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We found ourselves in Panama City, the capital of Panama, after sailing through the Panama Canal. Being on the small isthmus between the two oceans – Atlantic and Pacific – Panama City was a huge hub for trade, piracy, and Spanish conquistadors.
The original city, now referred to as Panama Viejo, was set on fire by privateer Henry Morgan in 1671 (yes, that Captain Morgan). The city was built on a highly defensible peninsula and became Casco Viejo. Now, the modern Panama City sits between the two.
This quirky district of Panama City is full of historic architecture and history. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site and filled with historic buildings housing modern businesses.
Cinta Costera means Coastal Beltway, and the 2.5-kilometer path runs along the waterfront and around Casco Viejo. On it, you get a great view of the modern Panama City and the Pacific Ocean!
A short hike takes you to the top of Ancon Hill, where you can look down on all of Panama City, including the canal.
The Panama Canal Railway runs between Panama City and Colon Monday through Friday. The train departs Panama City at 7:15 am and then departs Coln at 5:15 pm – perfect for a day trip to Colon. Tickets are $25 per person.
The train runs along the canal, giving views of the locks and the traffic going through. The ceiling of the train is glass, giving views into the jungle.
The Mira Flores lock is one of the locks of the Panama Canal. The visitor’s center has an observation deck where you can watch the ship traffic coming and going. There is also a small museum and a restaurant.
We had some fantastic seafood in Panama City. After our completion of the canal, we celebrated at the fish market, a food truck in Casco Viejo.
Did you know that you can hitchhike the Panama Canal? Sailboats transiting need volunteer crewmembers to handle lines when they sail the Panama Canal. Read our post on sailing the Panama Canal for more information.
It’s very easy to get around Panama City. Public transportation is very cheap.
When we were there the Metro line was pretty new and clean. Tickets are 35 cents each, although the line is limited.
We did take the bus from Panama City to Colon once, which was very cheap but less comfortable than the train.
Finally, Uber is available in Panama City and is much cheaper than a hired taxi.
Casco Viejo is where I would stay in Panama City. I love the vibe the neighborhood has, and there are plenty of interesting places to eat.
- Budget (<$100): Magnolia Inn or Selina. Selina has a rooftop bar and pool.
- Moderate ($100-200): Tantalo Hotel or Casa Sucre Boutique Hotel.
- Luxury ($200+): Central Hotel Panama, La Isabela Suites, Las Clementinas, or American Trade Hotel. La Isabela Suites and Las Clementinas both include kitchens, which I always lean towards to make breakfast easier.