Hovering over Panama City before descending into Tocumen International Airport, visitors are struck by Panama’s incredible skyline. Shooting out of the ground, are hundreds of modern skyscrapers – not what most people imagine finding in the middle of Central America’s Pacific Coast.
Panama City is full of possibilities. Dubbed the “New Hong Kong”, it is one of the fastest growing tourist destinations in the world, and the thriving cosmopolitan centre of Central America renowned for its international trading and banking.
Pulsating with life, this glitzy capital boasts a diverse range of culture along with a trendy selection of restaurants, cafés, nightclubs and art galleries. Modern Panama, as it is often referred to, is characterized by glimmering high rises, shopping malls, a financial district and all the conveniences of a contemporary city. It is a wonderful fusion of old and new with the centuries-old buildings of Casco Viejo (Old Quarter) juxtaposed against the dense skyline of modern Panama; a skyline that according to some, will transform before your eyes, referencing the influx of skyscrapers, new establishments and luxury hotel developments.
A picture-perfect place to capture the grandeur of this breathtaking cityscape is the Amadour Causeway, where you can rent a bike, go for a walk, or simply sit back and take in the views. If you are looking for an exciting and adventurous way to take in the views, do so atop the world’s largest urban zipline at more than 700 feet- talk about a bird’s eye view!
The Old Quarter, declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is one of the world’s hippest neighbourhoods and filled with cobblestoned streets, museums, gourmet restaurants, boutique hotels and charming shops selling the renowned Panama hat. Surprisingly though, the hat is of Ecuadorian origin! At Las Bóvedas, purchase a Raspados (snow cone) and enjoy a stroll through Plaza de Francia, Plaza Herrera, Plaza Bolívar and Plaza Catedral that serves as the heart of Casco Viejo. Some of the city’s most famous sites not to be missed are the San Jose church with its gold altar, the Palacio de las Garzas (Presidential Palace), the Flat Arch and the Church of Santo Domingo, as well as the ruins of the Convent and Iglesia de la Compania de Jesus.
Many of the beautifully restored buildings of the historic quarter will transport you to another era, with part of its charm resting in the dilapidated buildings you stumble upon. In the centre of these ancient ruins, delight your taste buds with a delicious meal of octopus ceviche at The Fish Market. If you are in the mood for dinner and dancing, then a visit to Havana Panamá is just the thing! A live salsa band rocks the house and is sure to get your feet and hips moving. Or perhaps, enjoy dinner at the Dining Room at the American Trade Hotel followed by a live jazz performance by the Grammy-winning, internationally renowned Panamanian jazz pianist and composer Danilo Perez at Danilo’s Jazz Club. If you’re visiting in January, unfurl a blanket and unwind at the annual Jazz Festival in Plaza Catedral.
Art connoisseurs will especially enjoy Panama City’s art scene featuring works by contemporary Panamanian artists and other well-known Latin American artists on display at Museo de Arte Contemporáneo, Galería Bernheim, Imagen Galería de Arte, Galería y Enmarcado Habitante and Arts & Antiques.
Last year, the world-famous Panama Canal – one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World – celebrated 100 years of connecting the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, and the city hosted year-long festivities such as the opening of Frank Gehry’s BioMuseo that explores Panama’s immense biodiversity. A trip to the Miraflores Observation Center to watch a ship pass through the canal is quite the experience. The fees levied on transiting ships make the canal the fourth largest source of revenue for Panama; the first being the country’s duty free shopping evidenced through the plethora of luxury brands at the Tocumen airport and the city’s megamalls; second is its banking industry and third the country’s rapidly growing tourism.
Panama City offers an incredible array of vacation options for travellers and is surrounded by coastline and tropical rainforest, especially green and lush during the rainy season; however, the best time to visit is during the dry season from mid-December to mid-April. For a full Panamanian experience, combine your city break with a beach stay. With so much to see and do and such a diverse range of experiences, Panama is an exciting adventure like no other.
Combine A City Break With A Beach Stay!
The RIU Plaza Panama is perfectly located in the heart of Panama City and within easy distance to all the city’s highlights. The views of Panama City from the property are spectacular and the outdoor pool is ideal for taking a dip after a day of sightseeing or to sip cocktails at night.
Take a few days for some fun in the sun at the RIU Playa Blanca. Enjoy excursions such as swimming and snorkelling at Farallon Island, zip-lining through rainforest canopies, swimming in natural pools or visiting local markets and communities to see artisans create the famous Panama hat. Or if you prefer, simply stay on the property to take advantage of all the incredible amenities.
For more information, please visit riu.com
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