From dimly lit midnight wine tastings through the romantic Casco Viejo district to venturing out in a hollowed-out canoe to an authentic Indian village, Panama has plenty to keep you warm this winter.
When it comes to traveling south of the border, Panama tends to get passed over like the red-headed step child of Central America for more mainstream destinations such as Costa Rica and Guatemala. But this idyllic isthmus offers a similar sense of exotic exploration with a unique cosmopolitan opulence that has remained refreshingly unscathed by tourists and crowds.
Unlike other Central American hot spots, Panama remains refreshingly unscathed by tourists and crowds.
With a year-round temperature averaging around 84 degrees, this time of year is the country’s prime travel season to escape the unknown winters of Dallas-Fort Worth. (Will it snow or is it time to pull out those shorts again?)
While a certain amount of mystery is what draws many of us to travel. Allow me to take out a bit of the logistical guesswork for your trip to Panama. Here is where you should stay, eat and play in Panama’s capital city:
Westin Playa Bonita is less than a year old and already it’s become one of the best spots to stay while exploring Panama City. Because it’s located 20 minutes from the city center, this beachfront hotel feels like a retreat, with gorgeous views of the rainforest on one side and that of ships preparing to enter the Panama Canal on the other. Plus, the onsite restaurants are amazing, and the beds are truly heavenly.
Bonus feature: the hotel just opened up a new Sensory Spa by Clarins with a hydrothermal wellness circuit that claims to stimulate circulation, cleanse the skin and relax sore muscles.
Not only does Miraflores Restaurant at the Panama Canal provide a decadent buffet including local Panamanian favorites and a lust-worthy dessert station, but it also offers arguably the best way to view the ships passing through the canal from its expansive patio overlooking the Miraflores Locks.
DiVino Enoteca is a charming hole-in-the wall located in the heart of Casco Viejo, Panama City’s old town. If walking the dimly lit cobblestone streets amidst stunning architecture in this romantic quarter doesn’t warm your spirits, sipping on one of the exquisite wines from the restaurant’s expansive wine menu while watching old movies on the original brick-walled interior will surely do the trick.
While the Panama Canal is a must-see, a trip to Panama City would not be complete without a visit to the Embera Indian Village, where a loin-cloth-wearing tribesman guides you along the Chagres River in a dug-out canoe to an island of friendly Indians eager to share their culture and cuisine, which includes tilapia and plantains.
If you get the chance, request a trip to the Cascada Bonita (Beautiful Waterfall), where a short hike through the rainforest will lead you to a pristine pool where you can swim beneath a crystal clear waterfall. To commemorate the day, allow the tribesman to apply a temporary tattoo made with vegetable dyes.