Hanging out in Panama City
We boarded our 11:45pm bus for Panama City, and prepared to hunker down for a 15 hour journey.
I tend to whine every time we take a bus ride that exceeds 8 hours, but it’s never all that bad; although these feelings tend to arise post bus travel.
15 hours later we were tired, sweaty, and hungry, but had arrived in the largest city in Central America.
After house sitting in San Jose for 3 weeks, it was nice to be heading somewhere new.
Panama City is a booming world class metropolis that dwarfs every other Central American city. It is filled with nightlife, contemporary art galleries, local craft brewery’s, and a jazz festival that has been going strong for 13 years.
Cody and I did a lot of exploring on foot, which in our opinion is one of the best ways to get a feel for a place. If a place was too far, we used the subway, which was very simple to navigate.
Casco Viejo was a town that was a tad too far to walk to, so we hopped on the tube, and arrived a few stops later.
This colonial town is a historic district of Panama City, and a UNESCO world heritage site. The old quarter is probably the 2nd most popular tourist attraction next to the Panama Canal.
It is a beautiful town filled with 16th and 17th Spanish Colonial architecture that has been revitalized in the last few years by foreign expats, and investors. It is a vibrant place to visit for the day, and the best part is that it is never over crowded with tourists.
It’s a simple pleasure to just sit at an outdoor cafe enjoying a cold brewed iced tea while people watching. Casco Viejo is the perfect place to do just that.
If you don’t have much time in the big city, the world famous Panama Canal should be at the top of your list of places to visit.
It is one of the seven wonders of the modern world, and considered by some, as one of the greatest achievements of the 20th century.
The place to see the canal is at the Miraflores visitors center. It is an easy breezy 20 minute bus ride from the Albrook station. The bus drops you off right at the visitors centre, so you don’t have to worry about missing your stop.
There is an entrance fee of $15 per person. This includes access to a short film about the history of the canal, as well as walk through a museum with interactive exhibits.
The construction of the canal required over 45,000 people to build, and sadly, several thousand people perished due to accidents, or disease.
This engineering marvel is a 48 mile ship canal connecting 170 countries, and 1,700 ports around the world by linking the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean.
A system of colossal locks help ships navigate the water levels of the canal. In the Miraflores locks, vessels are lifted, (or lowered) 54 feet allowing them to flow to and from the Pacific Ocean. Between 13,000 to 14,000 ships pass through the canal every year, and depending on their cargo size, and volume, some vessels pay upwards of $450,000 in a single toll.
There is a terrace that offers a good vantage point where visitors can stand and watch ships passing through the canal.
We spent a couple hours on the terrace watching ships pass through and being fascinated by the whole process.
You can also sit in bleacher type seats one level below the terrace, and listen to a man on a PA system share information about the canal, and ships passing through.
Visiting the Panama Canal was the highlight of our trip to Panama City. Do not miss it if you plan on visiting Panama’s capital.
Have you ever travelled to Panama City?