The boutique hotels in Panama City’s colonial neighborhood are a design-lover’s dream.
Filled with a continuous hum of Caribbean music and decorated with the paint-chipped facades of Spanish and French colonial buildings, Casco Viejo—the city’s UNESCO-designated historic district—is Panama City’s vibrant, bohemian hub.
Nowhere is this more evident than at American Trade Hotel: Stay to enjoy the relaxed tropical ethos of the rooms, but venture out to explore the open-air environment of the first floor communal spaces, where a mosaic-tiled floor makes every step an Instagram opportunity. Grab a coffee at Café Unido or a fresh ceviche at The Dining Room, where Chef Clara Icaza serves the best local and seasonal dishes in town. Start an evening out at the hotel’s own Danilo’s Jazz Club, where notable Panamanian jazz singers fill the hall with soulful tunes until the early morning hours. Before the night ends, cross the street to Tantalo Hotel where the boutique hotel’s walls are lacquered with murals by local artist duo Agata Surma and Hector Guillen. Make your way to the hotel’s rooftop bar and enjoy a night mingling with locals with a beautiful view of the sparkling Panama City skyline.
Photo: Courtesy of The American Trade Hotel
Panama City’s culinary scene is on the rise.
Casco Viejo is at the heart of Panama’s culinary revival. From artisan cocktails to restaurants built in dimly-lit halls, here you’ll find Panama’s best chefs and creative minds. Start your crawl at Caliope, a restaurant situated above the nightlife enclave Teatro Amador, to enjoy a farm-to-table feast with a menu designed to reflect local ingredients and culture. After dinner, opt for a raucous night of dancing at Casa Jaguar. If you still have energy, leave Casco Viejo for a nightcap at the recently-opened Hooch Panama in the San Francisco neighborhood. Built in a speakeasy style, mixologist Carlos Maestracci serves sultry cocktails like the Dark Passion, featuring Ron Abuelo, sugarcane-infused cinnamon-almond syrup, and black walnut bitters.
Photo: Courtesy of Caliope Restaurant
Take a day sail past the Panama Canal to a small island oasis.
Just a short one-hour sail from Panama City is the candy-colored Taboga Island, known locally as the Island of Flowers. You’ll find no cars on this island—this white-sand stretch of coastline is a remote paradise where nature trails and flower-lined walkways comprise the local infrastructure. Skip the ferry lines and opt for a day aboard the Azuleta, which includes an entire day of sailing on a wooden sailboat. You’ll spend your day kayaking the clear open waters, diving from the highest rungs of the ship, and wandering the plentiful paths of quaint Taboga Island.
You can learn the art of coffee making at a mountain retreat.
Shrouded beneath a canopy of clouds, Boquete is Panama’s mountainous refuge: Birds chatter symphonically and volcanic peaks yield to a flourishing landscape of bucolic coffee plantations. Just a one-hour flight from Panama City and a drive up a curved mountain road lies Finca Lerida Coffee Plantation and Boutique Hotel. Here, every room comes with a hammock on its front porch—the perfect spot to sip the property’s own “Geisha” coffee, which happens to be one of the world’s most exclusive blends. If you can pull yourself out of the hammock, take a hike or a plantation tour.
Island-hopping escapades are just a short jaunt away.
Located off the northern Caribbean coast of Panama, the 365 islands that make up the San Blas Islands all seem to come standard with white-sand beaches, coconuts for purchase, and leaning palm trees that will make any city-dweller contemplate life off the grid. Explore the region with a tour from Thread Caravan—visit with the indigenous Guna people, learn the complexity of hand-embroidering mola textiles, and spend your days snorkeling and sailing the pristine ocean waters. And if one archipelago isn’t enough, hop a 45-minute flight from Panama City to Bocas del Toro to explore this nine-island expanse, full of dense rain forests and hundreds of uninhabited islets.