Panama is nicknamed the center of the universe mostly because of its location right in between the Americas but also for its beautiful man made canal that acts as a gateway for world wide importing and exporting, cruises and canal tours galore. Panama city holds endless treasures for all types of travelers. The city is about 2 hours from some of Panama’s best beaches and resorts but is worth a stop on your way to the coast.
I was lucky enough to be recommended a tour guide by our hotel that took us on a full city tour for $70 including the Panama Canal and Ancon hill, which holds the best view of the entire city. Booking tours through a site that offers the trip package is convenient but can often be overpriced. Never hesitate to ask your hotel staff or locals about reliable tour guides and tour services. It can save you a lot of money on excursions. Many cab drivers offer tour services and can be negotiated but always be sure you have found a reliable guide.
Our first stop for the day was of course was the Panama Canal; the canal spans 48 miles and connects the Atlantic with the Pacific Ocean. It was made over a course of 10 years and by the hands of over 75,000 laborers and considered to be one of the man made wonders of the world. There’s no doubt that you’ll enjoy a visit to the canal. Prices to enter are approximately $5 USD and include entry to the 4-story museum and short movie in the museum’s theater.
One winding, narrow road up hill and you reach Ancon, which in my opinion(many others would agree) is the best view of the entire city. The area on top of the hill used to be exclusive for American soldiers and was used as their base, which explains the unparalleled views and discrete location. Now it is open to the public and offers the best views and photo opportunities for visitors.
One thing I heard several times when I told friends and family about the trip was the duty free in Panama, who could pass up the chance to bring back goods for cheap?! Definitely not me. The Fuerte Amador resort & marina has a wide variety of shops for everyone’s taste. It’s location is perfect for a nice lunch by the water after shopping and just a 10 min drive from the inner city.
Driving through the city is of course a must do but it’s best to ask your tour guide or taxi driver to add the city drive to the end of the ride or in between because there are certain red zones in the city that you do not want to drive through. The locals know which areas to avoid best and hotels staff will always steer you in the right direction.
If your trip package just includes Panama City, do not worry! A beach day is more convenient than you think. For just $50 USD you can rent a car for the day, grab a map and take a quick 2 hour road trip to the coast. You’ll want to leave early in the day to get the most out of your beach excursion but also to allow yourself to drive back before its dark. Getting around the city at night can be confusing because of their unique street system.
All the beaches on the coast are aligned with each other, it is up to you how far you want to drive or how prestine you would like your beach to be. I chose Santa Clara beach, a small, discrete beach where thankfully we were some of the only people one the beach.
It was the perfect day trip and great way to experience both the serene coast of Panama as well as their beautifully architecture busy capital.
The best rental car rate I found was through Payless car rental;
other sites I searched were;
Be sure to get a few quotes before booking because prices can fluctuate greatly for similar vehicles depending on the car rental facility.