Nueva Gorgona, (New Gorgona) is a town in the Chame District of Panama Oeste (West) province, located minutes from Chame and Coronado. It is 80 km (50 mi) from Panama City, on the major Pan American Highway. It’s beautiful 4.2 km long beach and close proximity to Panama City has attracted developers and Panamanians from the city for many years.
The original town of Gorgona dates back to the early 1600’s, and was located along the Chagres River, far from the current location of Nueva Gorgona. Gorgona was named after an island off the coast of Colombia, after the Gorgon sisters from Greek mythology. After the end of the gold rush, these towns along the Chagres River started to dwindle, but the french had started the construction of the canal, and Gorgona was a major repair center for the canal building. When the United States took over the building of the canal, Gorgona was known as “little Pittsburgh” with all it’s repair shops, mills, and boiler plants.
Once they started the filling of Gatun Lake, to provide a sea level canal, the town was going to be under water. Therefore, in 1913, the government moved the town, including it’s 1,000 people and buildings, by barge, all the way to a new location, Nueva Gorgona, in its current place today. Once World War II started, the USA and Panama entered agreements to lease 130 defense sites to protect the Canal, and Nueva Gorgona was one of these sites. It was picked because the US felt it was a prime point of entry for an aerial assault or amphibious invasion from the Japanese because of its broad beaches and closeness to the Pan American Highway. After the war ended, the weekend wave of city visitors to the area began, which has continued until modern day.
Nueva Gorgona has one of the best surfing beaches in the area, and also a fish market and a nice calm beach. It is one of those special places, for people who want a slow paced beach life, away from the resorts, where you can walk the beach, sometimes without even another person in sight. The town itself has a population of just over 5,000 people, a few small stores and restaurants, and a few high rise condominiums located right on the beach.
Now it is time to meet Bill and Mary-Ellen, a couple from Raleigh, North Carolina, who moved to Nueva Gorgona in October 2019. Bill worked in computer chip engineering with a career with IBM, Cisco, and Qualcomm, and Mary-Ellen worked in ergonomics engineering.
Rod: Hello Bill and Mary-Ellen, great to see you again. Let’s start off with the big question. Why Panama?
Bill & Mary-Ellen: It all started a couple years ago, when we were looking at our situation, and considering early retirement. Being in our mid 50’s, our biggest challenge was to retire early, we wanted affordability without compromising a beach and a view, which we know we could not find in the United States. So basically we wanted to live more, with less.
Rod: So what countries were you looking at?
Bill & Mary-Ellen: At first we started looking at Costa Rica and Belize. We just had no luck finding an affordable beach in Costa Rica, and after a trip to Belize to check it out, we realized that for sure was not for us. While online we discovered your site, attended one of your Q & A’s, and signed up for a tour of Panama.
Rod: Yes, you guys were on our May 2019 tour, so we covered the entire country, and saw many beaches, what made you decide on Nueva Gorgona?
Bill & Mary-Ellen: Well, yes we had a very informative tour, seeing all of Panama, which made us realize, Panama was the right place for us. We were considering the Las Lajas area in Chiriquí Province, and the stretch of beach area in Nueva Gorgona. We soon realized that in Las Lajas, there were no “view” properties as we imagined, the properties there were more low rise single/two story condos, whereas Nueva Gorgona seemed more like what we were looking for. (Mary-Ellen now goes to their 14th story living room balcony, and shoots the photos below for us)
Rod: Great, so within 6 months of taking the Retire in Panama Tour, you were living in Nueva Gorgona?
Bill & Mary-Ellen: Yes, that is correct. It was a whirlwind experience, and you guys helped us move the dog and cat here, we had all the info we needed for getting residency, moving some belongings, finding a property, it all worked out very well, and went very smoothly. Oscar and Megan even met us at the airport when we arrived to help with the pets, and get us settled in Panama.
Rod: So now that you have lived there for a while, let’s talk a bit about Nueva Gorgona. What do you like about Nueva Gorgona?
Bill & Mary-Ellen: Walkable, dog friendly beaches, amazing views from our condo all day long. We have a couple small stores in town, and local restaurants. And Coronado is only a 5 minute drive to the big stores, like Rey, Super 99, Riba Smith super markets, Do-It-Center which is like a Home Depot, and many nice restaurants, and a couple movie theaters.
Rod: How about the medical facilities, have you had any chance to experience them?
Bill & Mary-Ellen: Yes. We have visited Médicos Costa Pacífico which is a very nice private medical facility, we also have a public hospital close by in Coronado, and the vets here are excellent. All the facilities we have visited have English speaking staff, which is important to us, as we are just starting our learning of Spanish.
Rod: What is the power, water and internet infrastructure like there?
Bill & Mary-Ellen: Well, we had heard that there are some infrastructure challenges in Panama, so we considered that when we were looking for our condo. If we can give some advice to your readers, if you are looking at a specific building, check that it has full generator backup and ample water supply backup. The power does go off at least once a week here, but when it does, we just sit back, wait 20 seconds, generator kicks in and we are back in business. Our water backup is ample, so we have never experienced a water outage. And the internet we have experienced here is faster and cheaper then we had back in the United States.
Rod: Ok, it’s now been six months, what are your feelings now? Both of you, just say some phrases and I will write them down.
Bill & Mary-Ellen: Well, we have to sum it up like this: The view, very affordable, dog walking beach, private, no crowds, strong expat connection, easy access to my Amazon deliveries, perfect temperature, no bugs, ocean breezes, better than we thought, exceeded our expectations.
Rod: Ok, can you give me one phrase to sum things up?
Bill & Mary-Ellen: Great view at an economic price.
Rod: Well, thank you both for this time, and we look forward to seeing you on our upcoming Retire in Panama Tours. Bill and Mary-Ellen frequently join us for lunch on our visit to the Nueva Gorgona and Coronado area, to talk to our guests about living in that area. They have become a wealth of knowledge in the area and a favorite of our guests.
Retire in Panama Tours
It’s more than a tour . . it’s an experience.
This is the Trip Advisor review left by Bill & Mary-Ellen after taking our tour:
If you want to figure out if Panama is a place to relocate, this tour is perfect. We spent a week touring Panama City, the mountains, and the beaches. Our tour guide, Oscar, speaks Spanish and is very informative as well as entertaining and fun! They only do small groups so they are flexible with the schedule and Oscar answered questions as we had them quickly and thoroughly (no waiting). All food and lodging is included. We got tips on how to move, what to bring, visas, banking, pet relocation and what housing is available on any budget. We met lawyers, bankers, insurance people and many, many expats who had a ton of advice to help with the transition. They even met us at the airport when we finally arrived permanently! Highly recommend Oscar, Rod and Megan with Retire in Panama Tours. . . . Bill & Mary-Ellen