Last year, I visited Panama City, Panama for a family wedding and I have not stopped dreaming about it since. The city is bustling, the food is amazing, and there’s so many opportunities to explore within the city itself and just outside of it. It was truly one of my favorite places I’ve ever been to, and I cannot wait to find an excuse to go back. Read on for my favorite spots and recs.
WHERE TO STAY
We stayed in the oldest part of Panama City, Casco Viejo (Old Quarter) and I would highly recommend. It is this beautiful, historically rich area that feels hidden away from the high-rises of downtown but is still very centrally located. Everything was so walkable and the architecture is stunning.
CENTRAL HOTEL: We stayed here for our first few nights during our trip and it was genuinely a great hotel experience. The service was wonderful, their coffee was our favorite (we still talk about it!), and they have a roof pool with lovely views of Casco Viejo.
AMERICAN TRADE HOTEL: We actually switched to the American Trade Hotel for our last few nights because I was dying to see it. It was designed by the Los Angeles firm Commune Design and was originally opened by the Ace Hotel group. The hotel has since been sold by Ace, but remains a unique boutique hotel experience and is ideal for the design-seeker.
WHERE TO EAT + DRINK
Neuve (previously Ochoymedio): One of our favorite meals during our trip. Do not miss the ceviche!
Donde Jose: Go here for a one-of-a-kind dining experience. The restaurant aims to tell the story of Panama through their cuisine, and they do just that. You will try dishes with ingredients unique to Panama and learn about Panamanian cooking traditions. Well worth the splurge.
Pedro Mandinga: I didn’t know I enjoyed rum so much until this trip. Go to this distillery’s bar outpost in Casco for delicious drinks and a charming atmosphere.
Danilo’s Jazz Club: An intimate club connected to the American Trade Hotel that you wont want to miss. It was the brain child of renowned pianist, Danilo Perez, who also started Panama’s annual Jazz festival.
WHERE TO EXPLORE
If you’re looking for adventure, I’d recommend taking a trip out to the San Blas islands. These are an archipelago of over 300 tropical islands facing the Caribbean Sea. It’s a bumpy ride there through forest, but so worth it. We used a local company and bought a day ticket that took us to several islands by car and boat, included a fresh fish lunch (caught and prepared on the spot!), and a brought us back to our hotel.