Fun things to do in Panama City

Leora Hasas and Abby TegneliaThere are so many fun things to do in Panama City, so we knew we shouldn’t go it alone. We asked the drivers outside of Trump Panama, the gorgeous hotel we were staying in. At first, we got excited — they said they’d be happy to take us around for $30! Luckily, Leora clarified. They meant $30… an hour. We walked down the street and asked the bored yellow cab driver who was parked on the corner. He got stressed out when we said $30 for three hours, but he easily agreed to $40. Deal! We were so excited to tour the town — first stop — the Canal of course!

If you’re going to see the Panama Canal, make sure you get there pretty close to opening time, or you might miss getting to see a ship go through. It was quite the spectacle! Once the ship makes it to the lock, it actually zooms through pretty fast. There’s a little museum inside and a movie, which covered the history, including why the US had control of it until fairly recently. The enormity of digging so large a canal reminded me of the Hoover Dam, which I went to again recently. At the Hoover Dam, the problems lay in how much hard, dry earth they had to get through, while at the canal, the problem was all of the water rushing in. Part of me can’t believe either worked!

Panama Canal

The infamous Panama Canal.


Even though it was overcast, the Causeway still caught our eye as our stop for photo ops. (See above pic of the two of us.) We stayed there for awhile, gazing at the skyline and watching the boats come in. There was so much activity on the water! It was fascinating to see what all of those ships carry, and from all over the world.

Panama City Causeway

Panama City Causeway


We ended up spending the good part of the next hour looking for the ticket office for our early morning trip the next day to the islands of Contadora. We were so tired, and had used up our three hours, so we told our driver to skip Casco Viejo. After all, we had spent every evening there on our food tour, and we had plans to walk around there on our own. But he was such a good Catholic boy, that he absolutely would not take us back without showing us the church with the famous golden alter at the Church of San Jose. We’re glad he did!

Iglesia de San Jose

Iglesia de San Jose

The church’s famous golden altar was built in the seventeenth century and only survived a city-wide sacking a few years later because a wise priest painted the whole thing black.

 Church of San Jose


Church of San Jose


Church of San Jose

I love a good day of touring!

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I'm a life-long travel junkie journalist who works hard to find adventure in everyday life after two years of travel and expat living.

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  1. I’d love to see the boats going through the Panama Canal. But the other suggestions sound really tempting too.

  2. The Canal was awesome! A must-see. But it really takes up only an hour, tops.

  3. $40 for 3 hours – not bad! Panama is on the list. One day….

  4. Very smart priest! $40 for 3 hours would totally work for me. Nice job!

  5. We quickly learned that they assume that everyone staying at Trump is there on business with a business account. We had to wheel and deal a bit!

  6. Wow, this looks amazing!
    I have never been but after seeing these gorgeous photos, I will have to save up!

  7. Oh, I would LOVE to do this!! Sounds like such an amazing day!

  8. I could have done a whole day in Casco Viejo alone! We sort of got rained out though later that day. 🙁

  9. Great tour…you’re really changing my impression of Panama City…

  10. Gotta love over the top Latin American churches 🙂

  11. Lovely, can’t wait to get to Latin and South America!

  12. Lol yes, the over-the-top churches (and tales that go with ’em) are always entertaining!

  13. I also highly recommend the seafood market, they have killer seafood cocktail and ceviche for only a few bucks.

  14. Ohhh I heard about that market! Next time!

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