Panama City

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Panama City

Panama City is the most metropolitan capital in all of Central America and boasts some of the best nightlife, shopping and dining options that you will encounter on your travels. When you arrive, be sure to check out our extensive dining and nightlife guide and weekly events board, or feel free to ask the staff for personal recommendations. There are many day trips in and around Panama City such as visiting the famous ditch and ruins, going to sporting events, strolling around the old city, visiting native tribes in the jungles of the canal zone or hiking in the nearby highlands.
merecv Casco Viejo is the historic heart of the city. A perfect way to start your day in our neighborhood, and see what the city has to offer. Check out the Presidential Palace, Plaza Bolivar, el Teatro Nacional, Plaza de Francia, la Casa de Cultura, the Plaza de Independencia and Catedral Metropolitano, the Canal Museum, the ruins of Santo Domingo, Plaza Herrera, and la Iglesia de San Merced. If you want to keep on walking, you can follow Avenida Central all the way up to Plaza Cinco de Mayo, where you will find an artisanry market and access to the city bus system.

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Panama Canal

The most famous ditch in the world…and quite impressive at that. Take a trip to Miraflores Locks and watch as the ships are raised and lowered to sea level. The visitor center costs $8 and offers history and info about the building of the canal. To get there you can catch a bus from Albrook Terminal, look for the Gamboa or Paraiso bus to take you to Miraflores, or a cab will cost you between $5-$10 to get to Miraflores but agree on a price before leaving or try the bus! Big boats are usually only going through between 9am and 11:30am and again between 3:00pm and 5:00pm.

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Panama Vieja

Panama Vieja, or Old Panama, was the original city, founded by the Spanish in 1519. The famous pirate Captain Morgan sacked the city, igniting its gunpowder stores and setting the city on fire. The city was then relocated to the current day Casco Viejo, which provided more protection for the city. There are extensive ruins, with the center piece being the Torre Principal. You can catch a bus to Panama Vieja from just around the corner on Avenida B by the police station, or you can catch a cab for around $3 – $5.

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The Causeway

Located on a strip of land that until 1999 was US-owned territory, this long causeway linking three islands on the entrance to the Panama Canal is being developed rapidly. The Causeway is a point of pride for many Panamanians and offers a variety of shopping and dining opportunities, as well as amazing views of the city skyline. You can rent bikes near the entrance to the Causeway (check out the sweet golf cart style bikes that hold up to 5 people, lots of fun!), but you might be surprised at the lack of activity during the day.

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Train to Colon

The historic Panama Canal Railway connects Panama City and Colon. The train is a restored locomotive complete with an observation car for taking in the beautiful views of the canal, Gatun lake and jungle along the way. The trip lasts about 1 hour and costs $22 (one-way), which includes a snack box and coffee. Bring a jacket as the train (like most buses in Panama) is overly air-conditioned. The train departs from Corozal Station (just north of the Miraflores Lockes) to Colon, Monday – Friday at 7:15am and departs from Colon in the evening at 5:15pm. Get more info at www.panamarail.com.

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Isla Taboga

A quick day trip from Panama City, Isla Taboga offers a nice escape from the bustle of the city. The ferry ride provides beautiful views of the city and a nice chance to enjoy the ocean breezes.  You can catch a ferry to Isla Taboga from Isla Naos on the Causeway. The trip costs $11 round trip and takes about 45 minutes. Monday, Wednesday and Friday there is an 8:00am and a 3:00pm boat, other weekdays there is only the 8:30am. Weekends and holidays there is an extra ferry at 10:30am so you can sleep in! You can call the dock with questions at 314-1730 and the taxi ride to the pier should cost around $4.

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Cerro Ancon

Located in a perfect location between the canal, Casco Viejo and the modern Panama City; Cerro Ancon offers amazing views on all sides and is a great way to get a good feel for the city. You can walk to Cerro Ancon from Luna’s Castle in about an hour and a half by walking up Avenida Central and taking a left when you reach the Legislative Palace (with several Panamanian flags out front), you cross the highway (Av. de los Martires) and wind your way up the hill on nice residential streets. The hill is open daily from 6am to 6pm.

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Sporting Events

Try an afternoon at the Horse Races, an evening baseball game, fútbol game or a local boxing match. There are lots of sporting events going on in Panama City at any given time, and for a very reasonable price you can enjoy any of the above activities. During baseball season games take place at the Rod Carew stadium about 3-4 times a week with general entry costing $4, and are a great way to pass an evening with a cold beer and some new friends. When baseball season is over, fútbol usually takes over the sports scene here in Panama, and there are a number of games you can go to. (Luna’s organizes transport to the bigger sports events, sign up at reception).

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National Parks

There are three main parks near Panama City, ranging from open fields and running trails (Parque Omar Torrijos), jungle walks (Parque Metropolitano) or a combination of both (Parque Soberania). Any one of these parks makes a nice escape into nature from the concrete jungle here in Panama City, and can all be reached within 15-45min in a taxi for less than $5 from Luna’s Castle. Parque Metropolitano offers some of the nicest hiking trails in the city, and a variety of wild-life that can be seen if you arrive at the right time (morning or late afternoon is best).

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Shopping

There are tons of shopping opportunities, ranging from the several metropolitan malls to street vendors to artisan stores. Artesanias: Casco Viejo offers several shops selling crafts and souvenirs from around the country. Other great places to shop include the Plaza Cinco de Mayo, which is only a short walk from Luna’s Castle up Avenida Central. There are also many malls here in the city: Albrook Mall is the best mall for the backpacker, with the best prices and the best variety. For a truly metropolitan mall experience, the Multiplaza offers the finest shopping in the city.

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Beaches

There are a few beaches that are accessible in a day trip, the easiest being Veracruz, which is a short 20-min bus ride from the city. Veracruz is the closest to a “local beach” that Panama City has and you will probably find many locals enjoying the sun and fried fish at one of the many restaurants strung along the beach. It isn’t the nicest beach in the world, but is the most easily accessible for a quick beach trip. Also try Coronado, Gorgona, El Palmar, or Santa Clara which are strung along the coast and an hour or more outside Panama City. To get to any of these beaches you can catch a bus from Albrook bus terminal. Veracruz will be a city bus, and the other can be reached on the Santiago or Penonome buses.

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Embera Village

The Embera and Wounan tribes live relatively close to Panama City, and many villages have set up tourism projects encouraging travelers to learn more about their culture and take part in some of their traditions. The closest villages are in the Chagres National Park, which is located about 45 minutes from Panama City. Travel by canoe up the river to the village where the villagers show you their native dances, display their hand-made crafts, take you on a hike through the jungle and you can even get painted with the traditional Jagwa fruit, dying your skin blue for up to a week.