Our snowbird retirement journey has taken us to a beautiful Pacific coast beachfront condo in Nueva Gorgona, Panama, Central America. The Coronado area is well known by many expats from outside of Panama and is a little more than an hours drive from Panama City. Nueva Gorgona is a relative new comer to the development of the beach coast condos here, evolving from a small rural fishing village to incorporating numerous tall tower condos that really stand out with over 20 floors, and the related amenities for expats. The area is also popular for Panamanians who live in Panama city and have a beach house here on weekends.
This article includes photo galleries of the whole Gorgona community including: Beach Lifestyle, Restaurants, condo towers, local homes, and local fishing industry.
Nueva Gorgona does not have much shopping other than a few beachside restaurants and corner stores, so shopping for groceries etc. requires a short US$5 taxi ride to Coronado where there are a variety of strip malls and more. There is a small bus that the locals use too. The building gets a daily visit from the “pastry van” where fresh locally made donuts and similar are brought to the building.
Our suite located on the 13th floor of a modern 24 story two section building, has a beautiful view of the small cove that numerous fishermen launch their two person motor boats from. The building resembles the front bow of a ship.
The balcony area is a perfect place to watch the constant buzz of activity on the beach.
The fishing boats are moving out and back in between the tides which change the water depth by about 5 Meters (16 feet). Most boats have two people on board, and some have distinctive flags for identification. To park their boats high on the beach they run full throttle towards it upon return resulting in a safe place to park until the next high tide.
The Royal Palms condo building has FOUR large pools for the gated community guests, as well as an outdoor bar / restaurant area.
The natural white sand here blends with the black volcanic sand to create a “marbled” effect on the beach. Locals take their horses along the beach at low tide, plus sometimes even a 4×4 vehicle.
The “Hawaii” surfer style restaurant just down the beach has a nice assortment of beach style food including FRESH fish choices and reasonably priced beer. They have periodic expat gatherings here too that may involve music or fireworks.
Young surfers waiting for the next big wave.
There is also a well appointed beach club with more pools at the foot of the building for locals to hang out at.
A Walk on the Beach
The white sandy beaches here go for miles along the coast, and are not crowded. There is also a unique black sand from the volcanic rocks in the area, which blends like marbled cheese at the shoreline. Sometimes the black sand can look like mud, but it is really just sandy and sparkles in the sunlight! The locals enjoy the beaches too, since the country has regular public access points to all the beach areas. We have seen horseback riding and 4x4s driving on the sand flats. Since the waves can get quite big here, depending on the wind, the area does have some beginner level surfers occasionally.
Black sand blends over the white sand
Tower condos scattered along the beach front. This view is looking East and includes Royal Palms, Ocean Waves and Biltmore.
Swing rope on a BIG tree for locals to have fun playing in the ocean.
Colorful volcanic rock mixtures along the beach. Maybe iron content?
Sad to see the vultures having a meal out of a large sea turtle that floated in.
Beach Photo Gallery (click image for larger version slide show)
Several Beachfront Tower Condos and Suites
The several tower condos are primarily gated communities for expats. They have electrical generators that help with the periodic power outages here, and filtered water that is safe to drink, and usually a restaurant of some kind.
Condo’s Photo Gallery (click image for larger version slide show)
There are a variety of beachfront homes along the eastern shoreline. Many of these are owned by people who work in Panama City, and relax here on the weekends, plus a few expats. The gravel roadway behind them also has nice homes that are “almost” on the beach!
Also see article about the west side: Coronado Beachfront homes via Gorgona
Beachfront Photo Gallery (click image for larger version)
Home Style Restaurants nearby
Photo Gallery (click image for larger version slide show)
Panamanian Small Homes Streetscape Walk
The main town has a mixture of mainly simple single storey homes with the traditional corrugated metal roof. The main road is paved – but most of the residential streets are very simple unnamed dirt roads. Sadly, there are also a few garbage dumping areas where the locals burn their garbage.
Photo Gallery (click image for larger version slide show)
There is a big 5 storey building that looks like a hotel in the heart of the fishing beach area. Apparently, it is a Jewish family home, with each child having their own floor!
