More Than A Waterway

Panama’s natural charms lure Snowbirds

This Central American country connects North and South America as the gateway between the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean with the Panama Canal. A democratic nation situated between Costa Rica and Colombia, Panama has the fastest growing economy of the region. And it’s an area of mixed natural beauty, boasting beautiful seaside as well as the second largest rainforest outside the Amazon basin. A country known forits temperate year-round climate, Panama is becoming a favourite for Canadians, especially those seeking a hotspot that’s quietly becoming an A-list destination.

Panama City: A Tropical Hub

Vibrant, beautiful,  welcoming -these words epitomize Panama to Brian Legge. As co-owner of the West Coast Fishing Club, he was pleasantly surprised when he first visited the Central American country in 2008 on a fact-finding mission for his company’s expansion plans outside of Canada.
“As a potential destination for the [West Coast Fishing] Club, Panama had impressive development potential, matched by government policies for sustainability within the fishing industry,” explains Legge.
He was further impressed by Panama City, a capital influenced by European style, a prevalence of European, American and Canadian expats and a city skyline filled with skyscrapers and cranes. “It’s a bustling capital, with all the amenities that a big city provides.”
With so many natural attractions, Panama’s  government is focused on developing sustainable environmental policies and ways to encourage visitors to experience the biodiversity. Designed by Frank Gehry, BioMuseo, currently under construction, will ed-
ucate locals and visitors about the
diversity of the isthmus and how to protect it for future generations.
For most of us, this country is synonymous with the Panama Canal, an 80-kilometre passage from the Caribbean Sea to the Pacific Ocean, which opened in 1914. Almost 15,000 vessels pass through this canal every year, moving 299 million tonnes of goods.
But there are memories of this country’s past history, especially the U.S. invasion in the late ’80s  and the antics of well-known former dictator Manuel Noriega, who ruled from 1983 to 1989. Unfortunately, that’s the impression many Canadians have of Panama but, as Legge says, “I remind people how long ago that was – it was over 20 years ago.”
Panama has enjoyed financial advances since then, leading Central America and second to Brazil in South America for economic growth.
For Canadian real estate developer Raideep Lal, hoping to establish a new residence for himself and his wife, Colleen, the strong economic factors paired with a tropical lifestyle were the perfect combination for them to relocate to Panama in 2002. The development potential and low property tax rates resulted in their company,
Gladstone Development, building The Residences at Cielo Paraiso in Boquete. Located on 850 acres, with one-third devoted to a nature preserve, the development offers home sites, villas and an 18-hole golf course.
“Boquete has become an increasingly popular destination for the Boomer generation, and we’ve seen a growing number of Canadians relocate here for either retirement or to invest in second homes,” says Sandeep Lal, who continued working on the property with his sister-in-law after the death of his brother in 2010.
According to Colleen, this country has all the amenities of living in Canada or the U.S. and the many advantages of living in Central America. “When I return to Canada, I’m always surprised by the price of food. In Panama, I rarely pay more than $40 a week for groceries.”  —Waheeda Harris