Founded by Spanish Conquistadores on August 15th, 1519, Panama City has quite the legendary history. It was used as the base of operations for the expeditions that conquered the ancient kingdom of Peru and was the focal point of many important trade routes in the years following. The city is located at the Pacific entrance of the famous Panama Canal and contains an epic skyline of high-rise architecture surrounded by a dense tropical rainforest. Today it is quite the tourist hotspot, containing more than a few interesting sights combined with a very attractive climate.
Not to be confused with the slightly less impressive Panama City in Florida, the true and original Panama City, in none other than – yep, you guessed it – Panama, contains a small population of just under half a million, making it an attractive choice for travelers who like to become familiar with a city when they visit. Check out BUCKiTDREAM to get a flavor of other adventurers who have conquered Panama, and get inspired for your own trip to this small strip of exotic land that connects North and South America (also known as Central America, though there’s a bit of debate about where it truly belongs). While you’re exploring online, keep your BUCKiTDREAM planner handy and start jotting down some ideas for your own trip!
In the meantime, here are a few Panama-centered ideas to get you going!
Stroll Through the Artisan Market Not the most attractive place in town, but that just means fewer tourists. For a slice of authentic Panama City life, you can’t beat a good ol’ haggle down at the Artisan Market.
Walk Through the Original Panama City Panama Viejo is a UNESCO World Heritage site and the original iteration of the city. It was abandoned in the mid-17th century and relocated to none other than our next entry…
A Different Take On the City in Casco Viejo Relocated from Panama Viejo, the 342-year-old Spanish Colonial sector of Panama City is a must-see. Vibrant, colorful architecture give this district an unmistakable continental flavor with a historic atmosphere.
Bike Down Amador Causeway Amador Causeway was built using rocks excavated from the Panama Canal and provides bikers or strollers with some awesome views of Panama’s dominating skyline and the Canal entrance.
Check Out the Biomuseo Newly opened and designed by renowned architect Frank Gehry, the stunning Biomuseo features eight galleries dedicated to Panama’s unique geographical shape (called an isthmus) and its impact on the biodiversity.
Hike Up Parque Metropolitano There’s a huge nature reserve that lies just beyond the city limits and it’s perfect for the hiking. The Metropolitan Park also contains some interesting wildlife and habitats that can be fun to spot.
Spend a Night in Contadora Located about a two and a half-hour drive away from Panama City, the haven of Contadora is certainly worth a visit. It’s a seaside paradise containing hotels, bars, restaurants and copious amounts of sandy beaches.
Amble Down Cinta Costera A beautiful stretch of the waterfront parkway that runs down Panama City’s coast, the Cinta Costera is a perfect way to spend a relaxing afternoon in the city.
High-end The lap of luxury in Panama City can be found at Grace Panama, a stunning high-rise hotel which exudes modern class. With all the amenities you’d expect from a five-star powerhouse hotel, Grace Panama will certainly go a long way into making your stay a memorable one.
Medium For large, clean rooms, a great price and a great location to boot, try the Toscana Inn Hotel. It’s a favorite for the medium-priced traveler and provides city center comfort for a competitive price.
Budget For a budget trip, try the Los Mostros Hostel, a cozy little set up situated right in the center of town. You’ll hopefully meet a few new friends in this remarkably affordable hostel, and be in a perfect position to explore the city.
Panama City’s restaurants are rated very highly; as a crossroads for all sorts of international traffic, you can find many dishes and delicacies in the city. However, it’d be a shame to visit the place and not indulge fully in the traditional Panama cuisine; a healthy mix of seafood, coconuts, root vegetables and tropical fruit.
One of the best places to get a true sense of the luscious Panamanian palette is at Donde Jose, where the primary focus is on local produce, ingredients, and recipes. They also provide an intimate atmosphere by seating only sixteen person maximum per meal.
Another delicacy not to be missed is the fresh seafood from the local market, which is located along the beautiful Cinta Costera. But make sure to get there early to avail yourself of the best and freshest catch!
Panamanians love a party, so Panama City is definitely not short on nightlife. The hottest district to head to when the sun falls is undoubtedly Casco Viejo, which offers trendy bars and restaurants with stunning 360-degree views of the surrounding bay. While you’re there, head to Onplog, a hip underground bar where you can avail of local craft beers on tap.
Panama is also home to some of the finest coffee in the world so coffee lovers won’t want to miss out on the signature Geisha coffee; enthusiasts say there’s no coffee like it. It’s expensive, but if you know where to look – like in the Bajareque Coffee House where you can grab a $9 cup – it’s not so bad.
Tips and Culture
After many years of sustaining a bad rap for gang culture and drug-running, Panama City has been busy reinventing itself. The people are vibrant and colorful, especially social, and the majority extremely welcoming to overseas visitors.
The temperatures are pretty much always high in the city, but it does rain a lot in the summer months through to October, the wettest month. If you don’t fancy a tropical rainstorm, February is the driest month of the year and the best time to go. If you don’t mind mucking in with the drenched locals and are looking for those hotter-than-hell temperatures, then September is the optimum time to visit.
You simply can’t leave Panama City without seeing the Panama Canal. A staggering 48-mile waterway that bisects not just the city but the whole country, the Panama Canal is a stunning feat of engineering. Built in 1881 but not completed until 1914, the Canal is a major trade route that connects the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.
One of the best places to see and learn about the Canal’s history is the Miraflores Visitor Center, about twenty minutes outside of the city. The museum is interactive and even contains a viewing deck where you can catch a great view of cargo and cruise ships passing through the locks. Alternatively, you can always just stroll alongside the Canal and see it your own way; it’s pretty hard to miss, so make sure you don’t!
As ever, a dream holiday to Panama City might seem like just that, a dream, until you make it a reality. The power is in your hands; if you only had a vague idea of what Panama City was like until now, hopefully, this little guide made it more real for you and armed with your trusty and halfway-full BUCKiTDREAM planner, you can start planning that dream Panama trip today!