A seven-hour drive, or 1-hour flight, from Panama City, on Panama’s Pacific Coast, you will find Puerto Armuelles. Puerto Armuelles is a charming and vibrant fisher town, located close to the Panama-Costa Rica border. Puerto Armuelles is known as the destination for sport fishing, surfing, and miles of beaches.
The Puerto Armuelles area has a local, relaxed, and tropical ambiance. It is a rural area surrounded by giant ocean view farms and a friendly, hard-working local fisher community.
The town has been gaining attention among locals and foreigners over the past years as a place to live and retire. The community is diverse with a mix of locals, Europeans, Americans, and more nationalities who call the Puerto Armueles area home.
Lifestyle of Puerto Armuelles
Puerto Armuelles is a small fishing town in the Chiriqui province. Most properties you will found inside the town are the colorful wooden "workers" homes that originate from 1927 when Puerto Armuelles was known for the Chiquita Banana plantages.
People living in Puerto Armuelles enjoy a local and simple quality of life in a vibrant fishing community. The relaxed atmosphere that Puerto Armuelles offers is in complete contrast with the city life you find in Panama City or David. The ambiance is laid-back and people are welcoming, warm and friendly. Eating at a local restaurant, grabbing a beer in a bar, or having your hair cut at the local barber will directly make you feel part of this unique and comfortable community.
Puerto Armuelles is relatively small. You will find a handful of supermarkets, bars, bakeries, and a surprising number of local restaurants nearby from both locals and ex-pats. In addition, you will find local craft shops, barbers, schools, and a baseball stadium.
Weekdays feel like weekends, and vice versa. The town doesn't get overcrowded during the weekend, but rather keeps its laid-back ambiance.
Location of Puerto Armuelles
Puerto Armuelles is located a 1.5-hour drive from David (the second-largest city in Panama), and within 30 minutes of the border between Costa Rica and Panama. Puerto Armuelles is a unique local community that is built on the beach on Panama's Pacific coast. You will literally be steps away from the ocean at any time.
Getting to Puerto Armuelles
There are different ways to commute to Puerto Armuelles from Panama City.
- By car. Puerto Armuelles is about a seven-hour ride from Panama City over the Panamerican Highway. Enjoy the different sceneries Panama has to offer while crossing multiple of its provinces.
- By plane. For 70$ (one-way) you can take the plane with AirPanama from the Albrook Airport in Panama City or from Tocumen International Airport with Copa Airlines to David. From David, it's a 1.5-hour car ride to Puerto Armuelles.
- Private Plane/Helicopter. There are multiple companies that offer private charter flights from Albrook Airport in Panama City.
- By bus. The cheapest option is to go by bus. Buses leave every half-hour from Albrook Terminal towards David. From David, you take a bus to Paso Canoas (Panama/Costa Rican border) and from there take a connection to Puerto Armuelles. There are only a few options that ride directly from David to Puerto Armuelles.
Cost of Living in Puerto Armuelles
Living in Puerto Armuelles will allow you to enjoy a great lifestyle for less than what you’d find in the US, Canada, or Europe. Don't expect fancy restaurants or bars, rather enjoy a $3.50 meal and $1 beer in one of the many local spots. "Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication" would probably describe it best.
Besides the local restaurants and bars, you will find a few American hosts such as Big Daddy's Beach Club & Hotel and Hooked on Panama Lodge. Overall, prices in Puerto Armuelles are fairly low. This is especially in comparison to other cities in Panama. So it’s safe to say that a couple can live comfortably in Puerto Armuelles for about $1,000 to $2,000 per month.
Puerto Armuelles area gives you the comfort (and as much luxury) as you want at home, with the joy of a local fisher community.
The climate in Puerto Armuelles
Panama has a tropical, hot, climate all year round. Unlike North America, Panama doesn’t have four seasons. Panama only has two "seasons"; dry and rainy. Panama's rainy season is usually from May to November. From December to April Panama has a dry (summer) season.
In Puerto Armuelles, over the course of the year, the temperature typically varies from 74°F to 91°F and is rarely below 71°F or above 95°F.
Safety in Puerto Armuelles
Panama is one of the safest countries in Latin America. Concerning personal safety, it has a very low level of crime. Puerto Armuelles has a strong sense of community with a small-town feel. Everyone knows each other and people still look after each other. Puerto Armuelles has a police station and border control.
Healthcare in Puerto Armuelles
The brand new hospital "Dionisio Arrocha Hospital" opened phase 01 in 2019 in Puerto Armuelles. The hospital has been built by the national government and is run by the CSS (Social Security) of Panama. Besides, multiple pharmacies can be found in Puerto Armuelles.
Additional hospitals and specialized clinics can be found 1.5h way in the city of David.
Supermarkets & Convenience Stores
The biggest supermarket with the most variety you will find is Romero. Romero is a nationwide chain that offers anything from fresh fruits & vegetables, meat, cereal, bread to some household goods. Besides Romero, you will find smaller local supermarkets all over town.
For fresh fruits, we recommend you to buy them from the fruit stands around town. Freshly baked bread can be found at the bakery "El Pan Ya", just around the corner of the Romero supermarket.
Restaurants in Puerto Armuelles
Don't expect 5-star restaurants in Puerto Armuelles. However, expect to eat freshly caught fish any day a week at unbeatable prices. Aside from the local restaurants, you will find a few international spots.
