Panama City: The Miami of Central America

I

had been once in Panama City when I was around fifteen years old for a school trip. When arriving this second time, I was very impressed to see such modern infrastructure I did not recall seeing the first time around. Panama City has grown tremendously, and it is now an attractive tourist destination offering visitors a variety of fun activities to do.

The city is bordered by the Pacific Ocean which gives the city a Miami feel and opportunity to get away to some nice beaches not so far from the city. I was very eager to explore Casco Viejo, the evolving financial district of Downtown Panama, and of course the Panama Canal. The city really exceeded my expectations and I would gladly come back for another visit.

Casco Viejo

Casco viejo is the historical town of Panama City and a UNESCO protected district. Not more than ten years ago, this sector of the city was controlled by gangs, and a no-go location for tourists. Today, it serves as the hippest neighborhood in the city, with great restaurants, hotels, shops, and Panama City’s main nightlife spots. Take a morning or afternoon of your day to visit and enjoy.

 
Try the restaurant at the American Trade Hotel. On Sundays they have an affordable brunch menu.
 

 
Visit the beautiful churches of La Mercedes, San Jose, and San Felipe de Neri. They are free of charge and have beautiful interiors.
 

Try out the delicious coffee at Bajareque Coffee House and visit Papaya Planet, an art space, art shop, and cafe that supports local artists.

Also stop by this cute spot at Calle 2a Oeste. It is the front space of a private home building but many people come to take pictures and the tenants don’t mind. It is popular for its pretty aesthetic.
 

Downtown Panama City

Unlike Casco Viejo, this area of the city is all about the modern infrastructure, office towers, hotels, and banks. Downtown Panama is now comparable to Miami with attractive high rise buildings next to to the ocean. Most of the four and five stars hotels are also in this area. We were lucky enough to stay at the four star hotel Eurostars Panama City with included access to the rooftop pool, gym, spa, and breakfast with a view.

Panama Canal

There are several different tours you can take to visit the Panama Canal, but we were recommended to visit the Miraflores Visitor Center to be able to see the canal and also learn more about how it works.

Tips & Recommendations

  • Panama City currently has only one metro line. It’s better to get around by Uber or Cabify. Yellow cabs are also an option but always negotiate a price before getting inside.
  • If you want stay in fancier hotels, stay in Downtown Panama City. If you prefer to be around the nightlife and nicest restaurants, stay in Casco Viejo. There are also very nice hotels there.
  • Panama uses the US Dollar as the national currency. The cost of living is much higher than the rest of Panama.

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