Cerro Azul, Panama, WRITTEN Report

Cerro Azul—Mountain Living Only Minutes From Panama City, Panama

We moved to Panama with the intention of living a different lifestyle from what we were living back in the States. We’re still a young family, trying to figure out where we’re going to settle down, and a constant challenge for me has been the debate over whether to stay in Panama City (where Marlene wants to remain) or move out to the interior of the country (where I believe I’d be happier). So far, the closest thing to a happy medium seems to be Cerro Azul.

This is a mountain town, or really I guess it’s a mountain gated community, that’s only about a 45-minute drive away from Panama City. It’s so close that I’d actually consider it part of Panama City. This is a place where I can easily see owning a home and basing my writing studio, with 360-degrees of fabulous views. I can imagine looking out over the Chagres National Park while penning my next novel or working on these PFR Location Reports. I’ll tell you more about the views later. First, let’s talk about how you get to Cerro Azul.

Getting to Cerro Azul

To get there you just hop on the Corredor Sur, in the direction of the Tocumen Airport, and keep going until the corredor ends. Then you keep going straight until you reach 24 de Diciembre (not the date…that would be a hell of a drive, but the town).

Cerro Azul Map

At 24 de Diciembre you’ll see all of the usual Panama City findings, from large supermarkets, gas stations, and local department stores to small clinics, banks, and fast-food chains. A left hand turn behind the Xtra supermarket, then a right, and another left, and you’re on your way to Cerro Azul. You turn left right after the Fucer park (just try to pronounce that without giggling). My wife swears it’s pronounced Fooser, but I refuse to believe it. It will always be FOOKER in my book.

You never feel more welcome than when someone says to you, “Welcome Fucer.”

Be advised, there is a police checkpoint at the corner of Fucer Park and the street you need to turn onto to drive up the mountain. The first time I visited Cerro Azul, I got stopped and had to show my passport and all that. This time I got lucky and drove right through, but make sure you have your paperwork or ID ready if you’re planning a trip up the mountain.

Be ready for this police checkpoint on the way to Cerro Azul

Once you pass that police checkpoint, it’s smooth sailing up to the top of the mountain, and you have about a 20-minute drive up to the gated community that’s officially named Los Altos de Cerro Azul (http://losaltosdecerroazul.net/). Along the way you’ll pass amazing views of Panama City from above and many small towns, with mini-supermarkets, little fondas or restaurants, and even a church or two.

Only 20 minutes ’till Los Altos del Cerro Azul

On the way up the mountain, we passed this little town where a group of teenagers was practicing their folklore dance. 

Local teens practice folklore dancing

You’ll notice on your way up that most of the land on the mountain is owned by the Melo chicken company. Farms and factories are seen on both sides of the road, along with living facilities. We found out from a resident of the area that what usually goes on is the Melo company hires people from all over the country and gives them free room and board as part of their employment package. So you’ll see these small strips of apartments all over the place.

Melo owns a sizable portion of the mountain

You’ll also find plenty of fincas or open land for sale on the way up the mountain. To both sides of the road you’ll see “for sale” signs posted. We also passed a couple of developments, but it doesn’t seem that any work has been done since our first trip to Cerro Azul, over a year ago. Things are definitely moving slowly in the area, but that could mean great opportunity for you. As in so many other towns in Panama, there’s still the chance to bring something new.

Plenty of fincas for sale

Once you pass the Comasa, the one mini-supermarket in the area, you’re there. Just make a left at the following sign, and make your way up to the security gate. The security guard on duty during our visit was very nice, but serious about his job. He checked our name to the list and made a phone call before he let us in. For this reason, if you’re planning a trip, don’t try to do it unannounced. Make sure you contact Los Altos de Cerro Azul at the link I provided higher up in this report, if you want to visit. Or you can contact one of the hotels/hostels/B&Bs and if you’ve booked a room, they’ll get you into the gate.

Welcome to Los Altos de Cerro Azul

The inside of Cerro Azul looks a lot like the outside, only it’s cleaner. Being inside the gate is mostly about having the piece of mind of knowing that security is controlling entry to the area and that some added amenities exist, that make living inside a great idea. In addition to the security, you’ll find a recreation center with a pool and tennis courts. 

Welcome to Los Altos de Cerro Azul

Los Altos de Cerro Azul is a private, gated community that sits high up on the mountain (at 2,500 to 3,000 feet above sea level) overlooking the Chagres National Park. It’s high-elevation living, with rain forests and wildlife all around, but super close to the city. Plus, with temperatures that hover around the 70-80 degree mark during the day and dip down in the evening, you’re guaranteed cool evenings, so cool that Marlene needed a jacket in the evening and shivered through our breakfast on the B&B patio in the morning.

