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Panama City

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Panama City at night

Everything you want it to be.....

Panama City is: vibrant, dirty, crazy, wonderful, full of traffic and exhaust fumes, hot, perfumed, fun, exciting, growing, modern, old, sophisticated, beautiful, ugly, tiring, exhilarating!

It is: concrete sky scrapers, modern condos, French-colonial chic, middle class villas, rental apartments, poor tin roofs as well as rain forest on your door step. Basically Panama City is anything and everything you want it to be…..

This expanding city, located at the Pacific entrance of the Panama Canal, has almost one million inhabitants so far. It is a "first world" urban capital in the throes of a major building boom. The dense skyline of Panama City, with its projected 250 high-rise office and condominium towers, is starting to resemble downtown Manhattan or Singapore. High class restaurants, first class hotels and fast food outlets are here for all tastes and pockets. The ghettos in the suburbs are expanding daily too. Juan Carlos Navarro, Panama's current mayor is doing his best to expand the infrastructure of the city in line with its explosive growth.

Panama City

Entertainment is varied: the latest movies along with concerts featuring foreign and local performers of all genres as well as every kind of sporting event are all available in the city (baseball is arguably the most popular sport in Panama and a number of Panamanian players are found in US major league clubs).

The capital City is an important hub for international banking and commerce too, coming only second to Switzerland in importance. It has an advanced communications service, Internet use is widespread and Panama's Tocumen International Airport offers daily flights to many international destinations.

Beaches & Carnival

Of course, Panama City also has exquisite Pacific beaches little more than an hour's drive from the capital city. Their warm temperatures make them a year round destination. People lucky enough to be in Panama City during Carnivale often find themselves overwhelmed at first, but the spirit of celebration quickly rid most people of their inhibitions. Vibrant yet sophisticated, colonial yet modern, mysterious yet welcoming – Panama City defies comparison.

Getting out of Panama City

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Panama City bores you? (heaven forbid!!) You can get out of town or out of the country in a hurry. There is good surfing about three hours north of Panama City. You can visit a stone age people about two hours south of Panama City. You can fly to any number of islands in 20 minutes or less. You can eat breakfast on the Pacific Ocean and drive to the Caribbean for a second cup of coffee in less than an hour. You can fly from here to the Dominican Republic, to Caracas, Venezuela or San Jose, Costa Rica in two hours. You can fly to Miami or to Havana, Cuba in three and to Peru in about four hours. Nice!

For something really different try Penang for a Vacation – Asia's Finest Travel Destination. Discover Great Hotels, Tourist Attractions, Sunny Beaches, Mysterious Temple & more…

The Weather in Panama City


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Panama City has a "tropical maritime" climate, making it a pleasant year-round city to live in or visit. The average daily high is 87°C, and the average daily low is 73°C. The city has a rainy season that stretches from May to December, and a dry season from January to April. October is the wettest month with just over 20 days and 330mm of rain. That doesn’t mean it rains all day of course but probably implies a thunder storm in the afternoon or at night.

Places to Eat

Click here for restaurants in Panama City

Places to Stay

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Places to See in Panama City

Church of San Jose

Golden Alter in San Jose One of Panama City's greatest treasures is the baroque Altar de Oro – the Golden Altar – located in the Church of San Jose.

In 1671, news of pirate Henry Morgan's approach reached the priest responsible for the Church of San Jose. Desperate to protect the church's most valuable possession, the priest painted the altar black. Morgan arrived ready to claim his prize, but the priest was able to convince him that a previous pirate had beaten him to the loot and that the black altar was merely wood.

Legend also has it that the priest even wangled a donation toward a replacement altar from Morgan, which elicited the response, "I don't know why, but I think that you are more of a pirate than I am." Mass is still celebrated at the Church of San Jose, so use discretion when visiting.Also visit Las Bóvedas - The Vaults, a waterfront promenade jutting out into the Pacific.

The Centennial Bridge

The famous bridge that crosses the Panama Canal. It earned the American Segmental Bridge Institute Prize of Excellence together with 7 other bridges in the Americas.

Also see the National Institute of Culture Building and across from it, the French Embassy.

National Theatre

Teatro Nacional is a recently renovated performance center, with outstanding natural acoustics and with seating for about 800 guests.

Mr & Mrs Smith Luxury Hotels

Museo del Canal Interoceánico (Inter-oceanic Canal Museum)

Humans have criss-crossed the Isthmus of Panama for millennia. This museum chronicles the latest chapters of that history, focusing on the time when European excursions searched for a route to Asia, up to the modern era of canal building and administration.

The story is told with photographs, educational videos, and historical exhibits, including original copies of canal treaties. Displays are labelled in Spanish, but if you call ahead, you can arrange a free guided tour in English.

