Panama is a country of 2,000 islands, volcanoes and rainforests located between the Pacific Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean. It is where you can wake up to a Pacific Ocean sunrise and experience an Atlantic Ocean sunset with a cocktail in hand of course!
We were pleasantly impressed with Panama.
Our first experience was Boquete, just a 60km drive from the Costa Rican border. We had a housesitting assignment in the mountains above Boquete town with an impressive view of the active Volcan Baru, which is the highest land point in Panama.
Boquete which was founded in April 11, 1911 is a lively music and arts centre. It is a popular retirement destination for Expats.
Boquete offers the traveller many outdoor adventures such as hiking, horse riding, ziplining and rafting.
Enjoy the Tuesday Market between 9am and 12pm at the Community Centre across the Feria Bridge that spans the Caldera River.
Two restaurants that we enjoyed were Sugar and Spice, great for local artisan bread, coffee and meals.
The second one was Retrogusto, a newly opened Italian Restaurant by a Singaporean chef. Great food and ambience here, well worth a visit, but don’t forget to book the locals are loving it.
We stayed at Hostal del Refugio for 3 nights, one of those nights was spent in the Tree House. A great location by the river.
Buses run from David (approx 1 hour drive from Boquete) to Panama City regularly. The journey takes about 8 hours and costs USD15 per person.
Panama City is a modern city rivalling Singapore and Dubai with it’s high rises and its sophistication.
We stayed twice at the Mediterranean Dreams San Francisco located at Avenida Los Fundadores (5C Sur) Entre calle 72 y 71 Este de San Francisco. The Multiplaza Shopping Centre is located 300m away. Free breakfast and wi-fi was included. It is close to the city and you can reach the Costa Cintera (Panama’s newest parkland area) within 30 minutes walking.
Panama’s largest tourist drawcard, and it should be too! It is one of the world’s most amazing man made feats.
Some facts and figures for you:
- The Panama canal was completed in 1913 and officially opened in 1914
- It is a vital shipping link between the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean
- There are two locks one at Gatun and the other at Miraflores
- Takes between 8 – 10 hours to sail through
- Currently up to 14,000 ships pass through each year
- Tolls for the largest ships can reach as high as $450,000
- 2007 a new expansion program began to accommodate larger post-panamax ships
- Sunday June 26,2016 should see the first Neo Panamax vessel sail through – it belongs to China’s Cosco shipping and the vessel is Andronikis
- The Miraflores Centre is open between 9am and 4.30pm. Entrance fee is USD15 per person. The lock closes at lunch time so ensure you either visit early in the morning or after 2.30 on the afternoon.
Iglesia de Santo Domingo is one of the most important ruins on Casco Viejo.
Casco Viejo was first settled by colonialists from Spain during 1673. UNESCO declared this a World Heritage Site in 1977. When you wander through the streets in the small neighbourhood of 16th and 17th century colonial spanish architecture it brings to mind images of Cuba that we are now seeing. The once dilapidated buildings are being brought to life and now are classy hotels, restaurants or private homes.
Enjoy a drink at the Havana Club or a meal at one of the top restaurants, or just sit and watch the local bands playing at Plaza Bolivar, or just wander and get lost.
El Mercado del Mariscos
At the entrance to Casco Viejo you will pass the fish markets or El Mercado del Mariscos. There are many restaurant choices available and it is a firm favourite of the locals and tourists alike. Fresh fish meals start from around USD8 per person.
Conquistador Pedrarias Davila founded Panama Viejo in 1519. It is the oldest settlement by Europeans on the Pacific Coast of the Americas. It survived slave rebellion, a fire and an earthquake but tumbled after a pirate attack during 1671. In 1997 it was declared a world heritage site by UNESCO.
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