I have to start off this post saying that I didn’t love Panama City. I thought some of it was cool, but for the most part, it just wasn’t my thing. Plus, I think I have an aversion to cities that look like big cities because I grew up in New York. And Panama City just has the feel of a big city, like so many other ones I’ve been too. But, that’s not to say that exploring Panama City isn’t worth it. There are some gems in there, and there are definitely some can’t miss activities.
I think I had a bad experience because of something that happened at my hostel, but I will cover that in another post. So, instead of staying in a hostel for my trip, I ended up staying at a family friend’s apartment, just outside the city. It was so nice to have AC, hot water, and home cooked meals, but I do feel like I didn’t get the same experience as I normally would have.
Exploring Panama City
The Panama Canal
There are a few things you have to do while in Panama City. And of course, one of those is visiting the Panama Canal. Now, I pride myself on being pretty transparent about my experiences with you, and the Panama Canal was one of the most anti-climatic experiences ever. Seriously. Ever. I didn’t even take any photos.
So, in order for you to avoid having an anti-climatic experience like I did, I have some tips for you about visiting the Panama Canal.
- Arrive either right when the Miraflores Visitor Center opens at 9 A.M. or arrive around 2 P.M..
- If you arrive at nine, go straight up to the observation deck to see ships coming through, and then go through the museum. If you arrive at two, then go through the museum first, and then make your way up to the observation deck afterwards.
- No boats pass through the canal between 10 A.M. and 2 P.M because the boats are switching directions. I unfortunately didn’t get to see a big ship coming through because I arrived at 1:00 PM. Instead I saw about 13 sailboats that were taking part of a regatta pass through at once. The larger ships, didn’t begin coming through until 2:30/2:45 and I just didn’t want to wait in the heat.
I really enjoyed my time wandering through Casco Viejo. It’s the old town of Panama City and it is just beautiful. It’s filled with old buildings, colorful walls, and interesting people and places. There’s street art, there are art installations, and there are many squares that you can stumble upon and sit at. I sat for awhile just people watching and really enjoyed myself. And of course you can purchase a Panama hat there (the best ones are made in Ecuador, so check the label before you purchase them).
Apparently Selina Hostels (which is where I stayed in Bocas Del Toro) is opening up a hostel this year in Casco Viejo. This will be awesome when it happens because that area of the city also boasts the best nightlife (sadly I didn’t get to experience it for myself). Head to Tantolo rooftop for a great local spot and amazing view.
Would I go back?
Exploring Panama City was cool, but I just didn’t feel a connection to the city. And that happens when you’re traveling. You just can’t always expect to love every place you’ve visited. But, don’t let that stop you. You should absolutely take a few days to visit the bustling city and experience it for yourself. I actually do hope to go back and stay in Casco Viejo so I can see more of the actual city.
Have you ever been to Panama City? Did you love it?
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