12 reasons to visit Panama

Hub of the Americas

Panama has long been a cultural crossroads for the world. Grandiose, dramatic, spanning an entire continent: the Panama Canal is synonymous with the country it bisects. The world´s most concentrated highway of commerce, in fact, birthed the nation of Panama, and cosmopolitan Panama City basks in wealth brought by the canal´s liquid power.


Mouthwatering Food

Panama´s uniquely flavorful native cuisine melds indigenous, Spanish, and African influences into a mouthwatering mélange of dishes. The fusion of international flavors abounds in Panama City, which competes with metropolitan cities around the world for the variety and quality of its cuisines. And gourmands will find no shortage of hip fusion restaurants.

Kaleidoscopic Landscapes

Despite its diminutive size, Panama is a microcontinent unto itself. Its landscapes are kaleidoscopic, and scenery changes around every corner. The terrain varies from rain forest as lush as the biblical Garden of Eden to cloud forest steeped in swirling mists atop the volcano. From semi-desert to jungle-like mountain forests, Panama´s range of terrains reflects the full diversity of the tropics, and each region is as distinct as a thumbprint.

Chagres National Park

Luxuriant Flora & Fauna

Panama is a meeting point for the biota of the two Americas. The bountiful country hosts more than 10,000 known plant species, including more than 1,500 varieties of trees and at least 678 fern species, some 13 feet tall with fiddlehead fronds that could grace titanic cellos. Ornithologists´ hearts take flight in Panama, which boasts an astounding 960 species of birds, 12 of them found only here.

Sloth at San Lorenzo NP

Distinctive Culture

From Afro-Caribbean rhythms to classical music and racy jazz tunes, Panamanians are proud of their vibrant cultural scene. The country is incomparably rich in folkloric tradition. Classical and contemporary music are vibrant avatars of the nation´s lively cultural spirit, recalling rich indigenous traditions that predate the Spanish arrival.

Panamanian Carnaval

Grandiose Panama Canal

Simple in conception, monumental in scale, and a work of genius in design and construction, the Panama Canal is a supreme triumph of humanity over nature. The largest and the most costly human endeavor ever mounted to its day, the canal´s completion cut ten days off the sea passage around the Horn and elevated the nation to a position of supreme strategic importance.

Cosco Panama neo-Panamax ship crossing the new locks

Breathtaking Historic Sites

Founded on August 15, 1519, as the first city along the Pacific shore, the Old Panama is today a national monument and an archaeological treasure. A restoration project has resurrected parts of the ancient enclave, allowing visitors to appreciate what was once one of the wealthiest cities of its time.

Santo Domingo church at Casco Viejo

Cosmopolitan Panama City

World-class on many levels, this vibrant financial capital teems with cosmopolitan restaurants, hotels, and nightlife. The historic quarter is chock-full of churches, small museums, and pocket-size plazas, while nature and the Panama Canal are never far away. At once both colonial and contemporary in mood and setting, Panama City is the most sophisticated metropolis between Miami and Maracaibo.


Top-of-the-class Hotels

Panama City is blessed with top-of-the-class hotels to international standards. These range from small, family-run boutique hotels that combine intimacy and charm to high-rise international chain hotels, with a great number of rooms and with splendid business and convention facilities. Several hotels have casino, too!

Hotel Buenaventura by Authograph Collection

Shopping Mecca

As a major crossroads of the world, Panama is a shopping mecca, not least for such high-end goods as jewelry and designer clothing. The Colon Free Zone is one of the world´s largest free-trade zones that supplies many retailers in Panama City, which pass on the benefits from low freight costs.

Soho mall Panama

Sparkling Nightlife

You don’t have to experience 5 days of Carnaval to know that Panamanians are party-loving people. When the sun goes down, Panama City lights up with a vibrant scene that caters to all ages, interests, and levels of stamina.

Lazotea rooftop bar & restaurant

Stunning beaches

Uniting Central America with South America, with coastline along the Caribbean Sea, the Pacific Ocean and thousands of beautiful islands, Panama is home for some of the most picturesque and brathtaking beaches of our planet. A little country in Central America that has all you looking for and more. Whether you are looking to relax in calm and clear waters or searching for something that will make you feel alive such as surfing or snorkeling, Panama has got you covered. Read our guide to get inspired for your next trip.

