About Us

Christopher and Marlene Powers (13 years of marriage and 4 kids strong)



C. Michael Powers





Christopher Powers

My name’s Chris Powers. I was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, but grew up, mostly, in South Florida. The Oakland Park, Fort Lauderdale area. Life’s adventures have moved me to San Diego, California, Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, Anchorage, Alaska, Chicago (and the suburbs), Illinois, and Columbus, Ohio. Now I’m living in Panama City, Panama, where I’ve been for going on four years. 

I started Panama For Real because I’d spent time traveling around Panama for a successful online publisher based here in Panama, and I just felt that there was a wider audience for this info. Not only the wealthy should benefit from insider information. I’m here and I’m learning new stuff all the time, so why not share that with others dreaming of making the same move. 

In addition to writing about Panama, I also write fiction. I recently published my novel, Mirror Images Book 1: The Darkness of Man. I also just finished the first draft of Mirror Images Book 2: Sons of Man and hope to publish it soon. You can find book 1 for Kindle  here: http://www.amazon.com/Mirror-Images-Book-The-Darkness-ebook/dp/B007V9GQ7Y

Now let me introduce you to my wife and partner, Marlene Bonilla de Powers. 


Marlene Bonilla de Powers

Aside from being super hot and a wonderful mother, Marlene has traveled all over the place with me. She’s an expert behind the camera and most importantly, she understands the vision that I have for Panama For Real. In fact, in many ways, she has opened my eyes and helped me expand that vision to what it is now. Passionate about her heritage, Marlene really gets it. She knows that foreigners and Panamanians alike can benefit from knowing more about her country. 

Born and raised in Panama City, she remembers spending a great deal of her childhood traveling to the interior provinces to visit family. She has family in David, Boquete, and Penonome, and some of her fondest childhood memories involve horse riding on her grandfather’s farm, eating raspados (snow cones) on the way to Volcan, swimming in rivers in David, and showering in the waterfalls all over this country. 

Now, when I’m not dragging her all over the place during the weekends, she’s busy at her full-time job and raising our four children.


The rest of the gang ( clockwise: Matteo, Nicolas, Estefania, and Victoria)

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35 Responsesso far.

  1. Andy says:

    Hi Chris,
    My wife and I have just completed our first Panama visit over the recent holidays. Cool place – we think we really like the Panama vibe. Before I launch into a bunch of questions, are you still doing this BLOG? I haven’t seen much comment/reply since 2015? Are you still doing your BLOG thing here at PFR?

    • Chris says:

      Hi Andy,

      I know it’s been FOREVER since you commented, but I am planning to get back to this site. Right now I’m just trying to weed through all the spam comments to find the real ones. As of right now I’m not ready to answer questions. I need to clean up the site, fix up some stuff, and then I’ll be back at it. Thanks for checking in on me.

      • Vernon Jacks says:

        Chris, I too miss reading your blog. I haven’t been on here in ages. Looking forward to your return. I understand clean up spam as I’ve been a webmaster for about three months. Just curious, what platform do you use for your blog? I’m using Word Press and have a couple of questions. Thank you. Be blessed.

        • Chris says:

          Hey Vernon,

          Good to hear from you. I use WordPress for my blog. If you’ve commented before and mentioned anything about webmaster or spam I’ve probably deleted it lol. I quickly skim through my messages and usually don’t even read much of the message if I see those words. Most of my spam is people offering to help with my site. It’s insane!

  2. John says:

    Hi Chris,
    I stumbled across one of your videos on YouTube and really enjoyed the content and presentation. I am working my way through the rest of them. I am living in Boquete for 3+ years and like to take a road trip every couple of months…I always like to have an overview of where I am going…so I look forward to any videos that you add. Keep up the great work.
    BTW, I just now downloaded your book on my kindle and looking forward to the read.

    • Chris says:

      Hi John,

      Thanks for commenting. I love Boquete. I’ll head out there soon to do a video and article. Maybe during the next big break the kids have.

  3. Stephanie M Rogers (LaCroix) says:

    Chris…. It’s been awhile but, I just wanted to wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas. I love all your articles as they are super interesting! Wish you the best in 2015.

    Stephanie Rogers

  4. Chris,

    It just so happened that I came across PFR as I am preparing for my move to Panama in January 2015. Great stuff….and truly helpful.

    But 1st: A HUGE HELLO to a native Okie! I was born in Enid Oklahoma. I obtained my commercial pilot’s license in Tulsa ( Sand Springs) at Ross School of Aviation.(After going to Spartan Aviation) Talk about the 6 degrees of separation, right?

