panama city

This winter, I had the amazing opportunity to visit Central and South America with my family – starting with Panama! I’ve learned about Panama over the years during school from a macro-perspective, focusing primarily on the economy and politics, but couldn’t have been more surprised by my experience visiting what I thought would be a very industrial city. I knew that Panama City was founded in 1519, but is really only 14 years old as of December 31, 2013 (the United States gave the Panama Canal and surrounding land back to the Panamanians on December 31, 1999). I knew that the Panamanian economy has expanded by over 50% in the past 5 years. And I knew that the canal itself is currently undergoing a $5+ billion expansion that is expected to double its capacity. What I didn’t know, or expect, was that this trade-focused city would be a beautiful, picturesque, modern city by the sea, clad with dozens and dozens of beautiful, cutting-edge high-rises directly on the water.

panama city spire

We only spent two nights in Panama, with one full day dedicated to exploring the city, and got an amazing vibe from the city, the people, and the culture, even in such a short amount of time!

We had a great private car tour of the city with PBA Tours (Panama Holding Group). Their team is the go-to travel company in Panama (they just toured Usher through Panama City a few weeks ago!). They can arrange your tour – or they will take you on a customized tour to your liking.

what to see

1) The Panama Canal – this is of course a must when in Panama! I was blown away by the mechanics of the canal. We visited as a large cargo ship was entering the canal, so we were able to witness firsthand the use of the lock system to feed the ships through the canal as smoothly as possible.

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2) Ancon Hill – Ancon Hill is the highest elevation point in the city and offers a spectacular panoramic view of the canal, beaches, high rises, and Casco Viejo! This was a highlight for us.

ancon hill 2

ancon hill

3) Puente de Las Americas – this is the unofficial dividing line between North America and South America. Very cool!

4) BioMuseo – scheduled to open in April 2014, this is Frank Gehry’s first and only masterpiece in Latin America.

5) Casco Viejo – Casco Viejo is the “old town” of Panama City. We drove through the town admiring the French-inspired architecture! Fun Fact: Quantum of Solace (James Bond) was filmed here!

where to stay

The Trump Ocean Club, Panama City is a multi-use high-rise and architectural masterpiece featuring high-end residences, a luxury hotel, restaurants, meeting facilities, and more. It is currently the largest and tallest building in Latin America (rising 70 stories) and is only a few years old. It’s in one of the nicest neighborhoods in Panama City with nearly panoramic ocean views from all rooms. If traveling with family, the one major issue to consider is that the majority of the rooms and suites offer little privacy for families. The layout is very open – so open that the bathroom is completely open to the rest of the living area and bedroom. The Trump Residences, on the other hand, have a much more family-friendly layout with bathrooms that are separated from the main living area.

where to eat

The restaurants at the Trump Ocean Club are fantastic – and the hotel has a variety of cuisines too! From sushi, to grilled fish, to hamburgers, to tapas, you can find it all in this one location. We ate all of our meals at the hotel and thoroughly enjoyed them! One recommendation: the sloppy joe at Azul. There’s nothing like American comfort food in Panama City!

how long to stay

We had one full day to explore the city – and for our fast-paced style of travel, that was the perfect amount of time.


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