Destination Expert: Panama
This week's destination expert is all about Panama! Our expert shares insider tips on where to stay, play and dine in Panama city and the beautiful surrounding areas.
1. What makes you an expert on Panama?
After spending a year living in the country, I’ve had a chance to experience daily life in Panama as well as seek out the hidden gems this country holds. I also consider myself an unofficial Panama Ambassador and never pass up the opportunity to talk someone’s ear off about how much there is to love – I’ve even prompted several friends and family members to make the journey to see firsthand what all the fuss is about!
2. What makes Panama unique?
I love that Panama allows you to travel from the Pacific coast to the Caribbean, from the jungle to the beach to the mountains – all in one day. It’s impossible to get bored when traveling in Panama; there’s always something spectacular to see.
Jungle walk in Isla Palenque by http://amble.com/ambler/
3. Where are the best places to eat? What should visitors order?
When I’m in Panama City, I’ll often grab lunch at the fish market on the outskirts of Casco Viejo – you can even pick out your own catch of the day from a local fisherman and bring it to the restaurant upstairs to be prepared. The ceviche is also a must!
One of my favorite eateries is Quesos Chela , an empanada joint about an hour outside the city. It’s the perfect stopping point on the way to Panama City’s neighboring beach town.
4. What are some must see/do activities in Panama?
Visitors should definitely take advantage of the wealth of flora and fauna in Panama and schedule a guided jungle tour or hike. There’s amazing hiking in Chiriquí, where Isla Palenque is located, and fantastic birding and monkey-spotting!
Isla Palenque by http://amble.com/ambler/
5. Where are the best places for nightlife in Panama?
Panama City is a hub for vibrant nightlife with plenty of hopping discotecas and upscale watering holes. I prefer a more laid-back atmosphere, so I usually spend evenings wandering around Casco Viejo for its terrific restaurants and open-air bars, great people-watching, pleasant ocean breezes, and cold drinks.
Casco Viejo Bar by http://amble.com/ambler/
6. Name three/five of your favorite places to stay. High-end Hotels? Budget-friendly places?
Los Cuatro Tulipanes in Casco Viejo is a great boutique hotel featuring apartment-style lodging steeped in the history and charm of the old city.
For those on a strict budget, I recommend traveling during Panama’s rainy season (July-December) when hotel rates are often lower, but there are still plenty of sunny days. There are also a number of great hostels in Panama City – I’ve met happy travelers staying in Luna’s Castle and hostel Mamallena.
Camping on the islands in the Gulf of Chiriquí is also really fun – I recommend camping on Isla Bolanos or Isla Gamez, then stopping by Cala Mia for some fresh, delicious cheese from local cows. As much as I love old-fashioned camping, I can't wait until I can stay in the luxury camping suites on Isla Palenque later this year – the best of both worlds!
Gulf of Chiriqui by http://amble.com/ambler/
7. What is Panama’s best kept secret?
World-class coffee! Panama’s mountainous region surrounding Boquete (about an hour from Isla Palenque in Chiriquí) is host to some of the best sustainably-harvested coffee in the world, at amazingly affordable prices.
8. What souvenir should everyone leave with after visiting Panama?
I love hand-woven chacara bags made by the indigenous Ngobe-Bugle of Chiriquí. They’re all-natural (made from plant fibers), incredibly suitcase-friendly, and they make great gifts. Also, there are wonderful handmade jewelry and tapestries, made by the Kuna Yala people, for sale on the Guna Yala comarca and by street vendors in Panama City.
Hi I’m Laura Moller, travel blogger and a member of the dynamic team at Amble Resorts. I spent a year living in Panama working as Client Representative for The Resort at Isla Palenque in Chiriquí. I love outdoor adventure and nothing makes me happier than my feet in the sand – so life in Panama was a dream come true! For more stories of my time abroad in this beautiful country, visit http://amble.com/ambler/.
Are you a destination expert? For more information email Rachel at Rwolery@zipsetgo.com.