A day in Panama
If you travel frequently to destinations in Central and North America, you will probably come across the possibility of a connection in Panama at some point. After all, Tocumen International Airport is the largest and busiest in Central America. But what to do in a long connection in one of the most economically competitive cities in Latin America?
I got "stuck" in Panama during a trip to Cuba. The return flight had a 24 hour wait and was the perfect opportunity to reconnect to the world with unlimited internet (something that does not exist in Cuba) and explore the two most famous sights in the city.
It is inevitable to think about the destination and not to associate it with the Panama Canal. I anticipate that, despite not having much expectation regarding this tourist spot, it was an interesting surprise to understand more about the importance of the Canal and to observe the movement of cargo and ships. At the time of my trip, in 2016, a Panama Canal expansion project was being completed with the construction of more locks that doubled the capacity and allowed the passage of larger ships. The visit to the Miraflores lock was super organized, with well-informed and available guides.
The old part of the city is a pleasant surprise and a World Heritage Site. Get ready to walk a lot while strolling through colonial buildings and ruins.
Plaza de Francia pays homage to the French who built the Canal and is at the end of Paseo de las Bóvedas, the best place to buy a souvenir made with local handicrafts.
My favorite spot in the region is the ruin Arco Chato, part of an old 17th century convent that caught fire and was never rebuilt.
The Basilica of Santa Maria la Antigua, the city's cathedral, took more than 100 years to build and is also worth a visit. The frustration was that we did not find an image of the country's Patroness to bring home.
CLIMATE, GASTRONOMY AND TRANSPORTATION
Relying on the late Foursquare, we bet on a well-recommended restaurant and close to the hotel called Puntarenas. The peruvian gastronomy of the place was fantastic and worth every mouthful. A pleasant surprise.
The weather in early June was quite hot and humid, which made walking through the historic district a little more painful. But nothing that a break for a cold beer could not help. Also trusting the app, the choice was Dodó, which is in the old basement of an old mansion.
The few hours we had made the taxi the best option to save time. Transport apps weren't common at the time, but they can be a good alternative today for exploring the city when you don't have time to waste.