Come and enjoy the Miami of Central America
Panama has been largely untouched by the hustle and bustle of travelers itching to leave their routine nine to five lives behind them. But unbeknownst to many travelers, Panama’s diverse attractions cater to each and every type of explorer whether it be the luxury, adventurous and/or beach bum traveler.
I was first acquainted with the city through a 3 month internship in Panama City and returned two years later to partake in a divemaster internship in Bocas del Toro, an archipelago around 30 kilometers from the Costa Rican border (to learn more about Bocas, click here). Lying smack dap in the middle of the country is Panama City, a Central American city that has often been compared to Miami and/or Dubai. In fact, the city does live up to its reputation. Along with it’s large array of attractions that can keep any curious traveler busy, Panama City is also broadening its horizons with 30 new skyscrapers, including the Trump Ocean Club and the Panamera (Latin America’s first Waldof-Astoria Hotel).
Although large in size (with a little bit of planning) this city can be easily mastered in a quick two day weekend. Follow me for 24 hours in Panama City:
3 pm: Check into your hotel.
If you are budget savy, there are a number of great hotels that are cheap and affordable. If you aren’t too fussy, why not try:
1) Hotel Venecia (Avenida 1a Sur o Avenida Peru entre calle 36 y 37 Este): A double ($30 US) will provide you with a/c, cable tv, free internet and a good private bathroom with a hot shower. The hotel has a fair decent restaurant right next door but if you are looking for some good Panamanian cuisine, there is a small local restaurant located two minutes away on the corner of Avenida la Sur and Avenida Peru. Downfalls: The internet didn’t work in our room so I had to go down to the lobby every time I wanted to used the computer.
2) Hotel Latino (Avenida Cuba And Calle 34 Este): A double ($35 US) has the same amenities as Hotel Venecia, additional perks include a rooftop pool and no check-in time (I checked in at 6 am in the morning with no problems). Downfalls: The only way to shut of the air conditioner was to unplug it, which meant that it was usually too cold or too hot in the room.
4 pm: Let’s go shopping!
Dinnertime in Panama starts rather late and if you have a couple of hours to kill in the evening (and you have the shopping itch), why don’t you check out one of Panama’s amazing shopping malls? In my opinion there are only two main malls that are worth visiting:
1) Albrook Mall: the biggest mall in the country that boasts many well known stores (including Zara), big department stores, two main food courtyards, a movie theatre and a carrousel. Albrook is located near the bus terminal and the airport (for domestic flights) and is a great stop for budget travelers.
2) Multicentro Mall: located in front of the Balboa Avenue, Multicentro is made up of a mixture of middle to higher-end stores (like Chanel, Zara, TOUS, Mango, Carolina Herrera, Hermes and Louis Vuitton). It also has a food court, arcade for kids, indoor paintball, a Casino and is connected to a number of great restaurants and the prestigious Radisson Decapolis Hotel.
9 pm: Sushi time
Located within the Radisson hotel (Avenida Balboa-Multicentro) is the delectable Sushi Bar and the Martini Bar. Located in the lobby, the Sushi Bar is a great spot to sit down and relax in a comfortable and stylish environment. The staff and atmosphere is amazing (yet the menu is a little pricey). After dinner make a quick pit stop at the Martini Bar, a chic modern lounge, and have a drink before heading out for a night on the town.
12:00 am: Fiesta!
Calle Uruguay is the place to be on the weekends if you are looking for an older crowd. All the bars are located right next to each other so it’s easier to “bar hop.” Start of at the Londoner for a quick beer and a chat with some other travelers. Then head over to Prive, if you are looking for a more chic, classy and older (25-35) crowd or head upstairs to S6IS (upstairs from Prive) to dance the night away to electronic music (expect to pay anywhere from $10 US to $20 US for cover). If you really want a classy night then head over to Manrey Rooftop Pool bar and Lounge, an upscale and unique lounge that allows you to sip your $8 dollar mixed drink on a white chaise beside an outdoor pool while chatting with your friends and enjoy the view of Panama City. Your call!
To read Panama City Part Deux, click here