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Panama With My Godson

Updated: 4 days ago

My 17-year-old godson and I went to Panama City, Panama in January 2024. It's an easy flight through Atlanta on Delta from RDU (Raleigh-Durham Airport). January is the dry season and hot! We did a 5-day trip, which gave us 3 full days in Panama.

Panama

My coworker is married to a Panamanian woman and has been there many times, so I started planning by chatting with him. One thing he recommended that was echoed on the internet was to use Uber over Taxis. This is a new thing for me. I usually use public transportation, but over the years, a bit more ease in transportation has been appreciated. (More on transportation to come.) My best friend got international service on my godson's phone so we could Uber. (I have a cheap prepaid phone, so I never have phone service when I travel. Note: You must put your phone on roaming when using service out of the U.S.)


Day one, we took a 2-hour drive to El Valle Anton, an adorable town. We had booked a day trip with Trip Advisor for a hike up an old volcano and other excursions for the day. The hike was HARD and a bit precarious at times. We had no idea when we signed up, but we both did it (well, he is 17 so, of course, he did!) The view was lovely. Panama has a tropical side and rainforest side on either side of the mountain range running through the middle. We got to see both sides on this hike. Luckily, there was also a trip to a mineral thermal bath after the hike to help relax all those worked muscles!


Sleeping Indian Hike Panama

Day two, we walked from our Airbnb to the old city (Casco Antiguo) on a nice walking path along the coast. It was about 2 miles. We checked out the Fish Market. Later, I noticed they had a restaurant of sorts there, and I wished we had tried some of the fresh seafood there. The old city has beautiful old colonial-style buildings with some nice shops to pick up a few souvenirs/gifts. We also went to see the Panama Canal. They have a new IMAX movie about the creation of the canal narrated by Morgan Freeman. Watching the canal in action is a bit slow, but, you know, you kind of have to go check it out. It is quite an engineering feat!



Historic Panama City Panama

Panama City, Panama



Day three, we got up early to go to "Monkey Island." It was nice to have a boat ride, and it was cool to have the monkeys come down and take peanuts from our hands. There were quite a few boats clamoring for the monkeys' attention. I could tell our guides love these monkeys. One of ours was calling them to the boat with sweet, mothery pet names.


Monkey Island Panama


COSTS

Accommodations: ~$100/night; We got a two-bedroom, two-bathroom Airbnb apartment with air conditioning. I also found a place with a pool, pool table, and a gym for things to do in "downtime."


Transportation: ~$10/ride; We took Uber to and from the airport and the canal. Otherwise, we walked or were driven as part of our excursions.


Food: ~$12/meal; We ate conveniently next to our Airbnb most of the time as opposed to looking for more local places. Normally, I try to eat out only 1-2 meals a day and look for more local spots. Even in El Valle, I felt like things were priced at the restaurant for tourists. We saw another menu we tried to order from, but they did not let us. It is less than the U.S. right now, but not cheap.


I got my morning coffee milk and breakfast items from a little market. I had my instant coffee packets with me. We got some nice watermelon and local snacks like yucca chips. The market was very affordable.


OVERALL:

I would have loved more time to explore other areas--there are some beautiful beaches and other tropical/natural areas that I think would be great to see outside of Panama City. I would have enjoyed spending more time in El Valle to explore. For a quick trip, Panama City was a good base, but if I had more time, I probably would stay elsewhere. Maybe David? I saw some beautiful photos of that area.


The people were friendly. I used quite a bit of my not-great-but-good-enough-to-manage Spanish. Don't ask me about safety. I rarely feel unsafe anywhere.


Favorite foods: Fileta de pescado (fried fish) and plantanos (plantains) in all kinds of ways.


food of panama

Best moment: Enjoying duros de piña frozen, sweet yumminess when we finished that crazy hike!





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