A few weeks ago, I visited Panama City, Panama with Kevin for the U.S. Grains Council’s 9th International Marketing Conference and 52nd Annual Membership Meeting. While he was in meetings, I was able to go on a few tours around the city. Since this was our first trip to Panama, I wasn’t sure what to expect…
We were basically in the city the entire time other than when we went on a dinner cruise down the Panama Canal (more about that next week). The city was quite a bit dirtier than I expected, but I learned that the city has definitely changed (for the better) in the past 10-12 years.
All of these skyscrapers have been built in the past 12 years with most of them having been built in the past five! It’s crazy how the city is just booming. But with the expansion of the canal (more about that next week) companies from all over the world are looking to move or expand to Panama City. As you can see in the map above, Panama City is right next to the Panama Canal. It only took us about 30 minutes (with heavy traffic) to get to our ship for our dinner cruise on the canal. So I can only imagine what the next 12 years will bring to the city!
There are approximately 3.5 million people that live in Panama with 1.5 of them living in Panama City. About two million tourists visit the county every year for the beaches, mountains, shopping and to see the canal. We were told the shopping is so inexpensive there that people from other countries will come in on cruise ships just to go shopping!
(Some information below is from The Panama Planner Travel Guide book that I received on one of my tours)
- Beaches, rain forests, mountains, historical sites, diving, rafting, surfing, sport fishing and the Panama Canal (the 8th wonder of the world)
- Safest country for tourists and businesses in the region
- Tourist friendly-English is spoken as the second language
- US dollar is used as Panama’s currency
The first full day that we were there, we went on a tour where we visited the “three” Panama cities: the ruins of the 16th century original city called Panama Viejo, the 17th century Spanish colonial Casco Viejo section of the city and the modern skyscraper city.
The first city, Panama Viejo, was founded in 1517 and was used as a transit route for all the treasures from the Inca empire on their way across the Isthmus to Portobelo, on Panama’s Atlantic Coast and then by ship to the Old World. Once a thriving city of 10,000, it was burned down in a battle with the English pirate Henry Morgan in 1671.
|The Panama Viejo ruins|
The city then moved to the Casco Viejo area in 1673. It was Panama City’s downtown until the 1930’s when it declined as wealthy families moved to the new sectors. This area is very unique. Some of it is very run down (as you can see in the pictures below), but they are improving it and it is becoming a hot spot for nightlife and dining with chic bars and restaurants in historical settings.
|I don’t think this would fly in the US!|
|Not sure how this tree is growing!|
During much of the day in Panama, the water was at low tide. As you can see in the pictures below, it went out quite a ways and left a muddy mess behind!
While we were in Panama we stayed at the Riu Plaza Panama Hotel which is located in the heart of the business district. The hotel is only a few years old and was very nice. If you are visiting Panama City and wanting to stay downtown, I would recommend this hotel!
|Our hotel room|
|View from our hotel’s 32nd floor|