Panama Journals

Our Love Affair with Panama

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A January 2013 trip to Panama by Mandan Lynn

Travel Photo by IgoUgo memberMore Photos
Quote: Everything we've done and love to do in Panama.

Playita Resort

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Hotel | "Two Nights at Playita"

Playita Resort Photo, Panama, Central America
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Playita Resort is still a work in progress -- they're still building the rooms above the one we stayed in. But even as we drove in, I was delighted.We were met by a couple of emus and some chickens. After some more time there, we realized this was just the tip of the animal iceberg. We saw monkeys, macaws (two red and two green), ducks, and a giant iguana right there on the property. I had so much fun just watching the monkeys -- one of whom had a baby! -- clamor through the trees at dusk and in the morning.We were greeted in English by a very friendly guy who pointed out the animals as well as the "giant cricket" (a metal sculpture stuck to a tree -- one of many metal sculptur...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on November 18, 2013

Playita Resort
Calle A Playita Resort, Panama
Playa Venao
996-6727

Finding Home and Building a Community

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Volleyball Photo, Panama, Central America
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In my travels, one of my favorite things has been meeting and befriending the local residents. The only way to truly know a country is to see it through the eyes of someone who not only lives there, but who is from there and has the land in their blood, someone who was raised there and knows it inside and out, not because they've studied, but because they feel it so. When we came to Panama, we expected to make lots of Panamanian friends. But we haven't.Oh, we've made a few, and we love them dearly. But for the most part, our friends are fellow ex-pats who have also decided to call Panama their new home.Sometimes I hear people get negative about this -- t...Read More

Gamboa Rainforest Resort

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Hotel | "A Night in the Rainforest"

Gamboa Rainforest Resort Photo, Gamboa, Panama
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We got a great deal on a night at Gamboa Rainforest Resort through OfertaSimple.com -- so my boyfriend and I, along with six of our dear friends, took advantage and booked our visit together. The deal included a night at the resort and three of the activities that the resort offers (a night safari, bicycling, etc). We were looking forward to all of it!We decided to go early on Sunday to enjoy what we were told is an awesome brunch at the restaurant there. Our friend reserved a table for us at 12:30. I was debating on whether or not I wanted to even do the brunch, since it just sounded like an expensive breakfast to me -- boy, was I mistaken!For about $35 per person, we enjoyed...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on October 4, 2013

Gamboa Rainforest Resort
Boulevard Goethals
Gamboa, Colon, Panama 7338
(507) 314-5000

Getting Lost (and Found) in Panama City

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Panama City in the Haze Photo, Panama City, Panama
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The thing about driving in Panama City (which I have yet to do, but my boyfriend has done it and I have been along for the ride) is that you're bound to get lost. Everyone I know who has driven in the city has gotten lost, even after they've been there before, even when they're going places they've been before. It's a tricky place -- winding roads, one-way streets, construction, and few road signs.Here are a few things that might help you out:Take the bus. If you live outside the city, take the bus into the city and then take cabs throughout the city. Avoid getting lost altogether.GPS. Keep in mind that this doesn't always help -- we've never tried it, but we had a ...Read More

Hair & Nails Head 2 Toe

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Pretty Feet! Photo, Coronado, Panama
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We met Wayne and Lise, who run Hair & Nails Head 2 Toe part-time from their home, shortly after we arrived in Panama when my boyfriend went to see Wayne for a haircut. Today, I went for a cut and pedicure.First, Wayne took care of my hair. His chair, sink, and supplies are set up in the bohio in the yard -- a beautiful setting with everything you need for a great cut. The water at his sink wasn't working today (welcome to Panama), so he sprayed my hair down with the bottle and got to work. The trim cleaned up what was getting to be quite a mess (it was the first good haircut I've had in a couple of years) -- and it was only $10. I had a simple cut -- the prices go up from there -- but...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on May 14, 2013

Shopping in the Beach Area

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Passion Fruit Photo, Coronado, Panama
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It was only a few years ago that beach dwellers couldn't find so much as a blender in the Coronado area and had to make a trip to the city to make such a purchase. Nowadays, you can find pretty much whatever you want right here.The Machetazo is a super-store with three floors and carries everything from groceries to art supplies, tools to linens, household appliances to sporting equipment. We have brought home such treasures as a kettlebell (last one, and on the top shelf...) and a pickaxe (we have some landscaping to do). This is my second favorite spot for groceries. They tend to have good produce and a decent selection overall, and they have a little restaurant.E...Read More

