Four weeks ago (sorry I’m a tad late) I visited Panama City for three days, as it was the stopover from Bogotá to Los Angeles. I actually love having a compulsory stopover. Check me into a local hotel, pass me a travel guide and throw me my Ray Bans and I’m in.
The BF and I stayed at the Waldorf Astoria, courtesy of Credit Card Points System (cue hair flick). Remember those adverts, the ones with happy couples being whisked away for free after building up points on their credit card? Remember losing interest because, of course, there must be a catch? Well there isn’t. Let me be proof. If you are smart about what you’re spending, then building points on credit cards (especially with flights) is well worth it. This website can give you more information on how to get the ball rolling.
Anyway, where was I, oh yes the Waldorf. It’s a fine hotel (nothing to impressive – despite it’s 5* tag), with comfortable rooms and only a cab ride away from all the tourist attractions. And let’s face it, the bulk of your time here will be spent enjoying some of the pricey tourist – let me emphasize the word tourist– attractions. Normally I’m more of a ‘off the beaten track’ kinda girl, but with limited time to plan and explore, I bit grabbed my camera and followed the crowd.
First stop – Nature lover
Gamboa Rainforest was pretty idyllic. The type of place that could easily be described purely with clichés- ‘the views were breath-taking’, ‘you experience the mysterious wonders of the rain forest up close’, ‘monkeys nestle in the tropical bushes’, ‘ the canal was fascinating’- and so on and so on and so on.
For around $160 per person you can take many different tours to the Rainforest to get your nature and adventure hit (find more info from this website). Our excursion consisted of a boat trip alongside 8 other tourists (with their digital cameras at the ready – alternative lenses close) and a tour guide (giving a little spiel about the Canal System), as we all travelled through Panama Canal and then ventured off to see (only three) monkeys. Also you have the chance to take the aerial tram, which glides through the treetops and takes you to the entrance of the observation tower – which I highly recommend doing, who doesn’t love a panoramic view?
- Don’t book with the concierge they charge an extra (high) fee
- Go in the morning to see more wildlife
- Ask for a tour guide that you can communicate with
Second stop – Architecture Lover
Casco Viejo, otherwise known as the Old Town, is a must see if you’re in Panama; tiny narrow streets and the most incredible views from the outer wall. The colonial architecture mixed with neoclassical buildings are sights to behold. As well as the refurbished constructions that are taking place. I almost felt like each quarter had their own story to tell, especially after I heard it was built-in 1673 after the near total destruction of Panama City in 1671 when pirates attacked the latter. Whoa mama, history high!
For me, Casco Viejo ticked every box; it had personality, plenty of history, actual Panama culture, souvenir boutiques, architectural gems and restaurants and bars all over! Ah restaurants and bars, whilst were here, lets talk about food and wine shall we? This district is great for all your charming spots to eat and drink. There are tons of quaint and quirky places, you might have to bar hop to get to visit them all though.
A favourite – Danilo’s Jazz Bar (in the Ace Hotel) –this is a great place to spend an evening, you can see what entertainment they have coming up on their Facebook page.
- Head towards the Ace Hotel for a starting point
- You can totally rock up here and explore for hours, day or evening (I’d do both)
- Cobbled streets do not bode well in heels
Third stop – Beach Lover – AKA me
Las Perlas Islands were the highlight of our trip, a sweet quiet remote island with white beaches and clear waters. It really wasn’t hard to fall into a tranquil tanning trap, that’s for sure.
Once on the Island, you can hire buggies ($40) to cover all the grounds – you could probably do the whole loop in 30 minutes. There’s a fair few beaches to stop off and view, some very touristy whereas others almost felt private.
To get to Las Perlas Islands, you can take a two-hour boat trip from The Trump Hotel for $100 per person or a twenty-minute plane trip for $140 from the airport. We chose the ferry and it was smooth sailing (excuse the pun). Plan your trip to the island here.
- Make sure you are at the check-in early, otherwise the boat will leave without you (speaking from experience)
- Bring your own food and drink supply, in case you have a vegan emergency
- Use lots of sunscreen!
In all honesty, Panama City wasn’t the rustic, picturesque place I was expecting. In fact, it was quite the opposite. I couldn’t help but feel that the huge modern skyscrapers stand a little odd throughout the old, narrow roads. But maybe that’s just me. Staying in Panama City might have not done it for me, but escaping the capital and exploring what the outer regions had to offer was time well spent. If I were you I would definitely consider making the most of your stop over in Panama, even if you’re on your own – it’s the perfect excuse to have a little adventure!
Until next time jet setters! Oh.. that reminds me.. Jetting off anywhere? Tell me below. Been to Panama? Let me know your thoughts! X