Afro-Antillian Museum

This small but fascinating museum, located in a renovated church, chronicles the history of the Antillean immigrants who helped construct the Panama Canal. Artifacts include household items, musical instruments, artistic works, and photographs of both their new lives in Panama and their ancestral homes of Martinique, Haiti, and Jamaica.

Museum of Modern Art (Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Panamá)

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This facility, Panama's only private museum, showcases both native and international artists. Works on display encompass a variety of media, including sculpture, painting, photography, and silk-screen. In addition to its permanent collection, the museum hosts traveling exhibits, concerts, lectures, and workshops for children and adults.

Church and Convent of Santo Domingo

In San Felipe (Casco Viejo) district of Panama City, see this magnificently maintained chapel, which was constructed in 1756. Inside, you'll find religious paintings and sculpture, sacred relics crafted from silver and bone, and an exquisite gold altar.

Palacio de las Garzas

Heron's Palace: the official name of the presidential palace. There are real herons in the compound.

Summit Botanical Gardens

This small zoo can be found in Soberania National Park, just 20 minutes from downtown Panama City. Among its popular residents are jaguars, scarlet macaws, tapirs, and monkeys – all housed in their natural habitats. The zoo's most prized exhibit, however, is the Harpy Eagle habitat. This species, also Panama's national bird, is the world's largest bird of prey and can reach weights of 20 pounds and boast wingspans of seven feet. Summit is also known for its collection of palm trees – one of the most diverse selections at any garden. The park also offers bathroom facilities, a playground, and a restaurant.

The Parque Natural Metropolitano (Metropolitan Nature Park)

Monkey in Panama This unspoiled urban park covers 655 acres and is only a 10-minute drive north of downtown. The rainforest setting is home to monkeys, white-tailed deer, sloths, and many birds, including orioles, toucans, and parakeets.

Visitors may stroll along several nature paths, the best of which is the 2 kilometer La Cienaguita trail, which affords gorgeous views overlooking the city. A greenhouse with native orchids, a small museum, a library, and a gift shop are onsite. Plus, if you call ahead, you can arrange a guided tour with a park ranger. A veritable treasure of nature, these acres of pristine rainforest host 105 species of mammals, 525 species of birds and 124 species of reptiles and amphibians. In this national park, the best known trail is the Pipeline Road, very popular among birdwatchers.

For more on Bird Watching click here

Recently, a well-traveled travel writer said that she had traveled to the deepest part of the Amazon, but not seen nearly as much nature there as she saw in the Panama Canal Rainforest, just 30 minutes from the modern metropolis of Panama City.

Marine Exhibitions Center

At the Pacific entrance of the canal is the Centro de Exhibiciones Marinas, a research center for those interested in tropical marine life and ecology. Centro de Exhibiciones Marinas is managed by the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute.

Also

Visit the lush jungle island which is a world renowned living laboratory run by the Smithsonian Institute for Tropical Research in Gatun Lake, part of the Panama Canal waterway. A tour will include a boat ride in the Panama Canal and a rainforest hike with a naturalist. Make your reservations with a tour

A new museum, The Bridge of Life Museum, is currently under construction on the causeway and is scheduled to be completed in 2009.

The Salón Bolivar is of outstanding historical importance, as the venue for Simón Bolivar's visionary attempt in 1826 to create a Pan-American congress, more than a century before such institutions became a reality.

A source of quality information about rainforests and rainforest animals, with the special focus on biodiversity conservation. Other sections include environmental pollution, global warming and green investing.

Night Life

Buzz

Punta Pacifica, Panama, 507-226-0333

A fun mix of Latin rhythms and American pop tunes from the 1980s and 1990s, along with a full range of beverages and a cozy dance floor, have made Buzz a popular place among locals and tourists.

Café El BarkoCalle AmadorIsla Flamenco, Panama City, 507-314-0000

On a clear evening, there's no better place to enjoy a sunset view of the Panama Canal and the skyline than at this open-air nightclub on the tip of the Amador Causeway. Panama City's beautiful people regularly flock here to dance and dine under the stars. Although a full bar is available, locals usually stick to the special-recipe sangria – they claim it's the best in town.

El Pavo Real

Calle 51 and Calle 50, Panama City, 507-262-2448

This traditional English pub hops every night of the week. British and American ex-pats frequently gather for pints of Guinness and a game of darts or pool. On most weekdays, happy hour pulls folks in after the work day, letting them escape the daily grind. Of course, you can also indulge in classic bar snacks, like vinegary fish and chips served in a newspaper cone.

Las Bovidas

Plaza Francia, Panama City, 507-228-8068

"Bovedas" means "dungeon," and that's exactly where this bar and restaurant is located – in an old colonial dungeon in San Felipe. Rough stone walls provide immediate atmosphere, and they're a perfect setting for smooth, cool jazz and a cocktail or two. Bands play all weekend and occasionally during the week. Great local color.

