Updated: Jan 31, 2021
Nestled between South and Central America, is the beautiful country of Panamá. Beyond the Panama Canal, I didn't really know much about Panama, so when I saw a cheap flight, again, I grabbed a friend and said let's go! For $650 for the flight and hotel (Hotel Deville), we embarked on this new journey for 4 nights. Our first day was spent wandering around the city, looking for food, museums and more. What we quickly learned was that most of the places were actually closed on Mondays! However, Panamá is an extremely walkable city with Uber and this is how we got around! We even found a super high end designer mall, called Soho Mall, which turned out to be walking distance from our hotel!
This tour was a great way to get a feel for the city and the rich history of this beautiful country! On this tour, we saw the Bridge of the Americas, the Miraflores Locks Visitor Center (Panama Canal), Casco Viejo, Amador Causeway and even went to a little market! The highlight of this tour to me was walking the streets of Casco Viejo and also seeing a ship literally passing through the Panama Canal! We were able to go back at night and check out some local spots as well! Our tour guide was extremely knowledgeable and spoke English! Another highlight to me was the snowcone or Raspao (shaved flavored ice with condensed milk)! There were so many flavor options, I got the passion fruit!
This one takes up the entire day! It's quite a drive to get to the otherside of the country but it was totally worth it. In addition to the 3 islands, we passed through Colón and stopped at the fortress Portobelo. The 3 islands were: Monkey Island, where we fed spider monkeys, Isla Mamey and Isla Grande. The ride to the beach was interesting. We were given a life jacket and sat on a fisherman's boat. This was a little scary when getting to Isla Mamey and Isla Grande as this was more in open water while Monkey island was through some mangroves. We were pretty much on our own for most of the trip. The guide was nearby but we wandered around on our own until we had questions. He did take us to a restaurant on Isla Grande, which was right off the boat. This was fine until we needed to change and were taken to the back area where there wasn't much water and the facilities left much to be desired. However, the people were friendly and very accommodating and we just needed to rinse off from the beach! On the way back, we stopped at the Catedral de la Inmaculada Concepción and Fortress Portobelo! Overall, the trip to the beach was worth it though and I'd do it again!
Food + Drinks:
Let me say that everything I put in my mouth was delicious!!! I enjoyed everything from the local beer like the Balboa and Panama, to sancocho and empanadas! Of all the places I ate or drank, here are the ones I recommend (see some of the foods below):
1. Cafe Balear 7: We stumbled upon this while walking around Panama, its near one of the Panama City signs. The food was delicious, I had Torrejitas de Maíz, Sancocho de Gallina Panameño and flan! I enjoyed every bit of it!
2. Pedro Mandinga: Located in Casco Viejo, this place is worth the stop! I loved everything from the ambience to the food (read tapas) and drinks! I had sweet corn torrejitas, pulled pork tostones and a casco spritz. Be careful though, I chipped my tooth on the metal straw but it was so good that I'll definitely go back!
3. Mi Ranchito- We stopped for lunch here on our tour of Panama and the food was fantastic! It's an outdoor restaurant with lots of seating and good food for reasonable prices. I had the fish in garlic sauce with coconut rice, ceviche and a beer. I would definitely go back for some coconut rice!
4. Lazotea Rooftop- This was a nice rooftop bar with views of the city! I had the Afrodita here and I enjoyed it for a quick drink and for the ambience.
Overall, if Panama isn't on your list, it should be! Panama had me considering moving there by the end of my trip :)