Casco also means that you’re a stone’s throw from Cinta Costera, the most adorable oceanfront walkway and park. A stroll from Casco through the fish market (Mercado de Mariscos) and onto Cinta Costera will bring you face to face with the city’s famed skyline as well as a huge Panama sign to enable you to fulfil your Insta-bragging duties.
In Casco Antiguo, you have everything (almost) under one roof: yoga studios, hotels, hostels, restaurants, fabulous rooftop bars caressing the sky, gelaterias, cafes, churches, shops and historical squares.
Balboa Avenue is a tourist attraction in itself, but it might not be the calmest place to live given the estimated 75,000 vehicles, which pass by per day. It is, however, practically smack on the Pacific Ocean and many apartments here will leave you drooling at the decadent views. You will probably also pay a premium for having the water right on your doorstep, but at least you’ll be able to say you have the president as a neighbour (he lives in the Intercontinental Miramar hotel). Another benefit of living on Avenida Balboa is that you have a park right in front of you, the ever-photogenic Cinta Costera. It’s also great for its proximity to Casco Viejo. It is a short walk or bike ride from here to the old quarter.
Everything’s within walking distance in Marbella, a modern neighbourhood behind Avenida Balboa. It’s also a stone’s throw from Calle Uruguay which used to be the city’s nightlife haven. Now it’s a quiet area to dine on the fancy food you fancy in peace, a bounty of skyscrapers and Parque Ricardo Galindo. Close to the ocean belt, Marbella means the “beautiful sea”, and it is indeed one of the most beautiful parts of the city to see.
Paitilla is a beautiful and built-up residential area next door to Punta Paitilla with stunning Panama Bay views. It’s a great Panama City neighbourhood if you’d like to live within walking distance of Cinta Costera and Avenida Balboa.
To live in Punta Pacifica is lush, to say the least – given its location right in front of the Pacific. The name gives it away, doesn’t it? This exclusive Panama City neighbourhood has an abundance of shops, private schools and a private hospital, John Hopkins, which has English-speaking doctors. Punta Pacifica is where you’ll find the Panaviera bar at the Ocean Sun Casino, which is the highest pool bar in Panama and Central America as a whole. Ferry Las Perlas will also take you to Contadora and Saboga islands in no time.
If eating out is your bread and butter, you’ll love San Francisco as there’s a truckload of food trucks dotted around the neighbourhood. Esa Flaca Rica serves up the juiciest burgers – meat and veggie. Pig Backside, The Smoke Truck and Anti-Burger also serve carnivores well.
If there’s a major event going on in Panama, it’s most likely to be held at the ATLAPA Convention Center, which is the largest in the country. Park Omar Torrijos is here too, which has free exercise classes every day. San Francisco and is also home to Multiplaza Mall, which houses all your favourite brand stores from back home and a large supermarket, Riba Smith.
Panama City digital nomads would be wise to situate themselves in San Franciso as it feels quite residential, it’s close to tons of stores and has lots of wonderful eateries you’d only really discover by perusing the area.
El Cangrejo & Via Argentina
“The crab” as it was called due to the way the streets sprawl out, is wholly cosmopolitan, yet tranquil enough to actually live in. El Cangrejo is a former Jewish enclave, though much of the population has since moved to upscale Paitilla and Punta Pacifica. A nod to its past is still evident through the rather large statue of Albert Einstein in the aptly named Plaza Einstein. You might not actually see it as it’s been under construction for yonks.
Today, El Cangrejo could be perceived to be the most multicultural Panama City neighbourhood, judging by the sheer magnitude of restaurants serving international cuisine.
For greenery, there is Parque Andres Bello and Recreational Park Omar Torrijos is a 40-minute walk if you’d like to get your heart rate pumping. Like Casco Viejo, it is one of the few neighbourhoods that lends itself to walking.
Obarrio isn’t the most affordable place to live. Its streets are lined with embassies, shops, restaurants, hotels and casinos. The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA Panama) breathes some creative flair into the region and co-working spaces like Workings attract freelancers and remote workers en masse.
