Late last year I had got the opportunity to visit Panama City and Cuba. This trip had many first for me, like the first time traveling to a Latin country (that wasn’t Mexico), first time traveling with friends, and first time going to tropical place. I couldn’t have asked for a better trip. Both countries were amazing places to visit and my travel partners had great attitude that carried though-out the trip. We started the trip with a stop-over in Panama City. I wasn’t expecting much from this place, but was utterly surprised on what Panama had to offer.
Day 1: Casco Viejo, Panama City
The first day we visited Panama Old City, Casco Viejo. This is for sure the jewel of the city. The best way I would describe it is a tropical version of New Orleans. Many of the buildings are now being renovated to meet the new young crowd needs. There are cute cafes, hip restaurants, and stylish boutiques on every block
We decided to treat ourselves to a fancy diner since it was Thanksgiving day. We had dinner at Donde Jose. It is considered on the the top 50 restaurants in the world. The chief prepares his version of the Panamanian cuisine in a 7 course dinner. As waiters serves the plates they would give you a bit of history of Panama cuisine.
Day 2 Panama Canal & Punta Paitilla
The next day we booked a trip to the Rainforest and the Panama Canal. Most latin countries where it takes hours to get to the rainforest, in Panama it is only about 30 minutes away from the city.
I had very low expectation on going to canal, but I was blown away on the experience. To build the canal they had to flood a rainforest, which means there are several islands with wildlife. There are monkey on islands that visitors are allowed to feed, due to lack of vegetation on for the monkeys on their island.
After the Panama Canal, we walked through the rainforest in Soberania National Park. The rainforest in Panama has more types of vegetation and wildlife per square mile compared to any other rainforest. This means that the chances of seeing animals up and close are high. For examples we got to see 2 sloths a few feet away just hanging out.
Our tour guides were nicest people and they even dropped us off at the Panama Gates after the tour. My friends and I unfortunately missed the boats crossing the Panama gates, but we did get the history of the canal in the museum. The canal is a engineering master piece.
At night, we visited the Punta Paitilla neighborhood, where the skyscrapers are at. We got recommendation on where to go by the tour guide. We had drinks at a speakeasy bar, which was located behind a Mexican restaurant, called Mordida De Burro. Next we headed to Hard Rock Hotel for some dancing. Unfortunately after a long day we ended the night early.
Day 3 Emberak Village & Night Life
Panama City is small and we didn’t have any plans for the day. Thankfully our tour guide, from the day before, invited us to join thier next day tour. We started the day hiking through the Soberania National Park rainforest to swim in waterfall. We didn’t have paved trails, so we had to be careful not to slip and fall into the water. The waterfall was worth the hike! It was my first experience swimming in a waterfall. After the hike they took us to a indigenous village, Emberak. The natives talked about their culture and provided us lunch.
We wanted to ended Panama City with a bang we decided to go out that night. We first went to Relic. According to our tour guide this place is a favorite of the locals. Apparently it has a different environment depending on the night from a chill bar to a crazy dance club. We ended the night at Tantalo, rooftop style bar-club perfect for a night out dancing. We decided to stay out late and just sleep at the airport. The next day we were flying out to Cuba.
For those who have never consider coming here I would highly recommend it for a long holiday weekend. It has everything from old Spanish style neighborhood to city skyscrapers and short drive to the rainforest. I would even dare to say it was my favorite part of the trip.