July 29, 2014

Panama - Where a Modern Skyline, Historical Splendors, Pristine Beaches & the Panama Canal Await You!


As the plane hovered over Panama City before descending into Tocumen International Airport, I was struck by the city’s incredible skyline. There, shooting out of the ground, were hundreds of modern skyscrapers. Not what I imagined to find in the middle of Central America’s Pacific Coast.  

Dubbed the “Dubai of Latin America”, Panama City is the thriving cosmopolitan capital of Central America known for its international trading and banking. The city is a wonderful fusion of old and new with the centuries-old buildings of Casco Viejo (Old Quarter) juxtaposed against the dense skyline of modern Panama; a skyline that according to my tour guide Jesus, will transform before your eyes.

Panama City boasts a diverse range of culture along with a trendy selection of restaurants, caf├ęs, night clubs and art galleries. The Old Town, declared a Historical Monument by UNESCO, is filled with cobblestoned streets and charming shops selling the famous Panama hat. Its beautifully restored buildings transport you to another era. Still, part of the charm lies in the dilapidated buildings you stumble upon. And there, in the middle of ancient ruins I enjoyed a delicious meal at The Fish Market.

The Panama Canal is celebrating 100 years of connecting the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, and the city is hosting festivities all year long such as the opening of Frank Gehry’s BioMuseo. While visiting the Miraflores Locks visitor center to watch a ship pass through the canal I learned that 38 to 40 ships make this crossing every day at a cost of $100,000 USD per ship that must be paid in cash by money wire. I was surprised to discover that the canal is only the fourth largest source of revenue for Panama; first being the country’s duty free shopping (second largest in the world) with an income of around 23 billion dollars a year; second is the banking industry; and third is the country’s rapidly growing tourism.         

Panama is surrounded by coastline and tropical rainforest, especially green and lush during the rainy season from May to November. Panama offers an incredible array of vacation options for travellers to enjoy a full Panamanian experience by combining their beach stay with a city break.     

During my stay in Panama, I relaxed on the beach and sipped cocktails poolside. I also enjoyed wonderful excursions like snorkelling and swimming at Farallon Island, a scenic drive through the Pan-American Highway, zip-lining over a waterfall in El Macho, shopping at a local market and lunch at La Casa de Lourdes. But I have to say that visiting local communities to witness firsthand the skillful creation of the Panama hat, carved woods and soapstone figures was truly an authentic, educational and humbling experience.

With so much to see and do and such a diverse range of experiences, Panama is a holiday like no other.




Book a city and beach stay in Panama with RIU Hotels and Resorts through Signature VacationsFor more images and information, please visit Travelweek.



4 comments:

Thomas said...

I read recently that the cost of crossing the canal has gone up over the years. It now cost $450,000 for a ship that carries 4500 containers to go through!

Ron Lyon said...

Wow. I'm ready to go

Travelista73 said...

You should go Ron! You will love it!

Travelista73 said...

Ron, when I was there in May those were the standard costs for crossing, but with the extension of the canal more ships can cross and I'm sure that depending on the size of the container that can change too.