Agua Clara locks, beach, Caribbean, Colón, Fort San Lorenzo, Mira Flores locks, Panama, Panamá Canal, pirates, Spanish, Travel, vacation, visitor's center
The Carribean coast of Panamá has played a significant role in world economic development; however, today it is an afterthought for most of the world. It is isolated and relatively undeveloped. All that may be about to change.
Panamá’s Carribean History
Panamá has been the center of Transocean trade routes for centuries. Before there was a canal across Panamá connecting the Pacific and the Atlantic, there was a railroad. Before there was a railroad, there was a mule trail. Crossing the fifty kilometers of Panamá has been a much better alternative than the thousands of kilometers around South America by ship.
Christopher Columbus reached Panamá on 16 October 1502, and he was told of a path to another ocean, but it was not until 1513 when Vasco Núñez de Balboa crossed Panamá by land that a link to the Pacific (then known as the South, or Sur, Ocean) was confirmed.
After it was learned that Panamá was a narrow isthmus of land between two oceans, the country became the center of ocean trade routes between the Atlantic and the Pacific. Naturally, this activity led to the development of Panamá City on the Pacific side of the trade route. What is interesting is that on the there is not a sister major city on the Caribbean coast.
The Caribbean Afterthought
The Caribbean coast of Panamá is a victim of its history. Pirates pillaged the area to steal the wealth that Spain and France were stealing from Latin American countries. Now the forts that protected the coast lie in ruins with cannon barrels scattered among the neglected sites.
Banana plantations imported thousands of African slaves until the banana market was flooded and plantations shut down, leaving a population of people who had no power or authority, to exist in the vacuum of a society. Crime is higher, especially in Colón, and the economy of the Carribean lacks a consistent source of jobs and income.
The Caribbean side of Panamá missed the wealth and attention that would be expected at the end of a critical trade route. The only significant town on Panamá’s Caribbean coast is Colón, at the northern end of the Panamá Canal, and it is not held in high regard to those who have seen it or know it.
Until recently, access to Panamá’s Caribbean coast was difficult, and there was no real tourist attraction. It has been the ghost of Panamá’s past that no one thought about, or cared; however, that may soon change.
The Coming Caribbean Extreme Makeover?
No one can accurately predict the next real estate boom, but there are indications that Panamá’s north coast is about to explode in new activity. There are five reasons:
The completion of the Colón Expressway, driving to the Caribbean coast is relatively easy. What was an eight or nine hour drive from Panamá City is now slightly over an hour, making it the same travel time as the Pacific beaches west of Panamá City.
New Tourist Attraction
Prior to the 2017 completion of the new canal locks, the only public viewing area of the Panamá Canal was near the Pacific side, near Panama City. This Visitor Center sits adjacent to the century old Mira Flores locks.
However, with the new locks, a second Visitor’s Center was built adjacent to the new Agua Clara locks on the Caribbean side. Because many people want to see the new locks, and because the old Visitor Center doesn’t view the new, bigger, Pacific-side locks, the new Caribbean Visitor’s Center will draw in more tourists to the Panamá’s north coast.
The New Caribbean Bridge
A new, third bridge crossing the Panamá Canal is being built at the mouth of the north end. Once completed. it will give easy access to the west side of the canal on the Caribbean coast. This area is largely undeveloped.
Great Beach Settings
The Pacific coast has cloudy water and more populated beaches. The Caribbean coast is the classic has clear, blue water and remote beaches.
A developer operates on a desire to find undervalued property that can turn a profit. It would seem that the Caribbean coast is ripe with undervalued property. A developer that has connections with the correct people in Panamá’s government could reap big profits over the next two decades from inexpensive land on Panamá’s north coast.