Over Thanksgiving week 2015, we went to Panama City, Panama. We like going away to other countries during Thanksgiving week, so that we can still visit places/restaurants without them being closed for the holiday. We had a direct flight from LAX on Copa Airlines (about 7 hours of flight time), and it was our first time flying that airline. We had a great flight and the flight crew was wonderful, and the food served was actually decent!
When we arrived, we stayed at the Hard Rock Hotel, which was awesome. Great location, great staff and great rooms. We booked a one bedroom suite but were upgraded to a two bedroom, two bath suite with a living room as well so that was an upside! We spent every afternoon in the hotel pool, since it was so hot outside in the middle of the day.
Panama City has a ton of malls. In fact, our hotel was connected to one! The most popular mall is Albrook Mall, the biggest shopping plaza in all of Central America. It was one of the biggest malls we have ever been to, with multiple floors and food courts. Each entrance had a different animal by it, so if you got disoriented, you can just search for the animal. We came here on Thanksgiving Day, but you’d never know it was Thanksgiving back home! We learned that Panama City participates in Black Friday, and signs all over advertised sales that day. A local told us that it’s so popular there, that people from all over Latin America come to Panama to shop that day and they are considering doing another Black Friday event at another time of the year.
While in Panama, we did the monkey island/Indian village tour with Barefoot Panama and had an awesome experience. Everyone on our tour had kids, which was great because Milana had little playmates. This was by far the highlight of the trip for Milana, she got to hand feed the wild monkeys in the jungle, who hopped right onto our boat!
Here is a link to a video of the kids feeding the monkeys:
We also visited a local Indian village by boat, and Milana got to meet some local kids, touch and hold baby chicks and see where chocolate comes from. She was very excited to see cocoa beans, until she realized they don’t quite taste like the chocolate she’s used to!
The taxis in Panama City are really, really cheap. As long as you don’t pick one up in front of your hotel, you’ll pay just a couple of dollars for a 15 minute ride. One of our trips was to Casco Viejo, the historic district of Panama City. We wandered the streets for a couple of hours, but would totally skip this part if we ever came back. The local stores here sold Kinder eggs, which was Milana’s favorite part!
Of course, what’s a trip to Panama City without visiting the Panama Canal? We were lucky enough to see a boat pass through the locks while there!
Panama City has some really awesome, cheap food and one of our favorite restaurants was El Trapiche. It was about 15 minutes by cab from the hotel, and full of locals so you know it’s good! We ordered whole red snapper, ceviche, arroz con pollo and Milana had shrimp with garlic sauce. Everything was excellent, we would definitely return if we ever visit Panama again!
Another place you must visit while in Panama City are the Pearl Islands. Many people go there for a few days, but we decided to make it a day trip. We took the ferry (1.5 hours each way) to Isla Contadora where we rented a golf cart to explore the island. It was so much fun! The beaches are beautiful and secluded, and they have some really good food on this tiny island. We ate at Gerald’s, where Milana once again had shrimp (and we had the fish of the day) and she got to hand feed a baby deer that comes to their garden every afternoon. Definitely a must do while visiting Panama!
Panama City was one of our favorite destinations to date. Great city, awesome people and great food. So much to do and see that you can easily spend a week there and keep busy the entire time. If you’re looking for a great, kid-friendly city vacation, Panama City is definitely the place to go!