IT MAY sound like a tropical paradise. Beaches. Palm trees. Nice tropical homes and gardens. Hammocks and Piña Coladas. Parrots to watch and fish to eat. The Pacific ocean waves lapping gently at the shoreline. Surfing. Hot girls in bikinis.
But: You should not think about living there, and here are the reasons:
1. Crime. There is a crime wave all over Panama, but the Pacific beach area from Chame to Playa Blanca is particularly popular among the ethically challenged. First of all there are foreign criminals. The real estate swindlers. The investment hustlers. The scam pimps and arms traffickers. They mix among the expats and are often even warmly welcomed by them as "community leaders." If given a chance, they will steal your property and scam you out of your retirement savings. It's the expat outdoor sports in that area. Nobody does anything against these gangsters. You're on your own defending yourself against those predators. Even the local community website is pumping scams and frauds. Probably not what you're looking for when you think of peaceful coastal living in the tropics, right?
2. More crime. Then there is local crime. This is usually about much less money than when you fall victim to one of the expat criminals, so that's the good news. The bad news is that they use more violence instead of fake investment deals and swindles. As in, guns and knives and stuff. That, and of course because these criminals usually have a darker skin, makes them the real bad guys on the Pacific coast in the eyes of the pensionados. And nothing helps. The crazy militia efforts have gone nowhere. Expat retirement detective T. Rob Brown a/k/a Roberto Chocolate bragged last year that he had managed to get more - English speaking! - cops to the area. Of course that made no difference at all, as anyone who knows the country could have predicted, and the cops kept themselves busy with harassing spay and neuter volunteers in El Valle because there were unfounded allegations that a cat had been stolen. Oh, and these geniuses seized 250 bicycles in Veraguas for not having a license plate while the criminals were busy robbing and shooting people.
3. Wacky expats. Really. Some of them need to have their head examined. This is, by the way, not an exclusive problem of the Pacific coast; these crazies and their fans are all over the place. Do you really want to live among gun toting paranoid people who wear Hawaiian shirts all the time and who have a neo-Nazi as their Panama expatriate life coach? Or read the nonsense on the playa community website by aforementioned Roberto Chocolate about the new president and his non-existing "Minister of Immigration"? Playa Community? It's more like Migraine Country.
4. Your property will lose its value. This should be a no-brainer after the above, but if you still don't get the picture here it is: If you buy a home and then, because you want to escape hell, you want to sell it, it will be worth much less than you paid for it because of all the criminal expats and locals. Don't believe me? Well, read this recent story about the situation on the Pacific coast and then come back to explain to me how all is well and real estate investments will flourish there: "When expats are arming themselves and learning how to shoot. When more and more homeowners are installing video security systems, or are hiring gun carrying night guards – the bubble of an idyllic lifestyle here on Panama’s Pacific coast, has been properly popped." Yesterday's dream has become today's nightmare. Good luck investing!
So there you have it. Don't say we didn't warn you!