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Panama in February

Hello- my travel partner and I just booked flights to Panama for four full days (six including two travel days) in Panama City during the last week of February. We are beginning the planning process for places to stay and things to do. Is there a forum like this one that is specific to Panama/Central America? Or is anyone here familiar with the area? We are interested in art, the beach, maybe an active day of hiking, the canal, and experiencing local food, drinks, and nightlife. Any suggestions would be great. I will get a guidebook but wanted to start here because this community has always been a great help in planning trips!

Posted by
323 posts

My family has gone to Panama on three separate vacations and all were terrific.

Here are some ideas:

In Panama City
restaurant: Siete Mares - seafood

in the old town area called Casco Viejo (interesting to walk around)
-Casablanca Bar (outside seating by a church)
-Tantalo Rooftop Bar. Beautiful views of the city. Restaurant on the bottom floor.
-La Rana Dorada
-Grapes : fabulous food

Metropolitan National Park (not far from downtown) : saw sloths and tropical birds. View of Panama at top lookout.

Miraflores Locks: great museum with the viewing area.

About 20 - 30 minutes from the locks is the Gamboa Resort ( we have stayed here on 2 of our visits). Very nice, good food, walking around the grounds you'll see wildlife. They also run a small boat tour that goes to see the monkeys in the area.

The book I used was, National Geographic Traveler Panama.

I hope this helps.
Have a terrific holiday!

Posted by
42 posts

Thank you for the suggestions. Always love finding great places to eat and drink.

Have you done any day trips out of Panama City during your visits? We only have 4 days but would like to try to go to Portobelo, El Valle, or maybe one of the nearby islands. We would rent a car if need be.

Posted by
323 posts

We went on an Embera Village tour. I don't remember who we booked I with. The picked us up at the hotel. There were some people who drove themselves to the boa launching area.
We went to Punta Barco to stay with our friends. Took our teenagers surfing at the next beach past Punta Barco.
We drove to El Valle de Anton, beautiful!

Next time we want to go to some of the islands - I think one is isla Boca Brava and possibly parque national Marino Golfo de Chiriqui.

My husband wants to go to Boquete, but you'd need son more days.I 'd like to stay at a resort on the Caribbean side that has huts over the water. I don't remember the name right now, but that could be for another trip.

Posted by
2 posts

Hi Melissa and Brad (and other future Panama travelers travelers)

I traveled solo to Panama late JAn 2015 (used it as a free stop over on an international FF ticket). I was there about a week (which was a little long for only staying in Panama City area). I took most of my advice from the TA travel forums and it was reliable.

Hotel - was very happy with Canal side room/suite at the comfort inn and suites (there are 2 in PC - so get the correct one). Was fantastic to sit on the balcony and watch all the ships go by (also pretty and light with the lights). I tried a 'trick' that worked. Booked 4 nights canal side they next 3 'regular' room and they let me stay in the suite for the same price. Had a mini-fridge that I used for snacks, as the one thing is the TG Fridays restaurant in the hotel gets bad reviews. There is an open air yacht club just down the parkway that is not bad (slow service).

I always look for a 'food tour' but Panama did not really have one. "Rudy' does a 'back market' tour that is interesting 'goes to places normal tourists dont see' it was good and you can try some times along the way (sugar cane juice made from ancient presses, etc.). Also, some of the people on the tour were staying at the small hotel or B & B of Rudy's wife and thought it was nice.

I did an Embrera village tour and though I was worried it would be too touristy, I really enjoyed it - the dug out ride, the demonstrations, and swimming with the children in the river. I went on the one guided by a man who was an actual Embrrera.

I think the true beauty of Panama would be to get to the islands, but you go by twisty roads or small plane or boats and I get very motion sick so did not want to risk it on my own. If you stay at that Canal side hotel, you can actually walk down to the Ferry launch for some of the island tours - I would have liked to gone to the Pearl Islands of Survivor fame (you can do day trip or stay longer).
I used a private driver for trip to and from airport and you have to leave a lot more time than normal due to traffic and the airport 'double' security check (where they will not even let you take an empty water bottle)! Smash it down and re-compact it on the plane and ask the crew to fill with water for meds, in-flight, etc.
I dont like 'taxi cab' negotiations (and they did try to 'take advantage' ) so tried to use the bus system (inexpensive) and the new subway is awesome as much as possible. P.s. For me - the day tour to the PC 'close in' locks was sufficient. They take you up that hill (nice view) and around the old town (as does Rudy) and out on the peninsula and the van driver/guide was good. Oh, I did put a few notes in my contacts: rudy's tours (market)
garceth Embera Pura village (barefoot panama) I try to do 'good value' travel in the Spirit of how Rick does Europe and all of these fit that criteria. Also, you will drive right by the other PC locks when you go to the Embrera boat launch. I am missing the private drivers name/number but he was reliable and had played baseball in the United states if you look for him on TA forum.