If you’re planning a trip to Panama City, one of the best things you can do is to choose the perfect area to stay in. Each neighborhood in the city is incredibly diverse, offering its unique blend of history, culture, entertainment, and convenience. Depending on your preferences and travel style, here are the top neighborhoods to consider for your stay.
Understanding Panama City’s Neighborhoods
Panama City, the capital of Panama, is a bustling metropolis that offers a unique blend of history, culture, and modernity. With over 100 different neighborhoods, it can be challenging to choose the right one based on your travel preferences. Each area has its own distinct architecture, atmosphere, and vibe, making it essential to do your research before you arrive.
Whether you’re looking for a neighborhood that’s steeped in history and culture, a green oasis in the heart of the city, or luxury accommodations with stunning ocean views, Panama City has something to offer. Here’s a closer look at some of the city’s most popular neighborhoods.
The History and Culture of Panama City
Panama City has a rich and diverse history that’s reflected in its architecture, cuisine, and traditions. If you’re interested in learning more about the city’s past, head to the Casco Viejo neighborhood, also known as the historic district. This area is home to some of the city’s oldest buildings, including churches, plazas, and museums. Take a stroll along its cobbled streets, and you’ll feel transported back to the 16th century. Don’t miss the Panama Canal Museum, where you can learn about the construction of one of the world’s most significant engineering feats.
Another neighborhood that’s worth exploring is San Felipe, located just a few blocks from Casco Viejo. This area is known for its colorful street art, vibrant nightlife, and eclectic mix of restaurants and bars. It’s also home to the Presidential Palace, which you can visit for a glimpse into Panama’s political history.
The Geography and Climate of Panama City
Panama City is located on the Pacific coast of Panama, offering a warm and humid climate all year round. If you prefer a more temperate climate, head to Albrook and Clayton, a green oasis in the heart of the city. This neighborhood is home to the Metropolitan Natural Park, one of the largest urban reserves in the world. Here, you can hike, birdwatch, and admire lush tropical vegetation. The park also offers stunning views of the city skyline and the Panama Canal.
If you’re looking for a neighborhood that’s closer to the water, Punta Pacifica and Costa del Este are excellent options. These areas offer luxury accommodations with stunning ocean views and easy access to the city’s beaches and marinas.
Transportation and Accessibility in Panama City
Getting around Panama City is relatively easy, thanks to its extensive public transportation system. The city has an extensive bus network that connects different neighborhoods, but taxis and Ubers are also widely available. If you’re looking for a neighborhood that’s well-connected to other areas, Obarrio and El Cangrejo are excellent options. These areas are centrally located and offer easy access to the city’s transportation hubs.
Whether you’re interested in history, culture, nature, or luxury, Panama City has a neighborhood that’s perfect for you. Take the time to explore different areas and discover all that this vibrant city has to offer.
Casco Viejo – The Historic District
Casco Viejo, also known as San Felipe, is a charming historic district located in Panama City, Panama. Its colorful colonial buildings, quaint plazas, and lively spirit make it a favorite for locals and tourists alike. The neighborhood is situated on a small peninsula, bordered by the Pacific Ocean to the south and the Panama Canal to the north, providing stunning views of the city skyline and the ocean.
Start your day in Casco Viejo sipping coffee at a local cafe, such as Bajareque Coffee House or Unido, and enjoy the laid-back atmosphere. Then, take a leisurely stroll through the narrow streets to admire the architecture. The buildings in Casco Viejo are a mix of Spanish, French, and Italian styles, with intricate balconies, colorful facades, and beautiful courtyards.
Make sure to visit the Cathedral of Panama, a stunning neoclassical building that dates back to the 17th century. The cathedral is located on Plaza de la Independencia, a lively square that is home to many street performers, vendors, and outdoor events. Another must-see attraction is the Presidential Palace, also known as Palacio de las Garzas, which is the official residence of the President of Panama.
At nightfall, Casco Viejo transforms into a hub of gastronomy and nightlife, with dozens of bars and restaurants to choose from. Whether you’re in the mood for fine dining or street food, you’ll find an excellent selection of restaurants and bars catering to all tastes. Don’t miss the rooftop bars of Selina Hostel or the live music at Tantalo Kitchen.
