We decided that whenever one of our team members takes a vacation, they are assigned a photo essay, so it feels like we were right there beside them. Our first assignment went to Jessica, our Marketing Director, who took a jaunt to Panama. Follow her recap below with photos of architecture, locals, food, beach life, and a little bit of history.
I’ve been to a few countries in Central America, but upon my arrival in Panama City, I was very impressed by how cosmopolitan it was. With new architecture, different neighborhoods, and a thriving shopping scene it’s definitely a place where an ex-pat could comfortably live.
No visit to Panama would be complete without a tour of the Panama Canal, the reason for Panama's nickname as the 'international crossroads'. After a short movie and an interactive museum tour, I made it out to the viewing platform. Unfortunately, I didn't time my visit to see a ship come through, but the locks were impressive in themselves, having just learned the process of this man-made wonder.
Casco Viejo, or 'Old Town', is the latest area of Panama City to undergo a restoration process. A delightful combination of historic and modern architecture, at times side by side, one can enjoy fine restaurants, cafes, upscale hotels, hostels, great souvenir shopping and a lively nightlife. While there are still some streets that one shouldn't wander down alone at night, the Spanish Colonialism of this part of the city brings a nostalgic curiosity to most travelers.
While in Casco Viejo, there was one place I had to see on my list, the American Trade Hotel - a restored landmark owned by the popular Ace Hotel group. And of course, the design was spot-on, adding a modern element while staying true to the Spanish Colonial architecture. My favorites were the tile floors in the lobby restaurant as well as the oversize macrame wall-hangings.
BOCAS DEL TORO
After a short 1 hour plane ride, I was on the Caribbean side of the country in the colorful seaside-town of Bocas Del Toro. Bocas is actually an archipelago made up of several islands each with a personality of their own. To get from island to island, there are water taxis. The image above is a view from the water taxi of the ‘Old Bank’ neighborhood on Isla Bastimentos.
Although it’s a mere 10-minute boat ride from main island of Bocas del Toro, Isla Bastimentos is a different world. Home to a marine national park, I chose to stay on the remote side of the island at an eco camp resort called Palmar Tent Lodge. With large canvas tents nestled in the trees with views of the ocean, a short walk brought me to some of the most beautiful wilderness beaches I have seen, complete with an array of wildlife.
Different tours are offered all over Bocas del Toro to suit a wide array of travelers. I opted to do the Organic farm + Chocolate tour. Perched on the highest hill in Bastimentos, a husband and wife team built an eco-friendly home and farm that holds great respect for the environment, using solar panels and recycled wood from their reforestation project. The tour was finished off with a tasting featuring different treats you can make using the popular cacao beans.
The people of Panama are warm and friendly, happy with their simple day-to-day activities. My favorite thing to do was chat with the local kids, who were patient when it came to my Spanish practice. And there were a few handsome gatos wandering around that liked to pose for pictures as well.
On the main island of Bocas Town, it was easy to start to feel like a local. One of my fave spots to relax was the Indi lounge. With a spiritual, inviting atmosphere and ocean views it was hard not to unwind with a cup of tea here. The Super Gourmet down the road is a small grocery store with a famous sandwich spot in the back. The grocery store is basically the mini-equivalent of our Whole Foods, with lots of imported goods for the ex-pats that live in Bocas.
And that's all for my photo essay of Panama. I would certainly go back for more though!