Discover Panama City in 5 Days
Irene Salazar Giraldo
Arts & Culture
Is time travel possible? Well, don’t miss out on visiting Panamá. From Casco Viejo, that features cobblestone streets, colonial houses and local charm to downtown Panamá where modern architecture leads you through a maze of buildings and twisting constructions, you will be able to enjoy Panama’s history within the span of a few blocks. Panamá is a historic country and foodie paradise with beautiful white sand beaches, turquoise waters and dense rainforests that will allow you to enjoy a relaxing vacation while getting to know its Central American culture and history.
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Where to stay
American Trade Hotel
Panama City's stylish and well-located mainstay, with handsome accommodations and a hip coffee shop.
In Panama City’s vibrant Casco Viejo neighborhood, a true boutique gem with homey rooms, city views and a buzzing ground-floor restaurant.
Waldorf Astoria Panamá
Central hotel in Panama City's financial district with historic Casco Viejo 10 minutes away.
$100 hotel / resort credit.
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Day 1: Arrive in Panama City
Once you land in Panama City and check into your hotel, take the rest of the day to enjoy Casco Viejo. If you decided to book the American Trade Hotel, Las Clementinas or Casa Arias, you will find yourself in the center of Casco Viejo and will have the best location possible for visiting historic sites.
From Plaza Herrera you can make your way to the Monumento al Canal de Panamá (Monument to the Panama Canal) and then to the Plazoleta Media Baluarte, where you will have amazing views of the ocean, quaint colonial houses and picturesque parks. If you want some dinner, I recommend going to Madre Pizza or Santa Rita.
Tip: If you arrive after 11:00 a.m. or before 3:00 p.m. I would suggest you choose a nice rooftop to have lunch and some drinks, in order to walk Casco when the sun is not at its highest. Lazotea Restaurant & Rooftop and Casa Casco are great choices.
Day 2: Panama Canal and Old Panama
Wake up and enjoy a delicious breakfast before grabbing an uber to Panama Canal. You can walk through the Miraflores Visitors Center by yourself, but if you want in depth historical and operational information about the canal, I suggest booking a tour directly through the Panama Canal page. In both cases be prepared to be amazed at the workings of the canal and do not forget your camera.
After your tour at the Panama Canal, make your way to Azahar a high-end restaurant that lies between the Panama Canal and old Panama. Here you can enjoy an amazing view from the patio and delicious food. After you finish your lunch, get a coffee as an aperitif because you will be walking in the afternoon.
Grab an uber to Old Panama. Remember Old Panama used to be the equivalent to downtown Panama, the center of life of Panama until Henry Morgan, the English pirate laid siege to the town. Enjoy walking through the ruins and remember to take water and wear sunscreen. When you are done taking beautiful pictures with historic buildings and a backdrop of the ocean, make your way back to Casco and visit Tantalo for well crafted cocktails and the night skyline.
Tip: The best breakfast spots in Casco are Mahalo, American Trade Hotel and Las Clementinas. My suggested way of transportation is uber. Taxi drivers in Panama do not have government defined tariffs, therefore they can become quite expensive quickly enough.
Day 3 & 4: San Blas Island Hopping
You can book a myriad of day tours to San Blas, but in my opinion, going just for one day is too short to truly enjoy and experience the beautiful beaches, get to know the Kuna culture and eat delicious sea food. The two-day sailboat tour is my favorite:
Wake up nice and early! At 5:00 a.m. you will get picked up at your hotel and taken to Port Capri. From the port you will take a speedboat to the sailboat where you can rest and relax. You will spend the following days visiting Cayo Limones and Cayos Nasargandub. You will be able to snorkel, fish and enjoy laid-back days in the beach.
Tip: The car transporting you to the port will stop to get food or coffee. If you have special preferences, I suggest packing a few treats for the road. You will be sleeping in the sailboat so do not forget to bring all the essentials and if possible a water resistant bag.
Day 5: Downtown Panama and Cinta Costera
You will have a delicious breakfast on board and transfer back to your hotel. Depending on your taste, you can go shop at Multiplaza, take in the modern architecture of downtown Panama and have lunch at Avantika.
If you are not interested in shopping, you can have lunch at Fonda Lo Que Hay, a typical Panamanian restaurant, grab a coffee and make your way to the Cinta Costera. Rent a bicycle and enjoy the sun and sights.
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