10 Best things to do in Panama City

There are a lot of reasons to visit Panama. You have probably already thought of the Panama Canal, which is one of the world’s most famous accomplishments of modern engineering. Maybe you have considered a tropical island or beach, or just the climate, which is warm all year round. But there is a lot more to Panama: read here some of our staff picks to do in Panama City.

1.  Visit Seafood market and walk or bike Cinta Costera towards the Casco Antiguo neighborhood while eating a fresh seafood ceviche.
2.  Take a tour at the Biodiversity Museum and hire of our naturalist guides for an introductory rainforest tour in the Metropolitan Park

3.  Bar hopping in Casco Viejo at night and don´t miss the Jazz Bar in the American Trade Hotel

4.  Historical City Tour– walking Panama la Antigua and learn about the Pirates and Conquistadors and the Canal zone era

5.  Kayaking the Panama Canal in the Gatun Lake and a visit to a local Wounaan community for handcrafts shopping

6.  Visit the Contemporary Art Museum and take a Art Cultural Tour with a local panamanian artist

7.  Hike, bike or wildlife observation at one of the many trails of the Soberania National Park

8.  Go on a historical trekking the old 8-mile Camino de Cruces Trail takes you through primarily tropical forest

9.  Ride the Transcontinental train towards the Atlantic side in one day: The Pirate trail and Panama Canal

10.  Enjoy the local gastronomy (tasajo empanada, carimañola, tortilla, yuca frita, and the seafood of Panama).

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Carnivals in Panama

By Juliette Darmon

Experience a Latin America Carnival in Panama! That’s the most awaited date of the Panamanian calendar, and this, since the 1900’s!

Real National Day for four days (before the Ash Wednesday), the whole country is part of the Carnival, and even the littler locality has its own animations! Dances, costumes, music, salsa, merengue and tipico, folkloric popular music are fully part of the carnival. Let’s also enjoy some colorful float, masks and confetti!

Four days of non-stop partying, dancing, singing, drinking and eating, and getting lost in the middle of the crazy crowd!  Check our Glimpse of Panama

Panama Carnivals
Carinval in Panama

The Carnival of Panama is famous for its legendary shows and fanfare, and its impressive costumes. This joyous event is also known for the “culecos” or “mojaderas” tradition: the public is sprayed with fire hose getting out of tankers, on Reggaeton and Latin music.

Tips: Take your precautions with your phone, watch and any other electronic stuff you could have with you.

You will also enjoy the polleras parade (Panamanian traditional dresses).

Of course, no Carnival without the Carnival Queen’s election! But do not be surprised if you run into two queens: it’s a Panamanian tradition named the feud. It comes from colonial days that has been converted into a battle of excess and extravagance for the fanciest costumes and most creative floats between two historically rival neighborhoods: Calle Arriba and Calle Abajo, for which each one has its queen.

The schedule is always the same: opening the Friday, international day on Saturday, the Pollera day on Sunday, costume day on Monday, Queen day and big parade on the Shrove Tuesday and burial sardine ceremony to end the carnival and the entrance in the Lent. This day is the biggest Carnival Celebration day. The party ends in the early hours of the morning for the sunrise.

Naturally, the famous Panamanian fireworks will close the Carnival!

And of course, you will find many places and trucks by street to eat and drink during the whole celebration!

In Panama City, near 25000 of visitors are expected to come, and the largest celebrations take place on the Cinta Costera.

But Las Tablas, in Los Santos province is certainly one of the best places in Panama to celebrate the Carnival!

As it’s high season, we advise you to book your trip and hotels in advance, to have enough possibilities.

Furthermore, in order to fully enjoy the Carnival in Panama, try to stay with Panamanian people, they will bring you to the best places!

 

 

Going where the wind blows

By:  Carina Forster – Intern from Austria

Punta Chame is one of Panama`s best kitesurfing spots and has made its name to the world for its excellent conditions from November to April.

Carina Kitesurfing

The spot is a strap of land with constant N-NE and side-onshore wind, perfectly suitable for all levels, as you will always end up back on the beach and not out in the sea.

My session on this wide sandy beach spot started with the mixture of excitement and respect I always feel when the powerful strength of wind is lifting up my kite. After walking a few steps in the crystal blue water, shuffling my feet to avoid stepping on the only danger of the spot – the sting ray – I got on my board and started moving over the ocean. Going faster and faster over the large and uncrowded bay, I felt the salt and heat of the sun on my face while the coastline was getting smaller and smaller. It is pure happiness you feel when every single part of your body and mind is becoming one with the kite in the sky and the board on your feet, using the power of the wind to move forward. It always astonishes me, how I control this phenomenon without having a single thought on my mind, except this foolish song that keeps coming up when I`m happy.