Getting to the community is easy and as you make your way through the security checkpoint, you find a shaded entry with trees forming somewhat of a canopy over the road, welcoming you to your new home. Moments later, you dip down towards a bridge and come to your first river. It’s a great spot to stop and take photos.

A roadside photo spot

When no cars are going back and forth, the place is amazingly quiet and the sound of the water rushing over the rocks and the wind blowing through the trees makes you feel welcome to Cerro Azul. It’s this quite serenity that makes Cerro Azul such an awesome place to be. From high points in the neighborhood, you can look out and see Panama City in the distance, yet you have none of the loud construction noise or traffic congestion. 

The sound of the water rushing over the rocks is amazing

We stopped at the river to stretch our legs, shoot video for the video report, and let the kids get up close to the water. As you can see in the following photo, Marlene got up close too, doing her ninja-style photography.

Marlene doing her thing in Cerro Azul

As you cross the bridge and drive deeper into Cerro Azul, you’ll find another picturesque pit stop, or mirador as they’re called here in Panama. At this spot you can see a waterfall off in the distance.

This place is full of great photo ops

From the wooden perch built for visitors and residents wishing to take a quick break and check out the mountain views, you can relax and listen to the sounds of nature.

This would be a great place to sit and read a book

Once you pass this point, you reach the neighborhoods of Cerro Azul, with signs detailing each section and arrows always pointing you towards the exit, which I found out on our most recent trip, are very helpful. I had no idea how much of a labyrinth this place is. Anytime I branched off onto one of the side streets, I made sure I kept track of where I was going, so I could easily get back to the main street, but I still got lost. 

Getting lost helped me get a few more beautiful photos, like the one below. I was sure I knew where I was going until I hit this dead end.

I wouldn’t mind living in this cul-de-sac

What I like about Cerro Azul is that it’s not full of cookie-cutter style housing. No two houses look the same. This could be a turn off for anyone who digs uniformity, but I’m a fan of putting my own unique personality on a home, so I like it. Plus, unlike many other mountain communities, the homes here are set up high enough so that you have clear downward views of the sprawl of land all around. In some places, like El Valle de Anton (which is beautiful in its own way), the homes are down in the valley, so you see the mountains around you, but it’s different. Homes in Cerro Azul are on the mountains, not in between them.  

Put your own unique twist on your home

This safe and secure neighborhood has all the amenities of a gated community, but without the strict codes keeping everyone in line. Since most of the houses are separated by big lawns, towering trees, and other natural dividers, one man’s inability to keep his home in tip-top shape, shouldn’t affect the aesthetic value of your home. 

Wide open spaces

And you should check out some of the views these homes have. I can imagine having a second floor bedroom with a balcony that overlooks the Chagres National Park, where each evening a crisp breeze blows in through the sliding glass door and each morning I wake up to the sound of the large variety of birds singing. This isn’t an exaggeration. This is what you find in Cerro Azul.

My new favorite writing spot

When we visited Cerro Azul, we stayed the night at a place called The Ginger House (http://gingerhouse-panama.com/) which is a Bed & Breakfast at the end of a street, where it literally drops off into the Chagres Park. I sat down to work a little bit on the second draft of my upcoming novel, in a cozy sofa on the second floor balcony, and it was so hard to concentrate on the writing with so many fantastic distractions. Hummingbirds were buzzing their way back and forth between the bird feeders, and just beyond, I could see layers of mountains in the distance with shadows from the setting sun darkening the rolling hills.

***UPDATE*** The Ginger House B&B has been sold and is no longer open for business, updated 8/25/2014

It doesn’t get much better than this

You won’t find much inside the gates of Cerro Azul except plenty of nature and neighbors. I stepped outside, in the backyard of The Ginger House B&B, while my wife sat inside talking with owner, who goes by the nickname Picasso. I stood  shrouded in darkness, with only a porch light on behind me, and was in awe by the power that I felt around me. The wind blew through the trees like a hurricane was on its way. The swooshing sound was similar to the crashing of ocean waves and I’m not exaggerating when I say I felt my heart thundering in my chest. I know not everyone reading this is religious, and that’s cool, but I honestly felt a higher power at that moment.