Keeping in Shape in the Beach Community

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Travel Photo by IgoUgo member
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I'm a long-time gym rat. I love working out, and I love temperature control when I do it.There is a gym in Coronado, but it is small and feels really crowded, even though there were only a few people in there when we visited. It was expensive, considering there aren't any fitness classes or anything, and we would have had to drive from where we live to get there. All in all it didn't seem like a great investment.If you live in a condo complex, or certain housing developments, you will probably have a small but adequate (and rarely used) gym. I've got friends in various towers, and I've used these gyms on occasion and typically have them all to myself.I'm determined ...Read More

Driving in Panama

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Now, I'm not talking here about driving in Panama City. That's an entirely different story, and one which, frankly, I hope never to be able to write because I never want to have that particular experience. This is the low-down on driving elsewhere in the country, which is much more manageable but comes with its own set of things to think about.First, a car. There are buses, but everything is so spread out when you get outside the city -- you're really going to want a car. If you're staying a long time, you can buy a used car pretty reasonably, but be careful: not all mechanics are created equal, and you're going to want to do some research and follow a trail of ex-pat recommendations to ma...Read More

George's

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Restaurant | "George's Margaritas and More"

George's Photo, Gorgona, Panama
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George is from the United States and is responsible for the little pool bar at the Bahia. Every weekend (and during a weekly happy hour, the day of which is yet-to-be-determined), George sets up shop.It's classic pub food: fried corvina, chicken fingers, hamburgers, and quesadillas. The menu is short -- about five or six items, all of which cost around $6.00. The last time we were there, my boyfriend had the hamburger. He was delighted when George came out to ask him how he wanted it cooked. He told him, and added, "That's the first time anyone has asked me how I like my burger since I've been in Panama!"I had the grilled chicken quesadilla. It was good -- it had a southwest f...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on April 19, 2013

George's
The Bahia Pool Area
Gorgona, Panama

Bahia

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Hotel | "Three Nights at the Bahia"

Bahia Photo, Gorgona, Panama
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The Bahia isn't really a hotel: it's two towers (one under construction) of condos, ready for purchase or rent. So, it can and does serve as a "hotel" of sorts, for those who want a home rather than a single room during their short-term stay.We had the pleasure of staying here for three nights. We holed up on the 15th floor and were so, so delighted.The furnishings are awesome -- creative and cool as well as practical. The bed was very comfortable, and you can't have a bad day when you wake up, open your eyes, and see the Pacific Ocean and coastline.There's a washing machine, dryer, and full kitchen, complete with plates, silverware, pans, and a coffee maker. I woul...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on April 19, 2013

Bahia
Bahia Serena Beach
Gorgona, Panama

House vs. Condo: Living in Panama

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Poolside Photo, Panama, Central America
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If you live in Panama City, you'll probably choose an apartment. If you live in Boquete, you'll have mostly houses (some within gated communities) to choose from. When you get out in the beach community around Coronado, you might find yourself making the tough decision between buying/renting a house or a condo.We've lived in a house now for less than a week, and it's been quite an education already. There's plenty to love, but there are a few things to consider.A house is generally bigger than a condo, and there are still some great deals to be had when it comes to buying houses -- especially if you're willing to do a little work on the place. There is space for a dog or other ...Read More

Vecinos Vigilantes

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Vecinos Vigilantes Photo, Panama, Central America
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Although there are certain areas of the world that might be considered more dangerous than others, the seasoned traveler knows that you simply must be cautious and aware wherever you go. The same is true in Panama. Though there have been thefts and even occasional home invasions, most foreigners here will tell you they feel safer here than they do in their home countries, and the biggest thing you have to be careful about are the no-see-ums, which will bite the heck out of your legs and leave you itching for days.That said, living here is more joyful and less concerning when you take basic precautions -- like you would do anywhere else in the world: lock your doors, bar your windows if you...Read More
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The Coronado beach area is THE place to be during Semana Santa, as 2/3 of Panama City (that's a million people) proves when they drive out here to spend their four-day weekend.We went into Coronado early on Thursday morning and were surprised that the traffic hadn't built up yet. We later heard that there was an accident on the bridge coming out of the city, and they had to close the bridge, slowing everything up. My boyfriend had the misfortune of taking someone to the airport later that day, and the usual three-hour round trip turned into almost eight hours, even though the bridge had cleared by the time he went through.We laid low on Good Friday, and our long-time Panamanian...Read More

Hiking Near La Laguna

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La Laguna Hike Photo, Panama, Central America
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From the Pan American Highway, if you go up the mountain near Coronado at the Las Lajas turn and drive for 20-30 minutes, you'll come across a beautiful little lake near the town of La Laguna. Entry costs a dollar (I couldn't figure out if that was for parking or for us). You can walk around the lake and picnic on the banks, and depending on when you're up there you'll see some people swimming, too. I'm not much for lake swimming, but I enjoy the setting. There are also bathrooms on site.We walked back out the entrance and down the road a few steps until we came across a path leading up the mountain. We started hiking.It was a pretty easy hike, even though I was in sandals. The...Read More