- Rokero Beach. Local Beach bar offering a limited menu with mainly freshly caught fish and ceviche.
- Las Juanas. Local beachfront restaurant offering freshly caught fish and limited meat options.
- Don Carlos. In the heart of Puerto Armuelles. Offering freshly caught fish and pizzas.
- L. Y M. Burgers.
- Big Daddy's. American-style breakfast, pizzas, burgers, and more.
- El Pulpo. Local plates with fish, plantains, yuca, and more.
- TOHUVA BOHU. Offering freshly caught fish.
- Domino's Pizza. As we know it; pizzas from the Domino's Pizza food truck.
- Hooked on. Great tuna steak, sashimi, chicken, or meat options.
Panama is known as one of the best places in the world for fishing. Chiriqui Bay is recognized worldwide as one of the best places to catch Marlin and Tuna. For your next fishing trip, we can highly recommend Hooked on Panama. They offer extended deep-sea fishing charters which take you all the way Islas Ladrones in the Gulf of Chiriqui where you will find (black) Marlin, Tuna, Snappers, and more.
Next to the pier in Puerto Armuelles itself is a great surf spot where you will find the locals. In addition, you can find multiple beaches nearby that are perfect for surfing, such as Punta Burica and La Barqueta. You will often only find a handful of other surfers, which gives you the space to enjoy the waves by yourself.
Developments in Puerto Armuelles
Puerto Armuelles was built by United Fruit Company (Chiquita Banana) in 1927. The name, Puerto Armuelles, was given in honor of a member of the Panamanian Defense Forces named Colonel Tomás Armuelles.
The Banana history and the start of Del Monte
In 2003, Chiquita was sold to a collective of regional banana workers, named Coosemupar. After Chiquita left, Puerto Armuelles' population dropped significantly. As of 2017, it is confirmed that Del Monte starts producing bananas in the old Chiquita Banana plantation lands in Puerto de Armuelles
Trans-Panama Pipeline (PTP)
Supertankers can't enter the Panama Canal and therefore are not able to cross over to the Atlantic Ocean. About 6 miles away from Puerto Armuelles, on Punta Burica, in the deepwater of Charco Azul, an ideal place was found to unload supertankers as a solution to bring the oil from the Pacific to the Atlantic Ocean. The Trans-Panama Pipeline is Panama’s only oil pipeline and the only oil pipeline in the world to connect the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.
- Current capacity: 860,000 barrels per day
- Length: 131 kilometers / 81 miles
- Status: Operating
- Start Year: 1982
Four-lane road to Puerto de Armuelles
During President Martinelli's term (2009 to 2014), money was allocated to widen the road to Puerto Armuelles from a two-lane into a four-lane road. This is the road that links Puerto Armuelles to the Pan-American Highway at Paso Canoas. Paso Canoas is the border town of Costa Rica and Panama, on the Pan-American Highway.
According to the Panama government, one of the key reasons for this road expansion project is to service a proposed deep container port outside of Puerto Armuelles. The proposal is for this multi-purpose port to include 217 storage facilities, a deepwater container, a future cruise ship port, and a marina. The idea is that the expanded road and the proposed port would create what the Panama government is calling a 4 lane “dry canal” highway connecting Puerto Armuelles (Pacific) to Chiriqui Grande on the Caribbean side of Panama.
New Hospital in Puerto de Armuelles
As mentioned earlier, in 2019 phase 1 of the new Dionisio Arrocha Hospital (Investment of $64.2 million USD) has been opened. Completion of the hospital is scheduled for this year (2021).
Construction of a new pier
In 2020 the Panama Maritime Authority has confirmed the construction of the new Multipurpose pier in Puerto Armuelles.
This project will consist of an execution period of one thousand one hundred twenty days (1,120), four (4) budgetary years as well as an investment that reaches 20 million US dollars. The project includes the following:
- The construction of a two-story building that will house the Seafood Market and the Administrative Offices of the AMP (Maritime Authorities of Panama). The Seafood Market will be located on the first floor. Fishermen will be able to sell their products directly to the consumer; in this way, the fisherman will earn more for his product and the consumer will obtain a fresher product at a lower cost.
- The restoration of the existing (old) pier, turning it into a tourist boardwalk. This means that the current dock will be maintained, not for operations, but as a tourist attraction since its influence is so significant in the history of Puerto Armuelles. The pier will allow locals and tourists to fish and take pictures.
- The construction of the new international tax dock in Puerto Armuelles will consist of a first bridge that will connect the mainland with the first platform, where fishermen will be able to arrive and unload the products from their vessels. A second bridge will be built that goes from the platform of the fishermen to an industrial passenger dock. This floating dock will allow up to one hundred passengers, vessels of up to forty-five (45) meters in the inner part. The outer part of the dock allows the unloading of tuna boats, shrimp boats, and containers, depending on the size of the ship.
The works will be done mainly by the local workforce and specialists from the Baru area in Chiriqui. Initially, it was planned to finish the project by January 2023, we expect that the delivery date will be delayed due to COVID.
Panama has ranked second in the best places to retire in 2021. Panama has been ranking high many times during the past years in the retirement index by International Living. Once you become a retiree resident of Panama, you gain access to all the pensioner discounts offered to locals, which includes 25% off power bills, 50% off theaters, 25% off plane tickets, 20% off medication, 25% off meals at restaurants, and many more.
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