This is the 4th leg of our journey through Panama -on this trip we traveled to Panama City. Read our previous adventures in Panama – Boquete Activities, Lodging and Food, Bocas Del Toro, Isla Carenero, and Starfish Beach, and Isla Canas and the Hostal Pachamama.
We once again arrived at our destination after dark and immediately began searching for a room. Our guidebook lead us to several hotels that no longer existed, but eventually, we found Hospedaje Casco Viejo, which was a serviceable hostel. It was a bit noisy and lacked air conditioning, but it was cheap and clean. We were staying in the heart of the renovation-in-progress old neighborhood of Casco Viejo.
Casco Viejo. Casco Viejo is a mishmash of dilapidated and renovated colonial homes, some from the 17th century. It is a perfect place for rambling and is very much an up-and-coming neighborhood for the city’s elite to visit for a night on the town.
Strolling the old quarter and its old church square really gives a sense of what life may have looked like back in the late 1600’s; it’s a beautiful location. Just at the edge of Casco Viejo is Cafe Coca Cola, which claims to be the oldest cafe in the city, having opened in 1875. I had a Cuban sandwich which turned out very tasty, and Mary Beth finally got the melon smoothie she had been craving all trip.
If you go to Panama City, naturally you have to go to the Panama Canal. While there’s nothing particularly exciting about watching a ship go through the locks, they are impressive feats of engineering that leave you feeling in awe of the thousands of people who toiled for years to build the canal. We happened to be there right as the canal opened in the morning, so we got to see a huge Celebrity cruise ship go through the canal, it was the largest type of ship that the canal allows!
Luckily for those short on time, the Miraflores Locks are only about 10 minutes from downtown Panama City, so make sure you take the time to check it out. From the Locks, it was only a brief taxi ride to a vast local nature preserve, the Parque Natural Metropolitano.
Within the Parque Natural Metropolitano are several trails frequented by locals and tourists alike. Of the two short hikes we did, both were very easy, but still had lots to see. On your walk, you may see hundreds of different bird species, as well as reptiles, insects, amphibians, and even sloths. While we missed out on seeing sloths, we did see several interesting
Another nearby hike, this time in Reserva Cerro Ancon, is considerably more challenging, but also more rewarding, offering a spectacular panoramic view of the entirety of Casco Viejo along with the hundreds of boats queuing to go through the Panama Canal. The hike is very much worth it, though can also be reached by car should you rent one or want to catch a cab up.
Taking one last walk around Casco Viejo admiring the city lights at night left me wishing I had had a little more time to see Panama City and Panama as a whole. My advice, should you plan to go, allow at least 14 days in the country, or take in fewer cities, as each one has a wealth of things to discover! Central America is often overlooked, but there is so much to uncover, consider Panama for your next trip abroad, you won’t be disappointed.