Sushi & Martini Bar

Avenida Balboa-Multicentro, Radisson Decapolis Hotel, 0833-0293 • 507-215-5000

Located in the Radisson Decapolis Hotel, the Sushi Bar doubles as a chic Martini Bar, and provides a relaxing escape from the crowds of the city. Sleek and inviting, the bar serves quality sushi and cocktails to a diverse, yet discerning, clientele.

Wine Bar

Calle 55 and Av Eusebio A. Morales, Hotel Las Vegas, Panama City, 507-265-4701

This upscale wine bar is popular with Panama City's young professionals. The beverage selection is broad, with more than 200 wines available by the bottle or by the glass. While you sip, snack on a gourmet cheese platter – the waiters can recommend selections that will best enhance your chosen vintage. Pizza is also available if you crave a heartier snack.

Shopping

Shopping options range from local markets to multi-million dollar super-malls and luxury goods.

Albrook indoor mall offers a wide variety of discount stores and boutiques, as well as a food court featuring Wendy's, Pizza Hut, and Kentucky Fried Chicken. Visit Little Kids for juvenile wear, Enigma for unique adult clothing, and Bijoux Terner for exquisite jewelry.

Venture to Flamenco Island on the Amador Causeway to visit this collection of shops, bars, and restaurants. You'll easily complete all of your travel shopping at this one spot, whose tenants offer jewelry, souvenirs, traditional Panamanian handicrafts, leather goods, cigars, and artwork. Bilingual security guards are always on duty, so you can shop in safety and have translation help if you need it.

Los Pueblos is located near the international airport. This mall is worth a visit even if you have just a layover in Panama. The massive shopping complex is the first stop for local and on-the-road shoppers, since it houses dozens of department and specialty stores. Los Pueblos is known as a bargain hunter's paradise, thanks to a wide selection of discount shops that sell clothing and household goods. A food court offers fast food and has tables where you can rest for a while.

The Amador Causeway has a number of great restaurants, yacht clubs and a duty free shop, it is also a great place to bicycle, jog or walk in the sea breeze, with a great view of the stunning Bridge of the Americas.

Multicentro is Central America's largest mall and is more than just a shopping stop. A casino, a 9-screen movie theater, a nightclub, and 30 restaurants complement the selection of upscale boutiques and shops. In fact, among the resident retailers you'll find are those that sell apparel, furniture, perfume, art, and jewelry. When you need a break, the terrace provides a place to rest and savor the panoramic city view.

Sports and Activities in Panama City

Birding

Two of the world's best bird watching locations: Pipeline Road near Panama City and Achiote Road near Colon.

Click here for more on Birding in Panama

Whale Watching

Take the Panama City to Taboga ferry and spot wales up to 30´ long, alongside the boat. Absolutely beautiful. You can often see humpbacks at Taboga Island too.

You could also contact Dos Mares Tours, www.panamadosmares.blogspot.com, Cell: 6687-8189, email: panamadosmares@hotmail.com, Capt. Alex Peńa

Interested in Whales?

Whale Info - Join us as we learn about whales, whale anatomy, biology and the different whale species. Follow the researchers as they explore the whales and dolphins in the Tonga Trench the second deepest trench in the world.

Fishing

Gatun Lake once the world's largest man-made lake, created as part of the Panama Canal offers excellent lake fishing (it is normal to catch several dozen fish).

Click here for more on Fishing in Panama

Kayaking and Rafting Day Tours

Aventuras Panama offers an exciting one-day Class II rafting trip on the Chagres River and two kayaking day tours in the Panama Canal Rainforest. On one you paddle the Chagres River through lush rainforest and the other from Gatun Lake to the historic Fort San Lorenzo on the Atlantic Coast.

Barro Colorado Island

This is a lush jungle island which is a world renowned living laboratory run by the Smithsonian Institute for Tropical Research in Gatun Lake, part of the Panama Canal waterway. A tour will include a boat ride in the Panama Canal and a rainforest hike with a naturalist. Make your reservations with a tour operator well in advance as tourists are limited to protect the islands' numerous scientific research projects.

Monkey Island Tour

A boat tour in the Panama Canal to the islands in the Canal where at least four types of monkeys are usually observed - this trip is a sure family hit.

Summit Golf Club

Just twenty minutes from downtown Panama City, Summit Golf Club offers extraordinary tropical scenery, a championship course designed by Jeffrey Myers with 18 holes, par 72, 6626 yards and sand-based Bermuda-Tidway grass. The course has the only computerized GPS system in Central America, 100 golf carts, outstanding practice facilities and a beautiful club house.

For information all all the golf courses in Panama Click Here!