    My business partner in Panama tells me to shuck all my winter clothes and pack only the clothing which is necessary for business and casual purposes in the tropics. Here is my question du jour: What black tie, formalwear, or special events exist in Panama? Here in Atlanta we have those events constantly and I do enjoy them on numerous occasions.

    Thank you and your wife for the great service you provide with the PFR site. It is an extremely helpful guide.

    BTW…I am told by my partners that the corporate apartment is at the Trump. And I am forewarned to never mention that to cabbies or others who may seriously jack up the prices of things. LOL


    • Chris says:

      Hi Tom,

      Ha, hey fellow Okie. It’s funny how many Okies have found PFR. I love it. My dad just moved back to Tulsa this past year so that gives me a good reason to visit. I haven’t been back since I was a kid.

      Hmm, black tie formal events? They do happen, especially if you roll with the right people (big business and the social elite). Things like the Panama Film Festival (which is an annual event now) might require more fancy digs. Plus, any wedding, quince, business launch, or even some of the big holiday parties for New Year’s and stuff will be black tie. Plus, Panama is starting to see more concerts and expos. At ATLAPA which is the main convention center, there’s something going on almost every month of the year. Panamanians like to dress up to go out.

      I wouldn’t ditch all of your cold weather gear. If you plan to travel back to the states at all, you might want to have a coat or two to take with you. In some of the higher elevation towns in Panama (like Volan and Cerro Punta) the weather can be kind of crisp. Most people there wear a jacket. I regret getting rid of all of my nice sweaters and jackets. I’d keep a few if I were you.

      Hope this helps (and I loved your reply to Jo-An about the single males here, haha, great answer),


  5. Dan Goggin says:

    I appreciate your website and have found it well done and very informative. I also have followed your advice to check out Facebook Panama groups, etc. Every group and other online groups define their membership quite limiting to expats. My interest is to correspond with one or more persons living in Panama City for guidance on where to rent an apartment for two or so months this winter. I owned a resident in Montevideo until last year when I sold it. Naturally I imagine I want a grand view of the sea, be near to many restaurants, etc., so the pedestrian traffic is heavy during the evening hours. I also plan to take a few weeks of Spanish language instructions. So, I also seek suggestions on this too. I am an older male whose permanent home is in Washington, DC. So, if you do not mind giving me some help in finding a rental (or reliable agency), areas to stay, etc. I would very much appreciate it. Perhaps others might join in.
    Thank you, Dan Goggin

    • Chris says:

      Hey Dan! Good to hear from you, man. Well, if you had an apartment in Montevideo, which I’ve heard is amazing, you might like something in the Punta Pacitifica area. Anything in Punta Pacifica, Punta Paitilla (where Trump is located), and maybe even Marbella or Bella Vista. You might even want to consider something in Panama’s old town of Casco Viejo. Check out my video on Casco Viejo here to see what that place is all about: http://www.panamaforreal.com/all-pfr-video-reports/pfr-location-report-videos/panama-city-neighborhood-videos/casco-viejo-panama-video-report/. I don’t really work with a real estate agency in the city (at least not right now) but the attorney I send people to for Immigration help has real estate connections. Email Gary Matteo at ematteo@kmgroupcorp.com and let him know I sent you. He should be able to get you in contact with the right people here in the city (and will be able to help you out with a lot of other issues too I’m sure). I mentioned Trump Ocean Club earlier. Here’s the website if you want to look into that one: http://www.trumpoceanclub.com/

      Thanks again, Dan, and I hope it all works out for you here in Panama 🙂


  6. Kevin Higgins says:

    Hello Chris, my family and I have been in Pedasi about four months. The kids love it here with all the activities that 7 and 8 year old boys can get into especially the beach, pools, construction (sand and mud) and always new friends with no problem with any language barrier. Kids always have a way of communicating. The twin girls are now 16 months and enjoying their two nannies (day and night) at a fraction of what it would be in the states.

    The boys are being home schooled at this time with the K-12 program although we are strongly considering Cadi (sp) Academy in Las Tablas about 35 minutes away. Our next door neighbor attends the school with the bus picking him up at 6:00 am. The school is bilingual as we are looking forward to the bilingual experience for the boys. The girls learning Spanish should be a slam dunk with the two nannies communicating only in Spanish.

