Panama has it all, for me, it’s the perfect exotic holiday destination! It’s small in size but it offers a big variety which is easy to reach; exotic tropical rainforests, beautiful beaches, more than a 1000 islands, best surf spots, an incredible nightlife, breathtaking views, Spanish colonial architecture, jungle, rafting and kayaking. Panama really surprised me and here are my personal tips!
Downtown of Panama
When you enter Panama you will immediately see a very impressive skyline on the right side that is surrounded by tropical rainforest and on the left sight you see the beautiful ocean where people are surfing. In Panama city you will find the business district on one side, with lots of hotels and restaurants with the best shopping opportunities, and on the other side you will find Casco Viejo district, historical center built in the 17th century. There’s a lot to discover and activities like jungle trips, a visit to Panama canal are just a few hours away from the city.
Panama still struggles with crime and poverty. In some areas you’re not allowed to enter, which you will know when the police will tell when you try to enter a street. Panama is definitely tourist friendly, you feel save during the day and night, but people recommend you to take a taxi in the evening.
The Old Town
We stayed in the historic district of Panama City, Casco Viejo – which means old quarter in Spanish, and is only 10 min. away from the business district by taxi. Casco Viejo is small, but you can wander around for days, since this cozy neighborhood has a lot to offer: numerous bars, various restaurants where they service top notch food, great nightlife with some very nice bars where you can order delicious local beers and fresh cocktails, street art, castles, museums etc.
We only had two days to explore Casco Viejo, before heading to the islands, which was too short and therefore we came back again on the end of our trip! You feel at home right away; the locals are very friendly and the area is so incredibly beautiful. Take a walk along the beach where you will have the impressive ocean view, wander through the streets and admire the Spanish architecture with beautiful pastel colored buildings, have a coffee at one of the quality coffee shops, stroll at Plaza de La Independencia Market where I bought this handmade Wayuu Mochila bag, check out the Panama Canal, wander and end your evening with a very nice dinner and have some fresh cocktails at the oceanfront art bar.
Bocas Del Toro
A propeller plane took us from Panama City to Bocas Del Toro. After one hour you see the Caribbean Sea, the archipelago’s nine islands, surrounded by hundreds of tiny uninhabited islets and the mainland, Bocas Town.
It takes a 10 min.walk to enter Bocas. Bocas is a hotspot amongst travelers all over the world where most lodging and restaurants are. Water taxi’s depart from this mainland to the different islands. During the day you can wander the streets for shopping, drinks and food and in the night Bocas is known for their famous party’s.
Are you looking for a more quit holiday, then you should definitely stay at one of the island like we did. Each island has its own unique vibe and offers travelers diversity.
We skipped the mainland and went directly to Isla Bastimentos by boat, that takes 2 min. We’ve found this tropical romantic Caribbean beach front villa where we relaxed for almost one week. We stayed longer than planned since we really enjoyed the vibe and the surrounded islands with lots of activities.
We swam in crystal clear water, enjoyed beautiful sunsets while drinking delicious cocktails and ate fresh fish which the local fisherman caught. We slept in a very nice cabin where you hear the sounds of lapping waves, parrots and monkeys.
In the night we took a boat to the mainland for dinner and drinks.
Red Frog Beach
We often took the boat to some other islands. One of them is Red Frog Beach which is 10 min. from the mainland.
We found this very cozy place, Palmer Tent lodge, where we met some very nice people, one of them was the owner. Unfortunately it was fully booked, we really wanted to stay for a few days. This Eco-friendly beach front place offers lots of activities like; surfing, hiking, zip line riding, yoga and most important you can really just relax in a hammock. They have a small but yummy affordable menu.
I really enjoyed surfing, the teacher was so friendly and patient that I got the change the learn it even better.
» Bring Sunscreen SPF30, you can get burned very easily in Panama, my favorite is Lancaster
» Make sure to bring dollars or exchange your money into their local currency balboa
» Book your domestic flights upfront to save money, Air Panama
» Try to combine Panama with another country when planning a few weeks, like Costa Rica
» Book your stay at Bocas upfront, since it’s a very popular destination and fully booked very easily, check here
» Tickets cost around 800 euro
» Cabins at the beach start from 35 dollar
» We spent around 50 euro a day per person
We didn’t managed to go to the San Blas islands because unfortunately illness struck me for a few days. It’s suppose to be heaven so hopefully we will get the chance to travel there again!