A Modern Central American City - A must visit!
A long weekend in Panama City, Panama
Hey travel fam! We're finally releasing our cinematic video and blog post on the very beautiful coastal city Panama. In May of 2019, Matt and I found a great flight deal to this central American gem and couldn't resist the chance to adventure to Panama, a place we've heard so much about. First, I must start off by saying that out of all the Spanish speaking countries we visited in 2019 Panama city was by far the most developed country.
Panama is a very fast paced city. With so many sky scrapers, it resembles a mini New York City. In fact, the Tocumen International airport (the airport we flew into) is the busiest airport with the most flights leaving in/out of Central America. Not to mention the wealth of ships and cargo that cruise through the Panama canal also known as "the crossroads of the world". Matt and I were very impressed with the liveliness of the city as soon as we arrived.
As you guys know, Matt and I really enjoy staying at Air BNB's when we travel. On occasion we'll stay in hotels but we both prefer the convenience and affordability that Air BNB's offer. Right before we left we found the perfect high rise condo in the Panama city center over looking the Grand Ocean Bay. We were in awe when we arrived at the condo. We couldn't believe the modern layout of the place and not to mention the immaculate views of the city. The price per night was so affordable for this place and we had access to all the amenities including the rooftop gym and pool. Our hosts Katty and Feng were absolutely amazing and very communicative throughout our entire stay. If you're interested in visiting Panama we highly recommend this accommodation. Check out all the details of this Air BNB here.
Day 1: Casco Viejo, the historical center
You cannot visit Panama with out spending a day in the beautiful cobble stone streets of Casco Viejo. The location of our condo was in perfect distance from the airport and every attraction we wanted to visit. In fact, from our window you could see the view of the Casco Viejo center which was only about a 5 minute uber ride away. Yes, uber is very prevalent mode of transportation in Panama city which hasn't always been the case when we're traveling outside the US. This was such a benefit! It made getting around much easier. Internet access is very prevalent in Panama so we were rarely disconnected while we were there. Also we found it easy to communicate with the locals since mostly everyone we met spoke both Spanish and English.
Best Rooftop Bars/Restaurants in Panama
We spent the whole day walking through Casco Viejo taking in the sights of several historical monuments, cafes, restaurants, locals, and views of the ocean along the city's coast. One thing I loved most about Casco Viejo was the multitude of rooftop bars and restaurants everywhere. Each spot was so unique and provided a different view of the city. I absolutely loved it! We hopped from one bar to the next sipping all along the way. Here's a list of our favorite rooftop bars in Panama. All of these bars/restaurants had internet access and are within walking distance of each other so you could spend a whole day just visiting each spot. The places below are a MUST visit! There are many restaurants to explore than what is on this list but these places had the best views of the city and Panama Bay...
Panama Rooftop bars
2. LAZOTEA Restaurant and Rooftop
3. Capital Bistro Panama
4. La Concordia Boutique hotel
5. Gatto Blanco Party hotel
6. Tantalo Hotel Kitchen/Roofbar
7. Storx Skylounge
8. Relic Bar
Day 2: Visiting the Panama Canal - Miraflores view deck
After spending the day in Casco Viejo and enjoying the nightlife we were pretty pooped so we called it a night and got ready to go see the main attraction in Panama which is the Panama Canal in the morning. The best places to get a good view of the ships sailing down the canal is on the view deck at Miraflores. The cost of admission is about $20. It can get very busy with tourists so we would suggest getting there early to get a good spot on the deck to catch the ships that will be cruising down the canal in the afternoon.
There is also a museum at Miraflores that displays the rich history of this man made waterway that allows ships to quickly carry cargo from the Atlantic ocean to the Pacific ocean. As you can see from our video it truly is a wonderful sight. Visiting the canal can take anywhere from 2-4 hours so you can head back to Casco Viejo to explore more or visit one of the rooftop bars we listed for evening adventures.
Day 3: San Blas Island hopping
The San Blas island hopping tour was by far the most adventure we had while in Panama. We woke up very early to meet our driver and head to the tour destination which was about a 2 hour drive from our condo. I will note that if you are not comfortable with riding off roads and winding roads through hills this may not be the best tour for you. Matt actually got a little car sick on our way there and we had to stop to take a break. Now it may be the driver we had but the roads do wind a lot but it didn't bother me too much.
When we arrived we met our tour guides that took us to our first island for lunch. It was a bit rainy that day but we still had a great time. We ate fresh caught fried fish while our tour guide gave us a little history surrounding the islands. I had no idea that the San Blas islands consists of 365 small islands east of the Panama Canal. We spent most of the time taking pictures and walking around the island taking in the serene views.
The island also had a giant swing and really cool over water cabins that you could reserve for an island camping experience. We didn't stay on the island but we did take a lot of really cool photos while we we there.
The next Island we went to was Starfish Island. All of the islands have names but I could only remember the name of this island because the name described what the island was surrounded by which was Starfish! It was very cool to see these little guys so close up. We weren't allowed to touch or disturb them but it was nice to see them in their natural habitat. We visited three islands in total and it was definitely a full day.
After a day on the water we grabbed dinner in Casco Viejo and retired to our condo to get ready to leave early the next morning. Overall we so enjoyed our adventures in the city and on the San Blas Islands. The flight was only a 3 hour flight to the Ft. Lauderdale airport which made for a really quick but fun packed weekend.
If you're interested in visiting Panama city. Here are a few travel tips we'd like to leave you with....
Travel Tips - Panama
- Currency: $1 USD = ~$1 Panamanian Balboa - The exchange rate is dollar for dollar in Panama so it's pretty easy to use the local currency. However, everyplace we went accepted american money with no issues. Unlike other countries where we felt like our dollar went a long way, Panama is definitely a more developed country so you can expect to pay about the same amount for items as you would in the US.
- Language: Spanish is the primary language however English is very prevalent in the country so you'll feel comfortable communicating even if your Spanish is no bueno lol
Wi-Fi: Very prevalent at most cafes, restaurants, and in homes.
- Airport: Tocumen International airport (main airport) IATA
- Getting around: Mostly uber. Taxi is heavily available as well
- Safety?: We felt very safe, however, it's always recommended to check with your hotel or Air BNB host to know the areas to avoid when traveling.
Thanks for stopping by! Let us know if you have decided to take this quick long weekend trip to Panama city, Panama. We know you'll enjoy it!
Until next time!
Peace, Love, and Luggage,
Matt & Britt
"We love because the that's the only true adventure" Nikki Giovanni
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