Panama City was much larger and safer than we anticipated. It is a lively city, with something for everyone! We spent four days here sightseeing and preparing for our sailing trip to Colombia. Spanish is the dominant language, but US Dollars is the currency. We visited the Panama Canal, ate at delicious restaurants, walked the cobblestone streets, did yoga at Casco Yoga, and enjoyed the old colonial style buildings and the view of Panama City’s towering skyline in the distance.
We stayed at Hotel Stanford, about a mile from Casco Viejo and each day we walked down Central Avenue to get there. Central Avenue is a main street swarmed with locals and is lined with cheap stores. Hundreds of vendors selling everything from fruit, to lottery tickets, to toothpaste and cigarettes. Store employees stood outside yelling about promotions and deals. Some even resorted to microphones and speakers incase you missed the yelling in your face. We were able to find a lot of necessities for our sailing trip here. The street is pretty dirty and extremely hectic even though it’s closed to vehicles. It’s an entertaining walk to say the least!
Almost all of our time we played around in Casco Viejo, the old town. Casco is a historical quarter of Panama City, deemed a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1997. It’s the hippest neighborhood and also the smallest, with many restoration projects in the works. If a property owner in Casco Viejo is unable to restore their property, they’re required to sell it. So it’s quickly coming to life. There are no mainstream hotels and the neighborhood is filled with parks, boutique hotels, ice cream parlors, fine dining, street art, incredible architecture, and beautiful streets to wander. It was very common to see a beautiful Kuna woman dressed in brightly sewn textiles walking through the neighborhood. Although it was out of our budget for accommodations, we were there day and night.
The Canal Museum of Panama is a great place to learn more about Panama’s history. We learned about the construction of the canal, the Miraflores Locks System, and much more. It was extremely impressive to see how massive ships are moved from one side of the canal to the other and that the water is lowered and raised in each lock by gravity. We learned the construction was originally started by the French, before they abandoned it and that the United States completed the project in the early 1900’s. Control of the canal was transferred from the US to Panama in 1999. The Canal Museum is filled with planning materials and interesting artifacts from the construction. Site plans, photos, and more are on display. If we had a little more time we would have waited until 3PM to watch the first boat of the day travel through the canal!
We had a great time in Panama City and used our time to rest and prepare for the five day sailing trip to come. Hefners out!
Selling lotto tickets.
Entering Casco Viejo neighborhood.
Beautiful street art.
Rooftop in Casco Viejo.
Panama City skyline.