I messed up. Not on purpose of course. But I messed up big time and I still feel pretty bad about it. I slept in. We hadn’t really done our research and assumed the ships would pass through the Panama canal throughout the day. We were wrong. Ships pass through around 10am and 2pm, not at midday when we’d arrived, so we completely missed watching the canal in action. Massive fail.
Not to make myself feel too down in the dumps, we persevered. The city awaits!
Here are some things to do in Panama City
Walk around the old town: Casco Viejo
We took a stroll around town and took in the world that once was. Dating back to the 1600’s, the colonial old quarter is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, full of stately buildings, cobblestone streets, charming churches and colonial homes. Here there are an abundance of bars, cafes selling the famous Geisha coffee and restaurants to suit everyone’s taste. We found some cheap tacos, a tasty beer, a rooftop and sipped our first afternoon in Panama City away.
The Panama Canal
Yep, so I messed this one up, so I can’t really go into too much detail. But let me share it with you again: The viewing platform on the top floor is where you can see the Canal in action. But! Be sure to visit during the hours of 9am – 12am and 3pm to 5pm to see it working in real life!
The Canal is an obvious must-see attraction for anyone visiting Panama City, it is afterall one of the country’s greatest achievements. The 80 km Canal connects both the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean’s and honestly, this feat of engineering is pretty fascinating. The best place to see the Canal in all its glory is the Miraflores Visitor Centre, just a thirty-minute taxi or uber ride from the CBD. We skipped the 3D movie and just checked out the museum and the viewing platform to learn more about the Canal’s rather dramatic history, thanks to the French and eventually the U.S!
The Amador Causeway and the Biodiversity Museum
We spent the afternoon walking along the open promenade of the Amador Causeway. This broad strip of land connects Panama City with Amador Island, providing extensive views of the city skyline. From here there are literally hundred of cargo ships littered around the bay waiting to move through the canal. Once you reach Amador Island, there are plenty of restaurants should you need a cool beverage or a bite to eat.
On our way back from lunch we ducked into the Biodiversity museum. This colourful building is the work of the famous futuristic architect Frank Gehry. The vibrant angular roof stands out against the calm blue waters of the ocean that surrounds it. Inside, there is an abundance of exhibitions covering topics like the biodiversity of all living things, the human evolution, and how Panama was created via a “living bridge.”
Take a day trip to Tabago Island
After two and a half days in the city, Moo, Soz and I caught a ferry to Tabago island on the Pacific Ocean side, believe it or not but it really did remind me of Procida, Italy – just without the delicious food.
See a SLOTH!!!
Having sadly missed out on a decent sloth sighting in the wild, I succumbed and visited the sloth sanctuary at Gamboa Rainforest Resort in Panama City. It took me a forty-minute uber ride from Panama City CBD as I ventured alone (Moo was indifferent). But that didn’t matter because I was FINALLY able to satiate my need of seeing a sloth up close. It didn’t disappoint.
The sloths at the sanctuary were all rescued (from road accidents or from residential areas), rehabilitated and eventually put back in the wild. You’re not allowed any contact with the sloths and honestly, I was really impressed with their responsible methods of allowing tourists in for a sneak peak at the lazy brown blobs! Here are my favourite facts about sloths, since you obviously are dying to know:
- Sloths sleep between 10-15 hours a day
- Their diet consists mostly of leaves, which gives them minimal energy for movement
- The three toed sloth can turn its head 360-degrees!
- Sloths go to the loo once a week!
Check out the trendy food truck scene in San Francisco
This metropolitan district is complete with a gigantic shopping mall, huge cinema complex and a busting local park Omar Torrijos. (A super chill place for an evening run.) What San Francisco is most reputable for is the trendy food truck scene, scattered all over the district. Which was helpful because Panama was much more expensive than we expected and we found some delicious eats in our area. FYI: Antiburger was a real treat and their plant-based burgers were delish!!
I will say this though, our final meal in San Francisco at Muelle 67 was an absolute delight. Super laid back serving fresh lobster straight from the tank to table. It was divine. I almost worry how I’m going to go back to my everyday life without lobster once a month? SOS!!
Overall, we found the food scene in Panama was a little lacking. While we didn’t love the traditional Panamanian food (their stable dish is chicken and rice). We seriously enjoyed the famous chicken soup on offer Sancocho which felt like legitimate chicken soup for the soul. And I can’t not mention my favourite snack in Panama, the plantain’s! Give me a fried plantain over French fries anyday!!
Sadly this will be my last post about our travels in Panama. Overall it’s been a hot, humid and honestly eye opening destination. Next week will land you smack bang in Mexico City.
Until then xo