In Punta Chame you can have several sessions a day, starting in the morning and finishing with a sundowner surrounded by the golden lights of dawn. It is a dream spot with constant wind for smooth freestyle or speed rides.

The Spot

  • November- April constant wind
  • N-NE and side-onshore
  • All levels, great for beginners
  • Soft sandy beach, no currents, small waves
  • No crowds, large space for launch
  • Hot weather, warm water (sunscreen!)
  • Dangers: sting rays, small jellyfish

Facilities

There are four kite schools with equipment rentals and repairs, different kinds of places to stay (hotels, hostels, apartments, guest houses), a restaurant and a supermarket.

Getting there and away

  • By car: (1.5 hours) take the Panamericana from Panama City south and exit at the Punta Chame “sign”. Rough road for half an hour till Punta Chame.
  • Public transport: take a bus from the bus terminal on direction of “el Valle de Anton” or “Penonome”. Step out in Coronado when you see the big sign ‘REY’ (a supermarket on the main road). From there take taxi to Punta Chame.

Weekend getaway: Historic Portobelo and Caribbean Beaches

By:  Carina Forster – Intern from Austria

Insider tipp: Last weekend I explored the charming small town of Portobelo on the Caribbean Coast which is a hotspot for Panamanian weekend retreats; however, it still remains mainly unexplored by foreign tourists. The only way of getting there- except from day tour with a tour operator EcoCircuitos Panama – involved a bumpy ride in a colorful old school bus, where happy salsa music loudly went along with the roaring old engines of the rattling bus.

It was hard to believe that this laid-back village has once hosted Central America`s most important harbor. Only the old ruins and the UNESCO forts, which are spread out all over the charming fishing village, prove of its glorious past.  If you tour with a naturalist and interpretative guide you will travel to the battles between Pirates and Conquistadors.

A short boat ride away, I found cast-away Caribbean beaches, where lush rain forests meet white sand, turquoise waters and coral reefs. And while already being astonished by the unreal beauty surrounding me, two toucans were peacefully flying over the picturesque bay, forming a scenario like in a dream.

If you are interested in this tour and many more, please contact us for more information.  We offer snorkeling tours in the Caribbean side of Portobello.  Contact info@ecocircuitos.com

Art Galleries in Panama

The art scene in Panama is growing and fascinating.  As a bridge between two continents, Panama is one of the most diverse cities in Central America with a strong influence on the Afro-Caribbean, European and indigenous cultures.  There is a new generation of proud Panamanian artists creating unique pieces.    Kantule, Sebastian Icaza, Isabel De Obaldia, Donna Conlon, Jonathan Harker, Pilar Moreno  are some names that are building the Panama art scene.
There are some interesting art galleries that are a testimony to Panama’s art and cultural legacy.    We suggest to explore the city or book an art tour with us that will take you to the most interesting art galleries in the City.

An Art Tour in Panama City

DGriss Art Gallery
Location: Torres de las Americas, Punta Pacifica. Telephone: 201-5550 – 
Owned by Daniela and Pablo Griss, this art gallery displays art by Pablo Griss himself, and other artists all over the world. It´s main focus is contemporary art.

DiabloRosso
Location: Avenida A con Calle 6, Casco Antiguo. Telephone: 262-1957 –
A gallery that has a showroom, a restaurant-café, and a concept store. It has several art exhibitions during the year. They focus on promoting and supporting young local talent, future artists.

Weil Art Gallery
Location: Calle 48, Bella Vista.    Telephone: 264-9697 –
This art gallery owned by Carlos Weil, is the only art auction house in Panama. It has art from international crafts, as well as Panamanian 21st art such as handcrafted art, paintings and even sculptures.

Galeria Arteconsult
Location: Calle 72, No.34, San Francisco.    Telephone: 302-2646 – 
Offering Panamanian and Latin American art, we have this permanent high caliber showroom, which displays a diversity of art. From paintings to photographs.

Mateo Sariel Garcias
Location: Coco del Mar, Calle 79, Casa No.14.   Telephone: 270-2403 – 
Based on promoting contemporary Latin American art and introducing new artists such as Sebastian Icaza and his beautiful glass art.

Museo de Arte Contemporaneo
Location: Avenida de los Martires, Calle San Blas, Ancon. Telephone: 262-8012 – 
Concerned on collecting and conserving Panamanian art, as well as Latin American art, is this privately owned art gallery. Not only serves as an art gallery, but also as a library which hopes to promote the history and art of Latin America and Panama.

Marion Gallery
Location: Calle 70, San Francisco. Telephone: 226-7190 – 
Promotes new contemporary art by renowned International artists. It´s most distinguish or permanent exhibition is dedicated to Venezuelan artist Carlos Cruz-Diez, because of his unique optical kinetic art.

