For many people, Panama means the Panama Canal but the country has much more to offer than the 80km waterway alone. Currently, the republic of Panama is divided into ten provinces and five natives (indigenous) districs called “Comarcas”.
The Cosmopolitan city of Panama, the heart of banking, trade and nightly entertainment with lots of first class restaurants and casino’s. It is an excellent place for shopping which many options. That being said the best malls are: Multiplaza Pacific, Soho, Albrook and the newest Alta Plaza.
Getting around: Transportation in Panama has increased a lot with the Panama Metro (certain lines opened in 2014 and others are still under construction), Uber is quite functional and even taxis are quite cheap but they don’t use meters, so be sure to negotiate the price with the driver before.
Here are some of my favorite experiences:
1. Casco Viejo
Also known as Casco Antiguo or San Felipe, is the historic district of Panama City. A UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1997. Definitely my favorite area of Panama City, it was amazing to walk around all the beautiful buildings, visit the main sights and enjoy a “rapao”. You’ll find the best restaurants and bars here.
2. Cinta Costera
A place to enjoy green areas without leaving the city, one of the best options for exercise. I highly recommend walking along the Cinta Costera at night, you’ll get a beautiful skyline view.
3. Amador Causeway
The Amador Causeway is a long road connecting Panama City and the four small islands of Naos, Perico, Culebra and Flamenco. A perfect setting for walking, jogging, skating, cycling and enjoying the beautiful scenery.
While you are there you can also visit the Bio Museo with its stunning design by world-renowned architect Frank Gehry and The Marine Exhibition Center and Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. You can end your day with a great dinner at Leños & Carbón watching Flamenco Marina.
4. Panama Canal
The Panama Canal is likely the most iconic historical site in the country and the Canal Visitor Center at Miraflores is just 20 minutes from downtown Panama City.
5. Panama Viejo
Is the remaining part of the old Panama City and a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1997.
TRIPS FROM PANAMA CITY
1. San Blas Islands
The San Blas Islands of Panama is an archipelago comprising approximately 365 islands and cays, of which only 49 are inhabited, and is home to the Kuna Indians (Comarca Guna Kala). San Blas is always on the list of the world´s clearest swimming waters.
How to get here: Air Panama has daily flights to Playón Chico, Ogobsucum and Achutupu. Flights depart from Albrook airport in Panama City and take 30 minutes to an hour. You can either take a sailboat depending where you are or a car like I did from Panama City of which takes around 2h-3h. They pick you up around 5am and then you take a small boat to the island.
You can choose which island to stay or just opt for a day trip (the prices don´t change that much), every individual service and activity is paid in cash dollars however if you go on a tour you can pay all at once. After lunch there are usually tours to other islands. Some agencies include these tours in your travel package and others do not - of which you would have to pay extra. You can arrange all of this once you are on the island.
I stayed at Senidup Island and the prices for one night were:
- $26 Accommodations with 3 meals
- $22 Entrance fee at the Comarca Guna Yala
- $20 Boat (round-trip)
- $40 Transportation
Contact information: Transportation GunaYala Alfonso (507) 6004-6410 / Cabañas Senidup (507) 6945-4301
Things you should know before going:
- Visitors are expected to pay to take photographs of the Guna people (around $1).
- You must carry your passport to entry the region.
- You can walk the whole island in 10min (its really small).
- The lodge is made of palm tree (you can hear everything in and out).
- The sand is your floor, which adds more to the feeling of being on an island (not in a hotel).
- There's just one electricity outlet in the common area.
- Make sure to bring your own supply of drinks and snacks. (You can buy water, coke and alcohol for $2)
- There is just one toilet/shower for all the guests.
2. Farallon Beach
Farallon Beach or Playa Blanca now is the epicenter of beach development in Panama, with several new resorts, two 18-hole golf courses and a growing number of homes and condos.
It’s around 1h from Panama City you can either stay at the hotels there or go to Pipa’s Beach Restaurant to spend the day and enjoy a fresh seafood lunch. This restaurant is located at the end of the road and is typically made up of sandy road. They also rent huts, umbrellas and sun loungers.
EATS & DRINKS
- Finca del Mar
- L' Osteria
- Ciao Bella Pizza
- Crepes & Waffles
- Local Panama
- New York Bagel Cafe
- Tantalo Kitchen
- La Rana Dorada
- Lazotea & Rooftop
- The Fish Market
OTHER THINGS TO DO
- Nitro City Resort - is an extreme sports resort.
- Bocas del Toro - We can't do everything, but our next stop will be here.
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Have you been to Panama or are you planning to go? What would you recommend? I would love to hear from you in the comments below.
Don't go without buying a Panama Hat!!