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Panama: From Jungle to Luxury Homes

Panama is always worth the wait. After all, it took nearly four centuries to complete the 48-mile channel known as the Panama Canal. As early as 1534, a Spanish official suggested a canal route through the narrow isthmus that separates the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans in Central American. But it wasn't until 1881 that construction began in Panama, with completion in 1914.

The 10-mile strip surrounding the canal was, until recently, officially called the Canal Zone. The designers of the canal and the workers who risked their lives during construction could never have predicted that by the end of the 20th century that narrow strip of jungle would become the site of luxury homes.

When the Canal Zone was controlled by the United States it was largely a military zone. Since 1999, when Panama gained sole control of this 553 square mile area, it has become a popular tourist and retirement destination, transforming real estate in the Canal Zone. Hotels, cruise ship ports, sports facilities, restaurants, hotels, and homes occupy land formerly devoted to military installations. Where military bases once stood, tourist complexes serve cruise passengers, and previously undeveloped areas are now home to eco-tourist sites.

Panama is one of the best-kept secrets of the western hemisphere; it is one of only a few countries that have not been fully explored. With exquisite beaches, cool mountain areas, and a rich diversity of native plants and animals, Panama is a nature-lover's paradise. National parks and the thriving eco-tourism industry make spectacular natural areas accessible to everyone who wants to experience the out of doors in this tropical oasis.

But Panama is not just for lovers of nature. The country has a rich cultural heritage that is preserved in museums and historic sites. Panama City is akin to Miami in sophistication, with restaurants, shops, galleries, clubs, and cultural events that reflect the best in modern taste. And Panama has wonders yet to discover.

The recent expansion of the Panama Canal is a boon to the economy of the country. Because of the current economic growth and because Panama is a relatively new destination for luxury living, retirees and real estate investors can get in on the ground floor of development by purchasing Panama properties. The laws of Panama make it attractive to buy land and live in the country. The government grants foreigners who purchase real estate the same legal protections the citizens of the country enjoy. Plus, residents of Panama do not have to pay taxes on the income they earn oversees. In addition, retirees who live in Panama qualify for benefits and discounts that make living in Panama more affordable.

The thriving economic transformation provides unparalleled opportunities for retirement and investment in building and real estate in the Canal Zone. Ecological construction fits in perfectly with the rich natural resources of Panama. Such "green" methods of construction reduce energy usage and employ safe and recycled building materials.

There's no time like the present to build a luxury home in Panama. The opportunities for comfortable and affordable living in this expanding country will not last forever.

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