With a laidback vibe and a cocktail of cultures, Panama City, Panama, taps to its own rhythm. A safe harbor for wanderers and the gateway to tropical escapes, this central American city is any naturalist’s fantasy and yachtsman’s paradise. Panama’s Riviera is a sunny destination with deep blue seas and clean sandy beaches. The ‘Dubai of Latin America’ is draped luxuriantly in nature and threaded by a man-made wonder – The Panama Canal. Brush up your Spanish skills, soak up the sun, and dance Salsa until your feet go numb!
Facts about Panama City
- Panama City is the largest city in Panama and the capital of the Republic of Panama.
- It was founded by Spanish explorer Pedro Arias Dávila on August 15th, 1519.
- It is the only capital in the world to have a rainforest within the city boundaries.
- The Panama Canal is a major contributor to the country’s GDP.
- Panama is home to more birds than in the United States and Canada combined.
- On a clear day, it’s possible to see both Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea from the summit of Volcán Barú.
- Casco Viejo, the historic district in the city, was featured in the James Bond movie Quantum of Solace.
Places to Visit in Panama City
World Heritage Sites – Panamá Viejo and Casco Viejo were designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1997. The beautifully restored Spanish colonial city, Casco Viejo, is the mecca for history buffs. Catedral Metropolitana de Panamá, National Theatre of Panama, Church of San Jose, and Panama Canal Museum are the highlights of this historic old quarter. Panamá Viejo – the remnant of the old Panama City – preserves its original layout and is a testimony to the devastating pirate attacks.
Metropolitan Natural Park – Established in 1985 and located within city limits, this place draws in nature lovers with its several walking trails. Some of the birds nesting here are Dusky Antbird, Blue-gray Tanager, and the Broad-Winged Hawk. Cerro Cedro and Los Caobos are the lookout points in the park.
Biomuseo – Designed by the architect Frank Gehry, the museum is an absolute eye-catcher. It epitomizes the rising of the Isthmus of Panama from the Pacific Ocean. It has over 43,000 square feet of exhibition space. The area includes a public atrium, shop, cafe, and outdoor exhibits displayed in the botanical park.
Ancon Hill – A preferred spot for an early morning hike, it is not uncommon to spot wildlife on this steep 200-meter-high hill. It surrounds the urban neighborhoods and offers bird’s-eye view of the city.
Bridge of the Americas – Perhaps the most recognizable landmark of the modern city, this arch bridge spans over the Panama Canal. Balboa Yacht Club presents the finest sights of this pivotal bridge.
Estadio Rommel Fernández, Modern Art Museum Panama, Centennial Bridge, and Pipeline Road are other prominent places to visit near the city.
Things to Do in Panama City
Hop on a boat tour to Monkey Island, go to the Miraflores lock to see the canal, visit the historical sites of Chagres and Fort San Lorenzo, opt for the eco-cruise on Gatun Lake, catch Black Marlin and Yellow Fin Tuna in the Hannibal Bank, or just try your luck at the casinos, you’ll find every teeny-weeny reason to be happy.
Tours – Kayaking and rafting in the Chiriqui Viejo River, whale watching tours in the Pearl Islands, adventure tours (zip-lining, cloud forest trekking, horseback riding, and deep-water soloing) in Boquete, and birdwatching in Darién National Park are some of the most sought-after tours in Panama City.
Beaches – While Playa Venao and El Palmar beach are ideal for surfing, Santa Clara and Farallón are best suited for swimming. Comarca de Kuna Yala archipelago is another premier destination for sun-seekers as the Caribbean coast offers postcard beaches with sugar-white sand.
Amador Causeway – It’s a picturesque walking path that links the four islands (Naso, Culebra, Perico, and Flamenco) to Panama’s mainland. Here, you can visit the museums and check out the restaurants, bars, bike rental shops and stores selling souvenirs and ice cream. Locals and tourists enjoy a leisurely walk, jogging, skating, biking, and roller-blading.
Taboga Island – It’s an appealing recreational hub due to its proximity to the city. Daily ferries to the island leave from a pier close to the Amador Causeway. Tours for hiking, village walks, and whale watching can be organized near Agua Sol Villa. Boat tours for diving, snorkeling, fishing, and sightseeing can also be easily arranged, as well as excursions.
Shopping – You would love to bring home some molas, figurines, woven baskets, plates, and jewelry as souvenirs. Mercado Nacional Artesanias, Vía España (shopping avenue), Multiplaza Pacific, and Albrook Mall are popular choices for visitors.
Nightlife – After the sun takes a dip in the Pacific, the casinos, clubs, and bars come alive to make Panama City a hotspot for bar-hopping. Tantalo- Rooftop Bar, Relic Bar, and Teatro Amador are some of the best places for night owls.
For a luxurious stay, you can choose from Resort Dreams Delight Playa Bonita Panama, Radisson Decapolis Hotel Panama City, Grace Panama, and Hotel Plaza Paitilla Inn. For mid-range accommodations, Hotel Magnolia Inn, Hotel Costa Inn, and Hotel Bahia Suites are good options. Luna’s Castle Hostel, Hostel Mamallena, and El Machico Hostel are some of the value-for-money accommodations.
Try the local favorites like ropa vieja, empanadas, arroz con pollo, and seafood stew then wash it down with a Balboa cerveza. Taste the authentic Panamanian dishes like ceviche, carimanolas, arroz con pollo, and hojadras at traditional restaurants like Restaurante El Trapiche, Diablicos, Restaurante Casa Blanca, Maito Restaurante, and Mi Ranchito.
Best Time to Visit
The best time to visit Panama City is in the ‘winter’ – from December to mid-April. It is also the right time for birding, scuba diving, and attending the Carnival.
How to Reach?
By Air – Tocumen International Airport is among the busiest airports in Central America, served by daily flights to major international destinations in the western hemisphere.
By Train – Panama Canal Railway is a famous tourism corridor that stretches from Balboa (near the Pacific) to Colón (near the Atlantic). Corozal Passenger Station is the main railway station in the city. The Panama Metro links the Los Andes county with the city center.
By Road – Corredor Sur, Corredor Norte, Autopista La Chorrera, and Colón Expressway are the four expressways. Moreover, the Pan-American highway passes through the Panama City.
By Sea – Ferries depart from Amador Causeway and Sea Las Perlas Ferry Terminal to the nearby Taboga Island and Pearl Islands.
- Why was the building of the Panama Canal important to the United States?
- Who is the Owner of the Panama Canal?