Panama City is a large metropolis strewn with skyscrapers and on weekdays is clogged to the hilt with terrible traffic. It has a history dating back to 1519 where non other than Spanish conquistador Pedro Arias Davila founded the city on August 15th. The city was the starting point for expeditions that conquered the Inca Empire in Peru.
Obviously much has changed but nothing brought more change and benefit to the country than the construction of the Panama Canal.
Over the years since the building of the canal but also much more recently, in the past few decades or so, building and growth outweighed environmental concerns so today there are no real beaches that are swimmable with many areas polluted by untreated sewage. We’re told recently great effort has been put into sewage treatment but the people are resigned to the fact that it was too little too late. This according our driver who took us on a drive and tour of the Panama Canal.
There isn’t much to really see and do in the city other than to visit the Miraflores lock on the canal, watch a good Imax presentation on the history and construction of the canal, visit the Bridge of the Americas (one of three that cross the canal) and check out old town Casco Viejo.
Casco Viajo, Old Town Panama
We booked five nights in the city which was a little too long. We found it to be very expensive to eat out as everything is priced in USD. We also found again that the vast majority of restaurants do not cater to English speaking tourists. They do not have English menus and rarely anyone on staff speaks English and on several occasions we were treated like they would rather not have to serve us. And this in a city that boast itself as a major tourist destination. Again, we do not expect people to speak English just because we do but in an international financial hub and staying in the main hotel zone one would think there might be at a little effort shown towards us non Spanish speaking peons. We did howeve have some pretty good food.
In our opinion, spend as little time as possible in Panama City, have a plan to visit the San Blas Islands (more on this later), the Pearl Islands, Bocas del Toro or whatever you want to visit but for us at least, the city didn’t offer much of interest to us.