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The Top 15 Places to Visit in Panama

Article Summary:

Visit Panama for a week, a month or a year, but whatever the cost, check out these top 15 Panama “Must-See” places as recommended by Gadling.

Photo Credit: Gadling

Original Article Text From Gadling:

Life Nomadic: Fifteen Essential Tips for Panama

Only a week remains in my two month stay in Panama, so I thought it would be useful to condense everything I’ve learned here to make it easier for future travelers.

Panama City is one of my favorite places in the world. It’s a perfect blend of “frontier spirit”, as Todd calls it, comfortable city life, good prices, and nearby cities and towns to explore. In list form, here are my recommendations for Panama:

1. When in Panama City, check out Casco Viejo before you decide on a place to stay. It’s a two dollar cab ride from anything in the city and it feels like a totally different country. Manolo Caracol, located in Casco Viejo, is considered to be the best restaurant in Panama, despite only costing $20 for the prix fixe menu.

2. The best place to go outside of Panama City is Boquete. The weather is cool, there’s tons to do, and it’s the total opposite of Panama City – perfect for a break.

3. Grocery shopping in Panama City is excellent. El Rey, Super 99, and Riba Smith are the main grocery stores. Riba Smith has the best selection of healthy foods and American and European imports. Organica, located in Paitilla, is an expensive store that has even more health food imports.

4. Don’t try to live in Paitilla or Pacifica. These are the the super gringo areas, which sounds like a good thing but isn’t. Cangrejo, Marbella, Bella Vista, and Obarrio are the best areas downtown. I personally wouldn’t want to stay anywhere farther out, except for Casco Viejo from #1.

5. Don’t pick up Taxis in front of hotels or malls. Walk down the street. If you ask the price, they know they can rip you off. If they try to barter the price up front, they’re trying to rip you off. Get in the car, and pay $2 for the ride as long as it’s within downtown.

6. Try patacones. They’re delicious fried plantain chips.

7. The only coffee shop with wifi is NY Bagel near “cabeza de Einstein” on Via Argentina. There are a few internet cafes that have wifi for .50-.75 per hour. The one at Via España and Via Argentina has really fast internet (for Panama).

8. When you arrive at the airport, go upstairs to the departure gate dropoff area. The taxis there will charge you less than the ones downstairs. Shoot for $15, negotiate up front.

9. Rental cars are only around $20 a day, which makes them great for road trips. Thrifty on Via España is a good place to go.

10. Finding good apartments is very difficult. Craigslist and VRBO are good places to start, but they are expensive. I rented a room from Michael (lirpa1966 at yahoo.com). E-mail him and he may have something for you too. Just don’t book my room next winter!

11. The hostels in Panama City are pretty bad. I’ve stayed at a few and wouldn’t recommend them. Casa De Carmen is somewhere between a hostel a hotel. Great place, decent location, and decent prices.

12. Bocas Del Toro is probably not worth visiting unless you’re really into surfing. If you are into surfing, it’s a must do.

13. If you like beaches, go to the San Blas Islands. Any hostel will get you in touch with the right people to make it happen. It’s real remote island living with real indians. Highly recommended.

14. If you are a vegetarian, you MUST go to Casa Vegetariana next to Manolos near Casa Veneto. You will eat there every day. For special occasions, check out La Novena across from Happy Copy on Via Argentina. Arturo will take care of you!

15. It is possible to swim in both oceans in one day. We did it in 89.5 minutes, ocean to ocean. Can you beat us?

Panama is one of the first places I’d recommend to anyone. Consider visiting, and use these tips to make your trip even better.

Link to Original Article:

From Gadling

  • crbob

    Sounds exactly like what a gringo visitor would recommend…..for the best recommendations ask a local, but of course the person who wrote this does not speak Spanish………..

  • expat5150

    Can I have what you are smoking? I’ve lived in Panama for over 5 years and the only thing this country has going for it are nice beaches on both Pacific and Caribbean and the ability to buy cheap land in the boonies. That’s it. So if you surf and want to experience a great beach life or want to live on a large farm in the boonies then come to Panama.

    Panama City is hot, humid, noisy, polluted, congested and full of abrasive people chasing money.. aka the rat race. How anyone finds that appealing is beyond me.

    Boquete is a small town full of retired American gringos. The infrastructure is weak and there is not much to do there. There is no night life or culture there. If you need to live among gringos to get that warm and fuzzy feeling then Boquete is the place to be. But make sure you fit into their click first (religion and politics), otherwise you will have no friends.

    It is a nightmare to do business in Panama. A total train wreck. Don’t even think about it.

    Panama WAS great 8 years ago before the big gringo influx. There are much better choices than Panama if you take the time to look.

    • Carolina Baltazar

      I was born in Panama and what you are saying is not true Panamanian People are by nature very warm people and the country are of a tropical nature and you can live there very comfortable with less than a thousand dollar. I live in the US and love the US because it has provided and opportunity for me and my childrens to which I’m grateful, however when I retired living on social security I would not be able to live here why because every year my taxes go up and up.However in Panama I will not experience that. I love both countries but I believe that Panama is a nice place for Seniors to live and i also believe that part of the US where it is not as cold it would be good also but economically they would have some hardship. Gringo has always been in Panama and we always welcome them.

    • Lee

      I have lived in Boquete for more than six years and would take exception with much of what you wrote. I write about Boquete and life in Panama frequently at BoqueteGuide.com you probably have never live here.

    • TropicalDaily

      expat5150 Is it possible that Panama could be better for some than others? There’s no perfect place but after living in Boquete for 5 years I still haven’t found a reason strong enough to leave.

      And Lee’s Site is awesome. If you’re wanting to dig into Panama, specifically Boquete, it’s a great resource.

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