Every year, I make the effort to travel to one place I've never been before. This year, it was Panama City.
Best known for housing one of the modern wonders of the world, Panama City, the vibrant cosmopolitan capitol of Central America, has much more to offer to the everyday traveler looking for a combination of chic city vibes, lush rainforests and sandy beach escapes.
For accommodations, I stayed at the Trump International Hotel & Tower, which is situated downtown and is best known for its stunning 13th-floor infinity pool overlooking the ocean.
While the food was good and the room views were great, I would highly recommend staying in the heart of Casco Viejo, the historic quarter, where I seemed to spend most of my time.
Reminiscent of Miami's South Beach and Cuba's Havana, Casco Viejo, as seen in "Quantum of Solace", has become a thriving neighbourhood where white-painted boutique hotels and cocktail bars line the cobblestone streets.
One of my favourite places in the area to hang out and eat was at the American Trade Hotel, which felt like walking into the pages of an Architectural Digest magazine. With blue-painted floor tiles and green palm leaves, it was a great escape from the outdoor heat. Not to mention, their Panamanian coffee is a must!
Another one of my favourites was the Central Hotel, bearing a slightly more upscale vibe. Its Argentine restaurant, 9 Reinas, is breathtaking and perfect for a refreshed mid-day lunch.
Other great restaurants in the area include, Las Clementinas Bistro, which is great for brunch, Granclement, which is known for its basil and lavender ice cream flavours, and Tantalo Kitchen, which includes some laid-back fusion dishes and a vibrant rooftop bar.
For something even more relaxed and by no means fancy, try Mercado de Mariscos, Panama's fish market, best known for its fresh ceviche, for some authentic local flavours.
When it comes to sight-seeing, the Panama Canal is a must. Other great things to do, include visiting the ruins of Panama Viejo, the former capitol of the country, and the Amador Causeway, a long boardwalk connecting four islands with a stunning view of the cityscape.
For a day out of the city, I would recommend heading to the Gamboa Rainforest, a 1-hour drive from downtown, and taking a boat tour around Monkey Island, where monkeys will climb directly aboard.
As well, the shopping in Panama is fantastic! If you're looking for something a little more modern than a Panamanian hat, head to the Multiplaza Pacific Mall for an assortment of luxury shops and trendy gems.
Lastly, for transportation, I would recommend taking Uber and avoiding the yellow taxis. That way, you can request an English-speaking driver and ensure you're not going to be overcharged. A 15-minute ride from downtown to the old city should only be approx. $5 USD.
If you're heading to Panama anytime soon, tweet me with any questions! Be sure to stay tuned for more of my Instagram travel diaries!