Panama, the crossroads of the hemisphere, has become one of the hottest business and leisure travel destinations in the Americas. With canal expansion underway, the tiny isthmus nation is poised to reap the rewards of being the bridge between the continents.
1. Explore the Canal. The Panama Canal is the lifeblood of the city. A visitor center in Miraflores, just a few miles from downtown, lets guests see the immensity of the locks and view animated shows about its history.
2. Wander Through Casco Viejo. San Felipe (a.k.a. Casco Viejo) is the heart of colonial Panama City and home to sites like El Salón Bolívar where El Libertador in 1826 launched failed efforts to establish a multinational congress. Also check out Panama’s national theater and colonial churches like La Iglesia de San José.
3. Discover the Amador Causeway. At the southern entrance of the canal, the causeway boasts magnificent views of the city skyline and has long stretches to walk, bike or skate.
4. Spend Some Money. If you like affordable quality merchandise, don’t leave without visiting the Panama City malls. Try Albrook Mall on Avenida Marginal or MetroMall on Vía Tocumen, or both.
5. Spoil Your Palate. With Panama’s mix of cultures you can sample some incredibly diverse foods.
Check out Vía Argentina and local restaurant favorite El Trapiche for a Fiesta Panameña combination plate with sample-sized portions of up to seven dishes.
6. Dance. When the sun goes down, Panama’s bars and clubs come alive. Visit the city’s central club area on Calle Uruguay.
7. Get Away to the Beach. With Panama’s almost 1,550 miles (2,500 km) of coastline, it’s impossible not to find a beach. For crystal clear water and legendary beaches, visit Bocas del Toro Archipelago, a 40-minute flight from the city.
8. Pump Up Your Adrenaline. Extreme sports like white water rafting are available within only a few hours of Panama City. Operator Aventuras Panama in Edificio Celma in El Paica offers day-long trips for all levels of expertise.
9. Experience Panama’s Festivals. Learn about the many cultures of Panama by visiting one of the many annual festivals in the interior. Among the best are the Festival of Flowers in Boquete (January 1–10), the Festival of Azuero (April 22–May 2) and the Feria del Mar, a four-day event in September near Bocas del Toro.
10. Walk in the Clouds. If you want to experience the intense beauty of a tropical cloud forest, the Parque Internacional La Amistad (PILA) will stun you with its treasures. Located in the province of Chiriqui, it’s just a one-hour flight from the capital.