Portobelo, the abandoned jewel of the Panamanian Caribbean, sees light at the end of the tunnel

Portobelo is one of the places with the longest history in Panama and also one of the most abandoned. It was the land of pirates and conquerors and has been forgotten for years, although the announcement of a millionaire restoration plan has restored its neighbors’ hope.

“They have always turned their backs on us and the saddest thing of all is that Portobelo is a gold mine, but we have to exploit it touristically,” said Rafael González, a young man who manages a small and improvised parking lot at the entrance of the town and that in his spare time he also works as a boatman.

Nestled on the shores of the Caribbean Sea in a homonymous bay and guarded by three forts, Portobelo was one of the most important American ports during the colonial era, through which most of the riches that Spain embarked towards Europe from the conquest of America passed. 

“In this bay the first battle between the English and Spanish troops (1739) won by the famous officer (Edward) Vernon took place. Portobelo Road, London street, is named for this contest,” said Lourdes Gutiérrez, coordinator of a foundation that seeks to make visible the cultural richness of the town.

“The rest of the pirate (Francis) Drake also rests in these waters and the English come every so often to try to recover them. There are sunken galleons and the crabs keep taking coins,” she added.

That splendid and effervescent past contrasts with the current desolation. The stray dogs loiter in the square, the children play among the mountains of garbage and the pipes empty their black waters in the streets, while abandoned sailboats sink in the bay and the lush jungle eats the forts.

In fact, colonial fortifications were included in 2012 on the List of World Heritage in Danger of the United Nations Organization for Education, Science and Culture (Unesco).

“I have almost no grandchildren left, everyone has gone to the city; there is very little to do and living is not comfortable, we do not have any drinking water, but well, let’s see how that plan works,” said Elsa Molinar, a 70-year old native of this town located 100 kilometers north of the capital.

The architect of the National Institute of Culture (INAC) Javier Edwards told Acan-Efe that the current state of the town is a consequence of the scarce budget that governments have historically allocated to culture and the “deficient actions” of local authorities.

Gutiérrez, of the Bahía Portobelo Foundation, said, however, that neglect essentially responds to the prevailing racism of the Panamanian ruling classes: “Panama is a very racist society and has never wanted the development of the Caribbean, where the majority of the Afro-descendant population is located”.

Calle Portobelo
      Calle de Portobelo / EFE

The plan that has made the residents of Portobelo begin to see some light at the end of the tunnel is a $107-million loan approved by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) for the preservation of Panama’s cultural and natural heritage.

The architect of the INAC explained that part of these funds will be used mainly to restore the forts and the building where formerly was the Customs Office, which will “boost” domestic and foreign tourism and attract investment.

Portobelo is also the epicenter of a unique culture in the world developed by African slaves to make fun of the conquerors in the colonial era and is called “Congo”.

The rhythms, dances and crafts of the Congo are so rich and unique that Unesco will evaluate next December if it declares them intangible cultural heritage of humanity.

“If you come to interview me at the beginning of the year when the plan was not 

announced, I would have told you a lot about our abandonment, but right now we are excited and hopeful,” the coordinator of the foundation said.

María M.Mur / EFE

What are top ten cities to go in the world?

According to the latest Global Destination Cities Index, the international destinations with the highest concentration of visitors traveling for relaxation and leisure is Punta Cana

Punta Cana leads the list of top ten cities where more than 90 percent of overnight visitor travel in 2017 was for purposes beyond business—such as vacation or family visits. The list includes several lesser-known destinations that cater to eco-tourists, history buffs, beach goers and adventure seekers.

With cultures uniquely their own but with a common focus on relaxation and fun, the top 10 cities include:

  1. Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
  2. Cusco, Peru (98%)
  3. Djerba, Tunisia (97.7%)
  4. Riviera Maya, Mexico (97.5%)
  5. Palma de Mallorca, Spain (97.2%)
  6. Cancun, Mexico (96.8%)
  7. Bali, Indonesia (96.7%)
  8. Panama City, Panama (96.3%)
  9. Orlando, United States (94.1%)
  10. Phuket, Thailand (93%)

International travel continues to grow at an incredible rate, transforming local economies and enabling people to broaden their horizons—whether they travel for work or for play.

Source: Mastercard Global Destination Cities Index