There are four major grocery stores in the Coronado, Panama area. You could literally walk across the street from one grocery store to the next.
The grocery stores in Coronado are The Ray, Super99, Machetazo, and Riba Smith. Riba Smith is the high end, American-type Whole Foods style grocery store. It is a little more expensive but you will find most things that you are accustomed to in the United States such as Oscar Mayer bacon, Oreo cookies, etc. The other grocery stores have most everything that you want that you could find in the US. They cater to the North American expat market so it’s just like shopping in a grocery store in the US. These stores are more along the lines of Ingles in the Unites States then they would be a Publix, which is one of the high end grocery stores on the East Coast in the US.
You can buy fruits and vegetables in the grocery stores here in Panama but many people prefer buying them fresh from the stalls on the streets because you will get them for much less. They are also fresher and organic, and much better than the fruits and vegetables that you would find in the grocery stores.
Prices depend on whether the food was imported or if it was grown locally. So if you walk in to The Ray, Super99, Machetazo, or Riba Smith, the prices will be about the same or even higher than in North America for items that are imported. If it’s a Panamanian product or anything that they didn’t have to import, then it would be less expensive.
If you go to the local grocery stores (as opposed to the four I just mentioned), you won’t find any imported products but you will get items that are much less expensive. A lot of people do that, but walking into a local grocery store is like walking into a hole in the wall. There is really no organization and it’s not very clean. The products are packaged but the labeling is in Spanish, so if you don’t know Spanish, you don’t know what you are purchasing.
At the food stands, the cost of items would depend on how good a negotiator you are and if you can speak Spanish. If you don’t speak Spanish, they will tell you how much it is and you just pay it.
A bunch of bananas could cost around 50 cents to $1 at the food stands while it would cost triple that amount if you buy it from the grocery stores. Most of the items sold at the food stands are grown locally so they are cheaper, plus if you speak Spanish, then you will be able to make purchases a lot cheaper. If you only speak English, then you won’t be able to barter with the seller, so whatever amount they tell you, that’s what you pay. A pineapple typically costs $1 to $1.50 if you speak Spanish but if you don’t it could cost around $3 at the food stands. If you buy the same pineapple in the grocery stores, it would cost around $6. A small watermelon in the food stands costs around $3 while it’s $8 in the grocery stores.
There are fresh fish stands right on the ocean where the fishermen come in and you can buy whatever fish you want, such as jumbo shrimp, sea bass, corvine, etc. It’s really very inexpensive if you buy fish from the fish stands by the ocean. I recently went with five friends to buy shrimp and sea bass, and we had so much that, for six people, it was more than we could eat and we had enough for two meals afterwards. The price was $14 for everything.
(El Ray supermarket decorates with pumpkins for Halloween, Panama, pictured.)