This goes on all day long

The raw beauty you find in Cerro Azul is just out of this world. Animals roam around freely and at The Ginger House, Picasso loves to feed the birds and squirrels. She keeps bird feeders full at every corner of her property and places bananas out on ledges and on hanging platforms for any creature wishing for a quick snack. We watched as a squirrel made his way up to a ledge and snatched up a slice of banana. Greedy little monkeys show up often and steal the bananas, but this time, the squirrel knew better. 

This little guy was quick on the take

Bird watching is a popular pastime in Cerro Azul as the area is home to over 900 species of birds and some are unique to the area. Marlene, who loves humming birds, sat on the patio at our B&B and was just in awe at the variety of hummingbirds, of all different colors, visiting the feeders. We saw Tucans playing tag in the sky above and the song of so many different birds all around us. Nature’s symphony was rocking out that day.

One of the many friendly visitors

All of this is what you get in Cerro Azul, but what is it actually like to live there? Let’s talk about that. 

What’s it like to live there? 

Life in Cerro Azul is for a certain kind of person. It’s quiet. Some might complain that it’s too quiet and secluded. I noticed that a lot of the homes had “For Sale” signs outside. I’ve heard that people living along the road that leads up to Cerro Azul have fallen victim to burglaries. But from what I’ve gathered, inside the guarded entry gate (inside the actual community of Los Altos de Cerro Azul) is safe and secure. So I don’t think that has anything to do with people leaving. For added piece of mind, there’s a small police station just outside the main gate.

Panama City from halfway up the mountain

I imagine it has a lot to do with the intense tranquility the area provides. Some people move to a foreign country thinking that they’re ready to abandon society all together. So they move high up on a mountain, but once there, they realize it’s not all they expected. It can be an amazing, fulfilling retirement or lifestyle period, but it is what it is. Living in Cerro Azul would mean driving down the mountain for any groceries you can’t find at a mini-supermarket.

Stunning views in Cerro Azul 

Living in Cerro Azul means either homeschooling your kids, sending them on a bus to the public school down the mountain, or driving them yourself to a private school (probably not a realistic option as it would be a long and tedious drive). 

But, when you really put some thought into it, you might drive an hour away to do your grocery shopping in your home country. With the traffic problems you find in most major cities, a 20-30 minute drive down the mountain might not seem so difficult.

I want you to understand that going up and down the mountain is a reality in Cerro Azul, because there is literally nothing besides wildlife and houses in Cerro Azul. If you’re okay with that, it could be a really cool and rewarding lifestyle. If you wanted to retire to a small town in Colorado, you’d probably find the same situation. You’d be buying your milk, bread, and eggs from a small mom and pop store and traveling a little farther for the bigger items.

Great spot for a picnic, right next to the Los Altos de Cerro Azul office

Picasso, the owner of The Ginger House, makes the trip all the time. She heads down the mountain and into the town of 24 de Diciembre to do her grocery shopping, or she travels even farther to Pricesmart (like Costco here) or to wherever she wants to buy her produce and other items. She’s a chef, so she does what it takes to run a business, and she seems fine with that. She loves her life on the mountain.

Let’s break down the Cerro Azul lifestyle a little further.

What to expect from Cerro Azul?

The roads in Cerro Azul are not the greatest. Some are flat and some are riddled with potholes. We made the trip in our little Mazda, with no 4-wheel-drive, and  it was a little bit rough on our car. Some of the roads have steep inclines. And with the rain coming down, we found ourselves nearly stuck at one point. I had to back up far enough, get a running start, and force the car up the hill. There were areas of the neighborhood where I was honestly afraid to go.

Some of the roads are nasty

This doesn’t mean you can’t visit the town without a 4-wheel-drive vehicle, but you’ll probably feel a lot more calm if you do. If I lived there, I’d definitely invest in a stronger truck or SUV.

Electricity is great on the mountain and the water is drinkable from the tap. We saw a lot of satellite dishes on the roofs of houses. Cable TV, phone, and high-speed Internet all work great. Gas for cooking and gas dryers can be delivered to your home. We saw the truck in the photo below on his way to Cerro Azul. 

Have your gas delivered to your home

The small propane tanks (like you’d use in gas grill) usually cost less than $5. What most people do is buy a couple of the large tanks, that way, when one runs out, they just flip the switch over to the second, ensuring they have gas to cook with while they have the empty canister swapped out. These large tanks usually cost somewhere between $40 and $50. For my large family, we go through one tank in about 2 months. For two people it will probably last 4-5 months, depending on how much cooking and laundry you do.

