In the News from Panama

An Almost Impossible Dream: The Story of Ocean Reef, Pt 1

Panama’s history is full of impressive stories of faith, perseverance, and success, particularly in engineering. The creation of the Panama Canal, linking the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, is considered one of the world’s greatest marvels, powering the country’s growth and prosperity.

In Panama Bay, minutes from the heart of the city, there is another engineering marvel that will have a lasting impact on the city. Ocean Reef Islands, a collection of two man-made islands, will join the ranks of projects in Dubai, Japan, and Singapore that have created a luxury residential community in what was once a bare patch of water.

The story of Ocean Reef, like so much of Panama’s history, focuses on individuals who saw an opportunity and wouldn’t take no for an answer. The islands that exist today are products of spirit, vision, and world-class construction expertise. Obstacles had to be overcome; new ideas presented. It was a long, tough struggle to achieve something spectacular. And it all started with a dream.

Panamanians with a dream

Panama is bordered by water, a country with miles of coastline. In Panama, a person could easily enjoy one of the many beaches located on the Pacific Ocean in the morning and sample the turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea in the afternoon. But in Panama City, it often seems we do not take full advantage of the oceanfront. The city is clustered around the ocean, providing wonderful views, but it is virtually impossible to find oceanfront land to build anywhere near the city.

A decade ago, a group of visionary Panamanians began to dream about the idea of doing something very special and unprecedented in Panama — ​​creating a residential community that could be surrounded by the ocean. It would be a community with direct access to the ocean, a world-class marina, and an opportunity to offer the island lifestyle at the center of the region’s most dynamic city. In other words, a place has never seen before in Panama.

The question: Was it even possible?

Turning the dream into a reality was going to be a huge challenge for the developer, Grupo Los Pueblos (GLP), one of Panama’s most experienced builders.

The two islands would total more than 18 hectares. Tons of earth and materials would need to be moved and formed into the islands. A world-class marina yacht club would need to be developed from scratch.

To make it work, GLP would have to confront an array of challenges head-on. The island would have to be functional, creating a stable environment with access to the city. The project would have to meet strict environmental guidelines to ensure it wouldn’t harm the ecosystem.

It would have to be a secure, safe home for people that was visually pleasing and harmonized with the beauty of the bay. And, at the same time, it had to be economically feasible to build such an ambitious project.

The legacy

If this project became a reality, it would be the first urban island built by man, not only in Panama but in Latin America. It would impact the lives of thousands of workers and their families.

And it would become a symbol that Panamanians, despite living in a small country with all the challenges inherent to its size, were ready and able to take on big challenges and compete on the global stage. In many ways, it would put Panama on the luxury residential map.

But facing the challenges and the engineering obstacles wouldn’t be easy.

 How did it happen? Stay tuned for Part 2, “The Making of Ocean Reef.”

If you will like more information on the luxury residential options available in Ocean Reef, contact me at

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