Panama City is an international hub with both old-world charm and soaring skyscrapers. Explore the outdoor fish market by the water, walk along the boardwalk, eat at a gourmet restaurant in Casco then finish your evening with a nightcap at a rooftop bar overlooking the sparkling waterfront. Take a day trip or stay a few nights in the rainforest, just outside the city, and hang out with the monkeys!
Going from big city to beach is easy. There’s a small selection of four- and five-star ocean-front resorts just outside the city at Playa Bonita or honeymooners can travel just under two hours from the city to the Playa Blanca resort area. You can skip the commute and fly directly to Rio Hato airport, which is only 15 to 20 minutes from Playa Blanca. (Flights to Rio Hato are currently only offered by charter vacation companies.) Most of the Playa Blanca resorts offer excursions to the city or nearby El Valle de Anton, a small town nestled in the crater of an extinct volcano.
Despite the very winding road up the mountain to El Valle, it’s definitely worth a visit, especially if you’d like to escape the heat. The annual average high is about 28˚C —it’s usually 30 or above in the city or at the beach. Try La Casa de Lourdes or Los Mandarinos Boutique Hotel & Spa, both breathtaking hotels you won’t want to leave.
Looking for more adventure? Try the Pearl Islands— featured on the first season of Survivor. You can get to the white sandy shores of Contadora by boat in under two hours from Panama City. Or try San Blas, a group of self-governed Indigenous islands where you’ll stay in a rustic hut or eco-resort. You’ll need a flight and boat-ride to get there but the effort is worthwhile as the area is virtually untouched by modern civilization. Bocas Del Toro is made up of nine islands, each offering different vacation experiences, but all offering a small-town, laid-back vibe.
And there’s more: surf at Playa Venao, rent a house in the quaint towns of Pedasi or Portobelo, go deep sea fishing in Boca Chica. Panama has so much to offer, you’ll need to return every year for your anniversary!
1. It’s always hot and humid in Panama. Like, 30˚C with 80 percent humidity.
2. Humidity not great for your hair? You can get a good blowout for less than $15 in Panama city.
3. U.S. dollars are used, but you’ll get the national currency, balboas, back in change.
4. Panama is the only place in the world where you can watch the sun rise over the Pacific Ocean and set over the Atlantic!
5. Like Mardi Gras in New Orleans, Panamanians go all out for Carnival, which happens in late February or early March.
Originally published in Today's Bride Magazine, Spring/Summer 2017.