Posted on 18 June 2010
So work approved your two week vacation, you just purchased a ridiculously low-priced ticket to Panama City…now what? The thought of visiting an entire country in a two week period may seem overwhelming, but when that country’s the size of South Carolina, it makes everything a bit more manageable. But let’s face it; if you’re like most people, the only things that really come to mind when you think of Panama are the Panama Canal and Noriega; Lucky for you, Noriega is long gone and there’s much more to Panama than a canal. So if you’re one of those lucky travelers where money is no object (or at least not much of an object), read on:
Days 1-2: Panama City. You’ll probably love it or you’ll hate it, but no matter what, you’ll likely have to start or end here. You’re going to experience nature some other time, so skip the leafy B&Bs and head to one of Panama City’s over the top, sexy/glitzy luxury hotels. I say book a room at the Marriott, the Radisson or the Veneto. Go ahead, get a massage or a facial, and don’t be shy about room service. Panama City really isn’t the place to be a cheap. Check out a couple hotel casinos and get your drink on at Calle Uruguay (Lima Limon and Sahara are some personal favorites of mine) and head to the Zona Viva on Friday or Saturday if it’s dancing your after. And don’t be ashamed about wearing that teeny tiny miniskirt you haven’t had the guts to wear anywhere else; you will fit right in with all the other sexily dressed ladies.
The next day, if you choose to wake up at a decent hour, check out the sites. Head to Casco Viejo for a bit of colonial sightseeing, have lunch at Manolo Caracol and stop for an ice cream at Granclement. It’s hot, so you’ll probably want a nap. Later, head over to the Amador Causeway for a romantic dinner at Lenos y Carbon.
Days 3-4: The Panama Canal Zone. It’s only about 30 minutes outside Panama City, but this is one of the most interesting and fun places in the country. Again, we’re not cutting corners when it comes to comfort, so book two nights at the Gamboa Resort. Arrange a canal day trip, take a jungle adventure tour or head out the Canopy Tower Discovery Center. When you’re all toured out, head to the pool to cool off. If you’re a bird watcher, you’ll want to check out Pipeline Road and Soberania National Park.
Days 5-6: Valle de Anton. Rent a car early in the morning. Panama City is hot, and that’s why you’ll want to head to cool Valle de Anton. It may initially seem like a sleepy little mountain town with little going on – and that’s kind of true — but El Valle makes a great spot to detox and rejuvenate your soul. Book two nights at Los Mandarinos, the Golden Frog in or the Park Eden B&B. Have dinner at La Casa de Lourdes; yes, the portions are tiny (I recommend eating something before dinner) but the views are stunning and the little bit of food you actually get is quite good. The next day, head to Yogini’s Spa for a full body massage then drive out to the nearby thermal springs and do a bit of hiking if you’re up for it.
Days 7, 8, 9: Bocas Del Toro. This is one of the top beach destinations in Panama, and the two best places to stay here are the Jungle Lodge and Tranquilo Bay Resort. However, if you require all creature comfort and a full-service hotel, head to Playa Tortuga Resort. Book a cave tour or beach excursion at your hotel. Bocas has some of the country’s best beaches, so you’ll want to hire a boatman to take you out to Cayos Zapatillas and Red Frog Beach. Here, you can surf, snorkel, dive, sunbathe, hike and explore.
You’ll also want to check out of the cool and funky restaurants in Bocas town: Try Ultimo Refugio, Guari Guari or Om Café. And you won’t want to miss partying at the Barque Hundido Bar and Club. But mostly, you’ll just want to hang out at the beach with a good book.
Days 10, 11, 12, 13: Boquete. Ahh, Panama’s mountain haven and in my opinion, one of the most beautiful spots on earth. The mountains are exploding with colors, orchids bloom wild, and spring-like temperatures mean hiking is actually pleasant. Wake up and (literally) smell the coffee in Panama’s coffee capital. It’s a small town, but Boquete has a decent restaurant and hotel scene: Il Pianista, La Creperie and Tammy’s are all good choices. If you choose to stay at the Coffee Estate Inn, you can’t go wrong with Jane and Barry’s romantic “Date Night” special dinner night. Other top-notch lodging options include the Palo Alto Inn and the Panamonte.
Spend your first day in Boquete hiking; Visit Parque International la Amistad and if you’re in good shape, hike up to Volcan Baru. Visit a couple Coffee farms with Coffee Adventure Tours and visit the Haven Spa for a bit much-need self TLC.
Are you so wealthy you don’t know what to spend your money on? Take a plane down to the Islas Secas Resort, one of the country’s best and most expensive all-inclusive resorts, but you’ll definitely get your money’s worth. This is afterall, among the world’s best resorts.