Top Attractions in Casco Viejo
If you’re looking for more attractions to add to your itinerary, here are some of the top things to do in Casco Viejo:
- The Panama Canal Museum – Learn about the history and construction of the world-famous Panama Canal at this interactive museum.
- Mirador de la Bahia viewpoint – Enjoy panoramic views of the city skyline and the ocean from this lookout point.
- San Jose church – Visit this beautiful church, which is one of the oldest in Panama City and features stunning stained glass windows.
Accommodation Options in Casco Viejo
If you’re looking to stay in Casco Viejo, you’ll find an array of options, from charming boutique hotels to cozy guesthouses. Some of the best-known lodgings include the American Trade Hotel, a beautifully restored historic building that offers luxury accommodations and fine dining options; The Bristol Panama, a sophisticated hotel with a rooftop pool and stunning views of the city; and Casa Casco, a trendy boutique hotel with a rooftop bar and a lively atmosphere.
Obarrio and El Cangrejo – The Business and Entertainment Hubs
If you’re looking for a central location that combines business and entertainment, Obarrio and El Cangrejo are two neighborhoods with plenty to offer. Obarrio is home to some of the city’s most modern skyscrapers, bustling streets, and chic restaurants. El Cangrejo is known for its street art, coffee shops, and lively nightlife. Together they form a hub of activity day and night.
Shopping and Dining in Obarrio and El Cangrejo
Obarrio and El Cangrejo are perfect for those who love to shop and eat. With everything from traditional Panamanian food stalls to gourmet restaurants and international brands, you’ll find everything you need in these neighborhoods. Visit Multicentro mall in Obarrio for a shopping spree or head to La Rana Dorada for a craft beer.
When it comes to dining, Obarrio and El Cangrejo have a variety of options to suit all tastes and budgets. For a taste of authentic Panamanian cuisine, head to El Trapiche or Manolo Caracol. If you’re in the mood for something more international, check out Maito, a restaurant that offers a fusion of Panamanian and Asian flavors.
Accommodation Options in Obarrio and El Cangrejo
The accommodation options in Obarrio and El Cangrejo range from budget-friendly hostels to upscale business hotels. If you’re looking for a cozy and affordable place to stay, Casa Sucre Boutique Hotel is a great option in El Cangrejo. This charming hotel offers comfortable rooms with a rustic decor and a beautiful courtyard where you can relax after a day of exploring the city.
Meanwhile, the Radisson Decapolis Panama City is one of the city’s most renowned hotels in Obarrio. With its modern and elegant rooms, rooftop pool, and breathtaking views of the city skyline, this hotel is perfect for those who want to indulge in luxury and comfort.
Nightlife and Entertainment in Obarrio and El Cangrejo
If you’re in the mood for a night out, Obarrio and El Cangrejo have got you covered. With plenty of bars, clubs, and lounges, you can dance the night away or sip cocktails with friends. For a unique experience, head to La Tana del Lupo, a quirky bar with live music and art exhibitions. This cozy spot is perfect for those who want to enjoy a drink while admiring local art and listening to live music.
If you’re more into clubbing, check out Bling, one of the most popular clubs in Obarrio. With its sleek and modern design, state-of-the-art sound system, and top-notch DJs, Bling is the perfect place to dance until dawn.
Overall, Obarrio and El Cangrejo are two neighborhoods that offer the best of both worlds – business and entertainment. Whether you’re here for work or play, these neighborhoods have everything you need to make your stay in Panama City unforgettable.
Punta Pacifica and Costa del Este – The Upscale Residential Areas
Punta Pacifica and Costa del Este are two upscale neighborhoods that offer some of the most exclusive accommodations and stunning ocean views in Panama City. If you’re looking for luxury and tranquility, these neighborhoods are the perfect choice.
Luxury Accommodations in Punta Pacifica and Costa del Este
Punta Pacifica and Costa del Este are home to some of the most luxurious accommodations in Panama City. From the towering skyscrapers of Trump Ocean Club International Hotel and Tower to the intimate surroundings of the Waldorf Astoria Panama. Visitors can enjoy high-end amenities such as rooftop pools, spa facilities, and ocean-view rooms.
Outdoor Activities and Beaches in Punta Pacifica and Costa del Este
If you enjoy outdoor activities, you’ll find plenty to do in Punta Pacifica and Costa del Este. Take a stroll along the Cinta Costera or head to the beach for sunbathing and swimming. You can also visit the Natural Metropolitan Park for hiking and sightseeing.
