Parenting & Travel Blog with tips, guides, reviews and honesty about family travel and parenting.

Monday, January 28, 2019

Panama City




I just might be a really cool hip, in-the-know kind of mom. Or maybe I've got special psychic powers that I need to foster for world domination. Or maybe I'm just clueless and a little lucky? Yeah that's probably the most accurate one. Panama has been in pretty much EVERY 2019 travel list from Vogue to the New York Times. And lookey here kids - this mama took ya'll already.

We ended 2018 with a trip to Panama - one to be completely honest that I wasn't excited about. The hubs lived there waaayyyy back before it was cool and has raved about it for the last 167 years (ok maybe not that long). But honestly Panama? I. LOVE. YOU.

Our original itinerary was supposed to be city - sea - mountains, but some unforeseeable changes had to be made and we ended up exploring Panama City, flying to the Bocas Del Toro islands in the Caribbean Sea and then driving across the continent(!)to the Pacific Side.

You'd think having a former Panamanian Resident in house would mean I wouldn't need to research anything right? That I'd have all the details of what to see, do, eat and where to stay right? Nah. So I decided to enlist the help of Ciao Bambino, an award winning global family travel agency to help us plan our 10 day epic Panamanian family trip.
Our experience with our travel advisor at Ciao Bambino was amazing! 

STAY: Our time in Panama City was spent at the The Bristol Panama, considered to be one of the city's most luxurious hotels, and is centrally located in the heart of the financial district. The Bristol is a lovely boutique hotel with spacious interconnecting rooms that provided comfort in a modern metropolis. Perfect for families and mamas who like their luxury.

We took a tour at The American Trade Hotel in Casco Veijo, and loved the restored old world charm and close proximity to great restaurants and bars. It is a great location if you want to get around by foot and see this historic neighbourhood. 


Lobby at The Bristol


Spacious Rooms at The Bristol


Views inside The American Trade Hotel


The dining room at The American Trade Hotel


Casco Veijo
DO: Honestly - where to start? Ok, how about with the obvious - the Panama Canal. This engineering marvel is truly spectacular. Try to get there early so you can witness a ship going through the locks, and take in all that the museum has to offer. It can be crowded, but lots of interactive exhibits, a movie, drinks and snacks for purchase, a gift shop and air conditioning to make this great for families.





Panama Veijo: A World heritage site, it is the remaining site of the former capital and old Panama City. Easily accessible, and with a museum and some fascinating ruins, it's a look into the rich history of Panama. 



Look kids - old buildings! Middle one isn't so easily impressed


Distant View of a structure in Panama Veijo

Casco Veijo: The Old Quarter that was built after PanamaVeijo was sacked by pirates
(See kids? History is cool!). Over 300 years old, this area has had a recent resurrection with buildings being restored to their original architectural glory  This relatively small area is packed with things to see including The Presidential Palace,  stunning churches such as the Plaza de la Independencia, San Jose Church and Metropolitan Cathedrallots of wonderful cafes, restaurants and bars, as well as colourful alleyways to explore with amazing views of the new modern Panama City across the water.


Casco Viejo










Views of the New City from The Old City

San Jose Church


Metropolitan Cathedral



Portobelo Colon:  We rented a car for the day and drove from Panama City, through the Gamboa Rainforest up to the Atlantic Side. It's a pretty neat thing to be able to say you've been to both sides of the continent in one day! 
We went up to the city of Colon which is also a sea port to the Atlantic side of the Panama Canal. It is known as the "second city" in Panama. But it offers a very different landscape from the modern sky scrapers of the first city,
From Colon we drove along the coast to The Fort in Portobelo. For history buffs, this area has so much to share, and for kids its a great place to explore forts up close and first hand. 




City of Colon

Portobelo, perfect for exploration

Accessible history

DO MORE: 

- Shop! Panama City has great shopping including high end malls such as The Multi Plaza and Soho shopping complexes. They are great for a break from the heat with many kid friendly amenities.
- For more authentic souvenirs, check out one of the many craft markets such as the Municipal Handicraft Center Panamenas or Balboa Artisan Market.  Everyone needs a Panama Hat to add to their wardrobe! (Fun Fact: Panama Hats are originally from Ecuador!)
- Grab a cab and head over to the The Amador Causeway where you can rent bikes, roller blade or walk the 3 km stretch along the Pacific ocean. Stop for drinks or food at one of the many restaurants and cafes along there.
- While we didn't get  a chance to visit this time, The Biomuseo looks to be a fun, colourful tribute to Panama's natural history. 
- The Gamboa Rainforest - a jungle only 30 minutes away from the city! So many activities to do here from bird watching, to a boat ride on the Gatun Lake, to visiting a local tribe, to taking an aerial tram over the jungle and much more!

EAT:


Some of the highlights include : - empanadas(at airport!) 
                                                    - coffee from Boquette
                                                    - fresh ceviche (check out the Fresh Fish Market in Panama City)
                                                    - Fonda La Sexta - where they not only serve up delicious eats but 
                                                      they also empower women by helping them learn skill sets for 
                                                      gainful employment.
                                                    - Laboratorio in Casco Veijo, where the food was delicious, 
                                                      and decor was charming!
                                                    

Fresh Fruit Bowl 

Casco Veijo is full of great places such as Laboratorio



Laboratorio


My kids said these empanadas were their favourite meal in Panama! Found at the local airport

If you are thinking of doing some travel (and who isn't?), take a look at Panama - so much to do within the city, and so much to do in the rest of the country. Head over to my post about our time at Isla Palenque and about the Bocas for more travel tips about Panama.




















































































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