I had a wonderful time in Panama. This was one of my most relaxing vacations and it was definitely due to the great planning of our travel agency and the tour company. This vacation was a great mix of activities and down time. We always had a fun activity or sight planned for the day, which was then followed by some time for us to unwind in the afternoon (which was much appreciated as it would be scorching hot outside by this point) before we would head out for a new dinner experience. The activities themselves were both fun and very educational and I found myself learning a lot about a country and culture that I frankly did not have much exposure to. The people of Panama are very friendly and the food scene is spectacular. Many of the new restaurants are doing an international fusion/twist on Panamanian cuisine and they are doing just a wonderful job with the foods/dishes. The vacation was very organized, and despite the amount of time we got to relax, we definitely did not feel like we missed anything Panama had to offer. This was definitely a strong testament to the travel team's excellent ability to tailor a family-friendly vacation that was specific to our particular abilities. We never felt rushed or pushed to do anything we did not want to do, yet we were able to enjoy a lot of new experiences and foods that we would otherwise have never tried. On top of that, our travel agency was able to organize such a great vacation for us on short notice and heading into peak tourist season. Bravo! Just a great experience overall in a beautiful country and, if I ever go back to Panama, I will definitely be using this company again.
The best parts of my trip were definitely the sights (especially the Panama Canal) and the food. Panama is a beautiful country and the Panama Canal is just simply a marvel of engineering. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing one of the 7 Wonders of Modern Engineering and learning how it was built and how it functions. I also enjoyed taking in the natural beauty of Panama, especially the rainforests surrounding Lake Gatun, and I also enjoyed learning about the culture of not only the Panamanian people, but also the indigenous Embera tribe. Our guides were fantastic and very knowledgeable and they definitely augmented our experience. The food was just wonderful. Panama has a lot of established and new/up-and-coming restaurants, and while it's not necessarily a foodie country, the Panamanians sure know how to cook. We stayed in Casco Viejo and this was particularly great for us as some of Panama City's best restaurants were literally a 5-minute walk from our hotel. The new restaurants are focusing on international cuisine with many adding delicious twists to traditional Panamanian food. As a result, many of them were pretty pricey and could put a dent in your wallet by the end of the meal. With that said, almost all of them were worth the dent and I would definitely recommend many of the restaurants I ate in to anyone who goes to Panama. Finally, I can't say enough about the staff at our hotel. They were a huge help and pretty much served us hand and foot. We wouldn't have been able to enjoy our vacation half as much without their help.
If I had to do it over again, I would probably have chosen a different hotel. I want to be clear though. This has nothing to do with the hotel itself. The rooms were spacious, the downstairs restaurant was awesome, the TV selection is phenomenal, and I can't say enough good things about the staff. By the end of our trip, many of the staff members were treating us like old friends and their friendliness and service were second to none. The only reason I would choose a different hotel is because our hotel was located next to an open-air bar and was close to several restaurants w/ a rooftop bar. Now, the Panamanian people are quite the party people, which meant that loud music and yelling were going on until almost 4 AM in the morning, which then translated to we would have a hard time falling asleep without some sort of ear plugs. Many of our activities had fairly early start times and we needed to tuck in early. Unfortunately, the location of the hotel was simultaneously a plus in terms of restaurants, but a minus in terms of tranquility and restfulness. Had I known about the noise factor, I definitely would have picked a quieter hotel.
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