Allegro Galeria
Location: Calle 73, Bella Vista. Telephone: 226-6967 – 
Beginning with the art work of Olga Sinclair, and other renowned Panamanian artists, this gallery has developed a reputation over the years by continuing to support and promote work of local and international artists.

Galeria Habitante
Location: Marbella. Telephone: 264-6470/223-8869 – 
One of the oldest galleries in Panama, maintains their status by renewing, and extending their art gallery by collecting from young and old artists.

Galeria 18
Location: Ave. Samuel Lewis, P.H Plaza Diamond a lado de Porta Romana. Telephone: 203-5589 – 
Contemporary Fine Art Gallery

Huellas Casa Cultural
Location: Calle 63, Casa 66, San Francisco – 
It´s not an art gallery, but they have different activities during the year, which promotes team building as well as creativity in a fun environment.

Surfing in Santa Catalina

by Carina Forster – Intern from Austria

The laid-back town of Santa Catalina hosts a charming mix of international surfers next to locals who are still catching lobsters with their bare hands.

While more experienced surfers test their limits in the world-class waves at a spot called the Point, the smaller but still quite powerful waves at close-by Playa Estero are perfectly suitable for beginners like me.

After making my way through the first set of breaks, the first thing I instantly did as I was surfing in Santa Catalina for the first time was holding on for a minute to admire the wild beauty of widely-stretched Playa Estero.

However, there is not a lot of time to enjoy this view, as waves are constantly rolling in, forcing every single part of your body and mind to concentrate on this very moment. At some point you see the perfect one, which is going to be your wave, and you start paddling, going faster and faster, giving all your strength until you feel the ocean taking you with it. You stand up, riding the wave, forming a part of this incredible force of nature. The pure feeling of happiness makes you forget everything else, it makes you swim out over and over again, until you reach your physical limits.

And there is nothing more pleasureful after an exhausting day of surfing than having some fresh fish for dinner while enjoying the sunset on abandoned Playa Estero.

Panama fish catch 40 percent larger than reported

By STRI

Panama is said to mean “abundance of fish.” Until recently Panama was also synonymous with bountiful fisheries. A new study estimates that between 1950 and 2010, the haul was so considerable officials could not keep tabs on more than a third of the catch. As fish stocks dwindle, this revelation may contribute to establishing sustainable fisheries in Panama and the region.

For three years Héctor Guzmán of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and colleagues from the University of British Columbia compiled official data and dozens of studies of off-the-books fisheries. They cautiously estimated that almost 40 percent of the total catch — including tuna, lobster, shellfish and shark — was unaccounted for.

“We estimated missing and under-reported components very conservatively so this is likely still an underestimate of what is being removed,” said Sarah Harper, of UBC’s Sea Around Us Project who was the lead author on the study published in Marine Fisheries Review. Guzmán and UBC’s Kyrstn Zylich and Dirk Zeller co-authored the research.

The discrepancy is due to minimal reporting of bycatch by commercial vessels and a dearth of data from recreational, subsistence and artisanal fishers. Illegal fishing by foreign vessels and catches by Panamanian-flagged ships operating from foreign ports also play an important role.

“We were not surprised by these alarming results,” said Guzmán a marine ecologist known for research that underpins regional conservation policy. “This is the first fishery baseline made for Panama. We hope to promote an open and all-inclusive dialogue to implement management tools for sustainable fisheries.”

The researchers recommend an overall reorganization of the fishing sector to include better monitoring, planning and surveillance of fishing zones and better managed marine protected areas. Curtailing carte blanche commercial fishing licenses, which are sometimes species indiscriminate, would also help, said Guzmán.

From anchovies to Sharks

Panama’s industrial fisheries developed in the 1960s to harvest herring and anchovies for fishmeal and oil for export. The scallop fishery reached its apex in the 1980s and collapsed without recovery in 1991. Shrimp, tuna, lobster and conch harvesting continue, with many populations now in decline.

Relatively new targets are sharks, especially hammerheads, for sale of shark fins overseas. Sharks are often harvested in inshore areas, including vulnerable nurseries. “There is likely substantial under-reporting of catches by domestic vessels and possibly a large number of sharks being caught by foreign vessels operating illegally in Panamanian waters,” the authors wrote.

Under-reporting of catch is not unique to Panama and improved monitoring does not have to be prohibitively costly. “Resource-limited countries can still effectively monitor their fisheries by implementing regular, non-annual surveys,” said the authors. “For Panama to retain meaning in its name (“abundance of fish”), fisheries management will need to make substantial improvements.”