Panama City is the capital of Panama state and is in the middle of the country, its city center is modern with skyscrapers but it also has a very beautiful colonial district. The old town is the by the sea and from Cerro Ancon hill you can see how it's divided - with well organized blocks that are easy to navigate and with the sea as a good reference point. The Malecon is the street that follows the sea for most of what the colonial neighborhood calls los bóvedas (vaults). You can appreciate the beautifully colored buildings that have two or three floors - somewhat higher than other colonial cities. The President lives in the Palace of the Herons (Palacio de las Garzas) which is in the old town. Some other buildings of note are: the national cultural center, the French Embassy, the cathedral (of course) and the National Theatre. The neighborhood is San Felipe. It's very nice by day, but for a night out there are better places. From early on Panama was an important city, with all commercial traffic coming in and out of the channel thus making trips around the world to deliver goods shorter.
It is a must see in Panama, you should go in the morning to see the passage of freighters, and because it is also very hot in the afternoon. You can see the history of the building, and it has a museum that is quite varied and interesting and you can buy souvenirs in the shop.
The Panama Canal is an inter-oceanic waterway between the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean crossing the Isthmus of Panama at its narrowest point. Since it was inaugurated on August 15, 1914, it has played a hugely vital role in shipping, boosting trade and economic exchange between the two oceans and decisively influencing world trade patterns. The United States and China are the main users of the Canal.
Our main motive for visiting Panama was the San Blas Archipelago on the Atlantic coast. This archipelago of 400 white-sand islands full of tropical birds and bathed in the Caribbean sun is part of an autonomous region run by the Kuna tribe. I know it sounds like paradise, but the best part is that it IS paradise!
The Kuna are very protective of their cultural identity and autonomy to they don't allow "foreigners" to own property or build on their lands. This, in turn, eliminates two of the things I dislike most about the Caribbean: luxury mega-resorts and mass-tourism. Visiting the Kuna and learning about their rich culture is worth the trip by itself. Their religion and customs are very interesting, especially the dress of the Kuna women.
You can't miss the chance to stay in one of the Kuna lodges. Generally, they're very basic as far as amenities go, but they're 5-star in terms of location. To get there, the best thing to do is take a plan from Panama City to one of the landing strips in the area. A road connection exists but it's in pretty bad shape and the only boats in the area are typically Colombian commercial ships. Two airlines, Aeroperlas and Air Panama, have daily flights with stops in the islands.
The colonial district of Panama City is extreme. On one side there are houses that are worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, painted to perfection, safe and guarded, and on the other hand, there are people still living in ruins. The city was founded in the year 1519 by Pedro de Avila, and was the starting point of expeditions that conquered Peru and Inca empires. It was also a very important trade route as it opened the channel to pass from the Pacific to Atlantic and vice versa. The ruins are of the time degradation homes that are oceanfront, which comes saltpeter, salt laden air, but also from an attack by the Americans in the year 1989. The American president at the time, George Bush Sr., tried to invade Panama after a year of tension accusing the country of being a center for money laundering, when the city became an important financial hub. Much of the Chorrillo neighborhood, one of the oldest quarters of the city, was destroyed by fire. Old Town houses still have the marks of the bullets.
In 2007 we took a break and went to Costa Rica because it's very close to our home. We flew from Liberia to there, which was a super trip. I really enjoyed it, the people, the food, the places we visited. We even got to do a catamaran snorkeling trip. We saw dolphins so close to us that we could practically touch them, it was like a mini honeymoon, ideal. Oh, and there are a lot of Spaniards out there, some like us, were there for tourism, others even with their own businesses. I would love to return soon. Greetings to Bocas del Toro from Spain.
The Amador Causeway is a must if you're visiting Panama. Beautiful sunsets, plenty of restaurants to choose from, and bike rentals (including tandem bikes). You'll have an incredible view of the city and the Bridge of the Americas. Go for lunch, take a bike ride once the heat of the day dies down, and then watch the sunset.
If you want to see the whole city, the vest view is from Cerro Ancon. You can go by car to the highest point, which is open from 7 a.m. until 4 p.m. If you go later than that you'll have to walk for about 30 minutes to get to the top. This mountain is very symbolic for Panamanians. Until the year 2000 they flew the American flag there and when the Panama Canal award was given to the people, they flew their own flag there instead.
