A Luxe 3-Day Guide to Visiting Panama City & San Blas Islands

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Advisor - Amy Haefeli
Curated By

Amy Haefeli

  • International Travel

  • Panama

  • Arts & Culture

  • Beaches

  • City Travel

  • High-end

  • Local Culture

  • Sightseeing

Panama City panorama at sunset.
Curator’s statement

Panama is a very interesting destination, easy and convenient to travel to, yet so exotic. A short 5-hour flight from NYC and you won’t need to exchange any currency. Panama is the only capital in the world that has a rainforest within city limits, where you can see the sun rise on the Atlantic ocean and set on the Pacific ocean and is host to one of the seven modern wonders: The Panama Canal. With a mixture of activities and amazing food, Panama is a perfectly alluring destination not too far from home!

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Day 1: Arrival in Panama City

Panama City skyline framed by a palm tree.

If you took a red eye flight (which I recommend if you’re flying First Class), you will arrive in the morning. A short drive from the airport will get you to the hotel in either Panama City or Casco Viejo. Check into your hotel and go for brunch at Mahalo (on Sundays) or relax and have breakfast brought to your room, if you need a little time to settle in.

In the afternoon, book a Spa treatment at the Waldorf Astoria Spa (Panama's best hotel spa 2019-2022) to get pampered with local ingredients and contemporary techniques, a fully immersive and relaxing experience that will get you ready for the rest of the trip.

For dinner, call an Uber and head to Sabroso Panama for a live folkloric show dinner, traditional Panamanian food on the peninsula. If you feel like going out, Casco Viejo has amazing nightlife, full of clubs and bars for all and every taste. Check out Tántalo for a rooftop view, La Tana for a full nightclub experience or La Bárbara for more of a speakeasy scene with beautifully craft cocktails. 

Day 2: Explore Casco Viejo

Casco Viejo's colorful, colonial-style homes in Panama City.

Now that you are ready to take on some adventure, let's explore Casco Viejo, Old Town. Panama has the most expensive coffee cup, the Geisha coffee. This very exclusive and unique coffee only produces a certain amount of beans every year because it requires unique cultivating conditions. The most expensive pound was sold at $1,029. Casa Sucre CoffeeHouse will offer you $9 cup of the Geisha, and it's one of the favorite coffeehouse of the locals. Grab your breakfast here too.

In the afternoon meet your local guide, Victor from LocalinPTY, for a tour of Casco Viejo, Santa Ana and Chorillo. He will give you a perfect introduction to Panamanian lifestyle. You’ll meet locals, visit their houses and try their food and drinks. Victor will show you the different plazas, gymnasium where the locals plays dominoes and kids play soccer. You will also meet Mario the hat-maker for a souvenir.  

For dinner, join chef Ariel at "A to Z experience" for a one-in-a-lifetime culinary experience. The chef will cook for an intimate amount of guess a 10-course menu showcasing fresh local product. Add the wine pairing for a truly immersive experience.

Day 3: San Blas Islands

San Blas islands in Panama.

The one thing I always recommend to my clients when they want to visit San Blas is to keep it for the last day and to do it the right way. Normally, you need to take a 2:30 hours drive in the mountain and through the forest to get to the other coast of Panama. Then you have to take a boat to the islands. But this guide is ultraluxe and I prefer to fly and avoid leaving the hotel at 6am. 

Take a short 30 min helicopter or plane ride from Albrook airport to San Blas islands. San Blas is an archipelago of 365 islands, home of the Guna people and heaven for ecotourism. My favorite and recommended island is the Pelican Island, Natural Pool Island and Devil’s Island. Pick one or visit them all! Don't forget to bring your drinks and snacks, although some islands have some cute local restaurants as well.

San Blas residents rarely speaks English as most of them speaks Kuna. It's important to book this tour through an advisor, like me, that has connection with locals who know their way around and can communicate both with you and the local. Make sure to visit those clear water islands before they disappear under the sea. Connect with me today to get started!

Looking to extend your trip to Panama? Also check out Tracy Coleman's Panama guide: 5-Day Catamaran Adventure around the San Blas Islands.

Advisor - Amy Haefeli

Travel Advisor

Amy Haefeli

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