** It’s GIVEAWAY TIME!!!
**Travel and Treatz has partnered with GPSmyCity to giveaway a FREE one-year subscription (valued at $18.99) to the GPSmyCity app to 10 lucky readers!!! You’ll get UNLIMITED and FREE access to GPSmyCity’s 6,500+ self-guided walking tours and travel articles in 1,000+ cities around the world… and it doesn’t use mobile data!
**See details on how to enter at the end of this post!
In January, I set off to Panama for a month. The plan was to use the Spanish that’s buried in my head somewhere, volunteer at a hostel and explore the country. After 10 days volunteering, I realized that this opportunity wasn’t working for me, so I decided to move on. So, here’s the rundown of how I spent some of my time around Panama City since I had some extra time to explore.
Casco Viejo is a historical district within Panama City. Cobblestoned streets run between 16th century old Spanish Colonial buildings and historical landmarks. Stroll through the streets amongst the colourful buildings in the afternoon and discover all the hidden gems such as great restaurants, cafes, beautiful churches and souvenir shops. At night, hotspots like Tantalo, Malecon, Red Lion and the many popular bars and nightclubs come to life so that you can dance the night away.
Casco Viejo is a must, especially if you enjoy wandering around charming city streets. Also, the drinks are cheaper when compared to other parts of the city. That being said, Panama produces several local beers so be sure to help conserve water and sample a few. One night, whilst out on the town I even managed to meet a Panamanian celebrity, reggaetón singer Japanese at the Red Lion pub. After chatting with the manager at another fun spot, La Tapas del Frasco, he put a few ingredients together based on his recommendation and my preferences; it turned out to be pretty good. If it makes it on to the menu, it will be called “Savita”.
Other than the night life of Casco Viejo, I checked out the Hard Rock Hotel’s Bling Nightclub and Sky Lounge. Bling wasn’t particularly busy, so I left to check out the other lounges. I wound up tagging along with some new friends to check out another hotspot called Habanos. For those of you (like me) who didn’t know, prostitution in Panama is legal and regulated. Habanos is one of several joints where you can find gorgeous women for a price. During my entire time in Panama, other than Carnival events, Habanos was the most packed club I’d been. Sorry fellas, I don’t have any confirmed insight on the rates but from what I gather, it might be two hundred bucks a night.
Another historical site, the residents of this once thriving city left and moved to Casco Viejo after the pirate Captain Henry Morgan burnt it to the ground. There’s a bus stop near the visitor’s centre, so getting there using the MetroBus is easy. If you miss it like I did, (I was distracted by a guy playing his guitar on the bus) you can get off at the next stop and take a 5 min walk back. I wouldn’t say that this a must see as mostly the remains of old brick walls. The restored bell tower of the church remains and offers views of the surrounding areas. The site also contains a nice museum that does give some insight into the remains.
Cost: 15 USD
Located along the Pacific waterfront, this avenue provides a great alternative to the gym. During my trip, I visited several times to work out because I really needed to counteract all the ice cream that I ate on this trip. My convertible hip pouch really came in handy for jogging. On evenings it’s frequented by adults, children and their pets. Cinta Costera has a wide range of facilities like jogging trails, cycling path, park benches, work out equipment, tennis courts, basketball courts, bike rentals, yoga and Zumba classes (some are free) just to name a few. You can also grab a bite to eat from the biggest fish market in the city Mercado de Mariscos. It’s like a big outdoor food court serving the day’s catch. Oh, be sure to make use of the big Instagram worthy Panama sign (as seen this post’s opening photo).
The Panama Canal
I’m sure that you’ve already heard of the Panama Canal, it is, after all, a great feat I of engineering. It facilitates the passage of massive shipping vessels by connecting the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. It takes approximately 8 hours to traverse the channel through the Panama Canal versus 2 weeks of sail time around South America.
Getting to the canal from the city is easy by car or you can take a direct bus from the Albrook Metro station. Visit the Mira Flores Locks (1 of 3 locks) to see the ships sail through, most of the activity occurs in the morning. I got there around 1 pm and had a 2-hour wait for the arrival of the next ship. The visitor’s centre has a short film about the consturction and history of the canal. The film runs both in Spanish and English. There’s also a pretty good museum that contains artifacts from the construction, details about the flora and fauna surrounding the canal and the technology used in the locks. The museum has a small simulator that allows you to sail a vessel through the canal…I’m definitely not cut out to be a sailor because I banged the vessel several times. To prevent that in reality, the ships are guided through the locks by taught cables and trams running alongside the waterway.
Cost :15 USD
Metropolitan Natural Park
A protected tropical forest reserve that’s a nice escape to nature within the city. There are hiking trails and two lookout points that offer nice views of the city and the Panama Canal. The trails aren’t too difficult and he park gives you a peek into some of Panama’s vegetation and wildlife. The temperature in Panama gets to around 34°C and the park can be quite humid, so make sure that you dress accordingly, pack water and a light snack. During my visit there was some light rain which I was very grateful. Even though I live in a similar climate, I’m not at all a fan of the humidity of tropical forests.
Cost :2 USD
Now, I’m not big on shopping but one can’t help but look. Panama certainly caters to all retail and wholesale needs, budget, high end and everything in between.
For high-end retail shopping, you can check out Mulitplaza. Another popular mall choice to visit is the Multicentro shopping centre; it has a wide range of boutiques and stores. The Albrook shopping centre is a large mall with about 400 stores and outlet shopping. This mall is also connected to the Albrook bus station making getting there super easy.
The Colon Free Zone has over 2,500 storefronts, but their focus is wholesale rather than individual retail. If any purchases are made, they’re usually sent to the airport (or shipping port) to leave when you leave.
**Don’t forget about our GPSmyCity GIVEAWAY!
**To enter, subscribe to the Travel and Treatz mailing list AND leave a comment below telling us where’s your next travel destination. Contest ends June 30th 2018. Ten random will be selected and contacted by email.
I hope you enjoyed this post! Stay tuned for more on Panama. As always I’d love to hear your thoughts and questions!