I’m not sure about the cell phone reception in Cerro Azul. I’ve been told that it works fine, but during my recent visit, I hit quite a few spots where I had no reception at all. So that’s something you’ll have to check out on your visit. Garbage collection is done at one central collection point near the first river as you enter the community. It’s a large, stone, bus-stop-looking building. Residents just drive up and toss their garbage over the wall on their way out of town.

Garbage is collected here

One thing that was mentioned by residents of Cerro Azul, and I heard the same thing about Altos del Maria (another gated mountain community in the interior of the country), is that having things delivered, getting work done on your property, or having utilities serviced…basically anything that requires someone to drive up the mountain to assist you, can take some time. It’s probably the same with any mountain community anywhere in the world. It’s just something to keep in mind and to know in advance, so you don’t find yourself ticked off the first time you’re left hanging or waiting for service or a delivery.

At this point in the report, I’m going to mention the town of 24 de Diciembre a lot, because most of what you need (that you can’t take care of in Cerro Azul) will be in this town. For example, I didn’t see a single ATM on top of the mountain. And there are no banks. It’s possible I missed an ATM, but I don’t think there is one. I didn’t see one in the Comasa, which is the main store just outside the gate. Don’t worry though because you’ll find that most banks that have a branch here in Panama, have a branch in the shopping center in 24 de Diciembre.

You’ll find banks at the base of the mountain

Same goes for medical care. Remember you’re less than an hour’s drive to Panama City, where you’ll find the best hospitals. So really this isn’t an issue. If you just want to visit a clinic real quick, you’ll find several small clinics, labs, and pharmacies at the bottom of the mountain in 24 de Diciembre.

You’ll find small clinics like these in 24 de Diciembre

It’s basically the same story with every other lifestyle topic I usually cover. Aside from one bible school near Cerro Azul, you’ll only find a public school at the base of the mountain. School buses go up and down the mountain taking kids to and from school. And speaking of buses, you will find small Coaster buses that make the trip up and down the mountain, so you could get around that way, but that’s not a very realistic option. Living in Cerro Azul, you’d want to own a car, and you’ll find gas stations in 24 de Diciembre.

You’ll only find a few restaurants up near Cerro Azul, but most of them aren’t open very often. On the road that leads down the mountain you’ll find a few small restaurants and fondas.

A few small restaurants are on the main road to Cerro Azul

Once you get to 24 de Diciembre, you’ll find a lot of restaurants serving Panamanian food and some other options. You’ll even find McDonald’s and the local fried chicken chain, Pio Pio.

Don’t worry, there’s some fast food around…and even a Payless!

As far as shopping goes, you really only have the Comasa, which is a small store with some foods, household goods, and hardware items. This is where you’ll pick up your soda, beer, snacks, and a few of the necessities. For anything else you’d need to travel down the mountain. 

Cerro Azul’s only store

Again, in 24 de Diciembre, you’ll find most of what you’ll need to sustain life in Cerro Azul. Three major supermarkets are there including Super 99, Xtra, and El Machetazo. You’ll also find a few department stores (none you’d know by name), electronics stores, hardware stores, beauty salons, cell phone providers, and even a few small fresh produce markets. I just saw a billboard the other day announcing the construction of a major indoor shopping mall in 24 de Diciembre, so that’s something to look forward to.

You’ll find 3 major supermarkets in 24 de Diciembre

In the meantime, if you’re not satisfied with what you find at the base of the mountain, getting to any of Panama City’s major shopping malls is easy. Albrook Mall, Multiplaza Mall, Metro Mall, and Multicentro are all less than an hour’s drive away. And that’s great news if you’re someone who gets bored often. Entertainment in Cerro Azul is very limited.

Hiking, biking, and ATV trails are always fun

You’ll find rivers, hiking trails, lakes, a swimming pool, tennis courts, and all the bird watching you can handle. At the bottom of the mountain, right at the corner where you turn to go up the mountain, you’ll find a small park called Fucer park, where you’ll find another pool, a restaurant, and a few other activities.

Go fishing or feed the ducks

If you need more than that, just head into the city and go bowling at Albrook Mall, or catch a movie at one of several theaters, hit the clubs on Calle Uruguay or the great bars and restaurants in Casco Viejo. Being on this mountain doesn’t necessarily mean a constant escape from society. Cliche, I know, but society is only a stone’s throw away.  

Oh, and if having a church nearby is important to you, I saw two small Catholic churches on the way up the mountain, plus a Jehovah’s Witness center, and a funeral home/cemetery. 

What does it cost to live there?