Fine Dining and Shopping in Punta Pacifica and Costa del Este
Punta Pacifica and Costa del Este offer some of the best dining and shopping experiences in Panama City. With an array of international brands, gourmet restaurants, and upscale movie theaters, you’ll have everything within reach.
Albrook and Clayton – The Green Oasis
If you’re looking for a more natural and serene setting, Albrook and Clayton might be the perfect choices for you. Located close to the Panama Canal, this lush area is perfect for walking, biking, and exploring the outdoors.
Exploring the Metropolitan Natural Park
The Metropolitan Natural Park is one of the most important urban parks in the world, spanning over 265 hectares of tropical rainforest. Visitors can explore the park’s trails, viewpoints, and bird-watching spots for a peaceful and refreshing experience in the heart of the city.
The park is home to a wide variety of flora and fauna, including over 250 species of birds, sloths, monkeys, and butterflies. The trails offer breathtaking views of the city skyline and the Panama Canal, making it a perfect spot for photography enthusiasts.
For those who want to learn more about the park’s history and ecosystem, guided tours are available. These tours are led by knowledgeable guides who will take you through the park’s different areas and provide interesting insights into the park’s flora and fauna.
Accommodation Options in Albrook and Clayton
The accommodation options in Albrook and Clayton are mostly limited to bed and breakfasts and guesthouses. However, if you’re looking to escape the hustle and bustle of the city, you’ll find plenty of options surrounded by lush gardens and peaceful settings.
One of the most popular options is the Gamboa Rainforest Resort, located just a short drive away from Albrook and Clayton. This luxurious resort is set in the heart of the rainforest and offers stunning views of the Chagres River and the surrounding jungle. The resort also offers a wide range of activities, including kayaking, fishing, and bird-watching tours.
Family-Friendly Activities in Albrook and Clayton
Albrook and Clayton are perfect for families who enjoy outdoor activities and nature. Visit the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, which offers educational programs and interactive experiences for all ages. The institute has a variety of exhibits, including a butterfly exhibit, a marine exhibit, and a rainforest exhibit.
Another great option for families is the Miraflores Visitor Center, located just a short drive away from Albrook and Clayton. The center offers an interactive museum, a theater, and a viewing deck where visitors can watch ships pass through the Panama Canal.
Take a stroll in the Albrook Mall or explore the historic Clayton area for a taste of history. The Clayton area was once a US military base and is now home to a variety of museums, including the Panama Canal Museum and the Museum of Biodiversity.
Overall, Albrook and Clayton offer a unique experience for visitors who want to explore the natural beauty of Panama while still being close to the city. With its lush greenery, diverse wildlife, and family-friendly activities, it’s no wonder that this area is known as the Green Oasis.
Balboa and Amador – The Coastal Retreats
Balboa and Amador are two of the most picturesque coastal neighborhoods in Panama City. They offer some of the most spectacular views of the Panama Canal and the Pacific Ocean. These areas are perfect for those who are looking for a laid-back and relaxed atmosphere. The neighborhoods are a perfect blend of modernity and nature, offering visitors a unique experience that they will cherish forever.
Top Attractions in Balboa and Amador
If you’re planning to visit Balboa and Amador, here are some places that should be on your must-visit list:
- The Causeway: This is a beautiful stretch of road that connects four small islands. It’s a great place to take a walk, ride a bike, or just sit and enjoy the stunning views of the ocean and the city skyline.
- The Biodiversity Museum: This museum is a must-visit for nature lovers. It showcases the rich biodiversity of Panama and the importance of conservation. The building itself is an architectural masterpiece and is worth a visit even if you’re not interested in nature.
- The Frank Gehry-designed bridge of the Americas: This iconic bridge is a symbol of Panama’s progress and development. It’s a great place to take a walk and admire the stunning views of the canal and the city skyline.
- The Flamenco Island Marina: This is a beautiful marina that offers stunning views of the ocean and the city skyline. It’s a great place to take a walk or just sit and enjoy the scenery.
- The Miraflores locks: These locks are an engineering marvel and are a must-visit for anyone interested in the Panama Canal. You can watch ships pass through the locks and learn about the history and importance of the canal.
