Panama. Pane-ma-ha-hah-ha-ha-ha-haaa. Panama!
A few people have asked me for travel suggestions about Panama City, Panama. So, I’m sharing the highlights to help if you’re planning a trip to Panama City.
WHERE TO STAY
American Trade Hotel in Casca Viejo is highly recommended as it puts you close to all the restaurants, historical buildings and nightlife.
Le Meridian Hotel is in a perfect location and a good hotel. A modern looking hotel, but probably built 10-20 years ago. They have a rooftop pool and the restaurant downstairs had excellent food. I liked the hotel, but I loved the location. It’s between old town (Casca Viejo) and the modern downtown with all the super tall high rises. Intercontinental hotel is nearby in same location, and is a good hotel with ocean views.
Intercontinental offers ocean views and is right across from the Cinta Costera park, which offers walking access to Casco Viejo.
Sordis Hotel is further inland, but a solid choice. It has many restaurants and a fantastic pool. If you have children with you, it also has a jump activity center on the second floor of the hotel.
Although if you want to be near all the shopping malls, Radisson Decapolis, is a good option.
TO DO IN PANAMA CITY
Happy Landings – we booked day trips at this travel agency and I highly recommend them. It’s next door to Luna’s Castle hostel.
Tobago (island) is an easy day trip. It is great for kids, a cool very old village that is only about a 30 min boat ride away, and it leaves from Causeway de Amador, right next to a playground and ice-cream shops, which my children loved.
Causeway de Amador – fun place to rent bikes and ride around, has touristy shops, ice-cream, a playground, a giant Panama sign near the end by the port. It has a great view of Panama City across the water.
Cinta Costera – Long park along the waterfront near Le Meridien hotel, it has a giant colorful Panama sign, playgrounds, bike rentals, etc.
Ancon Hill – amazing views of Panama City. Go in the morning before it gets too hot. This gives you a good perspective of Panama City because you can see Casco Viejo and the Panama Canal. You can have a cab drop you off at the bottom and walk up to the top. It’s a paved road and I believe shut off to all cars except for park vehicles.
Casco Viejo – old city, and the best part to see in my opinion.
Monkey Island Tour – Boat ride
Gamboa Rainforest Resort Areal Tram Tour – great for kids and adults
Gatun Lake – There are tours going to this lake that is outside of the city.
Biomuseo – Although the colorful building seems large and splashy in photos, it’s actually a manageable museum. It’s not so large you get lost for hours, but it’s size makes it easy to walk through the whole thing without getting bored. My children like walking through at their own pace listening to the short descriptions on their handheld speakers.
Miraflores – A trip to Panama City wouldn’t be complete without checking out the Panama Canal. You can see 3 canals from the Miraflores location. They have a museum that my children loved, and a good restaurant with table service upstairs and a cafe downstairs. We went late in the afternoon and saw lots of boats. I was worried that we wouldn’t see any boats, but we saw so many that we finally got bored watching them after a few hours.
WHERE TO EAT IN PANAMA CITY, PANAMA
But first, coffee!
Try Geisha coffee at Bajareque Coffee House
($9 a cup, but the best coffee I’ve ever had!)
The food there is just so-so. But the coffee is amazing.
And if you find it so phenomenal that you just have to see where it is grown, then maybe plan a few days vacation in Boquete Panama, home of geisha coffee.
Cabana – my favorite restaurant in Panama City
La Vista Dinner Experience
Capital Bistro – rooftop with sunset view over water
Tantalo – Toss back a few passion fruit mojitos on their rooftop, happy hour is before 7:00
Panaviera – Best sunset, go Monday or Tuesday
Lazotea – rooftop restaurant with great sunsets
Saril Kitchen and Lounge in the Le Meridian hotel has great local food.
Cabana Restaurant is on the 6th floor of a giant high end apartment building. It’s an upscale restaurant, but we went around 5:00, sat outside on the terrace on cushy seats, and the kids could move around, and apparently they don’t get crowded until later, around 8:00/9:00 pm. We watched the sunset. It has amazing views of the water and downtown. I highly recommend this place. If you get off on the 2nd floor by accident you can walk around and see a series of rooms, each a different color, and then ride the escalator down past a series of bizarre personified animal portraits.
We used Uber to get around. I think regular yellow cabs are fine to take, but they will charge you more and have crappier cars. There is a amphibian bus that can drive in the water. We didn’t have time to do this, but we did have a cab driver that drove down a flooded street that I was feeling like the engine was going to bottom out at any moment, so that added some excitement to the drive.
If you’re going longer than a few nights, I’d suggest getting out of Panama City. Do your research, but here are some blogs that I found on nearby excursions.
Recommended Hotels and More:
Panama – El Valle – Mountain Town:
Places to go around Panama:
*This blog has been updated in 2019.
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*As always at Finding Pura Vida, all opinions are my own.
If you feel like there’s something amazing in Panama City that travelers need to know about that was missed, please add it the comments below and I will check it out next time I am in Panama. Thanks so much for reading!