By Lauren Stuart
It’s no secret that the Panamá Canal is the number one tourist attraction in Panamá City. It is, after all, one of the top man-made wonders of the world and put Panamá on the map. However, after living and studying in Panamá for the past seven months, I’ve realized the city is home to so much more. After you beat the crowds at the Miraflores Locks along the Panamá Canal, consider spending some time at one of these places:
|Group in Isla Taboga|
If you’re looking for a fun and easy day trip, Isla Taboga is a must! Located about 20 km off the coast and known as one of the best beaches in the Panamá City area, Isla Taboga is a top destination for busy city goers looking for a quick break. It only costs $13 for a round-trip ferry ticket, which is perfect if you’re on a budget. Ferries leave from the Causeway at 8:30 am and 10:30 am and return at 3 pm and 5 pm every day. However, it’s not uncommon for the ferries to sell out so make sure you get there at least an hour early. The island hosts many great activities besides just chilling out on the beach and taking a quick dip in the refreshing water. There are several hiking trails that take you to the top of a hill and offer incredible views. You can also explore the adorable town that calls Isla Taboga home and if kayaking is your thing, there is a place where you can rent kayaks for only $4. Once you work up an appetite, hit up one of the many food carts for some great food. Or if you’re on a budget, I suggest bringing a cooler full of drinks and snacks.
Cerro Ancon is easily recognized for being “that hill with the giant Panamá flag." Although well known, Cerro Ancon is unfortunately overlooked by most. Located in Balboa, right next to the Panamá Canal Administration Building, the hill offers an easy morning hike that only takes about 2 hours. The “trail” is actually a one way road that many people choose to drive up. However, it is well worth the walk, trust me! Not to mention, walking is free. On your way up, be on the lookout for sloths hanging out in the trees above. Once you reach the top, you are greeted by that giant Panamá flag and rewarded with incredible birds-eye views of the city skyline, Balboa, the Panamá Canal, Casco Viejo, and the Bridge of the Americas. Once you make it back to the bottom and your stomach is growling, head to Niko’s Café, just down the street from the Administration building. Niko’s is dirt cheap and has great Panamanian food as well as classics such as sandwiches and french fries. A whole meal including a drink and desert costs about $5 - $8.
|View of Cerro Ancon|
Casco Viejo is like a European city with a flare of Latin American culture. It’s one of the oldest neighborhoods in Panamá City and although originally considered a more dangerous area, Casco Viejo has undergone major renovations making it far safer and one of my favorite places in the city. During the day, make sure you visit the multiple churches located in the town squares and enjoy walking through the narrow European-like streets. If you’re looking for crafts, check out the Indian market on the walkway right along the coast. There are many tents set up with Kuna Indians selling homemade crafts such as molas, traditional fabrics full of color. At night, Casco Viejo transforms and the nightlife heats up. If you’re looking for a great dinner, I suggest Casa Blanca or Restaurante Diablicos. Casco Viejo is also home to one of the city’s best bars, Relic, and multiple clubs that will get you dancing. If you’re looking for another incredible view, walk towards the water at night and watch as the city skyline appears at the end of a narrow cobblestone street.