    I am 57 and my wife is 40. I am 80% retired with some business back in the US. I like the fact that I can be close to the family and the children. We plan to return to the US in November to visit the CPA. And this is the only reason I plan to return with little motivation or desire to go back to the US. Pedasi and Panama are now home as I plan to spend the rest of my days here.

    We are making many new friends from different cultures and truly enjoying the diversity. Social activities include many dinner get-togethers, sightseeing the jaw dropping raw beauty of this country and the courtesy and friendliness of the Panamanians.

    Panama is what you make it. Don’t expect this grand life to knock down your door and ask you to attend. If you reach out and embrace so many opportunities your life can be wonderful.

    This is all for now. Continued happiness to you and your lovely family.


  7. Steve Wright says:

    Great site.

    I’m planning for first trip — a little business plus a couple days of exploring.

    I know your site is somewhat geared to folks living permanently, but your off the beaten path advice on the new train, Avenida Central and other elements have served me well as a visitor.

    Keep up the good work.

    By the by, was born in NE Ohio, spent a dozen years post college in Columbus OH, past 15 in South Florida — so the connections are similar to yours.

    The “me” days of visit will certainly include Casco Viejo. Most likely will be based at a small hotel in Congrejo.

    Any thoughts on authentic ie, not TGI Friday, Hooters, hotel restuarants, experience left in the center of town would be much-appreciated.

    • Chris says:

      Hey Steve,

      Thanks for checking out the website. My site does have a lot of info for people planning to live here, but I hope it also helps with vacations. Some of the places I plan to visit are only good for vacations (like San Blas). I wish I could give you advice on restaurants, but I honestly don’t eat out a lot. Your best bet is to join the Facebook Panama groups, like Expats in Panama and ask in the group. You’ll get tons of great advice. People in those groups are very friendly and love to help out.

      Thanks again, man, and I hope you have an awesome trip.


  8. Darlene Burton says:

    I love this. Thanks so much for all the info.We are moving to Boquete in 4 weeks to retire.I was so glad to find this very helpful.

  9. Angela says:

    Hello all!
    we want to relocate to Panama in the next few months….
    I am undecided between panama city and new gorgona or coronado
    We have 2 young kids and one is in Y2.
    I saw that panama international schools are much more expensive than the ones in coronado and gorgona.
    i will work for myself as I do already and my husband will work in gardening and decorating with his own business over there.
    What town do you suggest us?
    We dont want to pay 1500 dollars of rent!

    • Chris says:

      Hi Angela,

      I’ll open this up for readers to answer. The international schools here can be very expensive. If you’re wanting to stay below $1,500 for rent, you might have a hard time out in the Coronado/Gorgona area as that’s probably what you’ll spend out there. You may find something less. It’s tough because the areas where the international schools are located aren’t the budget destinations. What do you guys think? Where would be a good place for Angela? I think you should definitely visit first and check out the Coronado area. You might be able to find something for less than $1,500. Maybe you can find something in David or Boquete (there are international schools out there), but you definitely won’t be right on the beach like you would be in Coronado. Also, when you check the Coronado area, don’t just stick with Gorgona and Coronado. Try Chame, Punta Chame, San Carlos, las lajas (not the one out near David, the one near Coronado). Try those smaller areas around Coronado as you’d still be in close driving distance to the Coronado International School. Check out our Coronado video and written report for more info on the area and for the link to the school.

      Thanks for checking out the site and for commenting, Angela.



  10. Nora says:

    I left a question earlier today and it was on the website most of the day ” awaiting moderation” but now it is gone. Do I need to repost ?


  11. Nora says:

    Hi Chris,

    Thanks for creating this site. It has been very informative. Our family is moving to Panama City in July. We are currently in country looking for schools and a place to live. Our two choices are: an apartment in Costa del Este with the kids (12 &15) going to ISP or a house near Clayton (maybe Embassy Gardens) with the kids going to The Met. Any thoughts on which might be a better choice for expat kids from the US?


    • Chris says:

      Hi Nora,

      I actually saw this question, but didn’t have a chance to answer it, then after reading your second question, searched for it again and found it in spam. So I think I accidentally clicked spam instead of approve. Sorry about that and thanks so much for sending the second question to kick my butt in gear. Costa del Este and Clayton are both nice areas. Costa del Este is definitely a warmer atmostphere though. I like Clayton, but having been in the military for awhile, Clayton’s boxy buildings and drab colors remind me of basic training. Not all areas of Clayton are like that, and I’ve considered moving there myself, but Clayton is a large area, kind of spread out. Embassy Gardens doesn’t look the way I mentioned, but most of the rest of Clayton does. The only problem with the plan is those schools would be fine living in Clayton, but you’re looking at a pretty long drive living in Costa del Este. With traffic here in Panama, I wouldn’t recommend making that commute each day.

