2016 was a doozy of a year with plenty of ups and downs. Despite the bitter taste that certain political events had left in our mouths, my wife and I were intent on starting 2017 off on the right foot. When a few friends from Salt Lake City asked if we wanted to head to Panama for the new year we were all in. Beyond a few random facts about the Panama Canal, I knew almost nothing about the country. We ended up spending 7 days in Casco Viejo, the historic section of the city and 3 days drifting around the Pearl Islands. Here's a little recap for anyone curious or heading down that way.
Lodging: One of the original draws to Panama city was one of Ace Hotel's American Trade Hotel. I've been to several Ace hotel's and so the idea of an international Ace was definitely a draw. I wasn't disappointed. You can read all about the architects and designers behind the renovation here. For the non reading type you can look as some of the eye candy below.
Besides the Ace we did stay a few days at Hotel Casa Panama. Pricing was very affordable and it had the advantage of being located across the street from the Rana Dorada a great little local brew pub with a vibrant night life. The hotel was quirky, affordable but definitely lacked some of the creature comforts of the Ace. The bass from the adjoining discoteca that went until 3:00 am was also a downside.
Attractions: The Pearl Islands are located just a short ferry ride (or even shorter plane ride) from Panama city and are comprised of over 250 small islands. They were once very in vogue with movies start and millionaires but you can tell that most of the luster has gone now. It's not that the islands are any less spectacular, just that the resorts haven't kept up with the times. We ended up staying at an AirBnB that was centrally located and happened to be the perfect place to make our way through a bottle of Havana Club rum while soaking in some sun. The highlight of the islands was renting a local boat taxi to take us out to all the small islands for a day of snorkeling and sun bathing.
We also did the other standard "must see" sights like the Bridge of the Americas, Panama Canal and the Frank Gehry designed Bio Museum. I'm not really a Gehry fan at all, but I must admit it was pretty interesting to wander around the museum and see how the managed to make all that chaos come together in an orderly logical way. The last day in town we made the trek up Ancon hill which provided the amazing vista you see in the very top photo. We also got to see one sleepy sloth, but alas no toucans.
Food: Panama has an interesting culinary history with lot's of influence from outside sources due to the construction and running of the panama canal. We had some amazing dinners prepared by some visionary chefs at both Maito and Donde Jose. As good as those pre fixe meals were I have to say I equally enjoyed the raspadas on the street, or the hours we spent at Finca del Mar working our way through a few bottles of rose and many plates of ceviche. The best tip I can probably give on the food front is eat lots of cevice, and download DeGusta if you are interested in exploring. It's basically the local version of yelp and it came in useful frequently.
Last but not least a shout out to the local blog pty.life which was super helpful in getting the inside tip on where to stay and what to do.