Take a look at the budget I’ve posted below to see the “big picture.” If you compare it to the other budgets in the Budget Snapshot page in the main navigation menu above, you’ll see that it’s relatively close to the cost of living in Volcan. However, because you can pick up so many fresh fruits, vegetables, and fish in Volcan, I think the cost of food would be less there. In Volcan, I set it at $300, but in Cerro Azul, I think $400 is more realistic.

Remember that every person is different and what one person might spend on entertainment can be completely different from what another might spend. You might be perfectly content with staying on the mountain, barbecuing with friends and hanging out with your loved ones. Or you might feel the need to hit Panama City’s nightlife scene every weekend. These are things that completely alter the budget I’ve posted below. This just gives you an idea of what a couple might spend, living in Cerro Azul. 

Monthly budget for a couple living in Cerro Azul, Panama (Mountain)

Rent2 Bedroom house$800
ElectricityWon't need AC, only ceiling fans$75
GasFor cooking and dryer (2 small tanks)$10
Telephone/Internet/CablePackage deal$45
Phone card for calling the U.S. (if you don't use Skype/MagicJack)Telechip International, for 5 hours talk time$5
FoodFor 2 people$400
Entertainment There's not much to spend money on in the way of ent. costs, other than dining out.$100
Routine Doctor VisitOnce per month for each person ($25 each)$50
MedicationVaries, but for my monthly high blood pressure and diabetes meds this is what I'd pay just to give you an idea$45
Getting around townGas for your car, at least $50 as you'll be heading down the mountain quite often.$50
Travel outside of town By bus$40
ExtrasOther things you may need$50
Total Monthly ExpensesFor 2 people$1,670

I set the rent at $800 to give you some wiggle room. I found a two-bedroom home online renting for only $550 per month. So you can see that renting can be affordable in Cerro Azul, or it can be much more expensive. The good news is there are a lot of homes for rent and for sale.

Here’s a home for rent  

Shopping online is usually not the best way to go about your search. Visit and take photos of the houses. Take photos of the rental signs so you have the phone numbers handy. Then, have a Panamanian friend call to get the prices. Because most people know that foreigners are willing to pay a little more, you might find the prices a little higher if you call yourself. This isn’t just for English-speaking foreigners. I have a Venezuelan friend who refuses to call to get real estate prices because he knows they can tell by his accent that he’s not Panamanian, and there’s a good chance the price will be higher than if a Panamanian friend calls.

You can see the phone numbers on the sign

At the following link, you’ll see there are homes in Cerro Azul for less than $100,000 and of course the prices go up from there. Keep in mind that I’m posting this report on the 15th of November, 2013, so depending on when you read it, the listings on that page might be completely different from what’s there now. See for yourself here: http://www.compreoalquile.com/casas-en-venta-ubicado-en-cerro-azul.html 

Again, you want to visit the area and check out these houses first. Please DO NOT buy something from what you see online, without first seeing for yourself (in person) what you’re getting into. This seems like common sense, but you’d be amazed by what people get themselves into when they get excited about a move. 

My overall gut feeling?

Cerro Azul, is a place I’d consider great for someone who wants to live off the radar. Most people who think they want to do this, don’t realize what that really means. To truly live in seclusion, you’re talking about building a home out in the middle of nowhere, where you’d probably have a hard time getting Internet, cable, electricity, or even water easily established. This sounds great in theory, but if you imagine the hardships that come along with trying to do it all from scratch, you might realize that Cerro Azul is somewhere right in the middle of following the crowd and doing it all on your own.

In Cerro Azul, everything is set up for you, but you still have that smokey mountain kind of lifestyle. You can live alone, without being bothered. I think it would be amazing. Plus, it’s rare that in any place like this, you have the ability to get to a major city in less than an hour. You can literally get to Multiplaza Mall, the high-end Mall in the area, plus the best hospitals, and the wildest nighlife Panama has to offer, in 45 minutes. That’s not even a roadtrip. That’s the amount of time it took me to get to work in South Florida. That’s pretty cool.

I think Cerro Azul has very slow progress. Not much has changed since I first visited a year ago. But this doesn’t mean it won’t change eventually. I’m sure it will keep it’s quiet, tranquil atmosphere, but I imagine at some point you’ll see more restaurants and more development going on there. And with new things always being built in Panama City (like the new mall coming to 24 de Diciembre), you know you’re never far from the progress made outside of your small, gated community. 

I like Cerro Azul a lot because I appreciate it for what it is. It’s mountain living only minutes from Panama City.

To see the Cerro Azul VIDEO report click here

Thanks for reading,

Chris

 

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25 Responsesso far.