Beach Volleyball

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Jug of Margarita! Photo, Gorgona, Panama
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A dedicated -- and growing -- group of volleyball lovers gather on the beach in Gorgona once a week to play this fantastic game. I started playing volleyball when I was about 13 years old, and I've loved it every since. When we lived in Buenos Aires, I was really disappointed that the game didn't seem to be of any interest to anyone -- we never saw a net anywhere. It's great to be playing again.The net is located in front of the Bahia resort in Gorgona. The sand on the court is a bit littered with plants and occasion actual litter, so most of us wear shoes or sand socks -- also because the sand gets painfully hot. The first time I played, I played barefoot; I was nervous about it because o...Read More

Las Uvas Farmer's Market

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Paraiso hosts a weekly farmer's market every Friday from 9:00am-12:00pm. Though it's not quite as big or well-attended as its monthly Coronado counterpart, it's every bit as lovable. Pineapples (for $1), papaya, broccoli, and passion fruit are on sale every week. Fresh juices -- pineapple, melon, and passion fruit -- are also on offer. We got two juices, a pineapple, and a head of broccoli for $4.50 last week. Brian, who is the chef at Paraiso, well known for his cheesecake, also sells slices of bundt cake.There is usually one artist, and Melody of Melody's Garden -- the natural skin care products -- is also on site with her goods. You can find honey and homemade jams as well a...Read More

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on April 1, 2013

Community Market

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Attraction | "Monthly Community Market in Coronado"

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Once a month, Picasso Bar and Restaurante hosts a Community Market on Sunday morning. The dining area fills with vendors selling fresh fruit and a variety of things you might not find in the stores. Each month is a little different, depending on which vendors show up, but it's a great place to stop by to meet new people and hear great stories -- talk to the vendors about how they ended up in Coronado producing the goods they produce. Many of them aren't native Panamanian!One woman makes natural skin-care products -- facial cleanser, shampoo, mascara, lip gloss, eye shadows, foundation, bug spray, sunscreen, and more! And the prices are right: most products are about $5-10.Anoth...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on April 1, 2013

Community Market
Corner Of Eisenmann & Punta Prieta
Coronado, Panama
345-3777

Santa Clara Beach

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Attraction | "Afternoon at Santa Clara Beach"

Santa Clara Beach Photo, Santa Clara, Panama
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We went with a friend to Santa Clara beach on a Friday afternoon. There are two little restaurants right there -- to the left, a North American-owned place and to the right, a Panamanian-owned place that includes little covered areas for your shady beach enjoyment.The place on the left came recommended, so we pulled in to grab a quick bite. My boyfriend ordered a hamburger and our friend had the chicken. Both were adequate -- just decent beach food. As we pulled in, we were stopped by a young guy that seemed to be in charge of regulating parking (parking at many beach locations costs a few dollars). We told him we were stopping to eat, and he let us go. We left our car there and wandered ...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on April 1, 2013

Santa Clara Beach

Santa Clara, Panama

Spay Panama

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Waiting in Line at the Spay/Neuter Clinic Photo, Coronado, Panama
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Panama is full of stray dogs, all of whom seem to be related, based on appearances. Part of the problem is due, of course, to uncontrolled breeding.Spay Panama is dedicated to solving that problem and improving the lives of the existing dogs. Every month, they set up a reduced-price clinic near Coronado for lower-income families as well as people who bring in stray dogs they've befriended.For $25 per dog (or $12 per cat), the animal is spayed or neutered and receives vaccinations, ear cleaning, and de-ticking and de-fleaing treatments.We have volunteered at this clinic twice, and intend to keep doing so!It starts at 8:00am with dogs lining up to get weig...Read More

Paraiso Restaurante & Bar Campground, El Valle de Anton

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Hotel | "Living at Paraiso for Two Months"

Paraiso Restaurante & Bar Campground, El Valle de Anton Photo, El Valle, Panama
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If you read my Panama, One Plate at a Time journal, you will notice another Paraiso entry -- that one for a restaurant and bar. This is the same place: they also have cabins and houses for short term rent, long term rent, and sale. My boyfriend's father retired in Panama last year, so when we told him we were coming down he told us he'd find us a place to live for a little while until we figured out where we really want to be. This is what he found us -- for just $400 per month -- and we were delighted.Our casita is the smallest of the six -- it's one large room with a kitchenette, a bathroom, and a large balcony. There's not a lot of storage space (we have numerous shirts on e...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on April 1, 2013

Paraiso Restaurante & Bar Campground, El Valle de Anton

El Valle de Anton,