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March 09, 2017

Throwback Trip Thursday: Panama Venture

We're starting a new photo series called "Throwback Trip Thursday!" or #tbtt if you prefer. We have countless photos from trips pre-blog and even within the past 9 months that we just haven't gotten around to sharing with you all. We're hoping to relive the memories from those trips via this weekly photo series.

To kick off the series, we are going to start with our 1st Anniversary trip to the amazing country of Panama visited over 2 years ago. This seemed like a fitting place to start since it's still our favorite destination.

Skyline of Panama City, Panama

Panama Itinerary
We found cheap flights using Skyscanner, our favorite tool for booking trips, and stayed for a total of 6 full days. We tried to see and do as much as we could during that time, staying mainly around the Panama City area. See our itinerary below to see where we stayed and what we did while in Panama.

ACCOMODATIONS

Sunday - Tuesday:  Dreams Delight Playa Bonita Panama
  • Beach side resort with infinity pools, poolside bars, full spa and delicious restaurants
Tuesday - Thursday: Le Meridien Panama
  • This hotel is located in the heart of the city, with views of the Pacific Ocean and surrounding skyline. The BEST customer service. We were greeted with a glass of champagne, complimentary cocktails and hors d'oeuvre. The first night after dinner we had a bottle of champagne and chocolates waiting for us in the room and subsequent nights we arrived back with delicious pastries waiting for us. They also had an amazing complimentary breakfast buffet, complete with an omelette bar and yummy tropical drinks. Will definitely stay at this hotel again.
Thursday - Saturday: Grace Hotel
  • Our very first luxury boutique hotel experience, also located in the city. This hotel also greeted you with complimentary champagne at check in along with chocolates waiting for you in the room. The room itself was the most beautiful room we've ever stayed in, with floor to ceiling windows showcasing the most amazing view of Panama City. There's also a hot tub and pool found on the roof of the hotel which made for romantic evenings sipping cocktails, enjoying the view.

Accommodation in Panama City is extremely affordable. We stayed in 5 star hotels with the best customer service around all for under $150 a night. That is NOTHING compared to 5 star hotels in the US (which we've never stayed in because it's so expensive). So if you want to live like royalty without the pricetag, Panama is a great place to go.


THINGS TO SEE AND DO

Explore the City
  • Casco Viejo - old historic spanish town with cute boutiques, delicious restaurants, hip bars and historic landmarks. Very picturesque and charismatic, offers sharp contrast to the neighboring modern skyline of the city.
  • Avenida Balboa - a 3.5 km road, also the most modern and expensive road in all of Panama. A great place to take a stroll since it's up against the Pacific Ocean and is filled with beautiful landscaping, eccentric people and most importantly, fresh fruit and snow cone carts! A must and very very cheap delicious treats. 
  • Mercado de Mariscos - Panama City's seafood market, aka, my favorite place. It's cheap, delicious, vibrant, busy, noisy, smelly and dirty. Everything a proper fish market should be! We picked out a whole fish (cooked to our liking), 3 types of ceviche (large portions), and two cocktails all for around $15. THE BEST MEAL. A must when visiting the city.
  • Ancon Hill - An easy hike that offers amazing panoramic views of the city, Casco Viejo and the Panama Canal.
xPlora Panama Day Tours - We loved their tours so much we did 2. Alex, the tour guide was flawless and very knowledgeable.
  • Hidden Waterfall Hike from Panama City - The BEST tour we've ever done. Was adventurous, a tad dangerous, beautiful and delicious. Sure we almost got washed down a rapid due to a sudden thunderstorm and our guide got bit by a bullet ant, but it's a day we'll never forget! The tour also came with a homemade lunch of local fare during a visit with a Panamanian tribe, so incredible.
  • Caribbean, Isla Grande Tour - Rickety boat rides through massive and beautiful mangroves, private island all to ourselves, climbing up trees for fresh coconuts only to have to machete them open, flipping over rocks to find a plethora of starfish, sea urchins and other critters, sunbathing, island hopping, pina coladas at an ocean bar, fresh seafood...what more does one need in life? Probably Dan's most favorite day.
Panama Canal Tour - Can't go to Panama City without a visit to the world famous, over 100 year old Panama Canals. The tour is 5-6 hours and you actually get to navigate through 2 of the locks, living the experience of the raising and lowering of the boat above and below sea level, surrounded by massive boats that trump your tiny tour boat. Tour also comes with a lunch buffet of local cuisine (chicken, rice, beans, plantains). Personally after passing through the first lock, the wonder wore off and Dan and I got bored. We actually ended up falling asleep and drooled all over a table.

ADDITIONAL TIPS
  • Come knowing some Spanish as it's the national language and most know very little English
  • The "official" currency is the Balboa, but the the day-to-day currency is the US dollar.
  • Cab tip - Most rides within the city are $2-3 and the driver will just tell you  a price since there are no meters and the cabs aren't regulated. However, when they notice a tourist, they will charge exuberant fees (we got charged $20 for a mile once) so be sure to name your price before they throw a random number at you.
  • Bring plenty of sunblock, it's hot there!
  • Wifi was widely available
  • Tripadvisor is your best friend here for restaurants and bars!
  • The friendliest and most humble people
  • The oldest and original Chinatown is found in Panama City
  • Don't be afraid to try food from street carts, no matter how unsanitary it looks, it's the best.

Photo Album

PLAYA BONITA RESORT






EXPLORING THE CITY










HIDDEN WATERFALL TOUR







CARIBBEAN ISLAND TOUR











PANAMA CANAL TOUR






Hope you enjoyed the trip down memory lane with us! Dan and I always fall in love with every place we visit and we always express interest in going back, but Panama is definitely a country we will visit again. There was so much we didn't get to do, but really we just absolutely fell in love with the country.

Have you ever been to Panama? If so, what was your favorite part? Would love to hear from you all.

Happy travels,

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