  1. Narciso Bassanellii says:

    Hola Chris, gracias por tu reporte espectacular.
    Estamos con mi esposa por mudarnos a Panamá y específicamente a Cerro Azul ya que en nuestra ubicación actual, vivimos en un balneario, (Parque del Plata, Uruguay) a mitad de camino entre Montevideo y Punta del Este, y, aceptando una excelente propuesta de trabajo, dejo mi retiro, para ir a Panamá. Obviamente elegimos, en principio Cerro Azul, ya que vivimos en una casa con 500 m2 de terreno y nos llevamos nuestras dos perras y una gata, que son la familia y deseamos algo igual. Como ya debería viajar todo s los días a la ciudad de Panamá, te ruego tu opinión sobre ello y fundamentalmente sobre la seguridad del tramo de acceso a el barrio. También y sin fueses tan amable, desearía conectarme con Grant Gilbertson, para consultarlo sobre las propiedades,en el barrio. Por último y como no pude ver el video, te ruego me envíes el acceso a mi mail. Cordialmente
    Narciso y Sandra

  2. Rosana Price says:

    Hello! Chris,
    I am a Zonian and grew up in what used to be the CZ. Born in Colon, Mom is Panamanian, Dad was in Navy when met my Mom a singer then. He then worked as locomotive operator till his heart attack and then 2nd one years later to him to heaven.
    Grew up in Coco Solo (Atlantic side) till 10yrs. old then Los Rios till 17 and got married to my high school boyfriend. He went into Army we were back there twice left pregnant with one son, and then bk down had one there in Chorrera in Dad’s house, then moved to Ft. Kobby, then Ft. Clayton. We left in 1981.
    So, been praying to go back before my 86 yr. old Mom and I leave this earth. I want to to build a healing sustainable mixed community with cool weather, water to sustain it, mts. beach close by, beach, Panama.
    Researching and found Cerro Azul. looking at others.
    Can you please get with me if you are still there or not?
    I have skype, too much to call unless you have a state side number to call.
    It has so much change since I left! Been watching some what about the Government. Want to come home to retire God willing!
    I pray your all are doing well?
    Blessings,
    Rosana

  3. Claudia says:

    Hi Chris,
    Great information thank you! I am an Amercan as well so special hi to Rebecca, and everyone else! I have been looking at the possibility of moving to Panama for a few years now, am just recently divorced unfortunately and looking to start a new life. I would probably begin by renting and look around before buying a home and settling in permanently.
    I would be interested in a gated community such as Los Altos Cerro Azul. My question is if there is a good social network between expats there and activities? Is it mostly couples or are there singles such as myself?

    Also I believed it might be difficult to get work in Panama and that most expats work online remotely. But Chris you mentioned working in the city so perked my curiosity. I am a presentation designer so I could do work remotely. Do you have any comments on this?

    I haven’t watched your videos yet but will look for them now.
    Thank you for writing such an informative article.
    Claudia
    Thanks for writing this interesting article!
    Claudia

  4. Dear Chris,
    I thoroughly enjoyed reading your report. We have a small house at El Castillo which we purchased in 2011. My husband Martin and I stayed there about 6 months but had to return to Belgium where our business runs. We are thinking to return Jan 2015, still thinking of whether to move to Panama permanently or not yet. I guess renting an apmt. in the city would also be a good idea as up and down daily could be a hassle if one wants to start a business or find work. We visited Ginger house and met the lovely lady Picasso.
    Your report makes us feel like returning to Cerro Azul, it is so inviting and makes us feel so much at home, we’d love to be back. Thank you also for the wonderful tips, we certainly can use them. I am of Indian origin, my husband is Belgian, we live in Belgium for the last 28 years, we love Cerro Azul. We have an interpreting and Translation Business in Belgium, we run a firm, I speak 8 languages but unfortunately Spanish is not one of them, but I do understand Spanish, almost everything. I do want to learn it fully. Any ideas of a teacher on the mountain? Since you know so much about Cerro Azul, I thought you maybe able to give a tip.
    Regards,
    Rebecca Soens

    We wish you all the best and hope to meet someday. Ours is Lot 52, El Castillo.

  5. dennis says:

    Hi Chris,

    Great site… I really appreciate all the work you do on this – the piece on Cerro Azul refers to security and other common amenities, but there is no monthly or annual association fee listed – is there one?

