There aren't very many international destinations available from Caracas during this failing economy. Panama is a main gateway to the rest of the region with 3 daily flights on Copa. It seemed like a good idea to pick it as a vacation spot to avoid having an airline cancel on us when yet another airline stops service to Venezuela. It's just one of those things you have to consider while living in Caracas right now.
Panama City doesn't have a strong Latin American culture unique to Panama, which was pointed out by our boat tour guide. You can easily see the U.S. influences including the use of the U.S. dollar as the currency. You might get local balboa coins but they're equivalent to the U.S. coins.
We made a good choice with staying in the revitalized Casco Viejo (old town) instead of a regular hotel near the shopping malls and city center. This made for a more interesting stay walking around the many little park areas, tasty restaurants, rooftop bars, and shops with an easy return to the hotel. We saw tourists on small buses arriving in Casco Viejo and we were thankful for staying there a good chunk of the vacation instead of just a short visit there. It's also near Cinta Costera for longer walks, jogging, or biking along the coast or the causeway. That was also the place for Carnaval, which was a nice street party with a decent parade.
We went on the obligatory visit to the Panama Canal and also went to the Biomuseo and Punta Culebra Nature Center. The canal is interesting for a few hours but it's not enough reason to plan a whole visit to Panama City. I think the best parts of Panama are the natural environment excursions. We had an amazing time visiting a village of the native Emberá tribe and taking a rainforest boat tour of the lake and river in the canal as our little boat dodged the big ships passing through. I'll make separate posts for many of those pictures.
low tide for the Pacific Ocean reveals a lot of the bay
safe to walk around at night, unlike Caracas!
Carnaval - Fat Tuesday
the line to get through the security check