PLACES TO WORK
Whether you wish to meet other remote workers and freelancers, or simply want a quiet space to gather your thoughts, there are quite a few options available for Panama City Digital Nomads – just remember to bring a sweater. Many cafes and public buildings ramp up the air conditioning, so if you’ll be working away all day, you might want to bring something to keep the arctic chills away.
Cafes in Casco Viejo (the old town)
Unido is a delightful coffee shop chain with five branches dotted all over Panama City. The fine brews attract people to bring their work here, whatever the nature. It is not uncommon to see people conducting job interviews and transatlantic video calls at The American Trade Hotel branch in Casco Viejo. Unido at Multiplaza is nestled in the rather opulent Luxury Avenue of the Mall, neighboured by Dolce & Gabbana, Polo, Hermes and Michael Kors. It is known for its chic, clean décor, and effervescently friendly staff and baristas. Panama isn’t generally known for its customer service, making this fact particularly noteworthy. Also worth mentioning are the cookies and impeccable Wi-Fi.
Café Unido has locations in Casco Viejo as well as in Multiplaza Mall, San Francisco, Costa del Este and Marbella
It’s clear that many eat at Nomada purely to work, particularly in the early afternoons. You may find yourself sandwiched between graphic designers, and architects working on their blueprints, as well as their burgers. It is right next door to Casco institution Luna’s Castle, one of the most famous hostels in the area, and therefore a hub for tourists and travellers alike. Nomada feels very hip, largely due to the funky art dazzlingly on display. From literature books glued to the bathroom walls to a painting of a sequin hat-wearing skull, Nomada’s décor might inspire you. The menu includes a fantastic breakfast and the lunch of the day is always sizeable, varied and good value at $7. A cup of tea, on the other hand, isn’t the most inexpensive at around $3.21 per cup, including the suggested tip.
Nomada Eatery, Calle 9na 3-28, Casco Viejo, Panamá, Panama
Imagine if Subway was Panamanian and made sandwiches in front of you that were healthier, heartier and certainly larger? Well, that’s Super Gourmet for you. This Casco Viejo establishment is as good a place as any to lose track of time. If you find yourself in Bocas del Toro, there is a small takeaway branch there too.
Super Gourmet, Calle 6a Oeste, Casco Viejo, Panamá, Panama
Bajareque Coffee House
Situated in Casco Viejo, Bajareque is one of the cosiest coffee shops in Panama City. Coffee lovers will be pleased to try Bajareque’s Panamanian coffee blends, worthy of winning the Panama Brewers Cup for 2017.
Bajareque Coffee House, Calle 1era, Casco Viejo, Panamá, Panama
Benissimo’s enchanting building just beckons you to enter when walking through Casco Viejo’s fabled cobbled streets. Once inside, you are greeted by a plethora of tantalising gelato flavours and the scent of warm waffles and fresh coffee. I dare you to resist. This cafe is air-conditioned so bring a sweater, just in case.
Avenida A, Casco Viejo, Panamá, Panama
When you need a spark of inspiration, it’s handy that the coffee shop you’re working at has the most random facts you never knew you needed to know on rotate on the TV screen. This Casco Viejo coffee shop is cosy and has friendly staff who hand over smiles freely.
Lumaca, Calle 9A Oeste y Avenida A. Casco Viejo, Panamá, Panama
The owners of Mentiritas Blancas in Via Argentina are fervent coffee enthusiasts and will take the time to explain all the options available to suit your particular preferences. Mentiritas Blancas is also a great place to try Geisha coffee, which Panama is fast becoming renowned for. A line of bar stools along the walls with a table makes this coffee shop particularly appealing for digital nomads and remote workers. The shop describes itself as an “Artisan bakery and coffee lab”. It’s anyone’s guess, however, why it is called Mentiritas Blancas, which is Spanish for “little white lies”.
Mentiritas Blancas, Local 2B, Edificio de Mar, Calle Gaspar O. Hernandez, Panamá, Panama
Juan Valdez Café
Colombian coffee comes to Panama courtesy of Juan Valdez, referred to by some as “the Colombian Starbucks”. Expect a tranquil atmosphere and people chatting, frapping and tapping away en masse.