Fishing Industry – Small Boats
The small sandy beach cove is home to a vibrant fishing industry based around small fibreglass fishing boats with 2 or 3 fishers, powered by outboard motors. Each boat has a small flag, usually green or black that seems to denote the group that they are with, among the 25 or so boats that sail from Nueva Gorgona. Some boats have three holds for different kinds of fish, and a section to hold the catch nets. In other cases we have seen two men sorting and cutting up fish as they head back to home port. If you walk the back streets you will probably see men repairing their nets with a sewing technique.
It is amazing to watch how the fishermen here get their boats above the high water mark to park for the day. Some of them just come at full throttle LIGHTSPEED, timing it with the wave swells straight up onto the sandy shore. Some of the experienced ones end up 20 feet or more up on the beach.
For the drivers who can’t race the boat up the sand, they get about a dozen guys and some round poles under the boat, to roll it up higher. The vertical tides swings here are about 5 meters. The square containers you see in the video are used for two guys to carry the catch of the day to the wholesale market at the end of the beach.
There is a small shrine building “The Virgin of Carmen” which seems to be a tribute to the roots of the fishing here, as well as a touching wall mural painting, on the back wall of the weigh scale house, of a woman and baby looking out to the sea. The weighed fish gets sold to a wholesaler who trucks it away. You can also buy the freshest fish here – or prepared at one of the no frills oceanfront restaurants.
The Pelicans and Frigate birds love when the fisher’s cut their catch on board, and throw away the waste.
Fishing Photo Gallery (click image for larger version with slide show)
Without a vehicle you can walk to a few basic corner stores, restaurants, or take the mini bus or a taxi. There are a lot of stray dogs wandering about. The ones we saw were not really a nuisance, but they can be more intimidating at night when they seem to gather in small groups.
Town Photo Gallery (click image for larger version slide show)
Nearby Town of Coronado
The nearby town of Coronado has most of the amenities that an expat might want in terms of full sized grocery stores and nice restaurants as well as the fast food places like McDonalds, Burger King, KFC, and Subway. Coronado is situated on the busy “Pan-American Highway” that runs through all of South and North America. It is less than a 15 minute taxi ride from Gorgona (US$ 5 – 6).
One of many strip malls in Coronado.
The greater Coronado area has a number of individual gated communities, mostly golf related. The “Vista Mar” one that we toured, also has a full marina and restaurant. Many of the homes in the gated communities are very posh “dream homes”. You can see “San Carlos” the surfing / fishing community next door in one photo below.
Coronado Photo Gallery (click image for larger version slide show)
We are thoroughly enjoying our one month stay in Gorgona! It combines a nice blend of expat amenities with a simpler beachfront lifestyle. Gorgona has minimal resources, but enough to be happy here, with Coronado only 15 minutes away. Ideally you should rent a car periodically, or have a good budget for taxi rides to Coronado. The 30C (85F) day time high temperature here, gets moderated by the nice sea breeze. Although earthquakes are common here, the tower buildings were built taking that into consideration. Cathy was happy to find there are no mosquitoes or biting bugs to speak of, thus far! The locals seem accepting and welcoming to the intrusion of expats into their community, and the streets feel safe to walk about freely as long as you don’t mind encountering a stray dog or two.
Wikipedia’s voyage has more.
Closing lament from a few days before we left
I’m sure going to mis this view during my morning breakfast here when we leave next week. It’s mesmerizing watching the spaces between the gentle rolling waves and then how they glide along the sandy shoreline and occasionally fold back into themselves. You can see the Pacific Ocean breathing as it flows back out, revealing the marbled black sand mingling with the white sand. The sounds of the morning jungle bird whistles, and occasional barking dog. Even the “angry bird” that has a nest nearby has come to a peaceful truce, with only an occasional fly by now. There is also an “ever changing landscape” with the fishermen coming and going with their catch.
LIFE IS GOOD.
Other related articles
- Side trips around Coronado / Gorgona
- Coronado Beachfront homes via Gorgona
- Historic Restaurant: La Ruina, Nueva Gorgona, Panama
- Panama Canal Tour
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