David, the capital of Chiriqui, is becoming more and more popular as expats discover the delights of living amongst Panama’s successful ranchers. Sultry David is Panama’s third-largest city, with a highly developed infrastructure but a much lower cost of living than bustling Panama City. Come here to find bargain real estate, plus all the amenities of home, from high-speed Internet to satellite and cable television.
There aren’t many downsides to life here, according to the locals and expats I met during my visit. There aren’t many bad areas to speak of…aside from the “red light district” behind the airport…and the people are very friendly, no matter what their socio-economic bracket.
The town may not meet your standards in terms of zoning and aesthetics. In and near the tidy main plaza you’ll find historic buildings, well-kept green lawns and sidewalks…but you’ll also find shops and hotels, not all of which jive with the plaza’s Spanish-colonial theme. The “downtown” shopping area is a maze of bargain department stores and smaller shops, some blaring salsa music to attract customers, most spilling out onto the sidewalk with racks of discount clothing or household items.
However, if you don’t mind the hodge-podge (and many expats have grown to love David’s look and feel), this may be the perfect place for you. What you’ll like best about David is the easy-access location…it’s only 45 minutes by car from beach destinations like La Barqueta and mountain getaways like Cerro Punta and Boquete.
The town of Volcan and the Baru Volcano are just as close, as are Chiriqui’s many hot springs and access to activities like birding, hiking, white-water rafting, horseback riding, golf, and more. If you ever fancy a trip to Costa Rica, it’s just 150 miles from David to the capital of San José, while Panama City is an hour flight or a five-hour drive.
In David itself, you’ll find new malls and shopping strips—all the regular mall-type shops are there, as well as a mega-sized Farmacia Arrocha and a super-sized El Rey supermarket (with a T.G.I. Friday’s across the street). There are also two large hospitals and several clinics and dental offices, and even government offices where you can get much of your real estate and residency paperwork done…without having to travel to Panama City.
Take a look at the video I shot while driving around David:
Though the nightlife hardly rivals that of Panama City, there is plenty to do here…more perhaps than anywhere else outside the capital. Options include movies, casinos, night clubs, small bars, and modern discos. For most of David’s expat residents, though, the nightlife isn’t the main reason for living here.
Rather, it’s the people of this region, who are known for being kind and accepting of foreigners. One resident, James, who is originally from the U.S., says: “You couldn’t ask for nicer people…they are wonderfully friendly and helpful…” Real estate prices in David are nice and low for now, but there is a rumor that, if true, could cause property values to rise.
The rumor is that David’s Enrique Malek airport, currently a domestic airport (aside from flights to nearby San José, Costa Rica), will soon begin to receive flights from the U.S. The airport officials we contacted said they could not confirm these reports, but the airport is currently undergoing a very public expansion that will lengthen the runways, among other things, to allow for the larger planes typically used for international flights.
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