Here in Las Tablas, Panama, a pleasant breeze blows through town during most of the day. We saw some rain yesterday morning for a few hours, but the afternoon was sunny with bright blue skies.
The sun is hot, but overall we’re finding the temperatures here much more tolerable than David.
Before I get into details about our travels through Panama, though, I want to share one more time about some of the events of the Live & Invest in Panama conference I attended last week.
Eco-Tourism in Panama
Although Costa Rica markets itself better, Panama has a growing eco-tourism industry. They also have more bird species than Costa Rica, claims Richard Cahill, naturist guide with Ancon Expeditions of Panama.
He described Panama’s location as a benefit for eco-tourism, because it’s an easy country to get to from every part of the globe and it’s easy to travel within the country.
Closer to the equator there’s greater biodiversity. Panama is about 44% forested, and 29% of the country’s area is national parks.
So if you’re interested in eco-tourism, either as a tourist or as a business opportunity, Panama’s a good place to be.
Want to see an unspoiled part of Panama’s mountain jungle? Check out the Tierra Libre hostel in Santa Fe.
Owner, expat Marnix van Suylekom, describes Santa Fe as “year-round pretty,” warmer than Boquete and with more sunshine than anywhere else in Panama.
He claims Santa Fe has more orchids than anywhere else in Panama — more than Boquete. If you’re in the country during Santa Fe’s annual Orchid Festival, plan to enjoy the festivities.
If you’re interested in spending some time on charitable efforts, there’s lots of opportunity in Panama.
Hildegard Vasquez lives and works with Hache Uve in the historic district of Casco Viejo.
She supports historic renovation, which has brought about the renewal of depressed urban areas, encouraged tourism, and kept the population from moving to the suburbs.
She noted there’s been a lot of speculative buying in Casco Viejo, and when renovation projects started there was no consideration for low-income housing.
“Once you take local people out of the neighborhood,” she told us, “it becomes a dead city.”
Major renovation work is left to private investors since government policies are erratic. Hache Uve makes sure the private projects benefit local residents as well as the folks with the money.
In Panama, food — especially fresh produce, meat and seafood — is plentiful and inexpensive if you shop where the local people shop.
Roxana Lupu, one of Live & Invest Overseas many energetic young staffers, told us about a few of those places.
Every week she shops at the Farmer’s Market. The produce there is very fresh and mostly organic, she explained. The farmers are honest and don’t try to charge “gringo” prices.
Some of the local produce you can find includes pineapples, papayas, melons, watermelons, carrots, celery, onions, broccoli, peppers and garlic.
There’s also a Seafood Market in Panama City. “Get there early,” Roxana advised. “Later in the day it starts to smell.” She finds shrimp for $3/pound and fish for $2/pound.
When it comes to more traditional (for us!) grocery stores, Riba Smith is the place to go for imported foods from all over the world. They also have a kiosk where you can pay all your utility bills in the same place, a great convenience.
The El Rey chain doesn’t have as large a variety of American products as Riba Smith. It’s an environmentally responsible company, it has a recycling program (rare in Panama), and supports the country’s biodiversity program.
Both El Rey and Riba Smith offer organic produce.
Super 99, the supermarket chain of Panama President Martinelli, is “very basic,” Roxana explained.
Panama City also has a Price Smart, similar to a Costco in the US.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about some of the conference highlights. There were many more sessions and discussions than I’ve had space to describe here. Coming up — the $64,000 Question: Was it worth the price, or was it hype and hot air?
Have you attended a “live overseas” type of conference? Was it worth the price of admission? How did it help you?