60hrs in Panamá City, Panamá
Hola and bienvenidos to my Panamá City blog! Panamá City is like the Miami of Panamá. From it's geometrical high rises in downtown, to it's old historic district, Panamá has a lot to offer. I was in Panamá City for 2.5 days but the first day was a bit of a wash. I underestimated how hot it was going to be and I don't do too well in extreme heat. I had arrived in the afternoon and spent several hours sitting in my air conditioned room until the sun went down. The following day I was up and at it early to pack in as much as I could. Had I not been a whimp on the first day, I would have tied in one of the following activities into my trip: Panamá La Vieja, Sloth Sanctuary in Gamboa or San Blas Island
Currency: Panamanian Balboa and USD
Airport to City Center
Taxi: Negotiable ~20-25 USD or Uber (~12-15 USD) if you can get it
I had asked several people at the airport where the Uber pick up was and everyone I had spoken with had gestured to outside of the airport. I don't know how accurate that is but I was able to take an Uber back to the airport and they dropped me off right at departures.
Uber is the way to go! I tried to use the metro to get to Casco Viejo and it's not worth the hassle. I still would have needed to transfer to a bus. If you're feeling adventurous and want to take the metro, you can get a reusable metro card from an attendant at the metro station for 2 USD deposit and then add however much you want to go towards the card. Each one-way trip is 35 cents.
Cost: 3 Nights 307.10 USD (Breakfast included)
This hotel is located in downtown Panamá City. There are 3 restaurants on site, a pool with swim-up bar and they have their own med clinic, which offers PCR testing. There's even a casino next door! The hotel grounds are in a secured area, so if ordering an Uber it's ~10 cents to exit. The hotel will not comp the parking ticket, so just offer to pay or tell your Uber driver you'll meet them outside the secured area. The hotel was great, however, I would have preferred to stay in Casco Viejo but hotels there are limited and book up quickly.
What to see around Hotel El Panama:
Where I ate in Panamá City:
Cost: ~8-10 USD
This restaurant is located to the right of Hotel El Panama (Take a left after exiting the security gate)
Cost: $$ - $$$
Modern/sophisticated take on Mexican cuisine (this place was really good)
Day 1: Casco Viejo (Old Town)
Casco Viejo is a charming old town with plenty of shops and restaurants to explore. I got to the square around 0900 and I happened to stumble upon a "free" (pay for tip) walking tour, which I happily joined. I don't typically join tours (unless there's food involved) but I figured since I was already there, what the heck and it was only 2hrs. The tour ended up being great and the guide, to the best of his ability, tried to maneuver the tour to where we could utilize the shaded walkways. I learned a lot about the city and was introduced to some affordable local restaurants, which I ended up eating at later for lunch. There are plenty of covered sitting areas which provides great views overlooking Panamá City. My recommendation is to grab a mojito or two and take in the views.
Uber: Hotel to Casco Viejo
Cost: ~4 USD
Where I ate in Casco Viejo:
Las Delicias de Jade - Authentic Panamanian Cuisine (They offer different dishes daily)
Location: One block to the left of Metropolitan Cathedral
Cost: ~6-8 USD
Santa Rita - Upscale Mediterranean Cuisine
Location: Near entrance of Casco Viejo
Cost: $$ - $$$
Things to do/see in Casco Viejo:
Iglesia de la Compañía de Jesús
Iglesia de la Merced
Iglesia de San Felipe Neri
Day 2: Panamá Canal/Casco Viejo/Mercado de Mariscos/Cinta Costera
You can't go to Panamá City and not see the Panamá Canal. It would be like going to Paris and not seeing the Eiffel Tower. I wasn't sure what reaction I was going to have but it was really cool to witness the ships passing through the channels in person. I spent 1.5 hours and got to watch 3 ships pass through.
Transportation: Hotel to Miraflores Visitor Center
Uber: 7.50 USD one-way (20 min ride)
Cost: 10 USD (tickets can be purchased from the ticket booth upon arrival)
Helpful Tip: Times for the ships passing change daily. Be sure to check the Miraflores website the day you plan to visit the canal. Arrive 30 min prior to the posted time so you can get yourself a good standing spot.
After visiting the Panamá Canal, I went back to Casco Viejo to pick myself up a Panama hat, which I later learned is actually an Ecuadorian hat. There are several establishments that sell Panamá hats, however, they're not authentic. If you want the "real deal" I recommend buying from El Palacio del Sombrero.
How to properly fold your Panamá hat for the journey home:
Mercado de Mariscos (Fish Market)
From Casco Viejo, you can walk the promenade to the Mercado de Mariscos. There are several restaurants to chose from. Be sure to walk around as staff are eager to pull you into first available establishments.
You can continue walking the promenade from Mercado de Mariscos to explore Cinta Costeria. There are several street vendors and green spaces along the way, which provide great views for watching the sunset with the backdrop of Panamá City.