Juan Valdez Café, locations in Multiplaza Mall and Soho Mall
Europhiles will know French patisserie Paul for its delightful desserts and laidback atmosphere. Their menu is laden with hearty meals, pastries and delicious smoothies to get those brain juices flowing. Come here to get a large table all to yourself to lessen your workload – if the aroma of freshly baked bread doesn’t torment you too excessively.
Paul Bakery Panama has locations at Multiplaza Mall, Albrook and Evolution Tower
The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf
California import The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf keeps remote workers afloat in Punta Pacifica, Balboa Avenue, Costa del Este and a small branch in Multiplaza. Flying out of Panama City? If you’re flying out from Tocumen International airport and need fuel to get some work done, there’s a small brand there too.
The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, Locations in Punta Pacifica, Balboa Avenue, Costa del Este, Tocumen Airport and Multiplaza Mall
Coworking & workspaces
My Office Panamá
My Office won the Nomad Capitalist Award for best co-working space in 2016, and you can see why. Their super cool office is in the Credicorp building on Calle 50 and houses freelancers from Panama and beyond. The space is well lit with a fabulous skyline view of the city, and the walls are emblazoned with Instagram-ready captions and motivational messaging. You feel instantly comfortable here. Memberships start at $99 per month, which is rather economical given what’s included in the packages, and in comparison to other spaces in Panama. The three friendly founders are available to assist members during the hours of 9-5 pm, and are all English speaking, making it a very convenient place for ex-pats. My Office can be your office 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
My Office Panamá, Torre Inteligente Credi Corp. Piso 8 Oficina 802, Calle 50, Panamá, Panama
Workings has branches in three fabulous skyscrapers dotted around Panama City for your optimum convenience: the prime location in Tower of the Americas in Punta Pacifica, a space at the Panama Design Centre in Obarrio, and another in Costa del Este’s MMG Tower. All three locations provide terrace access, events, benefits and discounts, phone booths, a branch officer, TV, high-speed Internet, a kitchenette and mineral water. Within Workings, there is Drinkings, where one can get their hands on all the refreshments the heart desires, including coffee and beer. There are also terrace parties with live music, masseuses and yoga classes.
Workings, locations in Punta Pacifica, Obarrio and Costa del Este / email@example.com
Selina Casco Viejo
What started off as a hostel in the sleepy Panamanian town of Pedasí has turned into a global brand that blends hostel, hotel, nightlife – and coworking? Yes, Selina in Casco Viejo has a dedicated coworking station with day passes available for non-residents. Once you’re done, congratulate yourself for your hard work with a trip to the rooftop bar and restaurant upstairs.
Selina Casco Viejo, Calle 12 Este, Panama city
Panama Coworking Center
A co-working space with snazzy offices, based at the Prime Tower in Costa del Este and Kenex Plaza in Obarrio. Members benefit from an outdoor terrace with a sea view, high ceilings and business consulting services, in addition to the usual bells and whistles.
Panama Coworking Center has locations in Obarrio and Costa del Este
Workspace Business Centre
Not so much of a co-working space, but an office and meeting room rental venture. Parking is available as well as virtual office services if you are in need of a legal address here in Panama.
Workspace Business Center has locations in Costa del Este, Obarrio and Marbella
Both private offices and co-working spaces are offered at this site, which opened in 2015. Hot desking starts at $90 per month.
Ciudad del Saber, Centro de Innovacion Panamá
The City of Knowledge offers highly affordable co-working opportunities at the Panamanian Centre for Innovation in Clayton. A daily plan is $10, weekly plans cost $45, and monthly plans start at $125. Simply visit the Innovation Centre, sign up, and hit the ground running.
Ciudad del Saber, Building 234, Clayton, Ancon, Panama / Call 507 306 3106 / firstname.lastname@example.org
If you’re looking to meet other Panama City digital nomads, Spaces is a sure bet. The international coworking space has a home in xxx and membership grants one access to multiple Regus locations all around town (their parent company). There’s an on-site cafe (that does a mean chai latte), various work areas with comfortable seating and it’s right on Calle 50 with a multitude of lunch options wherever you turn.
Spaces Panama City, Plaza 2000, Calle 50 and Marbella