If you are planning a trip to Central America, Panama is a great destination to explore. However, if you have never traveled here before, you may wonder what you should do.
Regardless of if you are traveling by plane or if you are taking a Panama Canal cruise, knowing where to go and what to do can be helpful. Keep reading to ensure you have an unforgettable trip.
Where to Stay in Panama
If you visit Panama for business purposes and want a modern, high rise hotel, be sure to stay in Panama City. However, if you are looking for colonial architecture and charm, a better option is to stay in Casco Viejo.
Explore Casco Viejo
Casco Viejo is a favorite place for visitors to travel when visiting Panama City. This town was initially settled in 1673, and it is best known for the old-world Spanish architecture. In the past, low-income families were the only residents of the condemned buildings in the city.
However, today, things have changed. Thanks to commercial development, most of the buildings are now trendy restaurants, bars, and hotels.
Get a Cup of Geisha Coffee
Producing a floral and aromatic flavor, Geisha coffee is made of the best beans in the entire world. Chances are, you have heard of Jamaica’s Blue Mountain beans or Kopi Luwak from Indonesia; however, Panama’s Geisha beans are even more prized.
Even though Geisha coffee is not exactly local to Panama, after it was brought to the region from Ethiopia, the plantations in the Boquete region started to produce some of the best Geisha coffee in the entire world.
If you want to try some other local coffee options, try out Café Unido, which is located next door to the American Trade Hotel. Unido offers standard cold brews, pastries, espressos, and pour-overs of Geisha coffee.
Visit the Panama Canal
There is no visit to Panama that is complete without visiting the Panama Canal. Located just 20 minutes from Panama City, you will find the Miraflores Visitor Center. This is an interactive museum with four stories and a short film, along with an outside viewing deck that overlooks the Miraflores locks.
Try to visit when a cruise or cargo ship moves through and watch how the locks fill and empty to allow transit. Also, the museum offers a great explanation of the construction of the Panama Canal, along with modern management.
Visit the San Blas Islands for the Day
If you are looking for an uninhabited and beautiful island with beautiful blue waters and white sand beaches, check out San Blas Islands. There are over 365 islands in the archipelago, and, in the past, the area was called the Guna Yala islands. This name was given after the indigenous people who were living there.
This area is found on the north coast of Panama and about a two-hour drive outside of Panama City. The easiest way to get here is by taking a private charter. If you are planning to visit, make sure you bring along your passport, as the Guna has a security check before any visitors can go to the port.
Purchase a Traditional Panama Hat
Did you know that the Panama Hat, the ones with a light-colored brim, are originally from Ecuador?
While Panama hats have never been made in Panama, you can purchase them throughout the city at various souvenir shops. The hats are typically made from braiding a local palm plant, and you can judge the quality of the hat by how tight the weave is. The finest option is referred to as a Montecristis, from the town where they are produced.
If you are looking for a souvenir that is genuinely Panamanian, go to the French Park Monument, which is found in Casco Viejo. If you go up the steps behind this monument, you will find indigenous Kuna women and local Panamanians selling Mola. These are colorful clot patterns with geometric shapes that the Kuna Indians wear. You also have the option to purchase a pillow or square cloth of Mola made from the same pattern.
Visit Pedro Mandinga to Sip Rum
This location is easy to find, thanks to the pink color. The Pedro Mandinga is the first artisanal rum distillery set up in Panama. In the latter afternoon, the location comes alive, as people come in to taste the local cocktails, hang out with friends, and to have a good time.
There are several other great places to visit while in Casco Viejo, too. For example, Casacasco is a building that has recently been restored to the Plaza Herrera. You can go to the roof for amazing views or get bottle service at one of the swanky levels inside the building.
Another great place to visit if you want to experience the nightlife is Tantalo. Here you will find several casual restaurants that serve delicious local fare.
Planning Your Visit to Panama
If you have plans to visit Panama, be sure to keep the information here in mind. Doing so is going to help you experience this area and all it has to offer. Remember, there are more than a few things to do and see while here, so take your time and really enjoy what the region has to offer. You will find the area is beautiful, welcoming, and fun, as long as you have a plan. Chances are, you will want to come back again once you have seen what Panama offers.
Being informed and knowing what to expect are the best ways to ensure that you make the most of your visit. If necessary, hire a travel agent to help you plan your trip and ensure you see everything that you want to.