Real Estate in Panama City

Panama City currently has an undervalued real estate market; however, as has happened in countries like Costa Rica, Mexico and Ireland, prices have been rising as more people discover the advantages Panama has to offer. As the world goes into a depression prices may fall slightly in the City and 2009 could be a good time to pick up a bargain from an investor who can't complete.

As a potential real estate investor, there are several areas to consider where you will find maximum growth opportunities. Condominiums are growing up like mushrooms in town while some interesting areas are undergoing re-development:

Old Panama Canal Zone

There are also many exclusive residential districts in the old Panama Canal Zone that reverted to Panama in year 2000. Many excellent gated developments with homes and lots are available in Clayton, Ancon, Albrook, and Cardenas, many with 2000 square meters of land. Figure on spending at least $250,000 and beyond for a single family home on a one quarter acre lot and plan for some upgrades and repairs. Several expensive projects with spectacular ocean and city views are being constructed on the Amador Causeway located in the Pacific entrance to the Panama Canal. One such project is “Las Brisas”. This is considered a "hot trendy area". It has cooling breezes all year, great vistas of the city, first class restaurants, marinas, biking, discos, etc.

For advice on buying real estate in Panama go to our Advice page here

Casco Viejo Casco Viejo

One often overlooked jewel of Panama City is Casco Viejo. Don't be dismayed that many of the buildings are in disrepair. Look closer and you will see many remnants of French and Spanish colonial architecture. Some properties are gradually being rescued and have become restaurants, bars, studios and small hotels in an area that could well become another New York City Soho. The Presidential Palace and the National Theater are located here as well as a monument to the French who made the first attempt to build a canal. Purchase and restoration of properties in this area receive incentives from the government in the form of tax exemptions and discounted mortgages, even your rent is tax deductible expense. In a few years this could be one of the most sought-after parts of the city. From apartments to palaces, the opportunities are limitless. For more on Real Estate in Panama City click here

Panama City Today

Urban Planning

Due to lack of urban planning over several decades and very fast recent growth, Panama is now facing several urban problems. With the large number of condominiums and office buildings being built, population density is increasing far beyond what was previously expected.

Neighborhoods like El Cangrejo and El Carmen, originally designed for a density of 10,000 inhabitants per square kilometer (26,000/sq mi) are now reaching 35,000 inhabitants per square kilometer (91,000/sq mi). The city's downtown streets are overcrowded with cars, creating traffic problems exacerbated by the crazy driving of the ‘red devil’ buses.

Panama City has full access to electricity however, potable water, sewer lines, telephone, cable TV service, and internet service. Telecommunications are very advanced after the privatization of the national telecommunication company in the mid-1990s. Cell phone service is also very accessible. Panama City has for years boasted some of the cleanest, best-tasting water in the world. Tap water quality is excellent throughout the City metropolitan areas. However Panama City's water supply piping system is not receiving enough maintenance and this is starting to cause several water-pollution-related problems.

Crime in Panama City

There is a moderate but growing level of crime in the Panama City and Colón areas, and police checkpoints have become commonplace on weekends there. Based upon reported incidents, the high-crime areas around Panama City are Chorillo, Ancon, Curundu, Vera Cruz Beach, Panama Viejo, and the Madden Dam overlook.

Crimes there are typical of those that plague metropolitan areas and range from rape to armed robberies, muggings, purse snatchings, "quick-naps" from ATM banking facilities (in which the victim is briefly kidnapped after withdrawing cash from an ATM and robbed), and petty theft. Panama has seen an increase in the number of crimes in which unlawful weapons were used, as well as an increase in arrests for possession of illegal weapons. There has been a substantial increase in incidents of armed violence in metropolitan areas.

Airport theft is common, and the traveler should not ride in unauthorized taxis or share one with a stranger. Demonstrations occasionally occur with anti-U.S. sentiment and are typically nonviolent. However, one is advised to avoid such demonstrations. The police are generally helpful. Punishment for crime (especially drug trafficking) is severe.

Local laws in Panama

Panama law requires that you carry identification documentation at all times.

Penalties for drug offences are severe and include lengthy prison sentences served in local jails. Possessing even a very small quantity of illegal drugs or being in the company of someone using illegal drugs are grounds for arrest.

Vehicle insurance (including third party) is not compulsory in Panama and many locals drive without it. If you are involved in a car accident Panama law requires you to wait with the vehicle until the traffic police arrive.

Although homosexual acts are not illegal, discretion is highly recommended since homosexuality is not socially acceptable in all areas.

It is illegal to photograph official buildings in Panama. You should check with local authorities before taking photos.

There are curfews for minors (under 18 years of age) in Panama City. Minors violating curfews may be detained at a police station until their legal guardian can arrange for their release.

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