Panama. Latin & Central America. For many an exotic location. For some a closer travel destination. With no doubt, an amazing country. Once on our travel planner: how to spend in its capital, Panama City, short and perfect holiday? What is worth seeing and doing during potentially shorter visit? Firstly, if you can, add a day or two. Risk of falling in love with this city is really high!
I have traveled to Panama on my way to Costa Rica. I was lucky enough that my flight from Europe had a stopover in Panama City. So I just used this opportunity and advanced my first leg of the journey to spend 4 days in my first Latin America’s country: P.A.N.A.M.A. As I was a solo traveler, I did a bit of advanced research on what to do and how to maximize this short visit and potentially to turn it to a perfect stay in Panama. But was it perfect?
Republic of Panama is a transcontinental country, bordered by Costa Rica and Colombia and surrounded by Caribbean Sea and Pacific Ocean. Its capital and largest city – Panama City – is home to 2 million people, nearly half of the country’s population. Certainly, here you can practice your Spanish, official language of the country.
I love opting for hotels which allow for something unique during the stay, often it is a view, or maybe rooftop facility like swimming pool and also the ones that emerge out of nowhere – in the middle of the nature. This time, revising many Panama City pictures online – I knew I can’t miss the ocean & city view. I knew that I wanted to relax looking at it from the window of my room. So I selected Plaza Paitilla Inn. The view was stunning. Above all: incredible. Just after entering the room, I wished my stay was longer. Love at the first sight!
There is something magical about Panama. I know I said it also for Norway. Just that for Panama the magic had different dimension for me. It is full of energy, vibes that kept me active all the time (lol, my Better Half must be smiling now, can one be more active on daily basis?), the feeling of serenity and vibrancy at the same time. That’s the only location in the world, so far, where each morning I was awake at 5:30 or 6 AM, ready for a walk by the seaside, barefoot on the grass, with a cup of cappuccino in my hand. No wonder that many call it ‘Miami of Central America‘.
So what to do on this short and perfect holiday in Panama City? Options are many for sure. Important is: even with 3 or 4 days stay you can have great time there. That’s the beauty of this city: it will enchant you on your day 1. The more you stay, the more options for exploring the city and its nearby places. After that, missing it and longing to return is guaranteed, no matter the days. So let’s not waste any moment and explore!
My top list recommendation for short and perfect holiday in Panama City (random order):
? Casco Viejo (Casco Antiguo) – Old Town of Panama City, its heart. Ideal place for wandering around, sipping a coffee or a drink in many of its bars or dining, global cuisine and its selection is really attempting! The best part was just to walk around the little streets, with many colorful murals – reflecting vibrancy of the place, and with many churches – place for the reflection. Moreover, best place to shop for traditional handicrafts.
? Canal de Panamá – The Panama Canal is the most unique experience here. Must do or rather must experience it. This 77 km long waterway is a short cut between two oceans: Atlantic and Pacific. Over 100 years ago, ships had to sail around the tip of South America, making each travel nearly 20,000 km more. No wonder that it is considered as one of the Man-Made Wonders of the World, being one of the largest and most difficult engineering projects ever undertaken. A system of locks in the Canal lifts ships up 26 meters above sea level to an artificial lake, repeating the action to allow successful transit. Since the opening of the Canal, more than 1 million vessels have used this route. And I was proud to stand behind the wheel of one of them! Travel to Panama even just for this experience, unique in the world!
? Cinta Costera / Avenida Balboa – Coastal Belt / Balbao Avene is an ideal place for walking, any time of the day, from early morning to late night. So beautiful, with ocean on one side and greenery around one doesn’t realize it is city centre. Plus all is well maintained and very clean so wandering there is just a pleasure. I kept on walking from Paitilla to Casco Viejo, long walks, just loved it. Best part of the holiday in Panama City.
? Mercado de Marisco Cinta Costera – Seafood market by Coastal Belt, located just at the foot of the Casco Viejo divides the city centre into modern and historic parts. It is a great cultural attraction, moreover yummy one! In my 4 days stay I have visited it twice. If you are seafood or fish lover, that’s a must visit spot! Market consists of two parts: to the left is the proper market where fresh fish and seafood can be bought, to the right small restaurants (bar type) can be found. It isn’t a fancy place. But it isn’t about luxury here. All that matters is taste! In short, don’t miss the place without trying traditional ceviche. You can eat there or do take away too. Any time between 6 am and 5 pm. Bon appétit!
? Amador Causeway – Calzada de Amador is a 6 km long stretch of the road that extends into Pacific Ocean at the point where Panama Canal meets the ocean. It is popular for cycling or walking, being the best spot to observe large container ships enter and exit the Canal. Don’t miss passing this one of the most known roads of Panama. Best: watch sunset from the causeway, unforgettable.
? Shopping – inseparable element of travels for me, often to shop, often just to admire, especially handicraft, different fabrics and materials, colors. In many items I have seen when travelling I have found new ideas and inspirations for my own little projects. Panama City, with its ethnicity and colors – can’t be missed. Recommendation: Casco Viejo (as per above), if more time, you can also explore one of the city malls. I was lucky to have Centro Commercial Plaza Paitilla behind the hotel, 10 minutes walk.
? Hotel – if possible and affordable, book a hotel by the seaside. Check on the rooms’ view options in advance. For me it made a huge difference. Bay view is just stunning.
? Walk – Panama City is a great place for walking, you won’t need to be concerned about transportation that much. Walking along the seaside, with the ocean on one side, beautifully maintained path-walks, less crowd and in excellent weather, nothing else is needed.
? Beach – there is a super tiny beach in Panama City centre. Just at the beginning of Casco Viejo. Certainly, I was super happy to discover it, to touch the water and enter to the ocean with my feet!
? Pineapple – don’t attempt to leave Panama without trying pineapples. The best pineapples I ever had in my life (that’s the challenge to other countries I haven’t been to yet! 😉 )
? Number of days – even for 2 days (1 night stay) it is WORTH it to visit Panama City! So if still in doubt, my recommendation is: absolutely YES!
Recipe for short and perfect holiday in Panama is with you now!
Moments that matter, no matter the days.