For the ideal summer vacation, look no farther than Panama. With a relaxed Caribbean atmosphere, world-class diving and a number of uninhabited islands, Panama offers visitors the chance to have an endless summer. Travel blogger Sher She Goes shares some can’t miss sights on a visit to Panama.
Although Panama remains somewhat unheralded among popular vacation destinations, this modestly-sized Central American nation has many characteristics befitting a perfect getaway.
For starters, Panama’s beaches, islands and historic sights provide a great mix of idyllic locales and culturally rich sites and monuments.
Additionally, Panama’s ties to the United States make traveling here especially convenient for Americans. When the Panama Canal (more on that later!) was being completed in the early 1900s, the U.S. actually owned and operated the relevant land surrounding the canal.
These close economic and diplomatic ties yield many benefits for travelers today. (Fun fact: The late Senator John McCain was actually born in Panama, in what was technically U.S. territory at the time!)
Nearly all Panamanian businesses accept U.S. dollars, and there are an abundance of direct flights from the United States!
Keep reading for 5 great sights during a perfect trip to Panama
Things to Do in Panama
Enjoy a Stay at the American Trade Hotel
First things first, right?
Figuring out the right hotel forms an important foundation of any successful vacation. Fortunately, I can throw my entire support behind the luxurious American Trade Hotel, which is where I stayed for 5 days during a recent trip to Panama.
Located on the northern end of Plaza Tomás Herrera – a founding father of Panamanian independence – the American Trade Hotel is a revitalized boutique that features large rooms, ornate wooden floors, charming tiled bathrooms, and – if you’re lucky! – private courtyards where you can relax and enjoy the Panamanian sun!
Even if you end up staying somewhere else, the American Trade Hotel is worth a visit, as this gorgeous building also houses a delicious restaurant and adorable coffee shop on its ground level!
Check rates: American Trade Hotel
Explore Historic Casco Viejo
When many people hear Panama City, they think of the towering skyscrapers and luxury high-rises that punctuate the city’s northern end.
The true cultural heart of Panama City, however, lies in Casco Viejo, which is Spanish for “Old Quarter”.
The nearly 350-year-old historic district of Panama City has been re-imagined and re-invented, filled with incredible restaurants, posh hotels (including the American Trade!), and luxury boutiques.
Although modern delights are present throughout, Casco Viejo still preserves Panama’s rich history, particularly in the district’s “plaza” design (town squares that feature wide, open spaces along with stunning flora) as well as several notable churches – my particular favorite is Arco Chato, a ruin that is both a humbling and amazing reminder of the city’s incredibly long history!
Visit the Panama Canal, a Modern Wonder of the World
There’s plenty more to love about Panama, but if we’re playing word association, the first word after “Panama” for most people is “canal”.
The second would probably be “hat”.
Anyway, Panama provides tourists with an incredible opportunity to see the Panama Canal – one of the world’s 7 modern wonders – up close and personal!
The Panama Canal Visitors Center – located along the Miraflores Locks section of the 48-mile canal – is open to the public and features a highly informative museum (did you know the toll to cross the Panama Canal can reach $800,000??) along with a 4th-floor observatory deck.
If you time your visit just right (or are particularly patient!), you’ll get a stunning look at the engineering marvel allowing ships to traverse the Atlantic and Pacific oceans!
Relax and Unwind on the San Blas Islands
Located off the northern coast of Panama, the San Blas are a chain of several hundred small islands historically – and currently – home to the Guna Yala, the population indigenous to both Panama and Colombia.
While traveling from Panama City to the San Blas Islands constitutes a roughly 2-hour car ride (albeit through some simply gorgeous terrain), the result is well worth it.
Once on the northern coast, various boating services will shuttle you among the islands, where sailing, snorkeling, and seeing legitimately GIANT starfish are just some of the activities you can enjoy among the islands.
Just make sure you bring plenty of sunscreen, as shade is remarkably scarce throughout San Blas!
Learn More About Our Planet at the Biomuseo
It’s a bird!
It’s a plane!
It’s a…bright, multi-colored mansion?
Often visible from afar, the vibrant red, blue and yellow-colored structure lying on the City’s southern end is actually the Biomuseo, the official museum dedicated to Panama’s natural history.
Inside the museum is a thrilling tour of earth’s history, showcasing Panama’s geology dating back to the dinosaur age, the country’s incredible biodiversity, and the unique position Panama occupies as an isthmus joining the world’s two largest oceans!
So what are you waiting for? Book a vacation to Panama today!
Sher She Goes is an official Travelocity Gnational Gnomad. Gnational Gnomads is an exclusive group of high-profile travel and lifestyle experts who offer tips and inspiration on behalf of Travelocity.
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