Luxury Resort and Marina development Panamas Pacific Coast


Panama's Pacific coast plays host to big-game fishing, big surf and big expectations for the future expansion of the Panama Canal. It may be the next big thing in destination tourism and relocation retirement – especially for superyacht owners, sport fishermen and even eco-tourism enthusiasts. Developers of the proposed of Portones del Mar Yacht Club & Resort, located on the 16-mile-long Punta Chame Peninsula, 50 miles southwest of Panama City, have selected Brandy Marine International, L.L.C. of Sarasota, FL, as marina design, development, marketing and management experts for the project.

Pennsylvania-based developer and property owner Mike Rama and Brandy Marine's President and Chief Executive Officer, Captain Bruce H. Blomgren, consider themselves at the forefront of an anticipated future boom in luxury resort/marina development on the west coast of Panama as 78 million American baby boomers begin to select retirement destinations and as the $5.2 billion expansion of the Panama Canal is scheduled for completion in 2014, opening up a new avenue for future global marine travel and shipping. Brandy Marine International, which recently completed a feasibility and market study for the proposed marina/resort development, is confident that Pacific coastal Panama will continue to grow as a "hot spot" for vacation homes, resort hotels, marinas, retirement homes and a destination for cruising yachtsmen and sport fishermen.

"Portones del Mar will be one of the few Pacific-side resort communities that will offer full-service, high-end marina facilities, a boutique hotel, an upscale marina village, and luxury waterfront residences," said Blomgren of Brandy Marine.

Developer Rama and Blomgren recently announced plans to build a significant, upscale development with a full-service 200-slip marina and marina village, dry storage for yachts, a boutique hotel, 460 condominiums and 140 single family home sites on the peninsula. Marina slips will average 50' in length. The development is collaboration between Rama and Brandy Marine, which incorporated its service-marked "Zipper" design concept into the project. The Zipper concept, developed by Brandy Marine, joins the land and water components of a marina and resort together in an all-encompassing "envelope" that invites resort guests and yachtsmen to take advantage of many amenities within walking distance of their hotel, residence or yacht slip accommodations. Wet slips, docks, marina services and utilities, pedestrian walkways, landscaping, a marina village and paths to hotels and residences are all integrated into the Zipper design.

Portones del Mar, an "undiscovered," 145-acre site on the northern tip of the Punta Chame Peninsula is an ideal location for yachtsmen, big game fisherman, surfers or eco-conscious vacationers or expatriates who want to relocate or spend vacation time at an exotic, affordable locale. The peninsula has 22 miles of secluded beaches and offers privacy, exclusivity and the ambiance of a small, quaint fishing village nearby, the 400-resident town of Chame. The development has been appropriately christened, "Portones del Mar," translating to "Doors to the Sea," in Spanish.

The peninsula extends at a 45-degree angle to the mainland in the province of Panama. The location is bordered to the north by the protected Bahia de Chame (Bay of Chame), providing calm waters for yachts entering the site and for water sports, such as diving, snorkeling and jet skiing. Bordered on the south by the Gulf of Panama and, further south, by the Pacific Ocean, the area is already known for its surfing, sailing, shrimping and kite surfing. Portones del Mar is close to the major services of a vibrant urban center, Panama City, which is approximately a 45 minute to one hour drive from the site along the Pan-American Highway. The yacht club and resort, currently in the planning stages, will also have a beach boardwalk, nature-oriented walking trails among existing mangroves and an eco-interpretative center with a kayak launch. Dubbed by some real estate agents and Panamanian tourism promoters as "the next Costa Rica," Panama offers a more affordable option to individuals seeking waterfront homes and yacht slips than the options available in the traditional boating-oriented states of California and Florida.

Waterfront properties and wet slips in some locations in Florida and California can still command top dollar, despite the nationwide real estate slump. In addition, yacht slip shortages in some parts of California and Florida, escalating prices for upscale marina slips, and insurance issues faced by Californian and Floridian boaters due to hurricanes, wildfires and other natural disasters, make Panama an attractive alternative for vacationers, for second or third home buyers, for retirees, or for yachtsmen simply looking for a place to park their boats in a safe, affordable, unspoiled place with quick access to fishing, cruising and the Panama Canal. Especially as Panama is located below the so-called "hurricane belt."

Brandy Marine's study also identified a lack of full-service marinas and marine services on Pacific side of the Panama Canal, but that situation is quickly changing as planned or already under construction resort/marina developments are springing up on Panama's Pacific coast near the Panama Canal and in Panama City. Brandy Marine's market study includes boating statistics released by the Panama Canal Authority (ACP). The data indicates the growing attraction of the Pacific coast of Panama as a destination or stopping point for cruising leisure vessels, including private yachts and cruise ships. Between 2005 and 2007, 2,647 "leisure" vessels hailing from several countries, including the United States, the United Kingdom, France and Australia transited the canal. The number of transits increased each year, ACP figures indicated. In addition, a greater percentage of private leisure craft transits were from north to south, or from the Atlantic side to the Pacific side of the canal.

Of the boats transiting the canal, the majority of boats, or 2,284 were private yachts or chartered yachts, according to the ACP. Of those boats, 1,245 were up to 50' in length and 1,039 were 51' to 100'feet in length, with the remainder ranging from 101' to 450' in length. Of the larger vessels, 219 were boats certified to carry 12 or more passengers and were primarily cruise ships. Prime big-game fishing areas, including Bahia Pina, Isla de Coiba and the Las Perlas Archipelago, are all within navigable distances of Punta Chame. Bahia Pina, located off the province of Darien, is considered one of the best sport fishing spots in the world, with black marlin, striped marlin, blue marlin, wahoo and mahi-mahi. Panama, after all, means "abundance of fish" in local dialect. Other advantages to expatriates living in Panama or to Americans vacationing in Panama include:

  • Ninety percent of Panamanians speak English.
  • Approximately 15,000 American expatriates live in Panama, according to the Panamanian Institute of Tourism (IPAT), and tourism officials predict that the number of American expatriates moving to Panama will continue to grow.
  • Panama is a five or six hour flight from several major airports in the U.S. Many U.S. airports offer direct flights to Panama.
  • The lush, verdant landscape in the countryside is exotic and intriguing with its rainforests, volcanoes and wildlife.
  • Retirees living in Panama under a "retired tourist visa, or pensionado," receive considerable financial advantages.
  • There are several other offshore financial advantages in Panama.
  • A boater can register his or her vessel in Panama or have a dual registration in a foreign country and in Panama.

Brandy Marine continues to work closely with Portones del Mar developers on a financial analysis for the development, with a projected construction start date in 2008. Brandy Marine has provided marina and waterfront property owners consulting, design, management, marketing and development expertise since 1977. Tailoring its role to client goals, Brandy Marine acts as joint venture partner, development team member, asset manager, and/or operations and consulting resource. The company has owned, managed, designed, developed or performed consulting work for scores of marinas in major resort and commercial markets throughout the United States, Mexico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the British Virgin Islands, St. Kitts, Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, the Turks and Caicos, the Bahamas, United Arab Emirates, Greece, Costa Rica, Canada, and Cuba.