      If you were planning on living in Costa del Este, you might want to check out either AIP (Academia Interamericana de Panama) http://aip.edu.pa/ or San Augustin http://www.colegiosanagustinpanama.com/

      I think both of these schools could be a challenge if your kids don’t speak Spanish.

      One other area I think is worth checking out is Condado del Rey. Check out my report on that area here: http://www.panamaforreal.com/pfr-location-reports/city-locations/condado-del-rey-panama-written-report/ and the video here: http://www.panamaforreal.com/pfr-location-reports/city-locations/condado-del-rey-panama-video-report/. There’s a school in that area: http://www.colegioreal.edu.pa/

      I mention Condado del Rey because it’s a little more affordable than Costa del Este, and is a little closer to the Clayton area. Traffic isn’t great over there, but you could actually live there and have your kids enrolled in one of the schools in the Clayton area. There’s a lot of new construction there and gated communities. I hope this helps.


  12. Darrel G. Mohney says:

    Hello Chris
    I was born at a farm near Sapulpa Okla.I worked 15 years for a company that sent me to countries all over the world. I started 2 oil companies.When the price of oil dropped in 85
    I sold out and moved back to Nevada and started
    Nevada Resoures, a mining development company.I couldn’t see my self living the rest of my life in okie boogia. A friend moved to Belize and asked me to come down and look at a mining project for him. A lot of gold in Belize but it’s hard to get to it.I later did more exploration in the Chiquibul Jungle than any one has ever done, I was fifty years old at the time. I met my in central america, she is alot younger than me and she takes care of me like a old mother hen. I later bought a small ranch in Honduras. I will never live in Belize again the government and police are a bunch of crooks, and Honduras is the most dangerous country in the world now, Panama sounds very good to me. My wife and I plan to be in panama this April.Thank you Chris for all the info.

  13. Kevin says:

    Hi Chris, we are currently in the aftermath of several 20-30 degree weather days in Baton Rouge, LA! Checking the weather in Panama makes me yearn to be there tomorrow. Our plan is to move June 1 to Pedasi. It will be my wife, who is 40 years old, I am 56, the boys are 6 and 7 and the twin girls are eight months. After considerable research my wife and I are now very comfortable with the educational prospects for our children. The opportunity for our children to be bilingual in a multicultural society is very enticing. The warm Pacific sea breezes will help with allergies, sinus issues and better health in general. We readily appreciate that our cost of living will likely be cut in half at least! The challenges are there but the opportunities are off the charts. Thank you for your blog.

    • Chris says:

      Hi Kevin,

      Uff, 20-30 degree days? Actually, that sounds nice right now as I’m sweating here at the computer. I love Pedasi! It’s really small town still, so it might be strange for the kids at first, but I’m sure you’ll love it. No shortage of beaches around that’s for sure. Are you going to be homeschooling or putting them there in the local school? I’ve been hearing that an international school might be headed to Pedasi. That would be great. I hope you guys have an amazing adventure and if you get to Pedasi before I head there for a research trip, we’ll have to get together for a beer or coffee. Thanks so much for checking out our site and for commenting, Kevin.


    • Chris says:

      Hi Sarah,

      Thanks so much for your kind words. Pedasi is a really cool place, but in order to school your kids there, you’d have to either do home schooling, or send them to the local school. Some people send their kids to the local school part of the day and then home school them the rest of the day. Kevin, if you read this, please let us know how it’s working out for you. Pedasi has its own fairly large clinic (not sure if it’s open yet) and a larger hospital was being built near Las Tablas the last time I was in the area, so you would have a hospital probably 45 minutes away (other than the clinic in Pedasi). Plus, if you wanted to go to the major hospitals in Panama City, you could get there in about 4 to 5 hours depending on traffic. Panama as a whole is a hot and humid country, but Pedasi is said to be in the dry arch, where it gets less rain. I can tell you that right now, in Panama’s rainy season, it rains pretty much every single day here in the city. I hope some of this info helps. You guys really should visit Panama and find the place that’s right for you, Sarah. Good luck and thanks so much for reading.


  14. Jade says:

    So glad I found your blog!
    I am a teacher in the US and want to move to Panama with my 2 yr old son. I lived in Mexico before and loved it, but don’t feel safe there currently.
    What is the reality of finding work to support my son and I in Panama? Is it “single mother friendly?”
    Thank you so much!

