Panama, You Never Disappoint!

 

Five nights in Panama is simply not enough.  The 9am departure of the close to 5-hour, non-stop flight from Washington Dulles to Tocumen International coincided with the beginning of the ceremony of the Inauguration of the 45th President of the United Sates.  And, with the kick-off of my birthday celebrations.  Perfect timing.

Upon landing, and quickly clearing customs, we requested our Uber and in less than ten minutes, were on our way to Hyatt Place in downtown Panama City.  We’d decided to spend one night downtown, and the rest of our time at the beach.  We learned on a recent trip to Puerto Rico, that for a nice, modern, moderately-priced, one night stay downtown, before or after a longer stay at the beach, you cannot go wrong with Hyatt Place.

Mercado de Mariscos

The traffic was bustling, the sun was out in full force, and the city seemed to be just waiting to show itself off to us.  Our female Uber driver spoke perfect English (we requested Uber English!), and she was more than happy to give us an impromptu driving tour along the way.

After check-in and a change into summer clothes, we headed out.  First stop, Mercado de Mariscos.  This bustling open-air seafood market is a must-visit!  The market consist of a bunch of little outdoor food vendors, with make-shift seating areas, and music piped through outdoor speakers.  The wait staff run up to you, wielding menus, shouting out their specials of the day…complimentary ceviche with an entree, $1 national beer, for example.  We settled on Las Perlas, at the end of the “strip”.  A few local beers, ceviche appetizers, salad, tostanes, and a mixed grill of shrimp, fish and calamari loaded with butter and garlic, left us happy.  And, so stuffed, that we had to get up and get moving.

Mercado de Mariscos

 

Local Beer

 

Seafood Dinner at Las Perlas

 

Casco Viejo

It has been said that the only bigger attraction in Panama other than Casco Viejo is the Panama Canal. We were anxious to check this place out!  This gem of a walled city was once a deteriorating part of town, but in 1997 UNESCO named it a World Heritage Site.  This recognition got expats, and investors to take notice, making it one of the quickest revitalizations in the Americas.  It now consists of a cultural mix of residents and visitors, along with restaurants, polite street vendors, historically preserved buildings, and buildings in various stages of renovation.  The beautiful Presidential Palace is also here.

The Streets of Casco Viejo

 

Casco Viejo

Dining and Nightlife

With amazing restaurants and bars at every turn, we had a difficult time making a choice.  We made our way up the hill to Capital Bistro Panama (CBP), which is one of the many lovely rooftop restaurants in Casco Viejo. Over cocktails, we took in the views of the city, including the line of ships waiting to move through the Miraflores Locks.  Watching the sun set over this cosmopolitan city was an event itself.

After CBP, we headed to another great rooftop spot. Tantalo.  To enter, you walk through Tantalo Kitchen, which looks like a small modern art gallery. As you walk in the door, the good vibes hit you right away.  Great music and a lively dining crowd, move you through to the elevator. The ride up takes us to the decked out, music-thumping rooftop. The views are breath-taking!  It seems like there is art everywhere.  The walls, the bottle coolers.  Awesome! They serve dinner until about 9pm.  We got there pretty early, and watched the partiers flow in and fill the place.  After many delicious sangrias, and a round of appetizers, we called it a night.

While we could have stayed a few more hours, we had to be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed the next morning for our trip to our next destination…Playa Bonita!

Tantalo Rooftop Bar
Tantalo Rooftop Bar
Rooftop Bar at Tantalo

Travel Tips – Panama City, Panama

Getting There ~ Copa Airlines has some of the best direct flights from The U.S.

Getting Around ~ I suggest Uber for everything…airport transfers, hotel transfers and getting around the city.  From Tocumen to downtown was about $28 USD. From Hyatt Place Panama City to Mercado de Mariscos, about $4 USD. Taxi prices were much higher.

Official Language ~ Spanish.

Currency ~ The official currency is the Balboa.  1 Balboa equals $1 USD.  The USD is widely used.  We asked around several times and could not find any paper Balboas.

Credit and Debit Cards ~ U.S. credit and debit cards are widely accepted in Panama.

Weather ~ While we were there last week (late January), the average high was 90 degrees F, and the average low was 76 degrees F.  It was very sunny.  I strongly recommend sunblock and a hat.

 

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When I Grow Up, I Want To Be Panama!

On our most recent visit to Panama, we had an opportunity to really see it!  To really experience it!  And, it’s unanimous.  We love Panama! With close to 3.5 million inhabitants, Panama’s population is of mestizo origins, descendants of Indian, African and Spanish heritages. This mixture of cultural origins and diverse traditions has been stimulated by a long-standing atmosphere of harmony and tolerance.  Their is great ethnic diversity, and the high rate of urban development in recent years is attracting a growing urban population. 

Views From Our Room on the 23rd Floor at Trump Ocean Club Hotel and Tower International

The country of Panama is a little smaller than the U.S. state of South Carolina.  It is bounded by the Caribbean Sea to the north, Colombia to the east, the Pacific Ocean to the south, and Costa Rica to the west.  The climate in Panama is tropical, with a dry season from January to May, and a rainy season from May to December. The temperatures range from a hot 73-95 degrees Fahrenheit (23-35 degrees Celsius) in Panama City and the beaches, to a milder average of 73 degrees Fahrenheit (23 degrees Celsius) in the Highlands.

Guest Rooms at Trump Ocean Club Hotel

Pool At Trump Ocean Club Hotel

Panama has a cultural mix that is unique to the region.  The constant presence of visitors and ex-patriots from around the world contribute to the cultural richness.  In addition, the tight connection of Panama and the sea make for a tremendous Caribbean island feel.

 

Playa Bonita, Intercontinental Resort and Spa

 Panama’s economy is one of the more stable in the Americas. The main economic stimulants are financial, tourism and logistics. From 2003-2009, the GDP doubled, and according to the UN and IMF, the country has the highest per capita income in Central America.

Traditional Dress

There is so much to do in Panama!  Cruise, dive, surf, fish, golf, kayak, and much more.  If you are interested in learning more about the amazing Panama Canal, you can visit the Canal Expansion Observation Center, take a Canal tour, have dinner on the banks of the Canal, visit Miraflores Center, or take in the Canal Museum.  In the City there is plenty of great shopping, lovely walking tours of the Old Town and the Viejo Ruins, the Biomuseo, and the Panama City museums.  Into customs and traditions?  Check out the ethnic dances, folkloric dances, traditional clothes and national festivals.  And, then there’s our favorite.  The ecotourism.  A visit to the rain forest is a must!  See Gamboa via the Gamboa cable car, go bird watching, whale watching, see dolphins off the coast, go camping and so much more.

Traditional Dance
Lunch at the Wyndham Veneto Hotel and Casino in Panama City

 

With fantastic dining options, great drinks (be sure to have the Ron Abuelo!) casinos, concerts, theaters, sporting events, bars and discos, you’ll soon learn what we did…Panama does not sleep!  Put it on your list of places to visit again and again and again.  Be sure to rest up first!

Guest Room at Hard Rock Panama City

Hard Rock Panama City

Hard Rock Panama City