    • Chris says:

      Hi Dennis,

      Thanks for reading the report and checking out the website. Great question. Yes, there is a monthly fee, but it’s much lower than what you’d expect to find in the U.S. I’m not sure of the exact amount, but I think I was told that it’s only about $40 per month.

      Chris

  6. Mario Larreategui says:

    Hello Good Morning,

    I would like to know if you have internet access in that ´place,

    If yes could you please let know wich company is given that service.

    I am very interesting to get that place but with out internet access I wont go there.

    Thanks in advance for the usual help.

    Regards

    ML

  7. Sophie says:

    Hi, I left a question a few days ago. I see that you are active on Facebook and I’m surprised not to see an answer here. Did you receive my question all right ? Name is Sophie. It was about the reasons why people sell their homes that are not in gated communities. Thanks.

    • Chris says:

      Hi Sophie,

      I remember your original question and I thought I replied to it. That’s odd. I was having some issues with messages going to the spam folder for awhile, so that might be what happened to yours. I’m really sorry about that. To answer your question, and since I see it under the Cerro Azul report I’ll assume you mean the homes outside of the Cerro Azul gate, the honest answer, from what I understand, is there was a string of burglaries taking place outside of the gate, on the road that leads to the gated community. I’ve heard it’s much safer inside the gate. There was even a pretty bad robbery/burglary that happened in the gate involving a taxi. A group of guys got in the gate, broke into someone’s home, and beat the couple pretty badly before deciding to hang around the neighborhood robbing other homes. They stuck around too long and ended up getting caught when they couldn’t get in touch with their driver (cell phone coverage sucks up there). Haha. So…that’s the truth, which I just heard on my most recent visit up there. Hope that answers your question. I wouldn’t hesitate moving up there though. The security has been cranked up. They’re much stricter on who they let in the gate and from what I’ve heard, from John who also commented on this thread, taxis aren’t even allowed in the gate now. Thanks Sophie for being so patient and I’m sorry I didn’t answer you the last time.

      Chris

  8. JOHN O'QUIN says:

    A warning was probably in your article, but just to re-emphasize, DO NOT make the mistake that I did. I hopped a taxi from PTY to Cerro Azul, which was allowed to go part-way up the mountain only. From there, no taxis allowed. So I went “hiking” up that mountain and back down for a few hours. Thought I was going to have a stroke out there. It was a total waste of my time. You cannot check out possible housing, etc. there without a car. Going on foot was stupidest thing I’ve done for a long time. Also, I found out from a local American doctor at a clinic on the path there that there is no “city” per se there (no supermercada, etc)–only homes and businesses. I could see that it was a beautiful place, but that was about all. I should have read your article first, Chris ! Next stop: Penonome, where taxis exist ! 🙂

    • Chris says:

      Hey John,

      Damn bro, that sounds like a brutal trip. No, I didn’t mention that in my article. I’ve never taken a taxi up there and wouldn’t recommend it even if they could get through the gate (I didn’t know they’d be turned away at the gate). First, it must cost a fortune to get all the way up there, right? And second, even if you got through the gate, it’s such a labyrinth of winding roads that I can’t imagine a taxi would be very useful. I’d rent something if I didn’t have a buddy to ride up there with. I can’t even imagine trying to walk from the gate through the rest of town. Sorry you went through that, man. And yeah, I definitely put in my report the part about there being no real town up there. It’s basically a gated community way up on top of the mountain. Only that little Comasa store is there, for the basics. Penonome should be much better. I hope you read my report this time, lol, and watched the video. I liked Penonome a lot. It’s big and spread out though. I walked most of it, but it was a tough walk. Good luck, John, and let me know how Penonome goes.

      Chris

    • Chris says:

      Oh, and like I just wrote to Sophie, to add to my last response to your comment, I heard the reason taxis aren’t allowed in the neighborhood now is that a taxi full of thugs gained access not too long ago. They broke into several houses in the community. One resulted in a couple being beaten really badly. The guys hung around the neighborhood too long, burglarizing several places, but eventually got caught by the cops when they couldn’t get out of the neighborhood. They couldn’t get a hold of their taxi driver who was parked down by the lake waiting for them (cell phone coverage is almost nonexistent up there). I just heard this story last month when I drove up there for the day.

      Chris

  9. Allen Bishop says:

    Good report Chris. Just to let you know in case you don’t, the B&B you stayed at has closed. Picasso had to return to the USA to be a caregiver for a family member. The website was just one page advising of this. Maybe someone has bought it by now.
    Cerro Azul is certainly the most unique locale you’ve reported on so far, and I think you’ve done a good job advising potential buyers that it’s definitely not a place for everyone. Keep up the good work!

