Im getting tired of this cold New England winter. Dont' get me wrong, I am a New Yorker, and I can endure the cold and the snow. In fact I welcome it for those weekends we can hit the slopes and do some Snowboarding. But the cold can break you. And I needed a break from the cold. So off we went for a short 4 day escape to Panama City...
Why Panama city? Well for one it is close. An easy 5 hours flight from NYC direct to Panama city gets you there quick. Situated in between Costa Rica and Colombia, the climate is beautiful. mid to high 80s into the 90s during the day, but quite the dry heat I must say. There was always a nice breeze that never made us uncomfortable. The evenings were even better with clear skies, a nice breeze from the ocean clocking in temperatures at 75 degrees. We got a great rate at the new Hard Rock Hotel in Panama City, and we shacked up in a suite with the 4 of us for 4 nights.
Panama City is quite a modern and well built city. The skyline is very impressive, and can go up against most American cities. Modern architecture with avant-garde designs and well built buildings are everywhere. Our new hotel was huge and could not be distinguished from a new structure somewhere in America or Europe. A beautiful patio pool, and a huge roof deck designed for a big party nights under the warm night sky overlooking a lively city view.
So what to do in Panama city? Well if you are staying in the city area, it is just like enjoying any other big city. Exploring the tasty and trendy restaurants, walking the streets and neighborhoods of the town, enjoying the fun night-life scene, and checking out the local sites...
The new up and coming trendy area in Panama City is situated within the "old city".. Casca Viejo is home to what seems like very old buildings and architecture, and a poorer population of people. Those these old buildings and cobblestone roads with random cathedrals and little alleys abutted with little restaurants, shops, and cafe is what gives the niehgborhood its character. You can get everything from old local panmanian food, to haute panamanian food, to italian, sushi, and tapas. We hit up a couple of places, including Las Clamentinas. This is a a tasty cute little restaurant connected to a boutique hotel. It almost had a European Bistro feel to it, or something that Keith McNally helped design. The food was latin flared eclectic food. Very tasty indeed. Also good for Brunch I hear. Another great place was Tantalo Tapas bar. Inside you could have easily been in NYC with is trendy color scheme, lighting, and high long tables. The food was on point, with very large portions as far as tapas go, but everything being as tasty as their descriptions intended. Afterwards we hit their roof for probably one of the best nightlife spots in Panama city where all the trendy locals and ex-pats probably come for drinks in town, and where the riff-raff would not step foot in. Great views of the city and skyline, fun music and people, and comfortable a comfortable breeze make it my favorite lounge in Panama City. Another restaurant again in the old town was Mostaza. Indoor area with the better place to sit being the outdoor square right in front of some old church or cathedral right in a small corner street of the old city. Quite charming, and probably good for a romantic dinner out as well. Serving up tasty panamanian food. Wasnt my favorite restaurant there but it was good and worth the trip to have an evening sitting and eating in their outdoor space.
Aside from food and party we did manage to see the Panama Canal. It is quite the engineering marvel and you must go if you are there. Show up at 8am or 2pm when the ships go by. It is very cool to see how they fill and drain the locks in order for the ships to step across different levels to traverse the canal. It takes 8 hours to get across the whole canal, and a fee of about $250,000!! Add thousands of ships a year to that and it is a killing!
You do have to be careful in certain areas, as there are some seedy joints out there. Prostitution is legal over there, so some places you will go to or walk by, especially certain bars and streets, there will be hookers all over the places. Though they tend to keep to themselves and will only bother you if you engage them, so it is not completely over the top. They are well behaved. The casinos are crawling with them too. But if you leave them alone, they will leave you alone.
There are a lot of cool day trips you can take too, either to the beach or the rainforest or fishing or other little island areas. Ideal is haveing more time to travel around the country as there are some beautiful spots including Bocas and some other cool islands. We unfortunately didnt have the time to hit anywhere else, but the next time we will def make some stop over.
All in all a fun trip that is not too far from NY for a short getaway. If you are travelling Central American Panama should be on your list!