It was worth the wait. The Biomuseo of Panama took 10 years to build. Today five of the eight galleries can be visited, as it is in a "pre-opening" phase; it is expected to open officially in October this year. Here you can learn about the rich biodiversity of Panama, which was formed millions of years ago and became a natural bridge connecting North and South America. Different species of animals have been found over the centuries. If you are just passing through Panama, go to the Biomuseo Friday, Saturday on Sunday. Once opened, the visitation schedule will be Monday through Sunday. Bring your camera to capture images of the imposing building built by Canadian architect Frank Gehry. A true work of art.
Isla Zapatilla is a wild paradise. Personally, I think it's the best island in the archipelago of Bocas del Toro. There is nothing there, only the ranger's house, jungle and beach. I was with a company called Under sea Panamá and it took me on a nice tour through mangroves to see dolphins and sloths and then to the Isla Zapatilla for an activity called Deepboard. It's a table pulled by a boat that takes you snorkelling while being dragged, an amazing experience and a great choice! On the way back we stopped to snorkel in another coral reef and it was fantastic. I definitely recommend this company to discover Bocas del Toro.
Recently I took a University tour of CRUC, which is a peer group that I had the great pleasure of meeting and getting to know through three locks of the channel starting from the Atlantic coast and ending in the vast Pacific Ocean. This was an unforgettable experience for all those who had the pleasure of seeing one of the man-made wonders that's in the middle of sea that links these to one of the major shipping routes in the world. I am proud to belong to a country as privileged as Panama. I hope to repeat this experience again when given the new set of locks.
The main airport is in Tocumen, about 24 km from Panama City, and its code is PTY. Known as the "hub of the Americas", it operates international flights to over 65 destinations in 30 countries. There are some 15 passenger airlines, the main ones being Copa Airlines and TACA. The journey to & from Spain (Madrid) is operated by Iberia, sometimes with a direct flight, and others with stopovers in San Jose, Costa Rica or Miami. Upon landing, entering the country is very slow (I pent about 2 hours between immigration queues and baggage scanning). Once in the street you have public buses and taxis (25USD) to get to downtown. You can also rent a car. The departure terminal is much more modern and there are plenty of duty-free shops where you can buy perfumes, alcohol, tobacco, clothes ... If you are in transit, you can take the free shuttle that will take you in 10 minutes to the Metromall, a giant mall with brand name shops. It leaves every 45 minutes.
Hi, this is the first time I have written here, but I want to share my 4 day stay at this wonderful place with you all, a dream island, a corner of the world, almost unknown, especially by Europeans. An island in the Caribbean, with amazing beaches. It is pratically deserted. Imagine walking on the beach of a Caribbean island at 12 in the afternoon with only your wife for company, all this is possible here. It's too bad that some days it was cloudy and it even rained, but it was still hot and they do not stop doing things. Isla Bastimentos has 3 beaches, but other islands are very close, but you have to be careful especially with transportation, ask for aquataxis that have regular hours, you should not pay more than $8 per person between Bastimentos Bocas. If you stay in cheap accommodation in Bastimentos it is better to bring some food especially for breakfast as they usually give very little food, but this depends on the property.
Among the excursions included in accommodation Yandup Island is to visit some of the surrounding islands, usually tiny uninhabited ones. Of those which we visited, the most incredible was Isla Iguana. The island is about 40 minutes by boat from the lodge, but the journey is worth it! As for the beaches, simply cannot get better. Crystal clear water, white sand, palm trees .... Many agencies can travel with pictures of this place. As for snorkeling, it is great. The reef is practically on the shore and the visibility is incredible. We also agree with some fishing and gathering coconuts Kuna. The truth is that the feeling of being on a desert island Robinson Crusoe type is awesome.
One of the big attractions in Panama is the shopping it has to offer. In the Panama City there are 4 huge malls like Pacific Mall MultiPlaza which is widely considered to be the most luxurious shopping centre in all of Central America. It is so huge that you can spend the whole day in it. It is in Punta Pacifica, in the heart of the city, and has 3 floors. You can find everything here: the latest fashion in clothing, shoes and accessories, telephones, jewellery, perfume etc. Its 260 stores include the most famous international brands from the likes of Louis Vuitton, Zara, Mac Store, Hermes, Adolfo Dominguez, Nike, Movistar, Geox, Bvlgari, Ermenegildo Zegna, Tommy Hilfiger and many more. It also has 30 restaurants of varied cuisine: pizza, burgers, Japanese cuisine, grilled meat along with cafes, ice cream parlours and cinemas. If you have a tourist visa, you can apply for the "Panama Shopping Card" at the reception, which offers discounts at more than 100 stores. Another huge mall, the MetroMall Grupo Roble, is located on the way to Tocumen Airport.