    • Chris says:

      Thanks Allen. I’ll update the report. I was up there just before she sold it. I know she was hoping it would go through so I guess it worked out. Thanks again.

      Chris

  10. Drew says:

    Please advise, does it freeze there in winter nights or not? Also, is the postal service in post offices safe to send valuables ($20 to $200 worth of goods such as stamps, baseball cards, old postcards etc.) through Panama Post system to other countries (mail order)? How about importing a car and other household goods – do the Customs go easy on immigrants? Thanks very much in advance for your advise.

    • Chris says:

      Hi Drew,

      It doesn’t freeze in the winter nights, but it can be quite chilly (light jacket material for sure). I, personally, wouldn’t send much with the regular postal service here. I know people who do and seem to be okay with it, but when I got married here (and this was 13 years ago) my dad sent an envelope of photos (basically all the photos he had of me growing up) to be included in the wedding video. They never got here so I lost all those photos of my youth. I’d stick with one of the mail carriers like Mailboxes Etc. or Airbox Express or Panama Air Facility (there are others). They’ll set you up with a P.O. Box in Miami and reroute everything from Miami to you (for a small fee of course). Customs and shipping your belongings is a whole different issue and I’d have to advise you to speak with an Immigration attorney or shipping specialists on that one. Wish I could help, but I’m no pro in that arena and don’t want to give you the wrong info.

      Hope some of this info helps,

      Chris

      • Narciso Bassanellii says:

        Hola Drew, te sugiero colocar en el buscador “inmigrar a Panamá”, y allí conseguirás información. si eres jubilado, igual ” jubilarse en Panamá” . A tus órdenes
        Narciso

  11. Manuel says:

    what about valle de anton? that’s another great place

    • Chris says:

      Hey Manuel,

      Thanks for commenting. Yes, El Valle de Anton is awesome. We’ll be headed there soon.

      • rebecca says:

        Hi Chris,
        So tell me, did you and Marlene end up settling in Cerro Azul? My husband and I are considering it as well. I hope to visit a couple of times before hand. And maybe rent a few months out of the year before we decide. I am a artist/retired counselor and although we are both retired, I hope to stay busy with some of my time with my work. Please keep in touch. If we get that way, it will be nice to see someone we know; if even via the net. 🙂

        • Chris says:

          Hi Rebecca,

          No, we’re still here in Panama City (for now) 🙂

          I’m still hoping to eventually talk Marlene into moving out of here and up into the mountains somewhere. For right now, we both need to work, so it looks like we’ll be keeping our next here in the city. It’s definitely a good idea to rent before deciding on where you want to settle down permanently. People come here absolutely 100% sure about where they want to live, so they buy something, then a few months down the road they’re ready to pull their hair out from boredom, or something else bothers them, and they’re ready to get out of dodge. I’d definitely rent first. And yes, it’s always great to make new friends. Let’s definitely keep in touch!

          Chris

  12. Grant Gilbertson says:

    Good article Chris. I have just found your site and have been enjoying your writing. I happen to have a couple of houses in Los Altos de Cerro Azul. I live here alone with my dog. We have a nice community of people here, and I find life to be quite full. Sociable`s, hikes and dirt bikes fill my spare time. I think you got the feel of the community, if you want to revisit, contact me and I can give you a more in depth tour of the wonderful things our community has to offer. I am working on a site to promote rentals in the community and hope to have it up and running soon. Keep you posted.
    Grant

    • Chris says:

      Hi Grant,

      Thanks man. I really appreciate that you took the time to check out the article. Did you see the video? Man…life sounds good up there on the mountain. I’d love to visit again so thanks for the invite. Yes, let me know as soon as your site is up and running. Thanks again.

      Chris

    • rebecca says:

      Hello,
      I found the article by Chris to be extremely helpful. And also enjoyed your comment and other blogs. I am a American, considering a move to Panama. I plan to visit a couple of times to kind of get a feel for the area and make a decision. I have been researching on line for many months now and I really am drawn to the Cerro Azul mountain area of all places. I would love to here from any one local who may have anything to share about the area as I consider my move. Thanks!

    • Narciso Bassanellii says:

      Hola Grant: Me estoy trasladando a Panamá por una oferta de trabajo en la ciudad. Desearía hacerte unas preguntas sobre la,posibilidad de adquirir una propiedad en la comunidad. Mi mail es narcinor1@gmail.com. Aagrdeceré tu respuesta.
      Cordialmente
      Narciso

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