3 Reasons to Pack Your Bags for Panama City

The canal is just the beginning.

By Nell McShane Wulfhart

Panama City, Panama, has undergone a revitalization in recent years, giving this cosmopolitan metropolis new appeal beyond its (admittedly thrilling) canal. Here, three reasons to consider this vibrant city for your next vacation.

Play: The Boardwalk

The Amador Causeway, a strip of land that reaches out into Panama Bay, recently underwent a massive renovation, turning it into a lively boardwalk sporting green parks, play areas for kids, bike lanes, and outlooks from which you can watch container ships entering the Panama Canal. It draws local families, tourists, and active types (you can rent bikes here and cruise down the causeway to get the best views). The boardwalk is also home to the Frank Gehry–designed Biomuseo (Amador Causeway; 011-507-830–6700; adults, $18*; children 17 and under, $11), which houses exhibitions on the country’s extraordinary biodiversity, as well as the Smithsonian’s Punta Culebra (Amador Causeway; 011-507-212-8793; adults, $7; children 12 and under, $1), a family-friendly nature center—with its own forest trails!—that takes a hands-on approach to teaching visitors about Panama’s marine animals and wildlife.

Explore: The Historic District

Casco Viejo, the city’s historic district, is on its way to becoming one of the trendiest neighborhoods on the continent. There’s now an even easier way to get around—and it’s free. In August, an electric bus began chugging its eco-friendly way around colonial-era Casco Viejo, past the area’s majestic churches—many newly restored in anticipation of the Pope’s visit in January 2019. Tourists can hop on or off at Plazas Herrera, Carlos, or Bolívar, making it simpler than ever to get to know this captivating and historic neighborhood.

Eat: The Food

The cobblestoned streets of Casco Viejo are increasingly lined with forward-thinking restaurants and hip bars whose mixologists play with Panama’s exotic fruits and herbs. Travelers can stop at The Strangers Club (B St. and Av. Central; 011-507-282-0064; drinks for two, $24) for tropically inspired cocktails, or Ochoymedio (José de la Obaldía St., between Eighth and Ninth Sts.; 011-507-209-4185; site in Spanish; dinner for two, $80), a restaurant specializing in international flavors where plates of ceviche and steak yakitori are served in a romantic garden.

  • *Prices have been converted to U.S. dollars. Estimated meal prices do not include drinks, tax, or tip.
  • NOTE: Information may have changed since publication. Please confirm key details before planning your trip.
  • Published: October 2018