    • Chris says:

      Hi Jade,

      So glad you’ve found our site. If you survived down in Mexico, you should be fine here. If you’re a teacher, and have your certification papers or proof of your degree, that kind of stuff, you should be fine. Panamanian schools seem to be always searching for teachers, all over the country. Especially if you’re comfortable teaching English. Some will even hire people under the table (but these are usually the smaller classes, not the actual schools). Most of the larger schools, especially the international ones, will require that you have the work license, which might be the somewhat tricky part for you, but it’s not all that complicated, especially if you speak with an attorney who handles Immigration issues. One of the newer visas created by the Panamanian government to entice workers to come to Panama makes it a little easier. I can get you in touch with a great attorney if you’d like. Just let me know.

      As far as it being “single mother friendly.” I think you’ll be just fine, especially if you move to one of the more expat-friendly areas. I’m not sure if you’re wanting to live in the city, but a place like Coronado, out in the interior and on the beach, would probably be perfect for you because there are 3 international schools in the area and a lot of expats are already calling the place home. There, maybe Boquete, and of course parts of the city would make sense for you.

      Thanks for checking out the site,


  15. Lisa says:

    Hi Chris,
    I’m wondering if dental work is affordable in Panama. My children are adults now and I am divorced and struggling to pay the many expenses of living in Connecticut.

    I wonder how realistic it would be for me to stay a month or longer in Panama and start some dental work. (I don’t speak spanish).

    Advanced thanks, so glad I found your blog!

    • Chris says:

      Hi Lisa,

      Excellent question. Aside from regular cleanings, which typically cost about $20, I haven’t had to do any major dental work here in Panama. So, I’m not sure what the costs would be associated with that. I know that it’s supposed to be a lot more affordable here than back in the U.S. though. A blogging friend of mine, Kris C. at ThePanamaAdventure.com wrote an excellent post about her husband’s trip to the dentist. http://blog.thepanamaadventure.com/2013/01/10/a-trip-to-the-dentist/ Click on the link to read all about it. She covers the meticulous doctor doing the work and tells you the total costs associated with the procedure.

      Thanks so much for your comment and I hope it all works out for you (at a fraction of the cost) down here in Panama.


      • Vernon Jacks says:

        Chris, first of all, I recently found your blog and love it, thank you and your wife for sharing. I spent
        6 years in Panama with my family in two tours of
        3 years each with the US Army. We loved the people and the location; my whole family had a grand time; in fact, my youngest son was born in Panama 42 years ago. In reference to dental work, just this week I had one (1) tooth extracted and an implant put in, total cost $3320.00, after my insurance paid their portion, my co-pay was $2120.00. So let your folks know it is a blessing to have dental care done in Panama. Be blessed.

        • Chris says:

          Hey Vernon,

          Thanks so much for finding us, for reading, and for commenting. Wow…$2,120 that’s nuts. I remember having to pay just over $500 for my infant son to be taken in an ambulance only a mile or two away, from my house to a hospital. That was in South Florida. Outrageous. I’m a big fan of the medical care here.

          Thanks again, man, and God bless you.


  16. CS says:

    Hi Chris, thanks for your blog. I recently read your blog about taking the bus to the interior of Panama.

    My family and I are traveling to Panama in February 2014 to check things out. Our home-base will be in Boquete to start.

    Thanks for sharing your insights. (the other) Chris

    • Chris says:

      Thanks Chris. I’m glad to hear you guys are coming to Panama. Boquete is a beautiful place. Thanks so much for checking out the site and for taking the time to comment.

      Chris (the other one, lol)

  17. John Tenant says:

    Love your site. We’ve been toying with the idea of a move, but have 2 kids (girls, 8& 12)and we think we’ll need to wait for their post-high school days. Born outside of Chicago and raised in Columbus, OH.
    — John

    • Chris says:

      Hi John,

      Thanks so much. Your girls are almost the exact same age as mine (mine are 8 and 11) and we lived in Aurora/Naperville, on Michigan Ave in Chicago, and in Columbus, Ohio, before moving to Panama. Small world. I won’t try to convince you to move to Panama before your girls finish school, but just know that it’s very possible with so many international schools here and so many people doing homeschool. If you’re really thinking about it, make sure you come here to visit first and check out some of the places you’re considering. You might fall in love with one of the towns or you might decide that it’s just not for you. Have you ever been to Panama?

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