Accommodation Options in Balboa and Amador
Balboa and Amador offer a great variety of accommodations to choose from, ranging from hotels and resorts to bed and breakfasts. If you’re looking for a luxurious experience, The Westin Playa Bonita Panama is a great option. It offers a beachfront experience that is second to none. If you’re looking for a more natural experience, The Radisson Summit Hotel & Golf is a great option. It offers stunning views in the heart of nature and is a great place to relax and unwind.
Outdoor Activities and Beaches in Balboa and Amador
If you’re an outdoor enthusiast, Balboa and Amador are the perfect destinations for you. The Causeway offers a scenic spot to bike, run, or walk while admiring the stunning views. The nearby islands of Taboga and Isla Contadora are famous for their white sand beaches and crystal clear waters. You can take a boat tour to these islands and spend a day relaxing on the beach or snorkeling in the crystal clear waters. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can also try your hand at kayaking or paddleboarding.
Overall, Balboa and Amador are two of the most beautiful and relaxing destinations in Panama City. They offer a unique blend of modernity and nature that is hard to find anywhere else. Whether you’re looking for a luxurious beachfront experience or a more natural and laid-back atmosphere, Balboa and Amador have something for everyone.
Tips for Choosing the Right Area for Your Stay
Choosing a neighborhood to stay in Panama City can be daunting, especially if you’re not familiar with the city. Here are some useful tips to help you make the best decision:
Some areas in Panama City are more expensive than others, so make sure you choose a neighborhood that fits your budget. If you’re looking for luxury, Punta Pacifica and Costa del Este will provide the high-end experience you’re looking for. However, if you’re traveling on a budget, El Cangrejo and Albrook offer more affordable options.
Proximity to Attractions and Activities
If you’re on a tight schedule, you might want to choose a neighborhood that is conveniently located close to the attractions and activities you plan to visit. For example, if you’re interested in the Panama Canal, Balboa and Amador provide some of the best views and access. Meanwhile, if you’re into nightlife, Obarrio and El Cangrejo are the places to be.
Personal Preferences and Travel Style
Ultimately, the best neighborhood to stay in Panama City is the one that fits your personal preferences and travel style. Do you prefer a more serene atmosphere or a bustling nightlife? Do you want to immerse yourself in history and culture or enjoy outdoor activities? By asking yourself these questions, you’ll be able to choose the perfect area for your stay.
More on Budget Considerations
If you’re looking for a budget-friendly neighborhood, you might want to consider El Cangrejo. This area is known for its affordable hotels and hostels, as well as its diverse selection of restaurants and bars. You can also find many local shops and markets where you can buy souvenirs and other items at a lower price.
On the other hand, if you’re willing to splurge on luxury accommodations and high-end shopping, Punta Pacifica and Costa del Este are the neighborhoods for you. These areas offer stunning views of the ocean and skyline, as well as access to some of the best restaurants and shopping centers in the city.
More on Proximity to Attractions and Activities
If you’re interested in history and culture, you might want to consider staying in Casco Viejo. This area is known for its colonial architecture, museums, and art galleries. You can also find many traditional restaurants and bars where you can try local cuisine and drinks.
If you’re more into outdoor activities, you might want to choose a neighborhood that is close to parks and nature reserves. Ancon Hill and Metropolitan Natural Park are both great options for hiking and birdwatching.
More on Personal Preferences and Travel Style
If you’re looking for a serene atmosphere, you might want to consider staying in a residential neighborhood like San Francisco or Bella Vista. These areas offer a quieter and more relaxed vibe, with many parks and green spaces where you can unwind.
If you’re into a bustling nightlife, you might want to choose a neighborhood that is close to bars, clubs, and restaurants. Calle Uruguay and Zona Rosa are both popular areas for nightlife, with many options for dancing and drinking.
Overall, Panama City offers a wide range of neighborhoods to choose from, each with its own unique charm and attractions. By considering your budget, proximity to attractions and activities, and personal preferences and travel style, you’ll be able to find the perfect area for your stay.
Choosing the right neighborhood for your stay in Panama City can make a significant impact on your travel experience. Whether you’re interested in history, culture, nightlife, nature, or entertainment, each neighborhood in the city provides a unique blend of attractions and amenities. Do your research, and choose wisely based on your budget, proximity, and personal preference. We hope this guide has given you a better understanding of Panama City’s neighborhoods and helped you make the best decision for your trip.