UNDOUBTEDLY THE MOST COSMOPOLITAN CAPITAL in Central America, Panama City is both a gateway to the country’s natural riches and a vibrant destination in its own right. As a thriving center for international banking and trade, Panama City sports a sultry skyline of shimmering glass and steel towers that is reminiscent of Miami. Not surprisingly, the city residents often joke that Panama City is the Miami of the south,’ except that more English is spoken.
Although there’s no shortage of fine dining and chic dance clubs, visitors are often drawn to Casco Viejo, a dilapidated neighborhood of historic buildings and cobbled streets reminiscent of old Havana. Abandoned in favor of more stylish neighborhoods, Casco Viejo lay crumbling on the edge of the sea for decades. However, following an ambitious reclamation of this colonial district in recent years, it is priming itself to charm and enchant visitors once more.
The city’s architectural diversity is rivaled only by its cultural diversity. Urbanites here hail from all over Latin America, the Caribbean, Asia and, increasingly, North America and Europe. Given the ethnic diversity, it’s no surprise that the capital boasts a wide array of restaurants, with everything from Panamanian-style ceviche and bluefin tuna sushi to tikka masala and chicken kebabs. Not far from the city, you’ll also find some impressive adventure opportunities, from hiking through tropical rainforests to skirting along the jungle on a train ride to Colon.
Whether you measure the pulse of the city by the beat of the salsa clubs on Calle Uruguay or by the staccato of the street vendors’ voices in Casco Viejo, chances are you’ll slip into the rhythm of this Latin playground.
From Panama City we embark on our journey to the Pearl Islands, the Azuero Peninsula, Boquete, Boca Chica and Bocas del Toro.